My memories of my own orientation a decade ago immediately phased back into reality as one of the event staff loudly popped the microphone in the Crystal Ball auditorium. I can’t believe I’d spaced out for a moment, but the picturesque fantasy of the Asphalt Castle leant itself to a sentimental absent-mindedness.
Tiffany was talking with the staff members about making sure all of the audio equipment was good for the presentation she had apparently been carefully planning.
“You’re going to be giving the orientation speech, Tiffany?” I asked.
“Not really a speech, but I’ll just be delivering some remarks to the girls about their time here, and about our mentoring program and how it’s gonna make things different.”
I was a bit worried and a bit curious, because I still didn’t know a lot about this new training program she had been scheming up. I also didn’t know how she was gonna explain the complex issues of Bailey’s post-idol camgirl career and violent assault by a presumed simp to a group of impressionable teenagers.
“Are…are you gonna talk about what happened to Bailey last week to them?” I broached.
“I was planning on mentioning it as a part of why magical girls need to be kept safe. Making sure magical girls are safe is a big part of what I’ve been planning,” she responded primly. I sighed a bit.
“Yeah, but…Tiffany, these are young girls. We don’t need to be scaring them with too many details about Bailey’s attack. Also Bailey had a complicated career as an influencer, it was NSFW a lot of the time and dealt with, like, a lot of grown-up issues and stuff.”
“I know how to talk to these girls, Ellery. You don’t need to worry about it,” she said, in that specific Tiffany-tone where I can’t tell if she was trying to be assuring, dismissive, or both.
She continued, “Listen Ellery, I was thinking it would be good to have you, someone who’s a magical girl and an adult at the same time, to help greet the girls as they come into the auditorium in their groups. Do you want to do that and then meet me back on the stage during the orientation film?”
“Okay,” I responded and began walking to the doorways at the back of the Crystal Ball. I had dropped my concerns about her speech because I didn’t want to be argumentative; but I still didn’t think it would be the best idea to go too into Bailey’s personal issues, or really any of our personal issues to the girls. “Hey kids! Aren’t you so excited to be more or less forced into this industry where you’ll be consistently overworked and commodified, only to be shit out in a few years to the point where you’ll end up as a label-less, prospect-less loser musician like me? Or you can go down the road that my friend Bailey was pressured into, being forced into the world of influencer bullshit for obsessive and creepy fans who will only care about you for the fact you were once magical? She was violently assaulted under dubious circumstances; she’s in a coma and half-dead right now!!”
Tiffany had walked me over to the Crystal Ball auditorium to have someone who can greet the entering girls on their way to their seats, I figured, because she was more interested in organizing with the staff than with giving me clear information about all of the things she was and had been planning. I’m too introverted to normally be “enthusiastic,” but I figured I might as well try my best to be as peppy for the girls as possible. I’m no cheerleader, but I could try smiling widely and being more upbeat talking to each of the groups together as they try to find their seats (each girl’s seat is specifically marked; they have a stupidly complex seating system to make sure even at their orientation girls begin bonding with their groups and I had to do a lot of explaining).
I tried smiling and being upbeat, but I was secretly worried to be presenting myself alone with the girls. I was self-conscious that they were gonna be silently judging me for still being magical (the same thing I was scared of being judged my entire time in college. I worried about this a lot if you can’t tell). I remember a few of the girls asking “How old are you?” to which I just replied “Way too old” in a joking manner. Still though; I bet it was probably kind of weird for the girls not only to see a 23-year-old magical girl who hasn’t flatlined, but a 23-year-old magical girl who hasn’t flatlined trying to be peppy while wearing a business skirt and a blazer. These girls were being hyped up on a steady diet of idol pop and Sailor Galaxy, and here I was as a weird age anomaly dressed like she’s trying to sell real-estate. Luckily all of the girls were seeming to be in good spirits, just as they were supposed to. Orientation has always been a part of the program where girls are encouraged to be forgetting about their past lives (and, y’know, their families they were just separated from), focusing on their magical lives ahead of them instead. The girls eventually got settled in the auditorium as the lights went dark for the introductory film, at which I slowly started walking up the side aisle of the auditorium to meet Tiffany backstage.
The orientation film is the same carefully-crafted experience for every entering group of girls, year after year. It begins with an animated sequence of the 7G lunar cellular towers blasting data across the world, closing in on a young girl in her bedroom. The girl is looking over posters covering her bedroom of various magical girl idol groups, before hearing a magical wind outside of her bedroom (there’s no magical wind when it happens in real life). The girl begins to levitate and smile at herself, spinning and transforming into her blue-haired form. A voice-over explains the history of the idol girl industry, the biology of magical girl transformation, punctuated with more animations of the young magical girl entering the Castle and going through registration just like the girls themselves had minutes earlier. The video shifts to some very peppy hype-talks about the Castle and about your future life as an idol. The film is also punctuated with clips from real magical girl anime, discussing the impact that the reality of transformation has had on the anime genre and vice-versa. The film climaxes with a final animated clip of the magical girl arriving in the auditorium, shining a spotlight on the girls as the lights in the actual theatre come on and the girls look at each other all collected for really the first time.
The orientation film never fails to hype up the girls incredibly, right down to its usage of the extremely sugary, de-facto magical girl anthem all of the girls are required to learn, “Magical for You,” for its finale. Listening to the lyrics of the song backstage, even at 23 I couldn’t help myself from cracking a nostalgic smile and getting absorbed by its earwormy melody and lyrics.
I’m a spectacle,
Baby, I’m magical, for you!
As I was listening to the song and smiling to it backstage Tiffany put her arm around me. We looked at each other sentimentally and smirked. Just like old times, I thought.