[Synopsis]: In the future 95% of the world’s energy is supplied by the Manifestation Engine – a massive machine that purportedly harnesses the power of the sky. One day giant, mysterious entities known as ‘Alone’ appear and attempt to destroy the engine however it’s inventor, Kenjirou Isshiki (Terasoma, Masaki), creates the Vivid System in order to combat them. His granddaughter, Isshiki Akane (Sakura, Ayane) and her friends utilize the Vivid System to transform into mech-like warriors in order to fight back against the Alone and save both the Manifestation Engine and Earth.
The main characters in the show are Isshiki Akane and her three friends who she gathers over the first few episodes in quick succession.
Because the show is essentially a mahou shoujo you can expect what Akane’s character is like – upbeat, cheery, enthusiastic, and friendly. She is quick to latch on to people and can become upset when she can’t help others or when she fails. I feel that, while Akane is a perfectly fine character within the context of the show, her character-type defines her to a T and at no point did I feel that she was a departure from the cute, friendly magical girl trope that she exhibits. Because she is what she appears to be and never anything more I felt pretty bored with her as a character.
The other characters are not much different unfortunately. As mahou shoujo are classically color oriented, Akane’s friends of course exhibited the characteristics more or less associated with their archetypes and become the blue, green, and yellow magical girls alongside Akane’s red. They aren’t very complex characters and ultimately just want to be friends with each other like ‘all young girls’.
To explore the remaining characters – Akane’s grandfather is fairly present but is accidentally transformed into a plush sea otter thus fulfilling the show’s professed necessity in having the classic animal companion/guide for the magical girls. While the antagonist(s) of the show are the Alone that attempt to destroy the Manifestation Engine, there is of course the ‘dark magical girl’ who works against Akane and her companions. Kuroki, Rei (Uchida, Maaya) is more or less similar to everyone else in the show in that she exemplifies her archetype and behaves throughout the show accordingly. She is lonely and desperate but not beyond saving and this character trait, as always, serves as a good amount of tension within the show.
The art was on point and pretty high-quality in A-1 Studio’s fashion. The show used CG quite well and to good effect in the action sequences without making it look out of place or distracting. The character designs are pretty much what you would expect of a mahou shoujo – the girls are each somewhat oriented towards their magical girl color each other visible trait backs this up in different ways. Takamura Kazuhiro is responsible for both the character designs and directing and this feels incredibly similar in approach to one of his renowned shows Strike Witches. You can hardly go a few minutes without having multiple crotch and ass shots of the girls even in casual dialogue and while I would describe this approach as distracting and distasteful, other people gravitate to this style and so I simply want to prepare prospective watchers for this element of the show.
The other thing I feel that I need to touch upon is the transformation sequences. In classic mahou shoujo style each girl has a transformation sequence when they shift into their Vivid engine palette suit and additionally a transformation beyond this when any of the girls combine with Akane to create a more powerful mech-girl. The sequences themselves are really well animated and are some of the better transformation sequences I have seen and they aren’t done to death each episode like they are in some shows (they are often more tastefully edited down so that they do not play the full sequence each time after the audience is acquainted with them). While they are very good sequences I wouldn’t say they are reason enough to watch the show – only one strong element alongside the good animation and CG.
I want to be upfront with the fact that, Vividred Operation is not a show that borrows elements from mahou shoujo in order to create a new genre or explore the story differently – it feels most akin to a reskin of the genre itself, substituting ‘technology’ in place of explicit magic and trading away certain design points in similar fashion. The show sticks very closely to its premise in that the magical mech girls defend the engine from the invasive Alone and eventually reach a final conflict in which the fate of things are decided. It is not an original plot but it doesn’t pretend to be one. The show is not comedic however the characters are moe and by product of this there are comedic elements within the show despite the fact that it lacks gags or even mild jokes – it is comedic in the same way that being cute is comedic.
Something I have to stress to prospective viewers of the show is that you cannot ask questions when it comes to the underlying logic of the show – Once you do, everything starts to unravel because hardly anything makes sense to begin with outside of the large picture conflict between a foreign entity and us, the human race. I say this because there is a great danger in what Vividred does when it trades away its aesthetic elements of magic for those of the technological. It is somewhat neat to have mech-girls instead of inexplicably magical ones however by making the show rely on technology, a purportedly explainable thing rather than magic, the typically incomprehensible element of the show – it begs explanation for each piece of ‘technology’ it utilizes. Now of course there is no explanation for why anything works the way it does and that is the slippery slope where the show is concerned.
Why does Akane’s grandfather make the ‘docking’ (the combination of two girls into one stronger girl) require a kiss to activate the Vivid Drive? Why is the Vivid System capable of self-replicating in the case of Akane’s friends however is not put to greater use in order to destroy the Alone? Why are the palette suits, which are empowered by means of the Manifestation Engine, immune to EMP’s while everything else in the world that runs off of the engine is treated normally? There are no enjoyable answers to these questions and there is nothing to read into – they are simple logical inconsitancies born out of poor writing and lazy implementation. You would be much better off treating the show as if they were just magical girls and frankly you’d have a hard time proving that they aren’t. Clarke’s third law has a place in all of this (that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) however it is the fundamental reasoning behind the implantation and use of the technology rather than its actual existence that is called into question.
All of that aside, because the show relies so heavily on all of the tropes and elements of the classical mahou shoujo genre, it is highly predicable in the plot department and so needless to say this is probably the show’s weakest point.
The music was one of the better parts about the show. It was pretty good all things considered and my only gripes are that it didn’t have much diversity in that most of the songs sounded the same (which worked fine for the show) and that occasionally the scene would demand more tense music but the score at the time was awkwardly upbeat and heroic which somewhat damaged the mood rarely.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Vividred Operation is a show where you get what you expect. If you know going in that the show could be summed up as ‘well-animated fan-service put to pretty decent music’ then you would find just that and not much else outside of minor character quirks.
Because of the route the show took, in occupying all of the classic themes of majou shoujo and nothing else, it lacked the extra ‘something’ that made those shows work in their own way. Just as an example – there really is no ‘coming of age’ element in Vividred however it can commonly be found within the genre. Something like that would have greatly improved the show in my opinion because it would have given the show a sense of sentimentality and relatability – giving the show an ultimate meaning amongst the otherwise nonsensical things that transpire.
I give Vividred Operation a 4 because at the end of the day I can only think of it as unoriginal, nonsensical in the extreme, and hyper-sexualized to the point of being obnoxious. I like the animation and the music and the transformation sequences are really good however everything else fails pretty spectacularly. It over-acknowledges its genre and never tries to be anything more than what came before it.
Because of the nature of being a ‘4’ I probably wouldn’t recommend Vividred to anyone because I feel like the genre is executed elsewhere far better. Its a perfectly fine show if your aim is to watch fan-service within a mahou shoujo
There may be an argument for Vividred being a decent gateway show into the genre of mahou shoujo, especially to those who are more skeptical of it, because it has decent action and the animation and music is on point. However I would say that even this is a dangerous sentiment as the show could also very easily turn people off of the genre entirely because of its negative aspects. If one can approach the show with this in mind, then it would probably be an alright thing to explore tentatively.