My feelings for this show are so strong that my usual habit of having readers wait a bit for my thoughts on what I am reviewing gets thrown out the window. I cannot wait to tell the world how I feel about this one. Let us not waste any more time and take a look at Manaria (“Mysteria” in the West) Friends.
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, School Life, Yuri
Number of Episodes: 10 (12-13 minutes each)
Plot Summary: Mysteria Academy is a prestigious magic school that teaches magic without discrimination to the three factions (men, gods, demons), who usually are engaged in battle with each other. Two of the academy’s students are Anne, a princess and honor student, and Grea, a princess born from a dragon and a human.
Before we get to the meat of the show let us go over some minor but understandable gripes some had with the show. First of all the episodes being shorter than usual. Understandable but to that I respond with the following. What is more important is how the writers use the allotted time to tell their story. As an example I bring up the controversial Netsuzou TRap anime adaptation. The episodes were less than 10 minutes each and while some stuff was indeed cut it was a faithful adaptation up until the ending which obviously was a bit different from the manga due to the anime concluding first. Most of the key moments of the story remained intact and not much was changed besides the obvious. Then we have most long ongoing shounen anime or even 20+ episode ones that have the regular 20+ minute run time but viewers are bound to watch some episodes that feel like nothing would be lost were they to ignored during repeated viewings. Point being Manaria Friends’ episodes are somewhat shorter than the norm but the time in each episode is used masterfully to convey every single emotion of the protagonists and the side-characters whenever they appear. Every second serves a purpose.
The next gripe is there not being much action or combat compared to the main series Shingeki no Bahamut. This one is simple. It is very common for female centered spinoffs like Soul Eater NOT and Hidan no Aria AA to have less action than their main series counterparts. Manaria Friends is no different. Having said that this show does indeed contain the least amount of combat of the female centered spinoffs I have seen by far. It is less than Hina Logi: From Luck & Logic. However, like Hina Logi the main draw of the show is not whether it will be heavy on the action or not because that is not what the story is about. For that reason it is not a big deal.
Now let us get to the bulk of the review. See, unlike Liz to Aoi Tori where I wait till the “yuri section” to tell viewers the meat and potatoes of the show here I will do it right off the bat. The story centers around Anne and Grea’s relationship and their growing romantic feelings for each other. There are two main reasons why I loved their tale so much.
#1: There were no strings attached. As amazing and legendary as 20-Gay-Teen was most of the high profile yuri shows were ones that had a catch like Citrus, Happy Sugar Life and Bloom Into You. Even Girls Club shows felt like there was some kind of catch with their yuri from one-sided romances to self doubt about confessing though these are common in GC shows. Granted there was plenty of sweet yuri in 2018 without strings attached but you get my drift. This one came at the right time essentially.
#2: The biggest one. Anne X Grea remind me of one of my all-time favorite yuri couples, Finé X Izetta. They are quite similar and hit the same buttons that trigger my “inner squee power”. Not one of Manaria Friends went by without yours truly having a large smile on his face, clapping like Princess Rona from “Endro~!” and squeeing in delight.
Like the aforementioned couple Anne is the more upfront of the two who makes little effort to hide her true feelings and desires for Grea to comically creepy effect (Think horny expressions and actions). She is joyful, confident, enjoys teasing her royal draconian beloved and goes out of her way to show off her coolness to everyone because that is who she is. Having said that she of course has her moments of weakness and doubt. One of which is related to her prodigy status and the rest…take a wild guess.
Grea, like Izetta is the opposite of her fiery blonde (Brunette in Anne’s case) soul mate. She is soft spoken, timid and does not like being the center of attention. While she usually goes along with Anne’s wishes there are occasions where she is in control.
Put simply: Hot tomboy princess X feminine busty redhead girlfriend with superpowers, except this time the tomboy also has powers and they are both princesses.
While the main focus is on their relationship there are other things going on as well such as their studies and their classmates’ antics such as the above (Captain) Lou, Miss Miranda and two lovely seitokai elves who are very much worth paying close attention to. Along with that we get small tidbits of the princess’ lives outside of the school such as their royal upbringing and struggles. It is not much but nice to know a little about.
Something the show did very well was the presentation. The animation is superb (Though the first summoning in Episode 1 was average) with great detail in the world, school grounds (which is pretty much a castle) and of course the ladies’ cuteness and sexiness (especially in the beach episode. Oh yes indeed). Besides the well animated characters and backgrounds there is also the timing. It is similar to the Kase-san OVA but I argue done better here. What I mean is there are several moments of silence between our lead heroines but so much is conveyed between the two while saying as little as possible or not a word, from the facial expressions to the movements of Grea’s tail. Dat tail yo. It is like the bus stop scene in the aforementioned OVA but with the shorter. Make no mistake the bus stop scene was a fantastic moment but many can agree it went a bit too long. Here those moments are just the right amount to convey the same powerful emotions as the bus stop scene. The soundtrack, not counting the battle scenes, is pretty calming. As always yuri and classical music go hand in hand. So much so that while the show does not have an OP the piano ED has an important origin explained on the show at some point.
Speaking of the ED, Crunchyroll viewers are advised to keep watching after the credits because every episode has a Post-ED scene. Viewers watching through other means I imagine found a version that included the Post-ED before the credits or something like that.
A minor nitpick on my end that ultimately does not detract from my overall enjoyment at all is a few teased subplots that we did not get see conclude but there were reasonable compromises. One in particular involves Grea’s tail.
One last thing. A small elephant in the room that may alert some quick to upset. Sir Owen, Anne’s fateful bodyguard. I am here to tell everyone not to worry about him. He is dedicated to watching and protecting Anne (knightly duty and all) while occasionally playing a part as her sidekick whenever she is up to something rascally. Point being he is an ally of justice.
Overall Manaria/Mysteria is a relaxing tale about the growing love between two princesses and their friends occasionally getting screen time. While my personal bias had me enjoying the show a lot more than some I guarantee something will be gained watching this anime so long as the viewer is not ultra demanding. Highly recommended to readers looking for a chill yuri show to watch.