Unlike many magical girl anime, Matoi The Sacred Slayer didn’t include magical girls. Instead, it featured exorcist girls- girls that could harness the power of different gods to fight demons. This concept, plus the adorable character designs, is one of the many things that led me to watch this anime. However, I was taken aback when I first started it, as were many others. The first episode was atrocious. The story and characters were all over the place. I really had no idea what was going on and the characters came off as annoying and one-dimensional. On top of this, it was riddled with unnecessary fan service. I disliked the first episode so much that I considered dropping it, but decided to keep at it. The next couple of episodes were better, yet not great. Despite this, I continued to watch the show, especially since I saw so many bloggers dropping it. I wanted to give the show a chance.
And I am glad I did. The latter half of the show was much better. If the show had been this good from the beginning, fewer people would have dropped it.
A Bad Beginning
The beginning of the show felt like it was having an identity crisis. It’s almost like the writers tried to include every element they could, and fell flat on their faces. Firstly, it jumped into things way too quickly. I honestly had no idea what was going on. This is normal for many first episodes, but there were a lot of other elements included that distracted me. The first episode tried to include a lot of comedy (hence the fan service), and it didn’t work. The fan service was thrown in the audience’s face, which took away from the show and was distracting, as I said. After the first few comedic opening scenes, the show became darker. The concepts of demons and possession were exposed, and the creators did a good job of making these parts very creepy. But then… the show would go back into the goofy, funny scenes. It didn’t transition well and clashed with the eerie themes. It made me wonder, “Is this show trying to be funny or serious? I can’t tell.” I think this mixed message is what turned off a lot of viewers.
Matoi, the main chararcter, didn’t help at first either. She was a typical teenage girl who was unknowingly thrown into crazy circumstances. At the beginning, she was used for a lot of the comedic scenes. For example, her exorcist girl outfit evaporates when she undoes her transformation, which leaves her naked. Whenever this happened, she would shriek and run away, making a fuss. What was supposed to be funny came off as irritating. Matoi seemed useless, demeaned as someone to laugh at, with no other quality traits.
The poor executed comedy really took away from the show. The only comedy this show needed was Yuma. She was enthusiastic and funny without being over-exaggerated, but the writers didn’t seem to understand this until later.
Slowly Getting Better
After the first few episodes, around the half way mark, the show started the become much better. Vital background information was explained, and things started to make sense. We learned a lot more about Matoi and Shingo’s past, which made me understand and appreciate them more as characters. As the story’s conflict became more complicated and Matoi began to learn about her past and personal responsibilities, Matoi began to mature. Instead of focusing on her blunders, the writers emphasized her character development, which helped make her more likable.
The overall tone of the show became more serious as well. The fan service lessened (except for the swimsuit episode), and without it or the dumb comedy as a distraction, the show felt more real and less forced. This made the darker moments more believable and enjoyable. Whenever there was a funny moment, it was usually thanks to Yuma (that’s my girl!), but it was actually funny and didn’t take away from the show like the fan service did.
A Great Ending
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the ending was truly great. With the background story revealed and the characters’personal development, the ending was meaningful. Some could argue that it was little typical or overly sentimental, but I enjoyed it. Besides emotional appeal, the last episode had visual appeal as well. The upper dimensions looked colorful and beautiful as Matoi travels through them. The music added an exotic feeling that matched the colors and Matoi’s ascension. The very ending of the show was very sweet, and can pull some heartstrings. The end was also funny as well, but in a good way. No fan service- just Yuma and her shenanigans.
Why The Identity Struggle?
So, why did this show have so much trouble in the beginning? One obvious reason could have been that the writers were trying to find their groove, and didn’t figure things out until later. But I think there is an underlying issue that the writers were grappling with, and that’s the audience. Usually, magical girls shows are geared toward a younger audience. However, this anime had themes that may not have been appropriate for younger viewers. I am not talking about the fan service here- I’ll get to that in a minute. What I am referring to is the concept of the show.
Most magical girls get their powers through some supernatural means, but the reasons why aren’t very complex. But Matoi had a rather complicated concept. Her powers as an exorcist girl were granted by gods, beings from an alternate dimension. According to the show, there were multiple dimensions and various gods. This is something that a younger audience may struggle to comprehend. Gods and higher dimensions may be a bit over their heads. A lot of Matoi’s character development may have been hard for children to understand as well. Matoi is a teenage girl who doesn’t know her mother. She struggles with getting to know her father and her identity as a person. There is a fair amount of teen angst she goes through. Some younger viewers may understand her plight, but it is definitely more relatable to someone who is a teenager, and may be going through something similar.
Therefore, I think the creators were trying to cater this anime toward teens and adults. If kids aren’t going to be watching it anyway, why not add some elements that will attract more teens and adults? This brings in the fan service. You cannot deny that fan service on general has gotten more and more popular over the years, and the creators probably thought it would help them get more views. However, in this particular anime, the fan service hurt the show, rather than adding to it.
Despite its inadequate beginning, I enjoyed this anime. What impressed me the most was the concept. The idea of an exorcist girl who controls the power of a god is fascinating to me. The concept of other dimensions was interesting as well. If you want to watch something that uses a different take on magical girls, I highly recommend this anime.
Unfortunately, the fan service, and the sloppy execution of the story and other elements did hurt the show as a whole. All together my score for this show is a 7/10.