Warning: Contains spoilers!
“What each of us considers righteous is up to us to decide. Magical girls aren’t bound by the laws of human society… [Snow White,] you’re probably the most typical magical girl amongst all of us!”
– La Pucelle, episode 1
In lieu of a post that only covers this week’s episode (ep. 8), I’m taking a step back and discussing Magical Girl Raising Project as it’s progressed so far. The thing is, this series contains many aspects that would have made me stop watching a long time ago, yet somehow I’ve enjoyed each episode as it comes out. This could be another case of me getting addicted to a series whose drawbacks might outweigh its merits, but there’s something that bothers me about this particular series. I hope that getting all of this out will help me (and you guys, if you can bear with the ramblings) to understand why.
After writing this post, I realized I have mixed feelings towards Magical Girl Raising Project. I think the things that work for it are also the things that don’t work for it. It’s really just going through the middle.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a post discussing “dark magical girl series” in general, and how Magical Girl Raising Project ranks among them. This is also NOT a discussion about how this relates to “regular,” happy magical girl series, though I do mention them several times in this article. Here, I aim to look at Magical Girl Raising Project as its own entity.
The main contention I have with this series is its ever-so-slowly uncovering narrative.
Particularly, the coyness of the authors with regards to the grand narrative. Every issue I have is related to this.
What is Magical Girl Raising Project? What’s the whole POINT?
Do we even know what the title alludes to? Just based on its name, “Magical Girl Raising Project” must be a project aimed at raising magical girls, yet even after 8 episodes we still don’t know what this project is, or what the girls should be raised to become, or even what the very definition of a magical girl should be. Snow White thinks it’s of a more traditional sense—righteous girls who fight for love and justice. The “magical girl” that Cranberry and Fav seem to look at is more of a “magical” girl – a girl with superhuman strength and feats. The strongest of the strong. And then there’s La Pucelle, who is just a gender-bender girl even though she’s completely female when she transforms. That is indeed magical in its own way.
From all of the details given so far, we are in Phase 1 of this project. Cranberry seems to be the master of everything since Fav keeps calling her “Master.” Fav also clarified that they specifically want girls whose personalities cause friction, and girls who get riled up easily. Deaths, of course, help amp up the friction considerably. He’s been gearing up for the bloodshed since day 1, and has deliberately chosen every girl to advance this violence.
The thing is, we still don’t know the main point of the series. We don’t know what Fav is, or what he and/or Cranberry are planning.
Fav just doesn’t say things.
Throughout the entire series, Fav just doesn’t say things. He’s said “Nobody likes a tattletale, pon!” when pressed for information about deaths multiple times, even if it’s super apparent what’s happened. In episode 1, he just offers Snow White to become a magical girl without giving his own impression of what a magical girl entails. In episode 2, he begins the Magical Candies competition to pluck off the magical girls one by one. The key word here, I believe, is competition—he even says to Ripple that it’s great that she considers the other girls rivals. The competition was never meant to be a friendly contest in the first place, but he doesn’t outwardly state that and lets the girls make their own assumptions. And of course, the competition just gets worse and worse through the episodes, where Fav all but casts away the presumption of a Magical Candies competition just as casually as he started it.
This undercurrent of competition explains why there are so many different kinds of magical girls, with many philosophies that clash with each other. The anime already points this ambiguity out for us in the first episode, when Snow White mentions that the girls are more other things (e.g. witches, ninjas) than (what she perceives as) magical girls. The western, gun-toting, alcoholic outlaw Calamity Mary already seemed a strange pick since the very beginning. What’s even more aggravating is that some of the girls like La Pucelle, who says that each girl decides her own path to righteousness, already seem to have figured it out. Yet they never question it in that much detail. They just all like being magical girls for their own reasons, I guess.
Do we need deeper characterization?
Here’s something I would normally press, since I usually latch onto characterization when watching shows. I don’t think Magical Girl Raising Project has very deep characters. They all have very eye-catching designs, but each girl is defined by a pretty black-or-white belief and/or personality quirk that frankly aren’t memorable in themselves. And, because of the aforementioned requirements for magical girls, tragic background is pretty much a given.
So the story has made it such that it’s okay if all of the girls have sob stories. It’s not necessarily a requirement, but it does make sense and is the easiest way to go about things. To this end, every single girl has at the very least been bullied, or felt lonely, or is just an outcast of some kind.
The story has also made it so that we don’t need that much characterization, since many of the characters will drop like flies thanks to all the bloodshed that’s been going on.
And finally, the story has made it so that the girls should have singular yet contrasting personalities, because those are the ones that will maximize the heat between them the most.
There is no main character in the entire series. I thought it was Snow White at first, but frankly, other magical girls have had much more screentime than she’s had. Rather, she seems to be a gauge for how more “traditional” magical girls would react in the situations she’s been put in. Just one of the pawns, and the one who just so happened to introduce us to the plot BECAUSE of the way she—we—thought about magical girls.
But I don’t think Magical Girl Raising Project was ever intended to have a huge focus on characterization, or a single character. The whole focus has been this slowly drawn out plot, with higher beings whose motives still haven’t been uncovered. If you can stomach the slow evolution of the plot, and everything that comes with it, then you may like this series.
As I hope has been apparent during my last few episode reviews, what really shines in Magical Girl Raising Project is the heightening of friction throughout the series. Every episode contains a new element of backstabbing or extreme form of punishment, showcasing just how cruel these girls can become or how powerful/powerless their abilities are. Since this seems to be Fav’s current goal, everything is arguably on point towards that destination.
Everything ties together.
This brings me to my final observation. Many of the elements from past episodes have affected, and still continue to affect, elements in future episodes. You can check out remyfool’s episode 7 review for one such example, where they backtrack quite a lot through past episodes to capture minute details relating to Hardgore Alice, the new girl who’s finally, truly introduced in that episode but whose appearance had been hinted at throughout the series.
Okay. Cool. So do you enjoy it?
Even though many events might seem baseless, the creators seem to have placed a lot of thought into making this series, no matter how you perceive its execution. I appreciate that, but also understand that Magical Girl Raising Project can be enjoyed or pushed aside for the exact same reasons. I know that’s such a non-committal answer and that practically all series fit into that category, but I haven’t felt so 50-50 about a series in quite a while, if ever.
I keep telling myself I don’t know the point of all this violence yet, but I’m also hooked by the creators’ ploy to keep viewers watching. So yes, yes, I do enjoy it, even with my reservations.
The reveal better be spectacular!
P.S. I apologize to those of you who were waiting for an episode post as per usual. For a quick recap of my reactions, I thought that the first battle was on point and had no wasted moments, and may have been my favorite kill of the series thus far; the middle was inundated with three recaps that didn’t mesh with the tone the first minutes had set; and the last part was a little confusing but got the ball rolling for next episode. If you’d like to discuss more with me, feel free to comment on this post or contact me. But definitely check out all the great reviews floating around the Internet.
Thank you for reading!