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Vividred Operation – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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It is a peaceful future, just like everyone dreamed of: one where everyone can smile and be happy. Suddenly, the world is visited by danger. An unknown enemy – the Alone – appear, targeting the Manifestation Engine. As none of their weapons worked and they fell into despair, a lone girl takes a stand wearing a red ‘Pallet Suit’ which wields a great, hidden power. Before long, allies gather around her to fight. And their friendship becomes the only hope for saving the world!

Falling within the realm of the mahou shoujo (magical girl) genre, Vividred Operation brings about a nostalgic flair that many viewers who prefer a more traditionalistic narrative structure will surely appreciate. Offering a rather simplistic tale exploring the power of friendship and its ability in overcoming the most arduous of obstacles, the series does not necessarily attempt to break any innovative ground in regards to its story or characters, but it is a series that remains strictly adherent to the elements of the magical girl genre itself. Those viewers who favor oversimplified explorations of thematic elements such as friendship and teamwork to coincide with their magical girl shows will take pleasure to know that Vividred Operation is just that and does not truly extend far beyond it.

From the point of being strictly entertaining, Vividred Operation does offer a fine example of a series that plays up the tropes of its genre to considerable success. From its vibrant and elaborate character transformation sequences – which pays homage to popular series such as Sailor Moon (1991) – to the series’ characters espousing the importance of camaraderie and being there for one another in times of immense challenge, it would appear that Vividred Operation is simply a rehash of bygone magical girl series – which for the most part is a true but positive notion. A majority of the thematic elements that have made such series as Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura (1998), Pretty Cure (2004), or Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (2004) such prominent entries within the magical girl genre are present within Vividred Operation.

But considering Vividred Operation’s extensive homages to other series, it often finds itself struggling to rise above a strong sense of its own superficiality. Whether this is visible through the extensive focus on the gluteus maximus – or more plainly, the butts – of the young female protagonists, to the friendships between the same protagonists often awkwardly leaning towards homosexual tendencies that just seem entirely out of place here, the approach that the series takes will probably leave many viewers rather perplexed as to what demographic it is trying to reach. For the most part, this is directed primarily towards how the series deals with the growth of its characters and their relationships to one another. Outside the cliched philosophy that the series ascribes to that “friends are always there when you need them”, Vividred Operation also does not provide many opportunities for character depth let alone development, instead having the characters espouse vague rhetoric without much genuine action to support it. Yes, we know friends are important…so how can we expand upon that premise? The series hints at possibly exploring the idea of friendship as a fundamental attribute to a healthy human existence but unfortunately refrains from fully doing so, instead choosing to safely stay put within the confines of the genre.

For those viewers who are even remotely familiar with previously, more well-known series within the magical girl genre, Vividred Operation may be a blessing or curse depending on the degree in which those particular viewers can be appreciative of the simplicity – and conventionality – that the overall series subscribes to. For those viewers who enjoy this particular genre immensely, Vividred Operation is a series that does not negate any of the traditions upheld by the genre thus far. In fact, it does strive for some sense of creativity by having the girls in the series have their abilities derive from the use of futuristic technology rather than magic. While not a significant step in regards to being innovative, it does make the series somewhat more plausible considering that they are using technology over the supernatural to combat enemies. The series also explores the possibility – and ramifications – of a world wide reliance on an exclusive energy source and the importance of maintaining such a source from ever disappearing. It provides a unique touch to a genre that rarely ventures into such territory.

But Vividred Operation is nonetheless still an engaging experience despite its inability to push the boundaries of the magical girl genre like so many series before it have successfully done so. While it is certainly no Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011),  the experience is really one in which viewers familiar with previous, similar series may see this series as either a timeworn exercise in unoriginality or as a nostalgic ode to superior series of the past, it is really dependent on their stance on the genre itself. The suggestion that the series is a throwback to earlier series does linger heavily in the air though, reminding us of just how influential those endeavors were. But as a notable reflection of such previous series, Vividred Operation remains considerably grounded due to its strict adherence to the magical girl genre, never really standing out on its own but nevertheless respecting and reinterpreting many of the elements that made those previous series so memorable.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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