A much darker side to play a game of cards.
What They Say:
In the popular game WIXOSS, there are special cards called LRIGs that few players know about – cards that possess personalities and wills of their own. Ruko is a teenage girl who just found one of these rare cards. Now, she can use her LRIG to battle in a strange, dark plane of existence. If she wins, her wishes will be granted – but what happens if she loses?
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the newly created English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show has a pretty solid balance between action and dialogue with what goes on here. There’s a lot of basic school and character interaction moments where it’s straightforward center based material to give it a full feeling. It has some nice placement from time to time but is otherwise solidly what you’d expect. When we get to the action side, mostly in the virtual world, it has a more engaging stereo design with the way the fights are set up and the impact from them. It’s a good sounding mix that keeps it moving about as needed and with some good depth and bass to make it feel like it’s working things well. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV serie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this season are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by JC Staff, the show has a pretty good look about it even as it tries to keep things under control with some minimal backgrounds. The real world sequences are generally pretty well animated with some very detailed backgrounds, but the virtual world sequences are a bit emptier with some basic color choices made, albeit with some wirls to give it life. The transfer pretty accurately conveys the look of the show so we get some striking sequences throughout with great color and pop and some really good detail. But there’s also a bit of a flatness about the show at times as well, which is properly representative of the material. The color levels are solid and pleasing, there’s no noise or grain to be found that’s not intentional and it’s generally a solid looking transfer that has enough pop to give it life, especially compared to streaming.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with a bit of extra thickness and weight to it due to the hinges inside to hold several of the discs. The release for its first pressing comes with an O-Card on it that replicates what’s on the case packaging itself, just with a bit more pop of color to it. It’s an appealing enough cover as it gives us Ruko along the bottom with Tama in her hand while the middle has the logo. The top segment has a good breakdown of five of the other female characters that populate the series throughout taking a good stand and adding some variety to things as they hold their cards. With a star-filled background to it, it definitely has an appealing look. The back cover wraps around the background, providing more dark space so you can read the premise along the right. The left has a pairing of Yuzuki and Ruko together with cards in hand, looking like they’re ready to play. The strip of shots for the show is decent, but with the shadowed edges just makes it feel like an even darker than normal show. The rest is given over to the usual technical grid that breaks down what’s with both formats and how they’re setup in a clean and clear fashion. No show related extras are included, but we do get an adorable reverse side piece of artwork of all the main girls laying along bedding looking up at the viewer. It’s one of the more fanservice-y pieces of the show, something it mostly avoids, so I’m okay with this.
The menu design for this series is pretty simple and familiar as we get a good series of eerie clips playing throughout the majority of the screen. They show off both backgrounds and character moments with a darker turn to most of it when it comes to the color choices picked, which certainly sets a mood. The logo is kept center-top where the style of it definitely has some good pop to it with the pink and white. The navigation strip along the bottom, which doubles as the pop-up menu, has a really nicely look to it as it uses the background from the packaging to give it a star filled look with blacks, blues and purples. The end result is a menu that’s functional and easy to use during playback and at the top level that sets the mood fairly well too.
The extras for this release are fairly standard but quite welcome. For English language fans, we get a pair of cast commentaries that talk about the show with the production team. The other extra is the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which are definitely good to have so you can check out the animation without distraction.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the card game of the same name, Selector Infected WIXOSS is a twelve episode series that has a second cour that aired with Selector Spread WIXOSS and a theatrical movie on the way as well. Animated by JC Staff, the show has a pretty solid team behind it with Takuya Sato directing and scripts by Mari Okada as the overseer. I’m generally wary of trading card based games simply because so many of them are kept basic and in a familiar approach designed to just be mass market accessible. WIXOSS, on the other hand, goes dark and in a really interesting way overall. It’s easy to take this as a dark Angelic Layer series, but each is their own respective works. What this does is pretty scary when you try to map out the real results of it all.
The series revolves around Ruko, your typical quiet and introverted schoolgirl who doesn’t have any real friends. She lives with her brother and with their grandmother who takes care of them, as we only get a passing nod to their mother at one point on the phone. Their grandmother is one of those rare characters here that actually feels like she’s done right as she interacts well with Ruko, keeping some childhood elements about the dialogue but also being aware that she’s growing up and needs her space to explore and make mistakes along the way. So often the parental or grandparent characters are so weak if even present that a character like her here is a welcome change. For Ruko, change comes when he brother gives her a card game box set that has the playmat for WIXOSS and a single card. Much to Ruko’s surprise, though, the card is seemingly alive with the character inside and talks with her. Tama, as she names her, is interested in battle with other cards and helps to put Ruko on the path.
The show revolves well around the idea of the WIXOSS game as on a select number of people are able to interact with the cards and they’re known as Selectors. This special group, which is seemingly only made up of girls (and it seems like only girls play WIXOSS in general in the show), are competing for something even more special. When they achieve a certain number of wins they gain their wish coming true, which means there’s plenty of incentive to play the game and win. The losing side means they lose the reflection of their wish. So if you wish for a lot of friends in your life, you’d end up being without friends. A greater skill at playing the piano would have you losing your ability to play the piano. You can see a lot of twisted ways this can work out like genie wishes, but the girls just see the potential of their dreams. Ruko, however, is a bit different in that she really doesn’t have a wish for most of the show and is just enjoying playing the game.
Over the course of the first season, we get introduced to the game concepts in the virtual world where the one on one competitions utilize their card-characters, various leveling abilities and so forth. For those that follow the game, it probably means more, but I’ll easily admit that some of the details of it all I kind of blank out on because that’s not what draws me to the show. What draws me is watching the cast of characters interact and battle. We get Ruko making several friends over the course of it, particularly with Hitoe and Yuzuki, and there’s a great learning experience together as they all level up and figure out new ways to excel and reach towards the goal. The bonds that form are well, but I also really loved that they took the chance in messing with the characters by having Hitoe lose along the way and being forced into the friend-less position, which causes a series of breakdowns as she has to stay away from everyone because of the wish gone wrong. It’s heart-rending and cruel, but it shows the price paid in full, making it all the more real.
Where the show starts to get darker is when it introduces some of the bigger tier opponents out there in the form of models Akira and Iona. Akira attends the same school as the other girls and it turns into a hugely competitive sequence as she’s a strong player and really goes to town on a lot of players. Her arc is definitely not unexpected when it plays out and we see her fate, but I liked that Akira definitely plays it to the hilt and sells it. Iona, on the other hand, is a lot more interesting overall as she plays to the cold and dark side, looking to achieve her dream while also seeking out that mysteriously powered person (gee, who could that be?). She organizes a larger competition in secret with dozens of other girls that are Selectors in order to find the really powerful player that she needs to face. It works better than I expected as tournament material can be dicey, but it also works us into some of the bigger concepts that it wants to work with.
The show works its battles fairly well as the avatars fight and there’s a rather nice simple video game element about it. It doesn’t go for elaborate stages or anything and instead focuses on the dynamic of the fight. Those that play likely get more out of it, but the focus isn’t all about the fight where a match runs an entire episode or more. But what really sells it, and changes how you view it the second time around, is when it reveals the truth about those that win, the making of Eternal Girls that get their wishes, and more. It’s an unexpected twist when it hits and it does get you to reevaluate how certain characters act early on as they know far more than they’re letting on. But in the end, the appeal is that the show wants to go to a dark place, it wants to screw with the characters and it wants to make their lives completely unlike what they expect. There are some real stakes in place for them and that just sells it in a big way for me. It’s a show that doesn’t start out all rainbows and unicorns, but I didn’t expect it to go as far as it did.
Selector Infected WIXOSS is definitely an interesting work with what it does in working within the card game anime world. I’ve been wary of many of them over the years because of the usual patterns they play to, but WIXOSS decides that it almost wants to be a kind of horror series. The series has some good designs, solid animation and a concept that works surprisingly well and feels like it really becomes something more. There are quirks along the way to be sure and some leaps of logic you have to work with, but when you really think about the chain of events that exist here, it’s pretty horrifying on a number of levels. And that’s a big draw. The release is pretty well done here with a good looking transfer, solid work on both audio tracks and a good presentation. This is one of those shows that becomes a cult favorite that the fans really push hard, and rightly so. It definitely has me really excited to see the second cour to see where it goes and just how much darker it might become.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (1, 12), Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.