I’ve got behind on this show, but I don’t mind. It just goes to show that I do, in fact, do other things besides watch anime. I sometimes also read manga.
In this episode, we finally meet Hardgore Alice, and she’s every inch the creepy Goth loli we could expect. We don’t get to see much of her, though, as the episode focuses primarily on Sister Nana and Winterprison. Alice appears, conveys an air of vague menace, and then disappears, but she seems to have it out for Snow White for some reason, just like everybody else.
This crossed my mind earlier, but I didn’t bother to voice an opinion about it: the characters’ names are lousy. “Cranberry” is meaningless and dumb. “Snow White” is okay, but generic (there are already magical girl Snow Whites in other franchises). Sister Nana is bland. Magicaloid is bland, and I keep wanting to call her Vocaloid by mistake. Winterprison is creative, but meaningless. Ripple is okay, but meaningless. Top Speed is a stupid name for a witch. Ruler is just flat-out stupid.
La Pucelle is generic, except it’s generic in French: “The Maid.” Yeah, that’s a great name for a … um … maid. Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic because he’s actually a dude. I don’t know.
The only names I particularly like are Hardgore Alice and Calamity Mary. Those actually sound like magical girl names. The thoughtless naming reinforces the suspicion that most of these characters just exist to get offed.
I’m also growing dissatisfied with the characters’ backstories. I was dreadfully disappointed by what episode 4 did with Ruler; I had, after seeing episode 3, come to the conclusion that Ruler’s apparently callous façade masked a compassionate heart … but then it turned out in episode 4 that, no, she really was just a big jerk who used other girls as her meat shields. That’s all the development she’s going to get, too; the chance for redemption is past.
We had seen the girl robot Magicaloid earlier when she teamed up with Calamity Mary. About a third of the episode here focuses on a flashback in which Magicaloid plays Sister Nana for a fool and exploits money out of her. The sequence gives the impression that it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s bitter and devoid of real humor. Also, how the characters carry real-life money in their magical girl forms isn’t clear, but maybe a magical girl transformation conveniently leaves a girl’s wallet intact when it alters her garments.
That would be a nice feature, come to think of it, if magical girl transformation left everything in your pockets. All the time, I change into my pink tutu and then reach for my chapstick and realize, oh yeah, it’s in the pants I just dissolved into the aether. I hate it when that happens. When I change back, it’s always melted, too.
Where was I? Anyway, Sister Nana and Winterprison are at the center of the episode. They are basically a poor man’s Sailors Neptune and Uranus, respectively, and they have confirmed me in my dislike for the character development. A whole episode, and all we learn about them is that Winterprison is butch and Nana is a fool. They get nothing beyond that: it’s as if the writers said, “Well, we added lesbians. Our work here is done.”
Speaking of which, I’m experiencing lesbian fatigue. I’m sure someone thought this looked fresh and exciting when Sailor Moon did it, but now it’s become such a cliché that I’m actually surprised when magical girls aren’t lesbians. I’m not exaggerating: I remember that when I was watching Wish Upon the Pleiades and one of the characters got a boyfriend, I said, “Whoa! This is fresh and different!” Then I came back to myself and realized that it was not, in fact, fresh or different, it’s just that … well, it had been a long time.
And that ties into my dissatisfaction here: this is lowest-common-denominator character development. “What are we gonna do with these characters?” “Lesbians, I guess. Everyone else is doing it.”
Anyway, Nana, who’s a bubbly idiot, gets the idea that she might be able to end the senseless deaths of the magical girls if she can contact the game’s admins to complain. The audience knows immediately that this can’t work: either the admins are in on it, or else they think Magical Girl Raising Project is just a phone app and will take her for a crazy person. Nonetheless, Fav considers Nana’s actions enough of a nuisance that he sends Cranberry to kill her.
We’ve not really seen Cranberry before this, but she is apparently the oldest of the magical girls in the region, and she is in some way or another in on Fav’s plot, whatever that plot happens to be. Like most of the characters, she’s vicious and (at least so far) one-dimensional. She has a fight with Winterprison, and here the show piques my interest again, as the fight mostly involves fisticuffs rather than magic, and it’s fisticuffs with an unusual level of realism and immediacy. The earlier fighting, such as the brief scuffle between Calamity Mary and Ripple or the all-out battle between La Pucelle and Ruler’s gang, had involved plenty of magical shenanigans, but Winterprison and Cranberry, although they cast a few spells, mostly just slug each other. It’s bloodless, but on the whole it looks more like a fistfight than like a choreographed fantasy action sequence.
The action continues to be the show’s strongest point. Magical Girl Raising Project is sluggishly paced, but whenever it decides to throw down, it really throws down. La Pucelle’s sword-slinging was the highlight of the previous episode, and the slugfest is the highlight of this one.
Aside from the fighting, the other redeeming feature continues to be La Pucelle the ladyboy. He doesn’t get much time in this episode, and what we see of him here is basically a recap of what we already knew about him, but he is still the one thing holding this together, and the one character who’s really likeable.
Episode 1 billed Snow White as the protagonist, but her purpose so far is to be the woobie who needs protected. La Pucelle is the show’s real hero.
I really can’t decide what I think of this. Boil Magical Girl Raising Project down to its barest basics and it’s Battle Royale with magical girls. That sounds at least amusing if nothing else, but in execution it’s not been audacious or darkly funny enough to pull it off. Alternatively, it could be what I suggested previously, a film noir sort of show with a hero who’s stained but still fighting. It’s been moderately successful as that, but it needs to pick up the pace or tighten the writing, or do both.