Full Anime Series Review: Magical Girl Raising Project
Magical Girl Raising Project envisions a world where some people are chosen by a magical girl cell phone game to become real-life magical girls. If they are chosen, they have to use their new powers to help people in need in some way. When they help someone, they receive "candies" which are the game's currency, so even though it's real life, it still would feel kind of like a video game. Snow White is the alias of a girl who is followed as the main character, who really likes helping people because it was always her dream to become a magical girl. Later, she finds out that a boy who was her childhood friend also became a magical girl.
Things take a sinister turn pretty quickly when this show's version of Kyubey, Fav, starts changing the rules to force the girls to come into more direct competition with one another. Soon, characters start to die pretty much as quickly as they can be fully introduced, making this clearly more of a Battle Royale anime than a magical girl anime.
Magical Girl Raising Project
Drama, Action, Magical Girl, Seinen
Light Novel and Manga by Asari Endō
What I liked about this show was the action and the fighting. However, the story was kind of lacking in many ways. One issue is that there are so many characters, and they all have different appearances and names in real life vs. when they're transformed, so it can get confusing. A lot of introductions of characters and back story flashbacks feel rushed.
The show uses the "fatal backstory" trope a lot. Like to where it becomes so obvious that a character who gets their own focal episode is probably going to die that it stops making you care about any of the flashbacks. And pretty much all the characterization in the show comes from flashbacks, which I think of as bad writing. I think the bulk of characterization should come from the way those characters interact and react to one another and to plot events in the main story. Flashbacks seem like they're violating the writing standard of "show, don't tell". I mean, they are "showing" things, but not in the present. And isn't the present moment supposed to be the focus of the story?
Focus. That's one huge problem this anime has. There are too many characters which are all given narrative importance, back stories, and screen time. But that means that no one of them sticks out as important except for a small handful, and the minor characters' "episode in the spotlight" episodes overshadow the main characters significantly. In a 12 episode anime, it really hurts the story if the narrative is scattered into many different character arcs. Epic fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time can get away with having so many named and important characters, because fantasy novels are long and the story continues over the course of several books. But with anime, this kind of storytelling doesn't work, especially for a half-season anime. It's simply not enough time to really make the audience form a strong emotional connection to the characters. The characters in Magical Girl Raising Project are just candles in the wind a lot of the time.
It's trying to be like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and similarly have a dark, edgy take on the "magical girl" genre in anime. This genre is usually saccharine and pretty and fueled by the power of friendship and/or love, and aimed at little girls. The whole thing is a power fantasy for little girls, kind of like how martial arts or giant mecha anime are often power fantasies for boys. But recent stories like this one and others think it's fun to take the magical girl genre and give it a tragic twist.
But Magical Girl Raising Project is doing this wrong. There's no mystery or intrigue; you know what you're getting right away for sure because the first episode begins with a creepy, violent action sequence with a lot of blood and gore. There's no mistaking this for a cute, happy magical girl show, there's a lot less ambiguity and therefore less mystery and intrigue than in Madoka Magica.
But if you say, it's not trying to be like Madoka Magica, it's trying to be it's own grim, dark gladiator combat story, you're left wondering then why make it about magical girls? Even by the end we don't really get much of a peek into Fav's motivation. It seems clear that he creates competitions between magical girls so that only the strongest survives, but to do what? And why have them help people like heroes one second and then do a 180 and force them to kill each other the next? You either want soldiers and assassins, or you want magical girls. These are not the same thing, and the show treating them like this seems weird to me. Why make them do good at first and then slowly get them to do evil, if evil was what you actually wanted all along? Fav does not have the clear-cut, easy to understand motivation that Kyubey has, making Kyubey much more sympathetic even if he does things humans would normally consider immoral. Fav does not even rationalize or justify anything he does, he simply forces the girls to go along with what he says, without bothering to give them reasons. I got sick of its attitude in the show. It's just not as enjoyable for me if the villain's motivation is never really explained. Especially for a show like this, because Fav essentially creates the entire plot of the show.
What does the show do well? Costumes, action sequences, and intriguing ways magical abilities that don't seem deadly or dangerous at first can become so in combat. Characters who appear minor at first can come out of the woodwork and turn out to be important, and characters that seem important can die so easily. So there are enough plot twists to make the episodes exciting. The show is incredibly fast-paced, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective, but I tended to think of that as mostly a bad thing. I thought that because being super fast-paced meant that many characters came and went without leaving much of an emotional impact on me personally. Character arcs that should have taken 3-5 episodes were crammed into 1, and the result felt too rushed and abrupt.
I suppose I can give Magical Girl Raising Project props in that it was exciting enough to get me to tune in every week, but now that it's over, I don't really think it left a great impression overall.