And with that this little tale of suffering is over. MSS certainly didn’t do the unexpected in its finale, offering up explanations (more or less) for the administration and the Tempest alongside some more cutesy Aya-Tsuyuno moments, but you have to admit this show still knows how to surprise even in its last moments. Kaname becoming the perpetual bottom to one thoroughly stick obsessed Misumi? Yeah that’s kicking things up a notch. Painfully.
As expected after all the teasing the Tempest did turn out to be a world changer, but in the manner of “emotional” extirpation instead of literal death (well, mostly). How the now identified King plans on actually eliminating misfortune from the world is anyone’s guess—let alone identifying what makes up misfortune—but at least it’s good to know all that negative energy is being collected to initiate the Tempest and not wake up a random girl. It’s quite ironic this translates to a bunch of misfortunate girls needing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of everyone else, but this is cutie breaking after all, there just wouldn’t be a purpose without the mandatory suffering. At least Aya and Tsuyuno get the (somewhat) happy ending, complete with a promise to rescue their fellow girls from such a fate.
Even if Aya’s rebellion doesn’t change much in the end seeing how quickly the administration replenished their ranks, given where we started this wild ride, you have to admit it’s not that bad a deal for our little cutie.
Coming into MSS I knew just one thing: it would be violent. Ridiculously violent. Colour me surprised then when MSS, after initially meeting those provocative expectations, slowly switched gears into a more conventional cutie breaking show (if such a thing can be called conventional), dispensing with a good chunk of the initial edginess in favour of story twists and old fashioned shock scenes. It turned into a mahou shoujo sticking close to the well-trodden cutie breaking path and arguably became better for it.
The key when looking at MSS is realizing it is no Madoka and never was intending to be. There’s none of the writing ingenuity and psychological depravity present which made Madoka so popular, just the base suffering and ever present hints of some grand twist to be revealed later. Much like the earlier Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikau, MSS was a series focused on style over substance—it’s all about the shock value and how long it can be kept refreshing. This is immediately obvious in all of MSS’s magical girls, each with backgrounds of suffering that more or less turned out the same—i.e. the girl becoming seriously broken in some capacity (looks at Rina)—but are significantly different from one another in terms of specifics. Whereas Aya’s history is one of brotherly beatings and family ignorance for example, Sarina’s was one brought about by her own actions and inability (at least initially) to accept responsibility. The uniqueness of the main cast ensured each new bit of cutie suffering never lost its effect, helping keep things interesting while the story had time to stretch its legs. It wasn’t entirely perfect mind you (some characters were entirely forgettable outside their traumas for example), but MSS did what it needed to stay pleasantly entertaining.
The main problem with MSS of course is when that shock no longer works. This issue undoubtedly comes down to personal preference, but there’s no denying at times the series made incredibly light of some very serious issues. Bullying for example was largely treated with kid gloves, with Aya being almost comically tortured not just by her abusers, but by adults who in any normal situation would have intervened for her long before. Family neglect and domestic abuse were similarly limited to seeming character traits, and reasons for certain instances of aggression (ex. rape) were either ignored or barely touched on. While the show did move on from these provocations later on once introductions were over, there’s no getting around the fact MSS arguably could have done more to reduce their excessive vulgarity, whether it be through more realistic development (see the bullying) or giving reason for certain character actions. Considering MSS’s story largely cut off just as things were getting interesting (an unfortunate trait of most adaptations), its treatment of these societal ills likely turned off a good number of people who it could have converted into fans if it had only gave a little more thought to its own execution.
While we may never know whether MSS could have succeeded in being more than it was, for a show starting off with such edgy beginnings it certainly did enough to make a mark for itself. No matter the ham-fisted shock value or conventional (for the genre) plot, MSS was incredibly entertaining at times and showed that there’s still room for dark and violent mahou shoujo willing to get a bit creative. MSS may not ultimately be the next Madoka or even a series we all look back on fondly in the future, but if it encourages some likeminded series to step up to bat then it’s done its job very well indeed.