Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 6, “Get the Super-Rare Items!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.
Screw you, Magical Girl Raising Project. Screw you and the talking animal mascot you rode in on.
The show, it appears, is not doing what I’d hoped, but is doing what I predicted. I now return to the opinion I formed initially in my review of the first episode. Right now, at what I assume (?) is the midway point (and I’m well aware that I’m four episodes behind), I hate the show and just want to get it over with. I’m going to gird my loins, grit my teeth, and watch the whole thing—but only because it has “magical girl” in the title.
If I wanted a sneering, mean-spirited, blood-soaked, nihilistic magical girl story, I’d go read Magical Girl Apocalypse and at least get a few chuckles out of the deal. Magical Girl Raising Project doesn’t even provide the chuckles.
The last time I watched a magical girl anime this unpleasant, it was called Day Break Illusion, which, like our present offering, is an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Day Break Illusion at least has a tight structure: its creators clearly knew what their story needed, and they put the pieces together with workmanlike competence and efficiency. The result is respectable, if not exactly enjoyable.
Magical Girl Raising Project doesn’t even have that going for it. It is utterly undisciplined, and its scenes appear disjointed and random. This episode, which swerves into over-the-top gore, is an emotionless mess.
I’m glad I’m watching Revolutionary Girl Utena at the same time to remind myself that there are other, more intelligent ways to deconstruct or go “meta” with a genre. In fact, when I finish MGRP, I might go re-watch the perfection that is Princess Tutu to get the bitter taste out of my mouth.
Major spoilers after the break.
The episode opens by killing off the show’s one single solitary likeable character, by whom I of course mean La Pucelle, the lady knight whose alter ego is a boy. It doesn’t really come as a surprise, since MGRP presented itself from the beginning as an “anyone can die” death tournament, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
It’s not wrong to kill off a major character, of course, even a major character who, as in this case, is a likeable and admirable protagonist. I can point to Gurren Lagann as an anime series that does it right: it does it by showing the character acting, by building him up over several episodes, by letting us get to know him, by allowing us to watch him fight and love and face impossible odds and take on all comers, so when he dies in the coolest way possible, it’s like a hammer to the chest.
But now I can also point to Magical Girl Raising Project as an anime that does it all wrong.
We never got a chance to connect to La Pucelle. Mostly, we’ve seen him sitting around. We’ve heard him talk about his noble aspirations. We’ve watched him crush on Snow White. We get some flashbacks to give him some development (which is the show’s way of advertising that a character is about to die), but they tell us nothing we didn’t already know, and they fail to build any empathy.
La Pucelle doesn’t get the development he deserves, and as a result, his death is merely annoying rather than heartrending.
I liked him, but I never got the chance to love him.
This episode also swerves suddenly from the bloodless fighting and death we’ve seen previously to full-on ultraviolence. Apparently, a magical girl’s body contains twenty gallons of blood under high pressure. The blood is way over-the-top here; I’m not sure if they’re trying to be funny or gross or if the department store had a special on red ink. The opening scene of the first episode had promised blood and death, of course, but the sudden change from bloodless violence to oceans of blood is jarring.
La Pucelle dies at the hands of Cranberry, and the fighting (aside from the ridiculous amount of blood) is still the show’s strongest point. It’s a good fight, and it at least sends the best character out with dignity: when he goes, La Pucelle is still fighting for what’s right, still struggling to the very end to be the best magical girl he can be.
Like most if not all of the other girls, he dies, but he dies without selling his soul first. He dies, we may say, like a man.
Shortly after the death of La Pucelle, Fav announces another sadistic detail: the girls can now buy magical items, but have to give up years off their lifespans in order to purchase them. These various items, such as weapons or pills that can raise a girl to full power, will no doubt be plot-relevant later on. They also signal that the girls are now in open war with one another: it’s no longer a race for Candies, but an out-and-out death match.
We also see more of Cranberry talking to Fav, and they bleed out a few hints about what they’re up to, but deliver no big revelations. This is clearly all part of some larger plan, but we already knew that.
Little else of import happens in the episode. Another magical girl dies in a bloody mess after a few flashbacks signal her demise, thus rendering her subplot pointless. Top Speed and Ripple have a scene together, but that scene is also pointless; it merely reminds us that Top Speed wants to live for at least another six months (indicating she probably won’t).
I’m clearly not alone in finding this dislikeable. Looking at the viewer comments on Crunchyroll, I see remarks like these:
“Well, that was disappointing. Given how few episodes there are, I should have expected deaths to be rushed – but the lack of any actual plot development to give the deaths meaning makes it more of a comedy than a tragedy.”
“Will there be a moral to this story…? Nothing really connects its just random actions.”
“Why do I want to watch a show that is strictly a bait and switch carnage royale? Checking Out.”
“Welp. I’m done with this show. Only character actually worth watching, and doesn’t even make past the halfway point.”
All I can add is: yep.
PROTIP: If you want to survive, do not tell anyone your life story. Death is usually instantaneous. It’s almost as lethal as announcing that you’re getting married soon.