Day 6 of AniB’s Advent Calendar! So here’s a show I’ve had on my review back-burner for a while. Today’s pick is decidedly non-Christmas-y, but with a dub finishing up not too far back and some requests from people, it was high time to finally write about this niche magical girl anime that initially debuted two years ago, but didn’t receive a dub until this past fall. Think of it as a little magic for the season…although it’s a fair bit darker than your standard Christmas fare.
(Previous Day: Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. The other 4 days of the countdown so far are linked in that article!)
Show: Magical Girl Raising Project (Mahō Shōjo Ikusei Keikaku)
Studio/years aired: Lerche, 2016 (dub 2018)
AniB’s thoughts: Adapted from a light novel, or LN, Magical Girl Raising Project, or “MagiPro” as it is referred to by it fans, is yet another viewer request being fulfilled, but it was also a very interesting watch. I first viewed it close to a year ago, but never quite found the right time or place to discuss it, but happily enough, here we are.
With the dub wrapping up not too long ago (at the time of this writing), MGRP is probably the most niche pick I’ve covered, outside of Sweetness & Lightning. It’s a show that probably only most hard-core anime fans (or LN readers) might be aware of- but it’s certainly yet another intriguing spin on the darker themes of magical girl series. There’s a real sense of fantasy meeting reality in a crushing sort of way, as hopes and dreams pave the way for disaster and heartbreak over the ideals of being a magical girl, vs the reality, especially when said reality has a user-friendly gloss over the top of a nefarious, deadly game.
According to some fans of the show, this adaptation is only the first major story arc of the much longer LN. While I have no doubts to this claim, I do question if this is all we’ll ever get of this world in anime form, given how long it took to get a dub out after the initial release (2 years)…and then the fact that you’d need probably a bit more popularity and the buy-in from the creators and producers to do more. Either way, what we got is what I’m evaluating out in front of me, not theoretical seasons that might come into existence.
This was an interesting watch that felt like watching a page-turning book, which I might attribute to its origins as a light novel. It’s certainly not the most complex watch in the genre, but it does make you think a bit along with some genuinely strong emotional moments, and it excels at throwing curveballs throughout the episodes, keeping the viewer guessing what happens next. There’s a good sense of nervous anticipation that is built as a result of this show’s style, and it all lends itself to an experience that can be best described as that of a good, intense thriller. Is it everyone’s cup of tea? Absolutely not, but once this show picks up steam- and it does fast- you’ll likely find yourself racing to the end, other shortcomings cast to the wayside.
Animation: Modern 2-D animation. The show looks sharp and clean; there’s no doubt the character designs are both a mix of creativity and in some cases some fanservice; what’s clear is that the magical girl designs in this series clearly love the chibi art style and variations of it. The theming of each girl is interesting, and the overworld is adequate, if somewhat generic. (Seriously, no one actually tells us what or where this town is; it’s generic “Nippon City”, per se. And it’s even named N-City.) Action sequences are both active and intense; there’s some pretty harsh and violent moments though. 3.5/5 points.
Characterization: As a magical girl show, Magical Girl Raising Project has a decently big cast, but two girls in particular can be cast as the leads. There’s Snow White- a young girl whose dream of being a classical magical girl is granted one day, and Ripple- a ninja-themed girl of few words. The process of becoming a magical girl in this world is actually initiated by a smartphone game (I kid you not) “randomly” selecting individuals it believes possess the potential and attributes it deems worthy of such power. And boom! Just like that, it happens. Of course, after this seemingly great selection, then the drawbacks come in, oh boy…
Snow White, or Koyuki Himekawa, is the ideal magical girl. Quickly acclimating to her new role, she carries out an idealized vision of the trope as that of heroic to others- but those ideals soon come under fire from a variety of other girls who hardly share the same sort of sentiments combined with an ever-more dangerous set of stakes. She’s best friends with La Pucelle (pictured with Snow in the article picture), another magical girl with an unusual background and a sworn promise to serve as “Snow’s knight.”
In contrast, Ripple (Kano Sazanami) is quiet, somewhat brooding, but a skilled combatant. Partnered with the outgoing and optimistic Top Speed, she finds her role as a magical girl an escape from an abusive home life…until Fav’s little competition begins.
Speaking of which, Fav is the so-called A.I. that runs the phone game that transforms girls. Appearing as a black and white floating sprite with beady little red eyes, Fav’s unflappable calm voice belies a character who acts very much like the “Kyuubey” of this show- if you’re familiar at all with Madoka Magica, this character’s role will seem fairly similar, and his intentions, while not clear at first, are no doubt deadly.
Overall, this is a cast who has some wildly different backgrounds, but perhaps not a ton of depth outside the leads because it’s a violent show, which means everyone is in a constant state of turmoil. The designs are interesting though, as I mentioned before; chances are you’ll either find someone to like or maybe just not like them at all. 3.25/5 points.
Story: As the tagline of this review reads, “it’s magical girls meets game of thrones.” In all seriousness though, there may not be a more adequate descriptor. The opening episode will lull you in with the backstory and dreams of naive and friendly Snow White, only for Fav’s “game” to begin the very next episode- and any sense of tranquility quickly shattered by the suddenly raised stakes for all parties involved. I’m not sure this is an incredibly deep kind of story, but it is an episode turner- and emotional attachments to characters in this show can be either richly rewarded, or more often than not, crushed brutally. It’s at your peril… 3.25/5 points
Themes: This show is really on some level about decision-making. Seriously- “the decisions we make seal our fate.” And that is very applicable to MagiPro. That said, anyone looking for a thematic depth unlike anything you’ve ever seen will be dissapointed, but…character motivations and backstories actually lend a bit more weight than the story that frames them thematically here. 3/5 points.
Don’t Insult the Viewer: Death and bloodshed are an order of the day, but genre-wise and story wise, they fit. The end result? Something that isn’t necessarily family friendly but it can be gripping. Also, that OP and ED are pretty darn good. 3.75/5 points.
Overall: 16.75/25 (67%): Let’s be clear about one thing: This is a dark, often bloody and violent affair, but also a compelling sort of show in said magical girl/horror genre mix. I doubt the characters of the story will wow you compared to say, a Madoka, but they work well enough on their own, and the end result is an above-average show that might not appeal to every audience. However, for those it does reach, a wild, gripping and often intense ride is in store as these 12 episodes unfold.
Like what you see? Interested in Magical Girl Raising Project? Leave a comment!