#1 Adult magical girl
The term “magical girl” usually brings to mind teenage heroines, doesn’t it? Young lasses bestowed with magical powers, fighting for love and justice. It is because of this mental image that a title like “My Wife is a Magical Girl” drew my attention. After all, teenage girls eventually grow up. When do they become magical women? Or, indeed, magical wives?
The story revolves around Agnes, who is better known as Ureshiko Asaba in daily life. She is the magical girl in charge of protecting her city, but this is a problem. Agnes is long overdue for replacement. She is now 26 years old, married, and has a regular day job. Her team-mates have all long since retired and her magical costume is now so ill-fitting that it has become lewd. However, Agnes has no intention of quitting. A choice that has her superiors in the magical realm furious, as she simply keeps defeating anyone dispatched to replace her.
Having a woman in her 20s be a magical girl is a novel concept that My Wife is a Magical Girl explores well. Agnes is such a fascinating character. It’s fun to see how she combines her daily life with her magical girl duties. How she proves that she’s not to be written off as “past her prime” just because she’s approaching 30.
At the same time, the anime and its characters do address that what she is doing is unavoidably childish. She refuses to fully accept adulthood and so clings desperately to this token of her youth. She’d rather deal with the embarrassment this brings her than let go of something that meant so much to her. This inner conflict forms the core of her character arc throughout the show and I was very into it.
#2 Nuanced central conflict
Complicating Agnes’ predicament is that she stands to give up far more than just a title. The world that she protects is artificial; a created world that exists under the supervision of the Magical Realm. Being artificial, the world can be changed at any moment. This is also the role of the designated magical girl, making Agnes effectively a God.
This is important to her, as the world was first created by her mother and left untouched by her successors. For Agnes, cherished memories reside in this world. Therefore it should remain as it is, unchanged and perfect for all eternity. However, her replacement sees things differently. Sayaka Kurenai, also known as Magical Girl Cruje, is an energetic and hip young girl. She finds the current world drab and lacking in excitement, so she looks forward to being able to redecorate it as she pleases.
On its surface, this is a simplistic argument between tradition or progress. Transience versus persistence. Agnes wants the world to stay the same, exactly as it was once intended by her mother. Cruje wants radical change and is willing to upset others to achieve that. What I like in this conflict is how unexpectedly nuanced it becomes as it develops.
Plot twists that reveal new information include some major “oh no” moments, both for the characters as well as the viewers. Cruje and Agnes gradually change their stance as they learn more about what’s going on and about each other. In such a way that it feels like maybe conflict could’ve been avoided, had they communicated with each other from the start. Sadly, the opportunity for peaceful negotiation has now passed.
#3 Magical battles
Though its heavy on character development and romance, My Wife is a Magical Girl is not lacking in action either. As Agnes fends off harassment from Cruje and her allies, you get plenty of mahou shoujo battles that hold up well compared to the genre greats.
My Wife is a Magical Girl was an anime original series and its strong pedigree is reflected in these action scenes. It was the brainchild of seasoned director Hiroshi Nishikiori (Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh) with a host of talent supporting him. This includes Sailor Moon veteran Shinya Hasegawa, who took charge of the excellent character design.
The colorful characters, strong directing, and quality animation had me constantly going back to scenes to make screenshots. It’s just so fun to watch these characters perform themed special attacks and light up the sky with magical explosions.
#4 Domestic abuse
Something I didn’t expect when I picked up My Wife is a Magical Girl was that the story would touch on domestic abuse. Agnes is married after all, but not living in her own house. Circumstances have soured the relationship between Agnes and her husband. To the point where he is now cold towards her, with unexpected bouts of physical violence.
The way this is depicted is upsetting to watch. Agnes is so kind and tender, and usually so bright. But in the presence of her husband, you can see an emotional weight on her. She is on guard and careful. She makes herself as small and unnoticeable as possible so as not to frustrate him. Yet nothing she says or does is alright. And when he gets violent, seeing Agnes be so helpless in spite of her overwhelming power is unreal.
Much of the story explores how this came to be. How Agnes went from loving this man enough to marry him, to not even being able to stay in the same house together. Why is she still trying to mend things, even as he makes no secret of his affairs. I am not going to lie, the husband is one of the most hateable motherfuckers I’ve ever seen in anime. But damn is the story revolving around him captivating.
#5 A battle for love
Outside of that hornets nest of a romance, there is more love brewing in My Wife is a Magical Girl. Most of it revolving around Tatsumi Kagura, who has only just moved to Agnes’ city. In fact, he takes up residence at the boarding house where Agnes works as a caretaker.
Tatsumi finds himself falling for Agnes, which is awkward given that he works with her husband. Agnes is drawn to him as well, but afraid to commit the taboo of cheating. Even as her husband has no such qualms. She is also afraid that falling for Tatsumi would lead to a tragic repeat of the events that wrecked her marriage. Yet, she also can’t convince herself to reject him outright.
At the same time, Tatsumi also draws the attention of Cruje. Though far younger than him, she uses her magic to pose as an adult and tries to have a mature relationship. While she is initially successful in drawing Tatsumi’s eye, she has her own anxieties and worries that make a relationship difficult. Not to mention that she can’t keep up her magical facade forever.
This romantic plot has a number of surprises and ample depth. Not to mention likeable characters at its center. However, it also further fuels the rivalry between Agnes and Cruje. Not only are they competing for the power to rule the world, they are also competing for love.
More like this…
Haibane Renmei: Mysterious, isolated city controlled by higher powers.
Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: Magical girls who have grown up.
ERASED: Focus on domestic abuse.