I like WIXOSS. The 2014 seasons were bold, thematically rich and traumatic, although often also surprisingly entertaining and even funny. Obviously I was looking forward to this. So far I'm not sure it's quite as deep as the 2014 seasons, but there's still a lot here and I believe it'll soon be getting a second season of its own.
I'd also better establish some names:
- Season 1 (2014): selector infected WIXOSS
- Season 2 (2014): selector spread WIXOSS
- Anime film (2016): selector destructed WIXOSS
- Season 3/1 (2016): Lostorage incited WIXOSS
- Season 4/2 (2018): Lostorage conflated WIXOSS -missing link-
I was surprised to see more WIXOSS, since "spread" had seemed to finish it off definitively. Here it is again, though, with a new card game and new rules. You still have a talking LRIG card that lets you play the WIXOSS trading card game in Battle Dimension duels against other selectors. Once again, some selectors will be exploring the game rules no one told them about and discovering that the nastiest ones really did mean exactly what they said.
The main difference is that this new WIXOSS set-up isn't even remotely tempting. 2014-WIXOSS offered you a Faustian deal. Win enough battles and the game would grant one wish. Lose and your wish would be inverted into a curse. Personally I wouldn't play it, but I can see the appeal.
Here, though, you have coins that represent your memories. If you lose a battle, a coin turns black and you'll lose a memory. If they all turn black, you'll disappear. (Does this mean death? Brain-wipe? Personality loss?) Okay, that's the bad outcome. What's the good one? Well, if you win enough battles, you'll have completed the game and you'll be able to edit your memories!
In other words, it's like playing Russian roulette where the winner's prize appears to be putting a bullet through any part of your own body. Your choice!
Those can't be the rules, surely? No one would play. You wouldn't, no, but you don't have a choice. If a talking card says you're a selector, then you'd better start battling if you don't want your coins to turn black all by themselves.
I was curious about this, so I did some maths. Let's just consider a simplified, incomplete version of the rules as presented to us at the start of the game. Imagine a world in which, every week: (a) ten new selectors are spawned, and (b) every selector will fight one deathmatch. 50% survival. Your life expectancy would be two weeks. Now let's make the scenario a bit more complicated, with one strong player in every week's new selector batch. Nine normal, one strong. If you fight a strong player, you'll lose nine times out of ten. Your life expectancy has just dropped to eleven days.
Oh, and when I say "life expectancy", I mean it. Having watched the 2014 WIXOSS series was making me expect twists that didn't happen. So far, I'm getting the impression that you die if you lose your last coin in battle. That might yet get subverted in 2018, but even so we should be getting scared for, say, that tiny girl who never seemed to have properly grasped the situation and a certain principled chap who's refusing to fight.
It's a show about memories, obviously, but more specifically it's using them to look back at childhood. Suzuko and Chinatsu used to be inseparable friends, but that was a long time ago. Chinatsu has changed, while Suzuko hasn't. Shou and Hanna are both motivated by memories of younger siblings. Rio is a child herself and far too young to be involved in this. There's something fundamentally backward-looking about what almost all the sympathetic characters are doing, whereas the unsympathetic ones are moving forwards and thinking about the future. This might sound weird, but it's true. The LRIGs can be pretty messed up, with extremely variable levels of sympathy for the humans they're stuck with, and the things they're looking forward to will sometimes be sadistic and/or evil.
And then there's Chinatsu.
In a show that's all about looking back at childhood, Chinatsu is doing the opposite. Her story is a heavy sexual metaphor. It's all metaphorical and there's no actual sex, but even so she's trying to discard the person she used to be as she ends up dressing like a streetwalker and going out in the evening to earn money by inviting men to do it with her. There's a scene where she orders her mother to stop worrying because everything's fine. One difference between this and the 2014 series is the addition of male selectors, which I bet was largely for the sake of this subtext. Then there's Satomi, who loves describing the WIXOSS lifestyle as suggestively as possible.
There's a 2014 crossover character. I guessed that that's what she was, although I must admit I had to google her afterwards to be sure. (You'll have guessed that you don't need to have seen the 2014 series beforehand.) This 2016 show's a sequel, not a reboot, despite the very different tournament rules, but it's leaving a lot of questions unanswered and I'm sure we'll learn more in 2018.
It's an intelligent show. If you've thought of a clever idea for people to try in these games... well, the show's probably going to think of it too. Its message is complicated, to put it mildly, but it's not as simple as "childhood nostalgia is good". Looking forward is something the sympathetic characters will need to learn about too, in some cases painfully. "From now on I'll only look at the future." It's a challenging show. That said, I think the 2014 show was better, but that's an unfair comparison because that was two seasons and we're only halfway through the equivalent run here. The 2014 show had more exploration of its themes, but that should go without saying given its length. The 2014 show was funnier, but again that was mostly in the second half and we haven't yet seen the second half of "lostorage". (Yes, funnier. It's dark, but that just makes it funnier to have a chirpy, upbeat character.)
I'd recommend this, but I'd also recommend starting with the 2014 series. Why wouldn't you? It's very good and it came first.