Aired: Oct 2016 – Dec 2016
Also Known As: Magic of Stella, ステラのまほう
Summary: Upon enrolling in high school, Honda Tamaki joins a club for making doujin games known as the SNS Club. Joined by programmer Shiina, writer Ayame, and composer Kayo, Tamaki begins working as an illustrator for the club’s next game.
Review: I actually found myself sad seeing the credits roll as I watched the final episode. Which was peculiar since I considered this show an average one at best.
I guess what really helped me enjoy the show was the characters.
If you’re a writer, then you might find yourself relating to Ayame’s dismay whenever someone digs up something she’s written long ago. If you’re bad with people, then you might see yourelf in Shiina’s shoes as she struggles to handle crowds and crowded venues. If you’re an artist, then you might sympathize with Tamaki when you see her lose confidence with her own ability and question her reasons for drawing. And if you’re someone who works a part-time job while going to school, is a bit of an outsider, and gets really into your own world while focusing, then Kayo is really cool. No, she’s cool even if you don’t fit that description. I’m not biased at all and I’m not sad that she received so little screentime compared to everyone else in the SNS Club.
That being said, each of the afroementioned girls are a little peculiar (I guess Tamaki actually is the strangest girl despite being the main character, but she’s also really cute and many characters have acknowledged her charm in their thoughts). Still, the quirks don’t define the characters and they’re not overly static, boring characters. I enjoyed watching them interact with one another. There are other characters, of course, but it’ll be a bit of a killjoy for me to talk about all of them. They’re all mostly relatable, as well, so there’s that.
The story …was actually quite different from my expectations. I had assumed that the girls would spend the entire series laboring away in an attempt to make the titular game, Stella no Mahou. Instead of doing that, the SNS Club finished said game before the halfway point and managed to finish yet another game before the series ended.
The concept of “anime about video games” isn’t exactly new – but the ones that I have in mind usually focused on a single game. By not devoting 12 episodes to show the development of a single video game, Stella no Mahou actually kept the pace of the show enjoyable since the girls make noticable progress on their games during each peisode. There won’t be instances were you’re wondering, “…so what did they do this episode, exactly?”
However, giving such an abridged account of the SNS Club’s actions does come with a cost. Certain challenges are glossed over in favor of showing the SNS Club struggle in making video games. At one point of the series, two characters have to get at least a score of 70 across all of their exams (because one of them comes from a rich family. That’s the stated reason, but getting 70% right on tests isn’t exactly a high standard…). We see them studying and getting distracted for the rest of the episode, but then there’s no mention of how they did in said exams afterwards. Since they were allowed to participate in club activities again, I’m assumed they passed their tests. I guess cutting out extraneous stuff and hoping that the viewer can read between the lines is a virtue, too.
The yuri stays as just subtext and teasing, but there sure is a lot of possible ships. A few get a lot more screentime than others, but that’s how it usually is.
The animation is around average for a “cute girls” series, but I can’t recall any times when the art was seriously off-model. That counts as something, right?
One thing I will say is that I really love the OP, “God Save The Girls.” It’s just an energetic song that gets me feeling excited for life. The ED, “Yonaka Jikaru,” isn’t anything special in comparison, but it has that kind of chill vibe and a solid beat. It’s also sung by Tamaki’s voice actress as well as Tamaki’s childhood friend’s voice actress, so yay? The instrumental OST didn’t stand out, really, but I did like the insert song they played during episode seven.
The main draws to Stella no Mahou would have to be the characters, who are entertaining, quirky, yet relatable, and the fact that these girls work pretty hard on their video game. As a result, the pacing doesn’t feel stagnant since the SNS Club manages to develop two video games within 12 episodes (meanwhile, other video game anime shows usually have the characters spend the entire series working on a single game).
Other than that, the animation isn’t anything to write home about (yet it was consistent) and the yuri was rather downplayed (but the shiptease moments are definitely there). Even though the show remained relatively average / slightly-above-average, I liked watching Stella no Mahou. It’s a nice watch when you’ve gone through the “all the cute girl shows” classics and you’re looking to satsify your
craving. Just don’t expect the show to do anything too special or for you to learn much about developing video games.