Magical Girl Friendship Squad
If the title doesn’t make it obvious, this wacky new series is basically a love letter to Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and various other examples of the “magical girl” anime subgenre. Created by Kelsey Stephanides, the series follows two chronically underemployed millennials, Alex (Quinta Brunson) and Daisy (Anna Akana), as they find themselves bestowed with fantastical powers by a mystical red panda named Nut (Ana Gastayer).
To a certain extent, Magical Girl Friendship Squad is a real YMMV kind of series. It’s steeped in anime tropes and references, even as it remixes all of that material through a distinctly 21st century American pop culture lens. Half the fun of watching the pilot comes from pinpointing all the various Easter eggs and references to various iconic anime. For instance, there’s a really clever Cowboy Bebop poster inserted into the background of one scene, and the climax hilariously spoofs the more sexually explicit examples of the magical girl genre. Of course, all of this means that if you don’t have at least some familiarity with/appreciation for that source material going in, MGFS may not entirely click.
Still, the fast pace and tongue-in-cheek tone go a long way toward making the premiere a breezy and enjoyable 15 minutes. The two leads are entertaining, both lampooning all the millennial stereotypes and defying them at the same time. There’s just enough plot in this first episode to provide a hook for the full six-episode season without getting in the way of the goofy humor and action.
The animation style also works in its favor. MGFS strikes a balance between the irreverent style of most adult-oriented animated sitcoms and a more flamboyant and expressive anime style. The series resembles nothing if not a grown-up version of the similarly anime-influenced Steven Universe. All in all, Magical Girl Friendship Squad makes a decent case for switching over to Syfy for 15 minutes every Saturday night. What else is there to do these days?
Score – 8
Wild Life is a series with a fairly intriguing premise, but one that tends to fall back on more familiar animated sitcom tropes. Created by Adam Davies and featuring the voices of John Reynolds, Claudia O’Doherty, Baron Vaughn, Reggie Watts, SkittLeZ Ortiz, and Natalie Palamides, Wild Life is set in a post-apocalyptic zoo where the inmates are quite literally running the asylum. Davies previously teased the series as, “If The Walking Dead smoked Adventure Time and stayed up all night watching Friends.”
The idea of a diverse community of animals thriving in a world where humanity has been utterly annihilated sounds intriguing enough. Unfortunately, Wild Life doesn’t do a whole lot with that basic premise or the post-apocalyptic angle. The first episode is instead anchored mostly around a lovestruck cheetah named Glenn (Reynolds) as he pines after his dolphin friend Marny (O’Doherty). It barely matters whether these characters are human or animals – no doubt that’s the point, but the end result is a show that still hits on a few too many sitcom tropes for its own good. The intentionally crude and simplistic animation style doesn’t necessarily do Wild Life any favors or really take advantage of the post-apocalyptic setting, either.
That said, there are occasional moments of brilliance in the premiere when it devolves into moments of pure, wacky surrealism – and Ortiz is a hoot as the lazy, hedonistic panda, Debbie. But in the end, Wild Life doesn’t make a very strong case for an ongoing series, even with its lean 15-minute running time.
Score – 5
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Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.