This episode continues where we left off in episode 3, with magical girls Snow White and La Pucelle getting bum-rushed by Ruler and her minions, who hope to swipe Snow White’s Magical Candies in order to avoid death at the hands of Fav’s sadistic elimination game.
This fourth episode finally gets things going. Personally, I think we might have got to this same point by the third or even the second episode if the pace were snappier and the storytelling tighter.
The episode opens with backstory on Ruler. This had already been hinted earlier, but some of the characters, although they play young girls via the Magical Girl Raising Project app, are actually older women. The first character to be eliminated was in her early twenties, as is the alter ego of Ruler. Although this disrupts the usual pattern of magical girl stories, which are coming-of-age allegories, it’s in keeping with this particular show’s premise, which depicts people becoming magical girls through a video game. After all, people who play games often pick avatars that do not resemble themselves.
As we learn here, Ruler is in real life a secretary who thinks she’s unappreciated at work, so, as a form of wish fulfilment, her magical girl power is the ability to boss others around simply by pointing her scepter at them.
One of my biggest complaints about this show is that Snow White and La Pucelle are always sitting on top of a water tower. Whenever anything happens, those two are sitting up there, looking at their cell phones and talking. I get it that this is where they hang out when not rescuing old ladies from burning buildings or rescuing kittens from treetops, but come on! The several appearances of them sitting up there make them seem static and boring. If these characters really have to exposit as much as they do, it would have been much better if they talked to each other while on missions instead of in between. The water tower scenes are largely responsible for making the show seem sluggish.
Although I was at first skeptical of the concept, I’m warming up to Magical Girl Raising Project. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but in spite of my minor gripes, I like the way it’s playing out so far. La Pucelle is my favorite character: he’s a dude who likes magical girls, so he became one in order to live out his fantasy. When he chose this path, he became the manliest magical girl possible, a lady knight, and he has dedicated himself to protecting the girl he secretly crushes on.
In spite of the apparently “deconstructive” premise, the show is, at least so far, delivering an unironic depiction of a boy behaving chivalrously and doing whatever it takes to protect his ladylove. This makes a nice counterpoint to our ongoing rewatch of Revolutionary Girl Utena, which treats of the same themes, but sneers at them.
This episode finally brings the intensity we’ve been waiting for. Two of Ruler’s minions, the twin Peaky Angels … wait, hold on a second …
… They’re twins, and they’re called “Peaky”? Nah, that’s gotta be a coincidence. Anyway, the Peaky Angels distract La Pucelle while Ruler and Swim Swim accost Snow White in order to steal her Candies. The action sequence here is quite good: it’s deliberate and thoughtful rather than rapid, but it’s well-done, with no obvious animation shortcuts. I found myself leaning forward while watching it, so even though I could guess how the episode would end, it succeeded in making me worry for the protagonists’ welfare.
La Pucelle fights to save Snow White, and after Snow White loses her Candies to Swim Swim, he even goes so far as to promise to give her all of his Candies if he can’t get hers back. This, and other hints through the episode, indicate that La Pucelle is entirely sincere: he became a magical girl because he believed in magical girl ideals, and he will stand by them and see them through to the end, even if it means his own death.
Calamity Mary shows up again, and it appears that she is somehow manipulating things behind the scenes. She also drinks Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, which I find hilarious, especially because her whiskey is thick and reddish like ketchup. She is way over the top as the evil gunslinger.
I’m slightly disappointed in Ruler’s depiction, however. Earlier, it had appeared that, in spite of her harsh posturing, she genuinely cared for her sycophants. In this episode, however, she calls them “meat shields,” and she apparently means it.
The episode, in accordance with the expected formula, presents a few twists. I expected twists, but I didn’t see any of these particular ones coming. There’s no reason for me so say what they are here, but I will say that there’s some serious backstabbing going on. Never turn your back on these magical girls.
Based on what has happened so far, I tentatively recommend this series. For the moment, it’s different from what I expected. Rather than being deconstructive, it appears to be noir; that is, it depicts a tarnished hero, a knight in rusty armor, who seeks to act in accordance with a code of chivalry in spite of the grimy, violent world he lives in. It is a depiction of the knight whose knighthood meets a difficult test, rather than a depiction of a knight who gives up and decides knighthood is a lie—at least so far.
What I’d like to see happen, though it probably won’t since this is based on an ongoing light novel series with many sequels, is La Pucelle finally fighting his way through all the bad magical girls to take on Fav himself and give that wicked familiar his just deserts.