For the past few years, mobile games have been one of the biggest drivers of entertainment in Japan and south east Asia, with a multitude of anime series emerging from different games, from Monster Strike, to Magia Record (the Puella Magi Madoka Magica spin-off game), and, with this series, Rage of Bahamut.
This is not the first anime adaptation that Rage of Bahamut has received, with Rage of Bahamut: Genesis and its sequel, Virgin Soul, both focusing on the central lore of the game and around the revival of the titular Bahamut, a terrifying demon that once came close to destroying the world. Yet here in Mysteria Friends we have something very different, with the series adapting one the mobile game’s most popular events into ten fifteen-minute shorts.
Set in the game world’s prestigious school of magic, Mysteria Academy, the series focuses on the blossoming relationship between Anne, princess of the humans, and Grea, princess of the dragon-born, a race of half-human/half-dragon demons. Over the course of these ten episodes, we get to follow the pair and their classmates as they learn the intricacies of the world’s magic, often getting into all kinds of trouble along the way!
Mysteria Friends seems to fall into that category of “comfy” anime, as it takes a slow but carefully measured pace in putting its very endearing characters through scenarios that are light-hearted on the surface, but have a good sense of emotional depth and weight behind them. If you’re the type of viewer who prefers lots of action scenes served up piping hot, then this might not be your kind of thing, as at first glance it is very glacial and lacks any meaningful substance.
There’s no real overarching story, with each episode being largely self-contained and showing us a different event that happened during Anne and Grea’s time at the academy. The tone can vary from very comedic, like Anne unleashing her full power against the library’s guardian demon and freezing the entire room, or the other girls turning beach volleyball into human whack-a-mole, to emotional and sincere, as the girls struggle with some darker emotions such as loneliness and jealousy.
While the comedic moments can be pretty funny, and can come off as being quite similar to other magical school comedies such as Little Witch Academia, it’s when the show digs into the more emotional moments where it reveals itself to be a very delicate flower, bursting with life and emotion. Each character’s worries and troubles come across really well, with you being able to connect with them and feel what they are going through. Anne, for example, feels quite isolated at the top of her class and has few friends outside of Grea, and I found it incredibly easy to sympathise with her as she wanders alone through rain and snow in extremely well-composed scenes. Grea too is easy to understand, as she frets over things such as her weight and struggling with nerves before their class’ play in the school cultural festival.
It’s very rewarding seeing how the relationship between the two of them develops, going from friends to clearly something more; their differing personalities really give a lot to making them work as a duo. Anne’s mischievous and playful nature and the way she interacts with the more mellow and tsundere-feeling Grea makes for an innocent and wholesome spin on the yuri genre as, by being unburdened by tropes and love triangles, it can just show the main characters having fun and living life together.
While the rest of the cast is fairly small in number, centring around the student council, they are at least all fun characters in themselves, with the prim and proper student council president Hanna, the eccentric oddball Roux, and Anne’s stoic bodyguard Owen giving us some pretty good moments throughout the series. It’s the girls’ teacher, Miranda, who became a particular favourite, however, and her secret obsession with cosplay allows the series to have a good laugh when she rolls out the costumes.
Animated by CygamesPictures, this is the first full TV anime from Cygames’ in-house studio and I must say it certainly looks impressive; with beautiful and highly detailed backgrounds, that superb composition I mentioned earlier, and strong, lively character designs. I really like the slow pans and zooms it uses as it cleverly focuses your attention on the prettiest parts of the show, which works extremely well in the more emotional scenes.
While there’s clearly been a lot of care and attention to detail put into this, it is however clearly based on providing as much fanservice to the game’s core audience as possible, in both senses of the word as while the series as a whole is quite wholesome, there are a couple of times where it leads you on into thinking that it’s more erotic than it actually is, particularly with one scene in Episode 2, as well as the obligatory beach episode, which has quite a few lingering boob and butt shots.
With this in mind, there’s a definite sense that those who are into the game will get the most out of it, and with it now being unavailable in English-speaking territories this may prove to be a struggle for some. While it does work okay on its own, there is some context missing in how a lot of the cast relate to the world at large and the particularly slow opening may put off those that are not invested in these characters already.
The strongest part of the show, however, is its soundtrack. Primarily composed by Takashi Watanabe, it is full of very soothing compositions that really speak for the beauty of the world that they have created here and it often ties in very well with the emotional weight of each scene. Piano is a key element throughout and is reflected in the show itself with the piano in the abandoned palace in the woods being a focal point of several key scenes. The sound effects are very lush too, with the soothing sound of sweeping rain or the chill wind of falling snow again really building that emotional connection.
The voice acting is pretty great too, with both the English and Japanese voice actors giving some very competent performances. I’m quite a fan of Hikasa Youko, so I was definitely pleased to hear her in the role of Anne, while Fukuhara Ayaka does a great job of portraying Grea, and you’ve also got Mizuki Nana playing Hanna, the student council president. In the English dub you have Avery Smithhart playing Grea and Cat Thomas playing Anne, and the latter certainly does well when it comes to speaking in German for the spell incantations.
Mysteria Friends comes to the UK via MVM Entertainment, with the release carrying all ten episodes of the series on a single disc, along with a key art gallery and trailers for other Sentai Filmworks licenses, such as Grimms Notes and Release the Spyce.
Overall, Mysteria Friends is a very beautiful slice-of-life series that takes a wholesome approach to its yuri themes as it slowly and carefully builds this relationship between two unique characters. While it is definitely not for everyone, with both the core premise of being fanservice for players of the Rage of Bahamut mobile game, and the very slow, measured pacing being turn-offs, it still has a lot of value in being a truly relaxing show and a great entry in the yuri genre, as well as a standout technical showpiece for the studio themselves.