Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

Supernatural collectible card game? Check. Cute, innocent female characters? Check. Depressing descent into a pit of despair where each revelation only makes everything worse? Double-check. Seriously, who knew an anime about young girls playing a children's card game could be so dark?

Good — Wishes

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

Selector Infected WIXOSS is the story of Ruko, a friendless orphan living with her grandmother. One day, her grandmother buys her a starter deck of the trading card game WIXOSS; and when Ruko opens the deck, one of the cards is very clearly alive — though it seems no one else is able to see or hear it. Soon Ruko learns that she is not the only young girl out there with a living card — and that having one has entered her into a supernatural competition as a "selector." If she keeps winning matches, whatever she wishes for will be granted. However, if she loses three times, she is out and is stripped of all memories of playing the game as well.

Given all that, it's no surprise that wishes are a key theme in this anime. These wishes go from the simple, such as making friends, to the taboo (becoming romantically involved with a twin). Some of the wishes are even malevolent and spiteful (making another girl fail at her chosen career).

Ruko, however, is a special case. A life of abandonment has trained her to want nothing more than what she already has to avoid making waves. This means she simply has no wish. Of course, to the other girls in the competition, this makes her the ultimate blasphemer. Ruko is playing for no other reason than she enjoys the thrill of these card battles — even though she knows she is potentially denying these other girls their greatest wishes. This is where much of Ruko's inner conflict comes from. Battle is addictive to her and she knows she should stop playing, but she keeps getting drawn in regardless. And behind all that is the looming — potentially horrifying question — what would happen if a girl who wished for nothing got her wish?

Good — Deal With the Devil

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

Win enough times, get your wish. Lose three times, lose your memories of playing. Seems harmless enough. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a selector and try for your dreams? Of course, as we find out over the course of the series, it is hardly that clear cut. The selector game is filled with hidden pitfalls and dark secrets — for both the losers and winners.

That is the source of the "darkness" within this series. Following each reveal of the game's hidden rules, the characters struggle with the implications of said rules — how it affects them and those around them. Then they have to choose whether to continue playing or to give up. On top of that, most of these hidden rules are learned the hard way, meaning someone has to experience the suffering first hand.

Simply put, WIXOSS is one of those series that appears cute and happy on the surface but quickly spirals down into an abyss of despair that the main characters have seemingly no chance of getting out of. For each step closer to victory, they only seem to sink further.

Mixed — Never Explains the Game

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

WIXOSS is a real trading card game in Japan. I have no idea how to play it and the anime is in no way interested in teaching me. It seems that you have a hero character which you power up and use to attack the other player — and, in the case of the anime, these heroes are the talking cards. But really that's all I know.

However, this is largely forgivable as the card battles are not the focus of the anime. Instead, it is the implications of the wishes and dark revelations that drive this series. The card battles are little more than an excuse to have two of the characters have a confrontation. What matters isn't the card game or how it's played, but rather the character development gained during such a clash and — of course — who wins or loses and what happens because of that.

Bad — Never Learn Villain Motivations

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

There are basically two main villains in WIXOSS, teenage idol Iona and the entity responsible for the whole selector game. Some time is spent developing Iona, yet despite this, her true motivations and ultimate goal are never explained. The game-creating entity gets far less development — only showing up in a handful of scenes to whisper corrupting words into vulnerable ears. This means that we never learn Iona's plan nor the purpose of the game. In fact, we don't even know if either "bad guy" really is evil. Their actions and the way the anime presents them suggests that they are, but even in the end we never receive the information we'd need to make that call. Presumably, those revelations are being reserved for the sequel series; but it's a bit hard to get fully invested in a conflict when you only know some of the stakes.

Final Thoughts

Young Girls Playing Cards Can Be So Dark

As Modoka Magica is a dark twist on the magical girl genre, Selector Infected WIXOSS is a dark twist on the card battle genre. It takes a lighthearted setting we have seen numerous times before and makes it into an emotional ocean of despair. The card battles are nothing more than a catalyst to keep the plot moving by exposing each subsequent dark revelation. If you like psychological anime or "deal with the devil" type stories, this one is certainly worth your time.

Selector Infected WIXOSS aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It is currently available for free and with English subtitles in the US on Funimation and Crunchyroll. The sequel series, Selector Spread WIXOSS is scheduled to air in late 2014.


    I did enjoy this series but was annoyed by how it didn't explain the original game or give any real development to characters -especially Ruko & Iona.
    My review is here:

    *looks at the yugioh series & magica madoka* hmmm, 'dark twist on the card battle genre', hmmmmm, lets look at the yugioh protaginists. First off there is yami yugi, the evil father of the genre who, in the 1st series of yugioh would TORTURE the people who lose against him. Then there was yugioh gx season 3 & 4, jaden went from a happy kid to a bleeping tyrant, worse still, he is now on lists of serial killers & he kept that mentality till the last episode. Yugioh 5ds had 3 protaginists from a district controlling gang & another protaginist who was a lucy like psychic who can materialise a dragon to attack with. Yugioh zexal has a protaginist who wants to destroy another planet. Plus ruko seems to be a polar opposite to someone who didn't want to make a wish & that person is madoka herself. I mean by the looks of it, she is an expy of YUGI. Not just yugi, homura's original state. So to clarify what I mean, ruko is an expy of both homura before she made a wish & yugi before he came into contact with yami aka atem, both of them wished to make no waves & both had no friends at the beginning. Plus she is a polar opposite to madoka because roku isn't socialble, while madoka is, roku doesn't have much family, while madoka does. Plus to compare someone else that was in a series that put a dark twist on card battles: jaden, both have in their childhood had little contact with other family members, both initially had little contact to someone else till a card game in which they hear monster cards. Ruko loses contact with someone who plays the game if her opponent lost 3 times, jaden lost a friend due a lucy like card of his, who proceeded to ruin his life again in season 3 of yugioh gx. I mean did the makers of wixoss combine both yugioh gx & magica madoka to make this series. I mean by the end of this series, you'd better make sure that ruko doesn't become suicidal or else kyubey will come a knocking.

    And will be available in Australia when? Licencing, stopping you from paying for things you want to pay for since the internet.

      Talk to Madman, they'll buy the license then never bother to release the show

    This article interested me. It had me hooked. Then;
    becoming romantically involved with a twin
    Seriously, Japan?

    Last edited 20/08/14 6:10 pm

      It's like you've never seen an anime with twins.

        To be fair the idea of romance between siblings seems to be a much more common trope in Japanese media, it's commonplace can be a little unsettling at first but is kind of worth comparing it to Arrested Development and the George Michael Maebe relationship.

        It's certainly taboo and is generally played against that, either for laughs or drama, whilst maintaining the idea that these characters do have a serious underlying connection.

        Then again with the popularity of Game of Thrones it also raises the possibility of sibling love being played completely straight.

        Of course it's rather easy for me to be objective on this subject, because I never had a sister.

        Either way, I wouldn't write off any series purely on that alone @Phlansipo since it can potentially be handled well.

          Turns out it's not available in Australia, anyway.

      Actually, in this case this was one of the things I appreciated about this show.

      Wait, I'm going somewhere with this.

      Recently, after about a ten year lull, I decided to start checking out anime again to see what it currently up to after being a big fan when I was younger. Suffuce to say, I've been less than impressed. Most of the stories seem to involve a 15 year old male, who mysteriously lives alone, who reacts to stress poorly, whose hair forms an 'X' right between his eyes and who also apparently has no idea what function his genitals serve, judging from how he handles himself around women.

      Oh, and he has loads of sexually awkward scenes with a sibling, but it's totally cool, yeah. because later on you find out they're not actually related by blood. One of them's adopted, their parents are married, or they grew up together as neighbours and everyone just calls them that. Every godddamn time.

      This one actually bucked the trend I was getting bored to hell with by saying, "no, they are completely related, the girl knows how messed up her desires are which is why she'll go to such extremes to keep them secret and to make them come true. Oh, and the brother has no idea and he's going to lose it if he finds out." It was a nice turn to see the ridiculous chaste fantasy - with caveats - that most anime seem to treat the subject as get thrown out into the open for once.

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