WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Summary. Ever since she was little, Koyuki Himekawa has always wanted to be a magical girl. In her eyes, magical girls should be pure, righteous, and beautiful, protecting and rescuing people from harm.
The trouble is that liking magical girls is something only children do. As she grew up, Koyuki really only had one friend, Souta Kishibe, whom she could talk to. Everyone else made fun of her. Even Souta, though, seemed to lose interest the last time she saw him.
Now, Koyuki is in middle school and secretly playing the popular mobile RPG Magical Girl Raising Project. Her friends tell her that there have been tons of magical girl sightings recently, and that rekindles her desire to become one.
One night, Fav, the game’s mascot starts talking to her as she tries to end the game. It turns out that one out of every thousand players turn into a magical girl, and with a simple tap she transforms into the beautiful and pure Snow White. Thus begins possibly the most wonderful week of her life.
Soon, she meets the other magical girls, and though they are nice at first, something major is about to happen—unbeknownst to all of them.
Impressions. In general, a well-done first episode. What I liked best was that it went at a relatively quick pace and contained no filler. Although nothing really horrible happened for most of the episode, the foreshadowing of what’s to come is established quite quickly: a horribly bloody scene presented marks very first moments.
The rest of the episode, on the other hand, is feel-good. As a shy girl who has an embarrassing secret, Koyuki is a very relatable character and certainly one that I rooted for. She easily blushes and tends to hide her passion for magical girls in a way that many of us would, hiding but not able to really hide her true feelings on the subject. Using this a driving point, the series smoothly transitions from her past to her ultimate transformation as a magical girl in the present, never spending too much time on any one thing. In fact, one of the twists at the end of this episode comes as a pleasant surprise rather than a comedic moment precisely because the series made us care enough for Koyuki.
Looking at it already, though, I’m already getting Madoka Magica vibes from it. Although Koyuki has a nice Sailor Moon-esque transformation—albeit less colorful and more tasteful—and Koyuki is starry-eyed for a lot of the episode, the dark scenes at the beginning and end of the episode foretell a much different reality. There’s also the cute-but-definitely-evil mascot, and the fact that certain magical girls are in charge of certain districts, with their own unique abilities. But those are things that can be found in a lot of different magical girl anime, even if it’s just the typical good versus evil. Magical Girl Raising Project will not be a happy tale, I’m sure, and I hope it’ll aptly differentiate itself from Madoka Magica, especially because that gritty deconstruction of the magical girl genre really set a standard for all anime in general. At the moment, I’m not particularly worried about this point, as the series is already establishing the relationships between its characters in its own way.
The thing is, Koyuki is already a magical girl, not worried about whether she should be one or not. She’s roped herself into this situation quite willingly since it’s been her absolute dream. Though she’s a nice girl like Madoka, she will probably participate much more actively in her future. I’m also very interested in the other characters, who at this point don’t seem like walking stereotypes of any kind. Fingers crossed that this’ll be the same throughout.
Then there’s the mobile game aspect, which—though a small point—confers a little more absurdity and relatability to the whole situation. The fact that it’s a cell phone game rather than a PC game or alien encounter should make the anime appeal to a broader audience (hello, casual gamers!), especially those who might not be interested in the popular MMOs that set the story for other anime such as Sword Art Online or Log Horizon.
Definitely one of the better first episodes I’ve seen in a while. Kept my attention, and kept me wanting more!