When the teenagers in Kaiju Girls start noticing rather bizarre symptoms about themselves, like stomping around everywhere or making loud roaring noises, they go to a special facility that’s meant to help curb and nurture those compulsions. An organization called GIRLS fosters them and teaches them all about how to summon and control their inner monster. And it’s impossibly adorable.

Make sense? Stay with me here. Kaiju Girls follows three new recruits of GIRLS: Agira, Miclas and Windom, or at least the girls the spirits of these Capsule Monsters from Ultraseven occupy. Their real names are Aki Miyashita, Miku Ushimaru and Reika Shiragane respectively. With the aid of a special magical device, they can transform into their special monster forms, which are anthropomorphic versions of classic kaiju. They’re basically magical girls, if you want to give them a classification, and the way this anime short portrays the world of magical girls is downright hilarious in contrast to the genre’s typical approach.

With most magical girl series, the protagonist is given some sort of mysterious brooch, amulet, wand, or stick, and a special phrase to transform. When she makes her debut, she even knows all of the special phrases to shout–or quickly learns┬áthem. There’s usually not much of a training curve. From Sailor Moon to Card Captor Sakura this is very much the case, and while there are in-universe explanations or even narrative vehicles that explain why this is, it’s generally widely accepted. Kaiju Girls removes the mysticism and fluffy, fantastical nature of these series and goes with a straightforward take on magical girls from the way they transform to the fact that they’re actively attending school to learn how to perform job duties as Kaiju Girls.

Each girl is given a special, pricey Soulriser device (24,800 yen! [$2379 US]) and a lecture on how to use it. If they happen to lose it or it gets destroyed, it’s on them to buy another one. Instead of simply being given a magical item meant for them to cherish for free, they’re treated like students with expensive textbooks and items meant for education, just like if this were something happening in the real world.

The Soulrider can even lock its user out for thirty minutes at a time if it’s not used correctly and errors out consistently. These are problems we’d undoubtedly face in the real world because you know transformations like these would almost certainly be done via smartphone app or something like it.

Even when officially armed with their individual Soulrisers, the girls can’t just up and transform. They’ve got to learn how to do so and watch others do it by example. There’s a ton of grueling work to be done, and viewers are privy to seeing these newbie magical girls earn their stripes rather than simply seeing them in action under the assumption that they just woke up one day and figured out everything there is to know about using special powers and magical items.

In this, Kaiju Girls takes the magic out of the magical girl, and that’s why it works so well. It’s a hilarious short because it’s not afraid to show you how, exactly, any of the newly-minted Kaiju became able to transform or how they learned how to do one ability or another.

Magical girl anime has taken a turn for the darker ever since Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but it’s great to see the trope being deconstructed and modernized further with shows like Kaiju Girls, which breaks it down into silliness and realism despite all the craziness contained within. From smartphones to magical girl school, I can’t wait to see where it goes next, especially since the transformations themselves take the main characters from chibi to full-fledged anime beauties, which is hilarious in itself.

Kaiju Girls can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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