Is this series worth sending to the Netherworld?
Overview (Possible Spoilers Below)
With the rise of “Magical Girls” in Anime, one of the most recent shows that attempt to break the tradition of magical girl genre tropes in a positive light (As opposed to how Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s disturbingly bleak & negative approach) is Katana Maidens, Otherwise known in Japan as “Toji no Miko” A show that starts out with colorful and sometimes bland character designs with the occasional decent sword fight, but when you get more into the plot with the first half, it more than compensates with an engaging storyline in combination with great character moments here and there.
While the sword-fights between other Toji’s and them taking out Aradama monsters occasionally excel in terms of animation quality, later episodes would sometimes go from 2d to a 2.5d Cel-shaded art-style in an effort to give an almost 3D effect during action sequences which can sometimes be distracting. I know several Animated shows & video games have utilized this particular style such as No More Heroes, Killer is Dead, The New Berserk Series, RWBY, and Batman: Ninja. But Studio Gokumi (The animation team who made this) has a long way to go if they want their cel-shaded sword-battles to have smoothness & fluidity in places.
I think my biggest issue with the show would often be the second half with the use of their villains. The first half was very solid in terms of building an unraveling mystery with Yukari being the primary antagonist, that respected the audience’s intelligence to some degree by allowing us to put the pieces together while putting Kanami & Hiyori on the lam as the central focus. But the 2nd half with Tagitsu and Yukina both felt pretty hollow with Yukina’s only karmic punishment for every despicable thing she did was never knowing what she truly had until it was gone.
Sometimes the world-building of a universe that has school girls with magical swords that work alongside the government does sound interesting but occasionally dragged in places. But what more than made up for this, was the main six characters and their developments/bonds that carried the proceedings over while having us get to know them.
I’m very glad I watched this show. I think my favorite aspect definitely had to have been the cast. They were all strong personalities that varied from dramatic to sometimes comedic, and they joined together with genuine chemistry that made their interactions very organic and endearing. In particular, I thought characters like Mai, Sayaka, and Kanami were more interesting characters, but sometimes we had an occasional comedic moment with the usually serious character like Hiyori for example. The plot may feel finished, but the Universe is left open enough for hopefully more stories to tell in the future.
Overall, I didn’t really expect much from an all-female dominated series at first but I’m glad that I stuck most of it from start to finish. The art & early character designs kinda threw me off in early episodes, but the unraveling mystery & writing manages to get more interesting and deeper as it progressed.
Compared to something that’s big on a mainstream level like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Naruto or Dragonball, It’s sad that you don’t hear much about this show reaching any sort of popularity outside of a smartphone game in the works, but lets hope Toonami at some later point in time gives this show the attention it deserves.