「魔法少女だらけの水泳大会」 (Mahou Shoujo Darake no Suiei Taikai)
“R U Ready?”
This episode of Mahou Shoujo Magical Destroyers is a bit difficult to process, because it’s one of the few cases I’ve had where I love just about most of the episode, but one aspect completely ruins it all for me.
OLD VS. NEW
I was very fascinated with the conflict between older and newer otaku being acted out through this episode. I feel it has a poignant message with regard to how smaller subcultures often have infighting about whether coming out and open would attract unwanted attention from people who aim to systematically discriminate against them for what they don’t understand.
It’s something that can be applied to many people, but in the case of otaku, it’s a neat anthropological look at the kind of fandom that would be cultivated through anime being an underground medium. With the older anime fandoms being so heavily rooted in fan creations like doujin work, indie animation, and video tape circulation, much of it was too hidden and obfuscated to be a convenient scapegoat.
But as newer otaku came of age, there was a lot more wiggle room for fandoms to emerge into the mainstream and provide even more money-making opportunities to those who wish to allow otaku to be out in the open. While it doesn’t exactly prevent them from being demonized because they’re more present, the ideal situation would be to have harmless subcultures thrive without having to worry about their safety and livelihood because society approves of you treating them like monsters.
This is the argument that’s posited by the show considering how Otaku Hero and the head of the older otaku militia grapple with whether it’s better to be open about your identity without having to fear persecution or to preserve what you have through hiding in the shadows. The show might posit that all otaku should be able to express who they are without having to be concerned about their livelihoods. At the same time, the older otaku aren’t seen as out-of-touch because it is a genuine concern born from the trauma they faced by being outed to their families that it’d be safer to be hidden than exposed.
RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY SALAD!?
This poignant message, however, is obfuscated by its attempts to be funny, especially with its sex humor. I liked Blue because she was sex-positive, but when most of the characters have to remind you that she’s out-of-pocket for being so sexually charged, it comes off as an annoying and overbearing opportunity to use Blue’s sexual impulses as a set-up to any of the characters mocking or whacking at her for being so sexually charged.
And if that’s not bad enough, they roped some poor boy into being fanservice for the episode. One of the otaku dads not only allows his best friend to pressure his boy to crossdress for his amusement, but he also allows his comrades to gush and nosebleed over seeing his son slumped over in a girl’s swimsuit. It’s not only uncomfortable to see actual fanservice of a little boy’s rear, but it’s also very unsettling how much the show and the show’s characters delight in seeing a boy slumped over, accidentally exposing himself, and blushing for the audience. It’s very unsettling and feels way more disturbing in comparison to the show’s sillier attempts at comedy.
It still manages to have plenty of hilarious moments like Pink getting roided up just to throw a small child into the river, or the fake-out of having the older otaku’s magical transformation scene apply no powers to them. I’d even argue that Blue’s comedy has its charm since she has full autonomy over her desires to be lewd, so she’s giving everyone the thumbs up to either get on her level or shrug off her lustful behavior. Still, their kid fanservice does throw a wrench in an otherwise enjoyable episode.