The realm of the “magical girl” is a densely populated space. Series looking to break free from the status quo have their work cut out for them to say the least. Shows like Maburaho, Sekirei and Rosario + Vampire played off the “supernatural harem” angle (to varying degrees) in trying to distinguish themselves. Alternatively, titles such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and My-HiME/Otome made their marks by taking the genre down a dark road most wouldn’t dare travel. As I went through the remaining episodes of Vividred Operation, these thoughts sprung up in my mind. With that said, I felt the need to review the show.
In the near-future, nations the world over no longer have to struggle over resources thanks to a singular limitless energy source. Dubbed the “Manifestation Engine”, the massive structure provides power for 95% of the planet. The story follows lead protagonist, Akane Isshiki, as she and her friends battle mysterious beings bent on destroying the Engine and causing a global collapse along with it. Wielding special Operation Keys engineered by Akane’s wacky grandpa, the girls don battle suits allowing them to transform into modern-day super-heroines. Each episode features a monster-of-the-week scenario where the girls usually tackle some personal problem both on and off the clock.
The unique spin here is that Akane can “dock” with her comrades by having them kiss her on the forehead; fusing mind, body and soul together to form one overpowered entity. It’s the type of thing that probably needs to be explained but it’s pretty entertaining to watch. Since every combination has a different result, the following skirmishes hardly get repetitive. Furthermore, the fusion initiation fits well within the context of the story.
Opposing the girl’s efforts, Rei Kuroki secretly assists the Alone (the antagonists) for her own ends while reluctantly fostering a friendship with Aoi. This is actually where a bulk of plot begins. The closer the girls get to one another the more they unknowingly get in each other’s way. There is a nice steady build up that comes to a head when the two stumble into a direct confrontation. As expected, friendships and loyalties are questioned; leaving viewer’s anticipating how their relationship can be salvaged while simultaneously freeing the Earth of threat.
Amidst the drama and fighting, there is a fair amount of lighthearted moe humor tucked in. These are kids in the prime of their youth after all, so it’s good to see Kazuhiro Takamura (director) and Hiroyuki Yoshino (writer) didn’t forget that. There’s one episode where Wakaba bargains to become Himawari’s servant after pushing her into doing a number of photo-shoots. Another episode involves the girls spending the day scrambling to rescue a “kidnapped” Rei, who is far from in any real danger. Such misadventures help to offer a small chuckle as well as illustrate the overall importance of unity and friendship within the show.
Even though all the girls are well conceived characters, none of them completely steal the spotlight. It’s a shame to cause all their attributes such as Wakaba’s skill with kendo or Himawari’s super hacking skills and personalities left doors open for possibility. Aoi’s wealthy background and transcending connection with Akane was even delightfully reminiscent of the one shared between Tomoyo and Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura. It would have been nice to see them evolve further on an individual basis as opposed to as a group.
Aside from that, I also found myself divided when it came to the animation. While the fluidity, character design and general art direction are great, the use of 3D models in some scenes just comes off as poorly thought choice. It just looks awkward, and unattractive every time toning down from what were some pretty dope fighting sequences. On the other end of presentation, the audio is magnificent with BGM’s that pop and stir. Even though the cast consists of relatively new seiyuu’s, they do a grade A job with the voices.
In the end, Vividred Operation is truly a mixed bag of ups and down. The sci-fi elements to the story are a pleasant touch but it’s ultimately not enough to put it too far above what’s been done before. Excluding the polarizing 3D, the visuals are immaculate with transformations and fusions that finely walk the line between ecchi and awe-inspiring. Plus it has an adorable talking stuffed animal and who doesn’t love those? All we really needed was a lot more focus on the supporting characters. I get the significance of Akane and Rei’s connection but it shouldn’t overshadow everyone else’s. I say it’s worth a quick look at least if you’re a fan of the genre but there’s certainly no rush to do so.