After Puella Magi Madoka Magica aired, it seemed as though any magical girl television series with even a modicum of darkness was mercilessly compared to what had become “the” subversive magical girl show. I never thought it was fair to examine shows by raising them up only to media they were comparable to. So I went into Magical Girl Raising Project with an open mind, and I’m quite glad that I did. It’s obvious it’s taken several cues from other media of its ilk, but it introduces new and exciting flourishes that are absolutely worth viewing it for, even if you feel as though you’ve been down this road before.
The anime follows Koyuki Himekawa, who’s been in love with magical girls since she was younger. Their pure intentions, magical abilities, and personalities are appealing to her, and she’s even dreamed of becoming one. She doesn’t really share these feelings with friends, though, even though she can usually be found in her room gushing over the latest event in a popular social game: the titular Magical Girl Raising Project. It’s said that some users are selected to actually become magical girls, and when that fateful day comes for Koyuki, she welcomes it as she accepts her new powers as magical girl Snow White. Even her childhood friend joins in on the fun, or at least what looks like fun from the very beginning.
But despite joining what looks like a large and diverse team of other magical girls, Koyuki runs into a dilemma: It seems there are too many magical girls, according to the game’s mascot Fav, and what seems like a dream come true slowly descends into a nightmare as the girls are charged with collecting enough candies to “stay in the game” each week. The only catch is the losers don’t just get removed from the game. They die. Permanently. And they can’t be brought back to life, even in the confines of the game.
After finding out about that shock to the system, which isn’t even the biggest spoiler when it comes to the show, Snow White must not only navigate the world of magical girls but her moral compass as she struggles to remain in the game even as the rules seem to change as it goes on. Partnerships change at the drop of a hat, alliances crumble, and tears are shed left and right for what seems like no reason … until you investigate a little under the surface, that is. Is it actually worth being a magical girl at all, or should Snow White just have thrown in the towel and given up on her dreams?
The tension mounts as each episode airs, and the characters themselves are an extremely interesting bunch. Twist after twist occurs when you least expect it, making this a must-watch if you’re interested in the darker side of magical girls. There’s a refreshing sense of diversity to the cast as well, with several of the magical girls in real life not “girls” at all, in several senses. The art style is quite disarming, lulling you into a false sense of security (“Of course that character isn’t going to die!”) and treating you as though you’re just watching another happy-go-lucky take on Sailor Moon or something to that effect. If you’re sick and tired of things being cute for the sake of cute with no real substance when it comes to magical girls, this is one series you’ll want to try out, even if you think you’re just about Madoka’d out. Trust me on this, Magical Girl Raising Project is worth the chance.
rating: Not Rated