Alternate titles: Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
Light Novel Adaptation by Lerche
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Koyuki Himekawa’s dreams come true when her favourite mobile game grants her the opportunity to become a real-life magical girl. Keen to try out her new powers helping people and gathering ‘Magic Candies’ to enhance her abilities, Koyuki soon finds out she’s not the only magical girl in town. Though soon, she might be…
Aqua’s verdict: Minimum Magic, Mostly Mundane
Ugh. Look. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, or any deconstructionist show for that matter, was not popular because it was uncharacteristically dark and violent for a magical girl show. It was popular because it was a well-written, deeply engrossing story that cleverly put a realistic or tragic spin on some of the genre’s most famous tropes. Magical Girl Raising Project is another show that missed this memo, and gives a phenomenal example of how not to make a bunch of stock plot devices people stopped taking seriously ten years ago appealing again. Rather than twisting the genre formula around, it simply coats it in a thin veneer of blood and bargain-bin dread, while continuing to play all the clichés straight. Heck, it even has some good old product placement! Except the mobile game it’s shilling doesn’t actually exist.
The whole ‘game hype sweeping the nation actually turns out to be real!’ set-up actually brings Magical Girl Raising Project to that other infamous genre deconstruction, Digimon Tamers, but that’s about where the comparisons end. Magical Girl Raising Project does very little to justify its contemporary take on genre convention, using its framing device more as an excuse to support its premise with pointless mechanics reminiscent of video games than as an incentive to say anything meaningful about, I dunno, not trusting strangers you meet on the Internet? It’s another example of modern anime’s frustrating tendency to tell stories as if they were games – apparently the only frame of reference audiences could possibly have. It’s patronizing, but most of all it’s lazy, and that’s not even the least of Magical Girl Raising Project‘s problems.
In its structural attempts to grab a hold of the audience’s attention, the show regularly shifts its tone and focus for no justifiable reason. The flash forward at the beginning ruins any chance of actually shocking viewers with the story’s true nature, making the cutesy antics that come right afterward a waste of time even for people interested in seeing 13-year-olds gossiping. Unfortunately, this leaves little time left to introduce Magical Girl Raising Project’s massive cast, leaving what amounts to little more than a role call in lieu of anything memorable. No one remembers a character who’s introduced by walking by and muttering “‘sup”, and the fact that they all look like disproportional dress-up dolls covered in far too many click-and-drag accessories certainly doesn’t help. Somewhere in the unholy middle between Ume Aoki’s infamous wideface designs and Key’s fish-eyed baby girls, Magical Girl Raising Project’s art design is so obsessed with being unique it ends up looking like everything else.
In the end, all these shortcomings are but symptoms of this show’s biggest flaw: It simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about deceiving audiences like Madoka, about using genre conventions to tell a more ambitious, borderline metaphysical tale like Digimon Tamers, or heck, not even about entertaining viewers with one ridiculous twist after another, like perhaps its closest analogue of all: Future Diary. Magical Girl Project only really seems care about violence for the sake of violence. It’s unconcerned with artsy preoccupations like proper buildup or emotional tension, only with introducing a truckload of characters with the sole intention of killing them off later. Yet even if all you’re interested in is seeing little girls suffer, there are still better shows you could be watching.
Also, asking La Pucelle is she’s really a girl is hella disrespectful, Koyuki.
Zigg’s verdict: Entropy Beckons
I’d really like to go through this paragraph without mentioning Madoka Magica but Magical Girl Raising Project invites the comparison so hard it’s difficult for it not to be the first thing you say. Just like that in fact. In all seriousness though, it kind of feels there are way more magical girl deconstruction shows than actual magical girl shows at this point, and Raising Project doesn’t exactly conceal its hand when it opens with a delightful shot of mutilated bodies. After that it’s just an endless parade of tropes so tired and predictable that they barely even need to be paid off, combined with some very lightweight, one note characterisation that tells us nothing except the bare bones of what we need to know. Koyuki loves magical girls and that’s pretty much the only thing that we actually learn about her aside from the nauseating pureness and naivete that’s par for the course for every middle school protagonist these days. This thing carries the Light Novel stink all over it – plot before characterisation, nitpicky power details before genuine worldbuilding, and just a general feeling of EDGINESS to replace actual atmosphere. Oh and the requisite creep-tastic fanservice. It’s functional, but that’s about the best I can say.
Oh and I’ve never seen a character who’s more obviously going to die than La Pucelle.
Iro’s verdict: No Magic Here
Magical Girl Raising Project reads like someone took all of the surface-level concepts from magical girl shows and dystopia fiction, then decided to mash them up without understanding how they all worked. I’m sure this is intended to be dark and mature and dramatic and edgy and all of those other buzzwords used to describe YA fiction, but instead it just comes off as uninspired and uninteresting. With only 11 episodes left in the show’s runtime, I doubt any of the 16 combatants will receive enough development to lend any actual gravitas to their inevitable deaths. Alas, this seems the kind of show that will become incredibly popular regardless of how good it actually is. Personally, count me out.