Work Header


Work Text:

In the following text, 〈〉① indicates content redacted to those without security clearance. The number indicates the degree of security clearance required to access enclosed content.〉①

One of the few disappointments in the initial avalanche of magical girl and MSY revelations was the lack of any official—or even popular—magical sport. Competitive sports may have faded from the forefront of public consciousness in recent centuries, but among remaining sports fans there was great hope for fresh spectacle. Humanity’s newfound heroes, performing those feats seen and heard at New Athens, live! Such hopes reflected a poor understanding of magical girl dynamics, a common problem at the time. The truth is that the nature of wishes and magic make balanced, entertaining physical contests almost impossible.

The first requirement for the development of a sport is a society that can both organize matches and afford the effort to do so. Before the advent of magical girl unions like the MSY, magical girls effectively lived lives of subsistence. Almost all magical effort was turned to the use of either collecting grief cubes or self-defense, and girls were cloistered away into mentorships or teams by the limits of demon-hunting territory. This would change as the MSY brought cooperation and abundance into magical life across the globe, but there remained a key problem. MSY leadership knew the pain of grief cube shortages all too well, and frivolous organized use of magic was grounds for stern disapproval, or even punishment. 〈This was especially true after the infamous Soul Burst studio was discovered to be holding internal competitions seeing who could cause the biggest increase in grief cube consumption with their short horror films.〉① Even as yearly grief cube surpluses compounded and policies relaxed, there remained no political room for the massive expenditures that even a single popular, organized sport would require. Certainly in these recent times of war, where the gains of suddenly extreme grief cube efficiency are directed towards the front, the cost could not be justified.

Even if the necessary grief cubes were available, the concept of a magical girl sport faces another obstacle: the incredible diversity of powers. The rapid expansion of humanity following early population bottleneck has created a modern society with little genetic variation. While genetics do still play a role, different humans have approximately the same natural capabilities, forcing excellence in sports to grow from trained skill. In contrast, while magical girls are perfectly capable of power development and refinement, natural abilities reign supreme. A clairvoyant cannot generate forcefields comparable to that of a shield generator, nor can a telekinetic treat injuries as well as a healer. This is to say nothing of the considerable and often insurmountable differences between two girls even of the same “type” – one teleporter may be very capable in transporting large masses over short distances, while another can teleport dozens of kilometers yet only be able to bring herself. Consequently, no matter what sport one imagines, certain girls will be so suited to it that only those few can meaningfully compete. The indefinite lifespans of magical girls guarantee that the ensuing stagnancy would be near permanent.

The unfortunate example of Springsong illustrates these difficulties. Invented in 2106 by a group of dedicated British girls, it made a hearty attempt at the necessary balancing act. First, girls played without even transforming, limiting grief cube costs to only those necessary for treating minor injuries 〈, supporting strenuous use of the body, and absorbing losing sorrows〉①. Instead, the sport worked with magical girls’ enhanced speed, endurance, and sense of balance to introduce springboots. Acting as a secondary, bionic Achilles tendon, springboots allowed for acrobatics at least comparable to the magical feats employed in demon hunting. Second, Springsong was built to justify its costs as a form of cheap, non-destructive combat training. Designed and played at the height of the MSY-SMC cold war, conflict with other magical girls seemed a real (if remote) possibility at the time. Specifically, there was considerable worry in the SMC over the lack of close combat capability in many of their magical girls. Thus, the other two pieces of equipment were to be a polymer buckler and short sword. While melee-oriented girls would start with a significant advantage in skill, the lack of direct power usage or any magical weapon meant a considerably more even and limited playing field.

While the details of Springsong were still being finalized before its untimely demise, a typical match would be played as follows. Girls would split into two teams of 4 to 8 players each, “Attack” and “Escort”, then head to opposite sides of an arbitrary but predefined arena. Attack had 20 minutes to land a hit on Escort’s “Song”, who was equipped only with springboots. (It’s said the role was named after an early player’s tendency to sing during games since she lacked a means to fight directly. However, I have it on good authority that the “song” in Springsong was completely arbitrary and the explanation concocted after one too many girls asked what it meant.) A hit landed on any other player meant forcing them to return to the nearest border of the arena, after which they could rejoin the fight. Once the first game concluded the teams switched roles and played again to complete the round, the winner being whichever team protected their Song the longest. A match was often best of three rounds, with team role order swapping each time, leading to reasonable game lengths of an hour or two. This very flexible framework gave Springsong its greatest strength – variety. The sport benefitted not only from non-standard arenas, but also creative team-oriented fighting styles and clever strategies taking advantage of everything from telepathy range to springboots’ potential as unorthodox weapons.

By 2109, Springsong had achieved moderate success in Britain and was poised to climb new heights when an exhibition match was scheduled between the Manchester Magicians and the Southampton Spitfires for an MSY-SMC peace conference. After a well-fought and well-received two round victory for the Magicians, an MSY representative shocked the delegation by requesting a follow up match against them, one versus six. The opportunity for showing up an arrogant MSY bureaucrat was too much, and so with pride on the line and eagerness for comeuppance in their hearts, the Magicians accepted. Unbeknownst to the SMC and all but a few in the considerable crowd that developed, Representative Sawashiro Yuzuki was not unprepared. 〈A Black Heart operative on an unusually petty mission,〉④ Yuzuki had been training with a pair of stolen springboots for weeks and was entirely up to date on rules and strategy. More importantly, her usual magical armament was a buckler and short sword, and she wielded Springsong’s mundane equivalents with the unparalleled mastery of an experienced magical girl in her element. An audience equal parts aghast and doubled over in laughter watched the Magicians get humiliated, 3:34-20:00 and 2:27-20:00. It is difficult to say what effect this had on the peace process, but the consequences for Springsong were clear: it, and all other magical girl sports, were now and forever the very height of folly.

— Julian Bradshaw, “Mahou Shoujo: Their World, Their History,” excerpt.