Sometimes you run into a series that by most metrics it’s hard to call Good, but which ends up being enjoyable anyway. Saint October is very firmly in that category. I can’t say I’d recommend it without caveats but I still had a lot of fun watching it.
Saint October is sort of a mess. It’s a (nominally) tarot themed magical girl show with a lot of energy and willingness to just throw stuff out to see what works. It’s one of those things where it’s fun just waiting to see what it will do next, while still managing to set a tone where the wild swing to the next thing feels like part of a coherent whole. It definitely helps that for the most part it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This show is quite deliberately campy and that gives it a lot of charm it otherwise wouldn’t have. A bog standard villain monologue is like, 50% better if the one giving it is standing around in an extremely goofy looking tarot themed outfit.
The villains being delightfully over the top is probably what makes the show work as a whole. The main spends the series alternating between a fairly standard evil businessman and ridiculous childishness. It’s a hard balance to strike but it works here, he feels like this child trying really hard to play the villain, and throwing tantrums when things don’t go his way. This adds a lot to the eventual reveal that he essentially is just this. The manifestation of one half of an ancient artifact created by literal god to guide humanity, which then split into two halves when it couldn’t decide if it wanted to rule over them directly or guide them from the shadows. As such he essentially is this immature being trying incredibly hard to emulate the ideal emotionless ruler, and failing spectacularly. He’s a lot of fun to watch.
The show’s general silliness does a lot to make its few moments where it’s not being dumb as heck stand out. Aside from some genuinely kind of unsettling transformation sequences it’s revealed fairly early in the series that the nature of Kotono’s power of Judgement means that any villain they defeat using it twice will be killed in the process. A fact which remains hidden from the majority of the cast until the end, forcing them to deal with the consequences of killings they have no idea they’re committing. While they mostly avoid having to fight anyone more than once this does lead to the sister of the very first antagonist showing up for revenge later on, while the clueless heroines try to figure out why this girl hates them so much.
On the other hand it’s also a series where one of the main characters rides around on a bear called Hiroshi Pirovsky-Romanov (who must be reffered to by his full name every single time for whatever reason) who turns out to be the reincarnation of her fiance from a past life and at one point survives being shot with an arrow because he was wearing a bulletproof vest made from his own fur. Anime is weird.
Anime being weird is probably why I ended up liking this so much honestly. It’s the kind of series you’d struggle to find anything quite like in another medium and exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to find when I started this 2000s anime kick. As I said it’s not a good series by most metrics but it’s one I’m glad I watched regardless. It’s also far better than the other tarot magical girl show.