Anime Review: Matoi the Sacred Slayer

By Drew Hurley 17.12.2017

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Matoi the Sacred Slayer (UK Rating: 12)

A completely original series here, not based on any light novel, manga series, visual novel or even Vocaloid song! Quite a deceptive presentation on this one, too. The main menu of Matoi the Sacred Slayer seems to promise an atypical magical girl series with its cute young lady and abundance of pink, yet as the first episode opens, there's a scene of special forces being slaughtered by some unknown force. It's the first surprise of many as this series bundles together a whole host of unexpected elements. This complete collection comes courtesy of MVM and is available from 15th January.

The titular Matoi is a teenage girl working at the local shrine with her friend, Yuma, who is the daughter of the head priest. Matoi's father is a detective in the Violent Crimes Division of the police force. Both Matoi and her father receive an unexpected visitor in the form of a mysterious and beautiful European woman. She is visiting the shrine in the hopes of finding some artefact related to the exorcisms once performed there and visiting the police in regards to a series of occult murders popping up in the area. There's clearly more to her than meets the eye. A series of serendipitous events when the killer storms into the shrine unites Matoi with a memento of her mother, an exorcism ritual cast by her friend and a raging demon, all resulting in Matoi transforming in a classic magical girl sequence.

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This is all much to the disappointment of Matoi's friend, Yuma, who is the daughter of the shrine's head priest. She always wanted to become a shrine maiden and desperately wants the power of exorcism that her friend received. Matoi, meanwhile, has no intention or desire to be anything other than an everyday normal girl. Yuma drags her into the fight and into a much larger world. There is a secret organisation from the Vatican fighting against the demons, too, a mysterious secret agent investigating the Night, and the mystery of just who Matoi's mother was and where she vanished to.

For a series with just 12 episodes, there is a huge amount of story here, with arcs that feel like they should be told across three or four episodes stuffed into a single episode. Just one episode introduces the background to the world, another single episode delves into Yuma's past and introduces the gods she has been bonded with all her life, one single episode for the supporting cast character Clarus - the exorcist from the Vatican's anti-creed system - to tell of her tragic past, face off against her hated nemesis and wrap everything up!

While this means there is plenty of exposition stuffed into the episodes, they never feel particularly laden or dull. This is thanks to some great comedy elements throughout; there's plenty of slapstick comedy between the three girls, whether in battles or during their everyday lives. There's a little fan-service here, too, but nothing obnoxious or extreme; for instance, the girls lose all their clothes upon transforming and have to rush to cover themselves when transforming back. There's also the bust Luciela who acts as the sex appeal; considerably busty and showing off her body to get the idiotic men to do whatever she needs.

Being an original series from White Fox, it had complete freedom with the production and the result is all over the place. At points the series looks like a generic shonen series, reminiscent of series like  Mai Hime, but then occasionally the series will go much more experimental and there are snippets that begin to take inspiration from some memorable series, like Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, even Panty and Stocking and Nichijou. Sadly, these are little more than glimpses and soon enough the visuals return to a generic style, with nothing to set it apart from the oceans of other series like this out there.

This release comes with the original Japanese dub only and the bonus features are what anime fans have come to expect from these types of releases. The usual clean opening/closing, trailers for other Sentai Filmworks series, Japanese commercials and promos, but then the final disc comes with a special little bonus - a 30-minute episode that compiles the entirety of the series down into a brief overview and an OVA episode entitled Nights Busters where Matoi finds a downside to her happily ever after and Yuma opens up a firehouse from which to combat spirits with a certain familiar sign. There's even an Ecto-1 looking car and a fat, greedy, green ghost to bust. It's a silly comedy-centric episode where the girls are forced to try and become famous but the funniest of all the episodes in the series.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Matoi the Sacred Slayer feels quite experimental. It plays with numerous styles in both the art and the storytelling and mostly does them well. White Fox has previously put out quality adaptations with series like Re: Zero, Akame Ga Kiru, and, of course, Steins;Gate but now it has shown it can deliver original series, too. The comedy delivers some laughs, the action is generic but decent, and the story is surprisingly complex for such a short and original series - all topped off with an impressive finale that manages to tie up all the loose ends.

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