Studio Pierrot’s Magical Girl Ore is the latest in a history of magical girl genre parodies, including Puni Puni Poemy, and Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, whose third season, Happy Kiss, is sharing space with Magical Girl Ore this season.
The Magical Girl genre is easy to lampoon but hard to satirize. The iconography of Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, et. al is so burned in the popular consciousness that cribbing from it and pointing out the kitsch factor hardly takes any sophistication. One of my biggest problems with Cute High was the fact that it fell into the same formula that it sought to make fun of, there was never really any message about the magical girl genre or its fans, just finger-pointing and schoolboy snickering at the ludicrousness of the premise (with a healthy does of fan service, just to rake in those fujoshi dollars). There has always been this undercurrent of meanness to most magical girl parodies, a desire to tear it down rather than offer any sort of meaningful critique.
Magical Girl Ore is different, within the first two episodes we’ve not only seen comical subversion of the expectations of the magical girl storyline, but deconstructions of the genre’s relationship with gender. The most obvious being the fact that Saki changes from a delicate girl into a tall, muscular young man she dubs “Ore” (voiced by Kaito Ishikawa, Once Punch Man, Haikyuu, Bungou Stray Dogs) when transforming.
The show doesn’t imply queerness, it states it outright. Saki (Ayaka Ohashi, best known as Kurome from Akami ga Kill!) loves Mohiro (A Silent Voice‘s Toshiyuki Toyonaga), who has eyes on her masculine form, Ore. Sakuyo doesn’t want Saki to get with Mohiro because she is in love with her, but only her female form. This gender conundrum is only complicated by Hyoue (Koji Yusa), Mohiro’s singing partner and the most-certainly-not main antagonist of the story so far, whose clingy, predatory behavior towards Mohiro is undeniably a result of attraction. So what we’re left with is a story where almost everyone in the main cast has same-sex desire, and the one who has a heterosexual crush can’t win unless she changes to her crush’s desired sex.
It’s not called the magical girl genre for nothing, and Magical Girl Ore plays with these expectations in more ways than just the main characters’ constant gender play. The helper animal so common to magical girl anime here is replaced with a gruff-talking yakuza thug named Kokoro, who grants Ore weapons to fight demons in the form of hairpin grenades and a heart rod wrapped in oil paper that has no magical powers, you simply whack monsters with it like a billy club. Saki’s crush on Mohiro isn’t played as some great secret that he’s blithely unaware of, he knows and he’s not into it. Mom was a magical girl, but back problems from age has slowed her down. The expectations of how men and women interact with the world and the hyperfeminine iconography of magical girl anime are constantly being toyed with and laughed at.
This isn’t to say there isn’t any discomfort in the show so far. The reasoning for Saki’s male-bodied magical for is “men’s bodies are better for fighting” and the joke of a young girl transforming into muscular man in a frilly dress could easily be seen as crude and insensitive. Still, the fact that the main cast even un-transformed play around with the expectations of contemporary Japanese gender norms helps keep that in check for me.
There are some character weaknesses as well. Sakuyo plays the “soft-spoken, monotone, brunette best friend” character so comfortably that there’s hardly any sort of joke behind it, and honestly, Kokoro’s yakuza shtick doesn’t hold up the yuks for long before it becomes weak fodder for visual gags. These are minor complaints, but complaints all the same.
There are many loving winks at the classics: Saki and Sakuyo sing a parody of the Cutey Honey theme, Kokoro’s chibi-form is a direct parody of Cerberus from Cardcaptor, and the episode bumpers end with “The muscle-light is the messenger of love!” These references show that the staff of Magical Girl Ore are fans of the genre themselves, or have at least done their homework, and that’s the important part of anything like that. The best humor comes from laughing at the things we love most.
Magical Girl Ore can be found streaming on Crunchyroll
Sully can be found plundering dream mirrors on Twitter @calva_kun