Blue Reflection Ray – Episode 1

Hello folks, and welcome on back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re embarking on a brand new adventure, as we check out the first episode of the recent magical girl drama Blue Reflection Ray. The show is apparently a spin-off of the 2017 RPG Blue Reflection, which I recall a fair number of my friends enjoyed back on release, as well as a precursor to the franchise’s second game, Blue Reflection: Second Light. Aside from that, I confess I know next to nothing about either the games or show’s actual content; my general impression is “magical girls and intimate drama in a modern urban setting,” but that’s about all I’ve got.

As for the show’s production team, director Risako Yoshida has risen through the key animation grind to arrive at consistent directorial positions within the last five years or so, meaning we’ll hopefully be appreciating their animator’s eye for staging drama. Meanwhile, this is actually series composer Akiko Waba’s first full composition, having previously written scattered episodic scripts for a variety of productions (not too many notables, though A Lull in the Sea was probably effective training for this sort of story). Though it technically possesses the “source material” of the first game, as an anime-original narrative, I’m hoping the series will embrace the unique opportunities of shows that aren’t beholden to source expectations. Anime-originals are preposterously over-represented among the best anime for a variety of reasons most people are too polite to go into, so with any luck that’ll hold true for Blue Reflection Ray. With this admittedly limited context to go on, let’s check out the first episode!

Episode 1

We open on a jewelry box falling through the air against a formless pastel background, then hitting the ground and spilling its necklaces and jewels, the steady song of what sounds like a music box playing in the background

The combination actually recalls Dear Brother’s combination of spilled pearls and ornate musical accompaniment; if that’s an intentional reference point, we’re in for a delightful ride

“Feelings are strange. They can be soft and round or hard and jagged.” Our next shot is a jungle gym, abandoned and lit by the late afternoon sun. An easy stand-in for the death of innocence and childhood certainty

Suddenly a bright crack opens in the sky, and an angelic CG figure descends!

“That’s the last Sephirot!” So we’re starting near the end of some fated magical girl trial. The genre’s “defeat this sequence of enemies and save your home” assumptions can easily be twisted in a grim, thematically pointed direction by implying these cycles never actually end, as in the cases of shows like Madoka or Yuki Yuna

Also, “Sefirot” refers to one of the various ways the divine reveals its will in Kabbalah, echoing a tradition of conscripting religious icons into otherworldly anime threats that extends from Eva to Final Fantasy and beyond

The characters designs are delicate, and maintain that style of uneven pastel shading even across their clothes and skin. The character designer apparently also did the original designs for Hanasaku Iroha and Sound of the Sky, and I can certainly see the resemblance

“The reason I was able to be myself is because my older sister was there for me.” So it seems we’re witnessing a changing of the guard, perhaps with this show’s cast following in the footsteps of the original game’s cast

One of the two fighters appears to lose hope, and a great white light envelopes the town

So the “Ray” of the title would be a ray of sunlight, then

Ash falls on the city as we pan across our presumed protagonists

And we drop in at the Tsukinomiya High School dorm facility. Pretty standard modern CG backgrounds

A girl named Ruka Hanari is transferring in, due to that staple situation of her parents transferring overseas

She’ll be roommates with Hiori Hirahara

A clear contrast emerges even in their room decor: Ruka’s personality seems to match her long black hair, all straight-laced and sensible, while Hiori’s side of the room is a bright pink disorderly mess. As Madoka well demonstrates, the chemistry of Pink and Black is powerful indeed

An open notebook reads “don’t repeat the same things,” again implying some sort of narrative repetition

While Ruka is overwhelmed by her new classmates, the girls outside talk about how “no one’s been able to get ahold of Kana.” Presumably she was one of the magical girls destroyed in that big explosion

Our next lead is Miyako, whose friends chide her for her rich and sheltered ways. They hold up her bedazzled phone as an example, and the light reflects off of it into Ruka’s eye, meaning their first connection is literally through a ray of sunlight. I wonder if Ruka will continue to find this girl “blinding” in various ways throughout the story

Miyako’s tense lip emphasizes her presumably ambiguous feelings regarding her family

Meanwhile, a girl who’s apparently already involved in this world’s supernatural phenomenon is investigating some sort of disturbance with the “Fragments”

“Not to mention, I haven’t found anyone else who…” The train passing overhead cuts off the rest of her dialogue, but given she’s holding a ring that matches the one on her finger, it’s pretty easy to assume she’s talking about being unsuccessful in scouting another magical girl

“I took this part-time job because I thought it’d be easy money,” and “to no surprise, it’s tough living in this world.” Modern, quasi-revisionist magical girl stories frequently embrace this tension, portraying magical girl responsibilities as an extension of the modern world’s exploitation of labor in general and young women specifically

Oh my god, Ruka bought a book simply called “How to Connect with Others.” Girl

She runs into Miyako, who’s out buying a new phone case after feeling self-conscious about her previous one

Then our scout bumps into Ruka, who picks up her ring. We jump into this world’s supernatural dimension – time is frozen, and all the objects of the mundane world are textured over with swirling colors like a pool of gasoline, or paints swirling on a canvas

So presumably “Blue Reflection” is the name of that world. Considering this is based on an RPG, it sorta reminds me of Persona’s nega-worlds

Miyako runs home in time to witness an extraordinarily pointed bit of dialogue from the next room: “you really are my best child, son”

“Senpai, could I take care of our next little flower?” And now we’ve got this clearly psychotic girl who’s apparently on the hunt for “little flowers,” presumably meaning magical girls

And at last Ruka’s roommate arrives, hopping in through the window with a matching ring hung around her neck, and swiftly diving into the traditional meet-cute tackle on top of Ruka. The sporty, energetic counterpoint to Ruka’s staid, ladylike persona

The two seem to “resonate” as they collide, each seemingly echoing some key element of their past or identity – Ruka that music box, Hiori a field of flowers

Though this show largely sticks to realistic hair tones, it is abundantly clear that Hiori is a Pink in all the ways that matter

Hiori swiftly drags Ruka into her pace, carrying her along to help make Tanabata Festival posters

Ooh, I like how we’re getting Ruka’s ungenerous thoughts voiced here. While she maintains a polite facade, mentally she immediately assumes Hiori “just wouldn’t get” her artistic abilities. A welcome touch of realistic defensiveness for this social outsider

A girl with some dust in her eye serves as an illustration of the distance between them: Ruka notices the troubles of others, but Hiori is the type to genuinely engage and try to help without a second thought

Ruka challenges her on this faculty, but the two are interrupted by a scream as the crazy-eyed girl finds her quarry Miyako

This girl possesses a red ring, presumably the counterpoint to our heroes’ blue rings

Ooh, the full reveal of this show’s alternate reality is quite nice. Alongside the previous swirls of color, there are also various visual symbols of adolescent growth and femininity – flowers blooming, butterflies taking flight

Was Madoka the originator of this “Witch World” trend? It’s an excellent, visually engaging idea regardless

“I’m done feeling sad.” It appears Hiori was actually putting on a brave face, attempting to will herself into positivity and courage in the wake of her sister’s disappearance

Magical girls are apparently called “Reflectors.” Welp, I think that’s the title fully covered at this point

Hiori transforms to save Miyako! And she actually does have pink hair in her transformation, hah!

Our stinger reveals the moment Hiori lost her sister, and also gained this ring – the “undying light” of the episode title, carrying from one Reflector to the next

And Done

Alright, we are really cooking here! This first episode threw a wide variety of unknown variables at us, but given the show’s current adherence to magical girl convention, it wasn’t really any trouble to hit the ground running. We’re clearly entering into at least the second generation of local Reflectors here, with Hiori’s sister providing our clearest link to whatever great calamity occurred in the past. I’m also intrigued by the fact that our heroes seem to be facing fellow magical girls of some sort, rather than some kind of alien enemy – clearly that “reflection” theme extends beyond the show’s naming conventions, being echoed in both the moments of emotional connection between Hiori and Ruka, as well as the way their enemies are echoes of their own powers. There’s much to dig into and much else still unclear, so I’m eager to journey onwards to the next episode!

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