Matoi the Sacred Slayer – Preview
Matoi The Sacred Slayer:
Original Air Dates: October 4th, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Matoi Sumeragi works part-time at the local shrine with her friend, Yuma. While Yuma is next in line to become the shrine’s maiden, Matoi is more content to pursue a normal life. Unfortunately, her dreams are dashed as Yuma and Matoi find the shrine attacked by a man who’s been possessed by some kind of demon. Yuma performs a Divine Possession ritual to try and combat the demon, but the ritual targets Matoi instead of Yuma, imbuing Matoi with powers to combat the evil spirits. Her life is now destined to be far from normal.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Matoi’s animation isn’t entirely consistent. It’s tough to describe what’s exactly so ‘off’ about it though. Character seems to ‘warp’ a little when they move, as if there’s less of an attempt to keep their designs consistent across the board, content to have things shift around a little during heavy action sequences, allowing for more fluid animation. It’s like Matoi is sitting somewhere between a Trigger animation style and the more accepted modern animation style. It’s tough to pin down and explain exactly what’s different about Matoi’s art, but I guess that’s what we have the Gifs for.
Linny: Overall, the animation felt bland to me. It is by no means ugly or bad, it just seems to have this peculiar shifting style and quality that makes it feel inconsistent and might even prove distracting. There are a lot of bright colours and rapid movements and exaggerated expressions, but in some cases, that only makes the art look worse. But to be fair, I will note that the initial opening minutes of the episode did look very polished and well put together.
Tom: Maybe the best way to describe it is that during the action heavier sequences Matoi starts to feel a bit cheap, like certain aspects of the production were chosen over others in order to keep within budget, leaving something lacking in the art that can be difficult to describe. Making up for it though are some bright and colorful designs, coupled with CGI that is actually integrated quite well.
Linny: This first episode does a terrible job of myth building as no explanation is given regarding the creatures we’re dealing with or how they operate. In fact even the characters in the episode themselves mention that they are yet to figure out exactly what these creatures are after. Even when our magical girl gets her powers, it all happens rather vaguely. We don’t know how or why she got her power or exactly what the object was that triggered it. In a world where there are so any questions up in the air, you’re likely to leave feeling confused and lost rather than intrigued.
Tom: Another issue is perhaps how sudden Matoi can jump between its darkly serious tone and its sillier moments. That juxtaposition can work, but Matoi doesn’t really seem to know how to balance it, going too far one way or the another. For starters, the humor can easily cross lines thanks to its sexual undertones and eagerness to walk right into taboo topics that are sure to garner a reaction, less than positive, for more conservative viewers. Namely, a father groping his daughter upon mistaking her for her deceased mother.
Linny: Talking about sexual content, one of the offenders is a priest who also happens to be the father of Yuma, and is married yet shamelessly checks out women. It gets ridiculous to the point where even his daughter just declares that her father has always been accommodating towards pretty woman as he hits on a woman right in front of her. It’s all clearly done for the sake of comedy but if you’re someone who’s tired or uncomfortable with this side of anime, it certainly will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Add all this to what Tom mentioned in the paragraph above about a father groping his daughter’s breast as he mistakes her for her mother/his wife while he is in an injured and confused state and it all definitely feels more disturbing than comedic.
Tom: As for the darker tone, that’s when Matoi can drift into melodramatic territory, characters depicted with severe overreactions to situations that make it difficult to continue one’s suspension of disbelief. This isn’t aided by the god awful, yet so unintentionally hilarious, Engrish dialogue that opens the series, setting entirely the wrong tone for English speaking viewers.
Linny: For a show that starts off with a good chunk of its first few minutes purely spoken in Engrish, I will note that most of it sounds rather passable even though more and more flaws start to pop up as the dialogue continues. Initially, the grammar and pronunciation is rather impressive compared to standard anime offering but then it devolves into the kind that has most English speakers chuckling. It’s so dedicated to its Engrish that later on in the show, even the scanning machine used gives out its result in perfect Engrish as you’ll notice in the gif below.
Tom: As for characters, our lead, Matoi Sumeragi, doesn’t get a whole lot of introduction here. She’s a lot like Luluco from Space Patrol Luluco, she desires a normal life, a boyfriend, a happy family etc. That idea doesn’t get much additional exploration before she’s thrust into the magical girl world as she transforms into her fighting costume minutes before the first episode concludes. As introductions go it’s pretty bare bones. Instead the show spends quite a bit of time setting up each of the supporting characters, from Matoi’s magical girl obsessed friend, to her detective father, her friend’s lecherous dad, and a buxom female detective who knows more than she’s letting on.
Linny: I had great hopes for the portrayal of women in this show once I noticed how the first magical girl featured in the episode transforms into an outfit that has her covered like its the middle of winter. I was so happy to see this as most shows use magical girl transformation sequences as fan service with outfits leaving nothing to the imagination. That was all a red herring though and what made Matoi especially disappointing for me was watching the preview for the next episode and reading Matoi’s voiceover about how all she dreams about is having a normal life and becoming a good wife. It isn’t a derogatory thing to want to be a housewife but given how this show is coming from a culture and country where women are often expected to give up their career after marriage regardless of their own personal preference, it does cause a flicker of conflicted thought. There is of course the argument that this show could be about Matoi’s journey into becoming a strong and brave girl who realizes her full potential and thus encourages female empowerment. However, things like the married, yet lecherous, priest, the camera view ogling a scantily clad female character, and our teenage protagonist ending the show completely naked seem to be sending all the wrong signals.
Tom: Beyond Matoi the rest of the cast is quite quirky, prepared to do sudden and awkward shifts into some more absurd and sexual comedy, the one thing that I think Matoi’s odd artstyle actually allows for quite well, even if the tone suffers from these sudden and awkwardly performed jumps.
Linny: The lack of exposition in this episode extends beyond its monsters and extends into its characters. The viewer is left to figure out who is who through context and while that isn’t unusual, it is a bit annoying when the show leaves too much to guesswork for the viewers. Certain characters that appear in the opening are never introduced or explained but keep appearing ever so often throughout the episode while others seem to know each other and even work together but for what reasons, how and why are still all unknown. This lack of explanation only adds to the frustration and might leave you struggling to feel invested or attached when you know and understand so little about the story and the characters.
Tom: Matoi the Sacred Slayer is a mixed bag. It’s got some interesting mystery set up around its magical girls and the monsters that are attacking our world. The humor, while risque, can be quite amusing, as long as you’re comfortable with it straying into ‘interesting’ territory. But there’s a lot of places where things could’ve been stronger, the narrative more defined, characters better introduced, etc. It makes a lot of missteps and those eventually add up in distancing me from enjoying what good it did offer.
Linny: Matoi might leave most viewers feeling unengaged with its lack of proper setup and exposition. There’s too many things left unexplained for now and plenty of controversial content that might annoy the more prim and proper viewer. There’s also the fact that for anyone on the lookout for a magical girl show, there’s already a handful of other, more enticing shows this season. There’s potential of course, such as the possibility of exploring a girl’s journey into becoming something greater than she could have ever imagined but for now, all the little missteps add up to one distracting and conflicted start.