What’s it about? Kobayashi is desperate to get fellow Broadcasting Club member Endo to play her favorite otome game, Love Me Magically! (aka MagiKoi), in order to show off her all-time fave Lieselotte. In order to help Endo improve his broadcasting skills, she suggests the two of them keep a running commentary while they play. But the thing they didn’t count on was Lieselotte’s fiancé being able to hear them!
The villainess subgenre is rapidly approaching the oversaturation point – manga and light novel readers might argue it’s already there. There’s the juggernaut My Next Life as a Villainess, of course, and last season’s tragically rushed I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss! This season’s (very promising) The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady draws from the genre for its love interest, and an adaptation of beloved yuri series I’m in Love with the Villainess was just recently announced.
It’s a lot for only the past two years, especially if the ball goes on rolling. No matter how potent a concept is (and I’ve at least somewhat liked all of those series above), there comes a point when the sheer number of imitators inevitably produces diminishing returns. Back in the ‘90s, I thought isekai was a fantastic genre.
Old man doomsaying aside, Endo and Kobayashi is actually a wonderful breath of fresh air. The decision to have a real-world burgeoning romance in addition to the world of the game is a smart addition that helps ground proceedings and will hopefully provide a more subtle emotional contrast to the sweeping romantic drama that colors the world of romance games.
The unique direction the premise takes on its meta element is also a huge factor. Kobayashi’s emphatic proselytizing about her favorite game is relatable without tipping over into being obnoxious or a flat otaku stereotype; meanwhile, Endo clearly agreed to play because of a crush on Kobayashi, but he’s quickly just as hooked, and their mutual bonding are an effective antidote against any Nice Guy vibes. The fact that the interface through which our leads can affect the plot helps keep the stakes high, and it has a different vibe than the isekai method of effectively becoming a self-insert. No, Kobayashi has been handed a more powerful gift: the ability to make her fix-fic canon.
None of this would work without a solid production backing it up. Yoshimura Fumihiro’s time as an episode director on Dear Brother is a decided asset here and leads to some excellent tongue-in-cheek jokes like Lieselotte’s entrance being backed by dramatic, ominous strings…but only when the camera is on her. Meanwhile, series composer Konparu Tomoko is a stone-cold shoujo veteran, with a resume that includes Dear Brother, the original Glass Mask, NANA, and the underrated Dance with Devils among many, many others.
That pedigree is enough to lock me in for good on top of such an energetic, refreshing premiere. It’s lighthearted but also sincere about its character relationships, colorful and an absolute goldmine of reaction images (big shoutout to the translator on this one as well; maybe it’s the exhaustion, but “tsun de rais” had me rolling for providing the world’s most grimly hilarious mental image). The only thing of note to flag is the fact that MagiKoi in-universe includes both a “genius grade schooler) (yikes) and an adult teacher (double yikes) route, but our heroes seem pretty thoroughly disinterested in pursuing either, so it’s mainly a regrettably true-to-life background detail. HIDIVE might only manage to snag four shows a season, but this time they sure did get a gem.