Syfy and Kelsey Stephanides’ Magical Girl Friendship Squad is about a pair of well-meaning but aimless roommates who spend their days stressing about paying the rent on time, holding down jobs to pay said rent, and, occasionally, transforming into a pair of magical girls tasked with protecting the planet from interdimensional evils. Also, they smoke and drink a lot, because they’re — and this is important — going through some stuff.
Equal parts Broad City and Sailor Moon, Magical Girl Friendship Squad presents its heroines, Alex (Quinta Brunson) and Daisy (Anna Akana), as being the exact sort of mismatched, unlikely duo that’s defined this particular genre of action/adventure animation. Alex’s optimistic proactivity is matched with Daisy’s nonchalant, over-it-all energy, and different as the two are, they balance each other out in a way that makes them strong friends and even stronger warriors when they first encounter Nut (Ana Gasteyer), a talking red panda from another universe.
Though the girls’ real-world problems never stop demanding their attention, when Nut presents them with the opportunity to become her chosen heroes, they go for it with a speed that leaves little time for questioning. It all works because the series is less concerned with being a full-on sendup of the anime that inspired it, and more interested in the silly ways we fantasize about and project ourselves into them.
Though Magical Girl Friendship Squad’s aimed at a very different audience than, say, Craig of the Creek or She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, the cultural influences underpinning the shows are remarkably similar. What makes it “adult” isn’t really its coarse sense of humour or mature content, but rather that Alex and Daisy see their adventures as a fun escape from the mundane stresses of their everyday lives, and not just a responsibility they were fated to take up.
The wish the story fulfils for its heroes is one of escape — it frees Alex and Daisy to muck around in fly-arse, scandalous outfits, both for the betterment of the world and for their own emotional satisfaction (something the girls both deserve). Each time Alex pops open her birth control case and Daisy takes a hit off her Tom Selleck bong — the magical items that trigger their transformations — they’re choosing to shift their focus away from say, content creation for a megacorporation or wallowing in feelings about a bad breakup. They’re taking down monsters seeking to wreak havoc on reality, but they’re also choosing to do so because the transformations and the costumes are all just fun, which is the sort of idea that series in this space could stand to work with more.
Off the wall as Magical Girl Friendship Squad is, it never lets either Alex or Daisy fully lose their connection to their everyday lives, and it repeatedly reminds you that the girls are still beholden to the responsibilities they so desperately wish to get away from. Sure, Nut’s missions make it easier for Daisy to avoid dealing with her commitment issues and Alex to keep putting off working up the courage to speak to her crush at the local coffee shop. But with each of their victories on the battlefield comes the realisation that they’ve got to head back to their apartment, where all of their regular problems are still waiting for them.
Though the girls go toe-to-toe with demons, godlike beings, and legions of Nut’s crazed stans from the parallel universe, Magical Girl Friendship Squad always comes back to the idea that dragging one’s self out of bed in the morning to perform adulthood is often the singularly most soul-draining thing that people are forced to do. That’s an unfortunate reality that the show knows its viewers all have to contend with eventually, but it also wants you to bear in mind that, crappy as things might seem or actually be in the moment, it’s perfectly fine to wanna escape and dissociate for a little while just to give your mind a rest.
Magical Girl Friendship Squad — which also stars Christine Baranski and Manny Jacinto — has a few of its episodes currently streaming on Syfy’s website. You may need the use of a VPN to access them in Australia.