Over the past few years, industry-related anime have become increasingly popular. Magic of Stella joins the genre, covering the game industry. Or, more notably, the doujin game industry.
In Japan, self-published content (known as doujinshi work) in any artistic medium ranging from music to manga is hugely popular. This sub-culture is so popular that there are conventions dedicated entirely to self-made material. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that many Japanese highschools have after-school clubs revolving around creating and publishing self-made work. This is how we meet Tamaki Honda: on her first day as a high school student, she gets to choose a club. She can't decide which one to join, until she plays a self-published game from game development club 'SNS'. Enthusiastic about the game, Tamaki joins their doujin circle as an illustrator.
Tamaki meets the other club members: Ayame Seki, the glasses-wearing scenario writer; music composer Kayu Fujikawa who is always donning headphones; and Shiina Murakami, the president and programmer who shows little emotion. Tamaki's childhood friend, Yumine Fuda, did not join SNS but is often involved nevertheless. SNS was initially founded by Teru, who left the club after graduating. However, the cosplay-crazy Teru makes a few appearances in disguise, and will likely appear much more as the series continues. Oh, and if you're wondering what SNS stands for: 'Shinda Sakana No Me Nishou Busoku Shuttle Run Club', roughly translating to 'Slimy Dead Fish Eyes Not Enough Sunlight Sprinting Club'.
During their first club meeting, the girls set themselves a goal: to create a visual novel in time for Summer Comiket, the world's biggest doujin fair. Through Tamaki, we learn a little bit more about the process of creating and self-publishing a game. This certainly sounds promising, and the first episodes are indeed informative. However, the series soon shifts from learning about doujini circles to solely a slice-of-life anime. Of course, adding depth to characters isn't a bad thing, but the initial topic of creating and publishing games seems to have been completely dismissed. Furthermore, despite the attempt to add back stories and exclusively focusing on friendship, the characters remain flat and easily forgettable. The many misunderstandings, Teru's cosplays, and Tamaki's immense insecurity is meant for some comic relief, but the series fails to be truly funny. Perhaps the only quirk Magic of Stella offers is the fact Tamaki is remarkably good at drawing older men.
Both the theme and art-style are very much reminding of New Game, the anime from the summer season which also covered the game industry. But whereas New Game featured a professional work environment, Magic of Stella differentiates itself by covering the indie side of the industry - or at least intending to do so.
If you're looking for an informative anime about producing games on par with Shirobako, Magic of Stella will likely disappoint. Similarly, as a follow-up to New Game, the series isn't highly recommended either. Perhaps the series will redeem itself in future episodes by getting back on the subject of doujinshi circles. But, as it stands now, the series regrettably fails as a tribute to doujinshi works by focusing exclusively on friendship, mediocre gags, and the importance of having fun when you're young. If you are, however, looking for a very light-hearted slice-of-life anime that occasionally somewhat dabbles in indie games, this show may be for you.
You can currently watch Magic of Stella in streaming form on DAISUKI