Two pretty girls, one with an eye-patch and a gun, the other with strange powers; demons eating people's souls; magical brooches; a panoply of cliches, eh? But "Venus Versus Virus" (VVV) isn't so pleasant, and it isn't about girls with guns. It's about demonic possession, fear, and revenge.
Many of the reviews I've read of VVV see it as a none-too-well done magical girl show. But VVV defies easy classification and will irritate viewers who cannot see the hatreds and fears that hide beneath the pretty colors.
Ruchia - she has the gun - wakes up in several episodes screaming from nightmares where she cannot escape from her terrors -- and even when she is awake, she simply doesn't have the physical strength to fight demons. By contrast, Sumire is timid and eager to make friends, but she is also terrified, if only because when she goes berserk, she literally rips demons limb from limb and then turns on her friends next... Unlike many other stories about girls who fight bad guy demons, humans, and aliens, in VVV the girls' conflicts are not with external enemies but are internal: fear, loneliness, a crushing sense of being abnormal, and a yearning to have a safe home and family.
Although VVV is not as surreal as "Alien Nine" - which is also about girls who fight aliens amidst their own crushing terrors and confusions - both stories share the premise that life with a gun facing *these* demons is not a happy way to go through adolescence. The animation is not at all elaborate, but the simplicity of design and background creates a perhaps inadvertent minimalist creepiness in which, for example, Sumire stands on a darkened street and starts to scream. Only slowly do multiple-eyed blobby demons materialize, but Sumire just screams as we wait for her to run amok and start tearing them apart with her bare hands. The demons are just unhappy blobby things with lots of eyes, but Sumire is a genuine menace. So it's not the demons that get to you -- it's the chaos in the girls' minds.
In the background is revenge. Ruchia remembers her father killing her mother when Ruchia was a little girl, and she wants him dead. Ruchia's obsessions and Sumire's berserker rage make an excellent match: no one could call the two heroines exactly sane. Ruchia and Sumire's transformation into focused, vengeful killers with immense strength resembles the transformation of shamans described by Carmen Blacker in "The Catalpa Bow," her book about Japanese folk religion. Screaming chaos resolves itself into fury, and the result must either be slippage into insanity and death or elevation into an enlightenment that, against all tenets of Buddhism, seeks the total destruction of the enemy. Ultimately, the issue is power: by awakening the forces who dwell within them, Ruchia and Sumire must die or kill. So, despite cliches about girls with guns, VVV excavates what lies *beneath* the superheroine mask of the magical girl - and much more deeply than one might expect.
Don't bother with VVV if you want a prettily colored anime about pretty girls who bake pretty chocolate cakes for pretty birthday parties. VVV is not light entertainment about girls running around Tokyo saving the world. It's about demonic possession, fear, revenge, and death. So ignore the reviews that say VVV is one more cute magical girl show: it's a lot worse than that. Powerful, yes; pretty, no.