Mysteria Academy is a prestigious magic school where everyone can attend as long as they pass muster, as race isn't an issue. Princess Anne is a human honor student who happens upon half human/half dragon Princess Grea and strikes up a friendship with her that eventually develops into something more.
I had already heard about this show back in 2016 when all we had to go on was some promotional art and a vague description of what the show was supposed to be about. Since then -- or maybe around the same time -- I had the chance to watch Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, which was an interesting prospect in quite a few ways. It was energetic -- maybe a bit too energetic -- and that's probably why getting the chance to see something a bit more laid-back in this particular branch of the fantasy genre appealed to me.
And while one thing that slapped you in the face from the get-go with Rage of Bahamut: Genesis was its almost boundless energy and silliness, the thing that will make your eyes widen with Mysteria Friends is its immaculate background work. Just the school itself is meticulously crafted, a mixture of fantastical castle buildings and wondrous greenery, whether bathed in the bright light of the morning sun or the intense orange glow of the evening sun. But even when we're taken to a beach, or the many weird and wonderful hidden places in the school, we won't be lacking in scenic diversity.
Character art also follows a pretty high standard. Although most of the complexity can be found in the costumes they wear, the character animation is definitely up to scratch. While Anne might look a bit... I don't want to use the word "typical", but she reminded me more than a bit of a somewhat similar Princess found in Izetta: The Last Witch; perfect on the surface and in the eyes of her many schoolmates, but a bit silly and clumsy on the inside. That similarity easily carries over to Grea, who shares much of Izetta's mannerisms; she seems a bit on the shy side that belies her impressive stature that makes Anne look positively tiny in comparison. Tall and curvy, Grea also sports a pair of dragon wings sticking out of her back and a pretty solid tail sticking out from underneath her skirt that would make even Tohru nod in appreciation.
By the time the show starts, the two seem to already be in a bit of a relationship if their exchanges are anything to go by. Mysteria Friends does try to play them up as two loners seeking common ground: Anne because of her perfect attendance and stature, bolstered by her impressive magical skills, probably making her a bit unapproachable for people more interested in worshipping her than getting to know her other side. And Grea? Well... I can only guess her being a half-dragon might play some part in why the others aren't approaching her, but I can't say for sure. While she's certainly amazonian in build, she isn't exactly hard on the eyes, and she's hardly lacking for people willing to help her whenever she falls ill in the second episode either. Since she's a fairly soft-spoken girl, the way her tail moves tend to clue the audience in on how she feels at any given moment, a credit to the animation team for handling as well as they did.
As in any show worth its salt, the part that's perhaps the most interesting is how the two are acting towards each other. We buy Anne and Grea's relationship, not because the school seems to be consisting of 90% females and 10% males and therefore yuri becomes somewhat of a necessity for people seeking relationships, but because Grea lets Anne set aside her noble heritage while Anne doesn't really seem all that intimidated by Grea's existance. There is an ambiguousness to it I also rather like: Grea seems to fear a lot of things, but we don't really know why. Maybe what she's most afraid of is hurting someone through her carelessness. Even half the strength of a dragon is probably nothing to scoff at, although she does seem a bit more shy than your average shy girl; she's never loud or abrasive like another dragon girl who shares at least three of her traits, and in fact is a good deal more pouty than I expected.
Lest you think I'm talking up Grea's proportions a bit much, understand this: Mysteria Friends is sexing it up quite a bit more than its forefather ever did. Granted, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis was more content with being hyper and loud, and the closest we got to relationships in that show was Favaro's knightly tendencies towards Amira or Kaisar's somewhat oddball "relationship" with Rita, but already from the beginning of Manaria Friends, we are being served stockings being slowly pulled up long lady legs, and the show isn't exactly being stingy with Grea's conveniently-covered-up-but-still-naked body. And that's not even getting started at the aforementioned second episode where Grea is sick... but that is probably not going to be your first guess when the episode starts playing.
Which is fine, don't get me wrong. Intimacy is often in short supply in anime, and when it's there, it's usually too fetishized towards one of the genders for the other to enjoy, and Mysteria Friends does at least not cross any borders. Granted, that might have to do with Grea being too shy to let anything get too far either; Anne is even blocked out of a pajama party because Grea don't want her to learn a terrible secret: she snuggles her own tail when she sleeps as if it was some kind of hug pillow, which is just all kinds of adorable. And so instead we get the accidental fall-overs or random invasions of personal space -- you know, the safe stuff that adds a lot of nudity to spice things up.
Basically, Mysteria Friends is a pretty sweet deal. Mostly. But yes, there are hiccups of various severity here that may or may take you out of the show. Now, the trolling ones I could deal with, like the sudden attack on the school that turned out to be just a school emergency drill exercise. Those I actually found kind of clever, even if I suspected something once I had a bead on what was going on. A good bit less so the next subject, which brings us back to the second episode again. Grea is sick, and so Anne and her personal knight Owen needs to set out for the "forbidden library" to find a book on the subject of half-dragon beings and their diseases. You'd think any information about diseases or other potentially dangerous medical situations about as many races as this world has would be at the school's medical office, but no... to find the information Anne needs to hopefully cure Grea, she has to go to ridiculous methods and traversing underwater, through long dark hallways and open doors to, presumably, other dimensions. It sounds very romantic, I get that, but also massively irresponsible. I would understand the ridiculous needs for safety and security if the information hidden within this secret library was mostly for destructive purposes, but medical information? Really? That's the sort of thing you choose to stash away in a hidden place where only the most resourceful people can reach? Or those who have this special access through other means?
Now, that isn't on Anne's hands specifically, even if she's the one who heads out to find it, but in truth, I did find some of her behavior throughout the show a bit troubling. For one thing, the seemingly friendless Grea is almost entirely dependent on her for socialisation that isn't directly related to school business, and Anne is clearly the one with the oars in this particular relationship. True, most of the time, she does relativaly minor stuff that Grea actually protests at, like trying to steal her shed tail skin, but there are the occasional moments where Anne's actions make Grea positively uncomfortable. Like early on when Anne and teacher/shopkeeper(?) Miranda gang up on her and force her to cosplay, much to her protests. Or when she got mixed up with the school emergency drill despite being specifically asked not to, and for a very good reason. Or even acting like a big child at times.
I could have lived with all that as mere slapstick comedy, though, but then episode 7 happened. The episode itself is centered around Anne and Grea doing library duty and turning that into a game of hide and seek, but part of that involves Anne coming across a love potion, which she actually considers using on Grea. In fact, the episode itself ends with Anne offering Grea tea while highly implying that she put a love potion in it. And then it ends and the remaining three episodes never mentioned it again, leaving us to wonder whether she'd go that far, actually DARING us to think the worst. It was a weirdly creepy episode that stood apart from her occasionally irksome but otherwise harmless behavior, and it's one you might be better off pretending never existed.
Another potential downside to the show, depending on how you look at it, is that with ten episodes clocking in at 15 minutes each, you aren't going to learn a lot about anyone who isn't Anne or Grea. Owen does show up fairly often, but as most bodyguards of his kind are wont to do, he keeps to the background and says very little. Most of his interactions are at the behest of his benefactor, Anne, and her family, and her best side being the very first thing he sees, he's also quite devoted to his job as her protector. Even if that means he won't have much to do in this very peaceful show. There's also Hanna, the school council president and the one expected to take charge during the school's larger outings, at least as far as organizing the students and their activities go. She doesn't have the best confidence in her own abilities, which is a bit odd as she's the one who seems the most gung-ho in the token beach episode's hilariously overblown beach volleyball match -- seriously, the distant shot of the course, now completely covered in blown-up sand and various elemental attacks flying back and forth between the (quite literal) combatants is probably the funniest sight gag in the entire show. I already mentioned Miranda, teacher and cosplay pervert, but Lou also seem to be in the show to trip over her own feet and bring whatever's close by falling down with her. The rest of the girls seems to be limited to fawning over one of the others, mostly Anne.
When I first heard about this show in 2016, I was actually kind of excited about it. At the time, it sounded a bit more generally slice of life-ish, albeit about more characters than what we got here. Now that I've actually had the chance to watch it, I'm a bit more torn. I've already established how I find Anne a bit problematic at times, but even beyond that, there isn't really any character development to be had here, or even any development to their relationship. The two clearly already know each other from the first episode, and too much of the show is spent having one or both of them pine for each other, and acting all sulky when they do reunite. I wasn't all that enthused about this show choosing to end with a "threat of separation" story arc that ends so predictably that it would be better if they just didn't.
It just makes me sad, because when the show works, it really works. When our characters are at their best behavior, the relationship between Anne and Grea can be quite adorable, helped by the great character animation that brings much of the body language to life. Mysteria Friends had some honest potential here, with a little more focus on how this relationship started at the actual start, and more scenes that offset our characters bad habits might have helped here, to be honest. This show really should have been better than it ended up being.
The show that could have been really great given some more time. Add one star if you are hankering for some sweet yuri and don't mind skipping one of the episodes. Add another if you don't want to skip any episodes and think there's absolutely nothing wrong with using a love potion on someone you're interested in. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show is pretty chill about its violence, most of it being slapsticky, and even the actual battles are fairly bloodless as the adversaries are mostly non-fleshy nonhumanoids. The show plays up its fanservice a good bit more, though, with quite a few lingering butt and boob shots, as well as a sequence where Grea is ill somehow, but sounds more like a sexual act. Long as they're teenagers, it should be fine. The only scene in this show that's completely and utterly wrong is the one where it's doing its damnedest to think one of the characters is trying to make another drink a love potion, which is really riding up to the border of rapishness and looking at you as if expecting you to want to see the crossing itself. Just... no.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Mysteria Friends © 2019 CyGamesPictures.
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.|