Magical Girl Raising Project – Review
Magical Girl Raising Project was awarded as a Runner-Up for Best of Fall 2016 in our Anime Awards.
Magical Girl Raising Project:
Original Air Dates: October 1st, 2016 – December 17th – 2016
Synopsis: Magical Girl Raising Project is a popular phone game that just about every girl seems to be playing. Girls enthralled by the Magical Girl genre are especially hooked, such as one Himekawa Koyuki, who’s dreamed of being a magical girl since she was a tot. However, the game is more than just a game, as one of every 10,000 girls is granted the chance to become a real life Magical Girl. Koyuki lucks out and is granted such a power, allowing her to strive to become the most authentic and true version of a magical girl possible. Just as she’s getting to know the other lucky girls tasked with bringing happiness, peace and heroism to the world, things take a dark and twisted turn when Koyuki and the rest are informed that the Magical Girl population is to be cut in half.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: One of the first things that will catch your eye about this show is the character designs and costumes of the magical girls. While there are a handful that may still fall under what’s considered the common look for magical girls in anime, there’s also plenty of girls that look like anything but. For example we have one who is dressed like a ‘sexy’ ninja in a bikini and scarf, another rides a broom and dresses like a witch, a girl in a swimsuit with tiny wings on her back and headphones on her ear, so on and so forth. This helps to give the show a unique feel and look, helping push the boundaries of what is considered the norm for magical girls. In fact, as the everyday identities of the girls are revealed, we meet some who are alcoholic divorcees, married housewives or young grade school students. This too clashes heavily against the stereotype of magical girls usually being pure or well meaning junior or high school students. Sure there have been some magical girls in the past who may not have been complete little angels but they were often driven by their desire to help someone else. In the case of MGRP, some of them seem to have become magical girls out of sheer chance or even malevolency as the only thing they seem to care about as magical girls is making money for themselves and living it up thanks to their magical abilities.
Tom: The costume design is a highlight for the series, not just because it challenges perception and norms, but also influences the audiences’ ability to become attached to these characters, and that’s important as Raising Project spends so little time delving into its cast. Indeed the show is lacking in character development and backstory, drip feeding the audience on only certain occasions. But the designs make up for this, allowing audiences the ability to gravitate towards girls based on design and appearance alone. It’s superficial, and won’t satisfy people looking for more meaty characters, but goes a long way towards keeping Raising Project from feeling bland and weak.
Linny: While Snow White/Himekawa Koyuki is the central character that kicks off the show, she is then often left in the background, playing a passive role compared to other characters. This isn’t a complaint or flaw in itself but it’s definitely going to disappoint viewers who are attached to or prefer having a clear and solid lead character.
Tom: Snow White is bland and uninteresting and that’s probably by design. As Linny said, she spends much of her time in the background, or a piece to the plot for other characters to fight over, in defense of or against. Her connection to the story is an emotional one, a journey as Snow White finds her beliefs of ‘what Magical Girls should be’ challenged. But it’s a minor plot line, one obfuscated by the greater conflict as the girls battle against each other in an increasingly gory conflict. Snow White’s journey is similar to that of Madoka’s from that highly beloved series: A character sitting on the sidelines, forced to watch and eventually take action as the conflict escalates. Though the ultimate conclusion reached is far different and the similarities are purely superficial. In fact, the effect Snow White has on the narrative is almost negligible. Instead she’s more a culmination of events, a reaction to the conclusion of the series. And it’s not even to say the rest of the cast gets much exploration either, with characters only getting backstory mere moments before they die. No, rather what the show lacks in exploring its cast it makes up for in obfuscation. Characters you both like and hate die at any time, with no one protected by plot armor. Outside of Snow White, you’ll remain unsure of who will survive until the very end, making it a true guessing game.
Linny: That lack of background for its characters is what might be the show’s biggest hurdle as there are a lot of people who prefer to get to know their characters intimately so they can better connect and sympathize with them. MGRP really doesn’t bother with all that, and what it does offer might feel insulting. That’s not to say that none of the girls will win you over, but it might be a struggle. For those of you who might be concerned or worried that the show really hams up its dark and sad parts, the good news is that it doesn’t, for the most part. While there may be a scene or two that might make the more cold hearted roll their eyes, the show does a good job of depicting depressing backstories without piling on the melodrama.
Tom: Raising Project is a bit misleading with its season opener however. The series teases a big gore fest right at its start, but the series never quite lives up to that initial tease. Indeed it’s only in the 2nd half of its run that the mayhem and blood lust ramp up. But what makes Raising Project interesting is the inability to tell who will live and who will die I as I mentioned before. Unlike Madoka, there’s no greater message, no meta commentary, but for fans of Battle Royals, Raising Project strikes true with character deaths that will surprise you week to week, keeping you ever guessing as to which, if any, will survive.
Linny: MGRP is definitely the Battle Royale of the magical girl genre and isn’t afraid to be twisted and dark even if it never gets as bloody as its teaser. If you like happy endings, you should probably avoid this show. Another thing to love is that even though it has some rather tragic characters in its cast, it doesn’t harp on or ham up the sad and depressing parts, preferring to move at a quick pace rather than piling on the melodrama. This fast pace might cause some issues in and of itself but for those of you that despise relentlessly played up and exaggerated tragedies, there’s none of that here except in the smallest of doses.
Tom: Another aspect that Raising Project doesn’t spend much time on is character development. There’s no greater exploration of its cast members, offering little insight into any of the girls until shortly before their deaths. Smarter viewers will pick up on this, finding the deaths of characters telegraphed mere minutes before they occur with flashbacks and brief insight into the girl’s alter ego just before they meet their untimely end.
Linny: MGRP isn’t the first dark twist on its genre and comparisons and dismissals have been plaguing it all season. MGRP is best watched as its own entity and while it isn’t the most amazing show out there, it has enough appeal to please and entice those who enjoy dark survivalist story lines. It may not have the most original storyline either but it is not a mere copy of other, similar shows. It’s refusal to compromise on its pace while delivering an unpredictable survival battle makes for a promising watch but if you pick this up expecting something similar to other twisted magical girl stories, you’ll be in for dissatisfaction.
Tom: Magical Girl Raising Project isn’t perfect and indeed audiences who are after something deeper, capable perhaps even of providing meta commentary on the genre, are going to be disappointed. But if you want something fun, violent, and dark, Raising Project offers all that, ensuring that characters die left and right and plot armor is used in sparring amounts. The series ends decently enough, although those hoping to see more of this world might be disappointed, as no follow up anime has been announced. If Magical Girl is anything like other Light Novel adaptations, you’ll have to continue the story via its source material. The good news is Raising Project is getting its Light Novels localized, so diehard fans should be able to rejoin Snow White and other survivors sometime next year. Personally? I’m looking forward to it.
Magical Girl Raising Project is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com