The 2014 seasons of WIXOSS are great. 2016 I liked a good deal. 2018 is sort of okay. I want to rewatch the whole thing from the beginning, because I suspect I'll get more from this 2018 series that way. It depends heavily on your assumed emotional connection to the characters, but unfortunately I was struggling to remember who everyone was and what happened to them before... and this is me! I love WIXOSS! Unfortunately it's been a while since 2014.
If you've never seen WIXOSS, forget this. Watch the 2014 seasons instead. Here's what we've had so far:
- Season 1 (2014): selector infected WIXOSS
- Season 2 (2014): selector spread WIXOSS
- Compilation film (2016): selector destructed WIXOSS
- Season 3 (2016): Lostorage incited WIXOSS
- Season 4 (2018): Lostorage conflated WIXOSS
I like the compilation movie, but it'll be impenetrable to anyone who hasn't seen the 2014 seasons it's compiling. If you've heard of an OVA called "Lostorage conflated WIXOSS -missing link-", that's just Season 4 ep.1.
Anyway, the plot. "Selector" is about girls playing an evil trading card game because, if they win, they think their wish will be granted. This gets twisted and dark, with incest. "Lostorage" is about girls and boys playing an updated version of the same game because, uh, they got magically selected and they've got no choice. (Except that that's not true, because you can always just refuse to play when someone challenges you. Just because you've been forcibly made a Selector, that doesn't mean you have to play along with it.) Furthermore, the prize for winning is useless and almost no one sane would want it. All this is less interesting. "Selector" was Faustian. Girls were doing deals with the devil. In "Lostorage", pretty much everyone hates the duels and knows they're a fast track to being conned, mind-wiped or dead. Only villains have the slightest speck of enthusiasm for it. That's inevitable given what happened before, but it's still a good deal less compelling.
Similarly, the rules have changed. The girls no longer know how you win or lose in this new tournament, or indeed what happens to you when you get knocked out. (Death/defeat in the WIXOSS universe has often ended up being more of a transition from one living state to another. Are this season's apparently dead people really dead, or just more LRIGs? I'm honestly not sure, which makes things less scary.) These are big changes on the Season 1-2 rules, but again it's less interesting. It's easier to care about a battle if you understand what's at stake and what might happen to the winners and losers afterwards.
What happened, basically, was that "Selector" was powerful, memorable and a hit. Unsurprisingly a sequel came... but unfortunately the ending of "Selector" would seem to rule out any such thing. It's a pretty definite ending. The writers found a way of continuing the show, but they didn't find any new ideas as strong as the old ones.
WHAT'S GOOD IN "CONFLATED"
1. The show's very aware of its own mythology and the emotional weight of its characters. They're nice. (This sometimes makes it hard to remember who's who, admittedly, but I still wished them well.) I'm pretty sure these episodes would indeed work better if I rewatched everything from its 2014 beginnings.
2. Besides, some characters I did remember. She doesn't get that much to do here, but I'd never forget Tama.
3. The villains and scumbags can be shocking. Akira is still a gloriously, viciously broken psycho. "I don't give a shit if I lose this rotten life and all these scars!" Her tactics in, say, ep.8 are abominable. The show has a fondness for Akira-like scumbags, in fact.
4. There are some surprising battle tactics.
WHAT'S NOT GOOD IN "CONFLATED"
...well, frankly, the writing.
The finale is a bit of a mess. It's waggling the show's mythology at me without being clear about what's happening. (However I did laugh at "whoopsie, I betrayed you!") The show's concluding run turns into a rather shapeless blob of battles that I don't particularly care about. It doesn't make sense for most of our heroines to fight, so the show can only push them into it by having Carnival be shit-stirring and them being gullible. Huh.
To be honest, I found this season a bit dull. I'm prepared to give it a second chance one day, but genuinely good shows don't need second chances. They grab you, whether you like it or not. I enjoy the fact that it's still a mature, dramatic subversion of the shounen trading card game battle genre (and has thus annoyed some of that genre's fans), but the fact remains that trading card game battles aren't interesting. A writer's got to work hard to make them not boring. WIXOSS has historically done impressively well at that, but too many battles in close proximity is a challenge.
Hopefully this is the end. I'm not sure that the baddies' stories have all been wrapped up satisfyingly, but what the hell. They've drawn a clear line under the mythology and strongly implied that there will be no more WIXOSS (again). It's a happy ending. I'll take that.