‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episodes 7 and 8

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 7, “Up Your Friendship” and Episode 8, “Sudden Event in Session!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

The first of these two episodes is entitled “Up Your Friendship!”

No, up yours, MGRP.

Okay, I gotta admit, my opinion of this thing has flipped once again. It took six whole episodes to get its momentum, but it’s finally picked up. Episode 7 is strong, and episode 8 is basically its second half. It’s good, because these episodes are mostly action, and as I said before, Magical Girl Raising Project works best when there’s fighting going on.

Also, it improves by toning down the ultraviolent gore, having apparently got that out of its system. It finds a balance somewhere between the bloodlessness of episodes 1-5 and the Evil Dead blood geysers of episode 6. It’s bloody, but not stupid-bloody.

Major spoilers from here out, since it’s impossible to discuss otherwise.

I didn’t mention it last time because I focused on the unfortunate death of La Pucelle, which still has me kind of mad, but Magicaloid 44, the uninteresting magical robot girl, also died in episode 6. She went the hard way, getting Hardgore Alice’s fist through her chest cavity when she tried to kill Snow White.

Truth be told, although I really do think La Pucelle’s death was a waste, I’m also irritated because I missed his death flags, which a lot of other viewers picked up on. I like to think I know all the motifs (or what the Internet has incorrectly decided to call “tropes”) and am pretty good at spotting foreshadowing, but in this case I mistook what was going on. It looked to me like they were setting up a monster-of-the-week style of action show where a dude has to defend his McGuffin Girl from a different enemy every episode.

Magical Girl Raising Project might have worked pretty well by using that formula, but that’s not what it was doing. Unfortunately, by not doing that, it also spent most of its first six episodes dithering around with subplots that couldn’t go anywhere.

Mary and Alice face off. Okay, this is a terrible screenshot. Sue me.

Anyway, Magicaloid wasn’t an interesting character. A few flashbacks delivered her backstory before she died, but they failed to build much empathy and added nothing to the plot. Nonetheless, her death fuels what happens in the episodes following: Calamity Mary, who had a deal with Magicaloid, is gunning for revenge. In a ridiculous but entertaining action sequence, she uses multiple guns, bombs, acid, and fire to try to put Alice down, and still fails.

Hardgore Alice.

Alice herself is over-the-top creepy with a blank stare and deadpan voice, and she does this sort of stiff marionette schtick where she suddenly bends over like a discarded puppet. But she is both super-strong and super-fast, and apparently invincible. She’s also apparently out to help Snow White, so Snow White lost her original protector but gets a pretty good replacement in exchange.

Fav explains just in case you didn’t understand the concept, pon. And no, Fav, sticking a girl in gothic lolita dress and naming her Alice does not automatically make her an Alice in Wonderland reference, pon.

Snow White and Alice team up with Sister Nana and Winterprison, who want to stop the killing amongst the magical girls. Nana and Winterprison are reasonably likeable but generic, and whenever they show up, they remind me that I could be watching Sailor Moon S instead. Their character development really doesn’t go beyond being the obligatory gratuitously homosexual couple.

Cuddle time is over, you two. Go kill something.

Most of the character development in episode 7 goes to Ripple the foul-tempered ninja girl, and for the first time, the character development actually has an emotional impact. She’s a seventeen-year-old girl who ran away from home after mommy’s latest live-in deadbeat boyfriend started molesting her. We already knew she was moody, and now we know why. Surprisingly, even though she’s had flashbacks, she isn’t dead by the end of the episode, so this breaks MGRP‘s standard formula of reveal-backstory-then-kill.

Swim Swim quietly plots your bloody demise.

Meanwhile, Swim Swim, who previously backstabbed Ruler, wants to kill Winterprison, whom she sees as her most powerful potential enemy. In addition to having the second-stupidest name of any magical girl in this show, Swim Swim has one of the most formidable powers (she is able to swim through any substance as if it’s water) and is also the most prone to psychopathic machinations. While Calamity Mary is a scenery-chewing, cartoony sort of evil, Swim Swim is a calm, collected, scheming sort of evil, and these two evils are coming at the rest of the magical girls from both sides.

Episode 8 managed to surprise me with the characters it kills off. It does throw in yet another pre-death flashback to try to build empathy, and in this case is partly successful. Unlike the indifferent, shrug-inducing pre-death flashbacks from previous episodes, this actually hits the notes it should.

That escalated quickly.

We also finally learn what’s up with Top Speed and why she wants to live for six more months, as well as Calamity Mary, which means most of the characters’ histories are now on the table. Although Fav apparently shanghaied some of the other magical girls, he offered Mary the kind of Faustian bargain we might expect, promising her power over others if she made the contract.

Ripple and Top Speed just sort of hanging around, which is just sort of what they do.

Episode 8 builds to a great cliffhanger.

I’m really surprised and impressed. Given all the callous backstabbings and murders in this show, the quality of these episodes makes me worried that somebody at the studio strangled Hiroyuki Hashimoto after episode 6 and replaced him.

Although the first six episodes of Magical Girl Raising Project are weak, the series does appear to be, in its second half, accomplishing what it meant to, which is being a magical girl Lord of the Flies or Battle Royale. This is not on its way to being a classic, and it doesn’t have much substance, but it’s finally managed to be enjoyable in a sick sort of way, mostly because the pace has picked up. It’s no longer sluggish, and it’s no longer dinking around with irrelevant subplots. Now it’s about action, and action is where Magical Girl Raising Project excels.

Also, there’s bacon, and that makes everything awesome.
  • Roffles Lowell

    Agreed, you should certainly be reviewing Sailor Moon instead. Or finish SM Crystal…. which I think you never did?

    I can’t be confident here: maybe it’s a symptom of browsing on a mobile device but combing your archive for essays is not an easy task. (Apologies if Im looking past the obvious.)
    Dunno if indexing reviews separate from J&tD installments is still on your to do list, but yknow… grist for the mill

    • Click the “reviews” tag under the post, and all the reviews will come up.

  • I was worried that you were going to allow your initial misperception to continue to color your view of the series. It seems that it still isn’t something that aligns with you completely, and I’d argue that it has more depth and subtlety than you are giving it credit for (the compare-and-contrast of selfish motives with selfless ones and the exploration of the subjective nature of “success” seem like the central themes to me – though of course that’s just a rehash of Battle Royale anyway, so it’s not like I’m trying to say that it’s groundbreaking or anything), but at least you no longer seem to be confused by it going in a different direction than you’d initially assumed.

    • I agree it is comparing and contrasting selfless and selfish motives, but I don’t think it’s doing it very well.

      In the realm of “deconstructive” magical girl shows, every one I can name does it better. In Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, Yuna’s selfless heroism contrasts with Toga’s self-destruction. In Princess Tutu, Tutu’s selfless love for the prince contrasts with Princess Kraehe’s selfish grasping. In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Dios’s self-destructive chivalry contrasts with Akio’s all-destructive misogyny. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a paean to self-sacrifice, and its sequel Rebellion is a paean to selfishness. Had its intended threequel ever got made, it probably would have been a paean to self-sacrifice again. There’s even Day Break Illusion, which makes me want to throttle its heroine on account of her reckless endangerment for the sake of a warped sense of compassion.

      No, I stand by my opinion that Magical Girl Raising Project is both poorly constructed and shallow in its aims. I misunderstood it because I was hoping it would be better than it is. The death of La Pucelle is a waste. He anchored the show.

      His death could have been meaningful if set up properly. If he motivated or inspired or really cherished and protected Snow White, and if she learned something from him that made her stronger, his death might have meant something. Instead, it merely killed off some under-developed subplots, and Snow White got a new sidekick in his stead.

      • It’s more than just the self-sacrifice/selfishness continuum, though I still think that Magical Girl Raising Project offers its own unique take on that theme (as magical girl shows go; as I said, it’s pretty much a rehash of Battle Royale in that way). As I said, it’s also the subjective nature of “success” (that is, what one person might see as failure can also be seen as success from another point of view, even one that is sympathetic to the “failing” person; Ruler’s failure to survive is also simultaneously her success in mentoring Swim Swim), and I’d also add after reflection that a third theme, of fate and the unintended consequences of our most earnest actions, is a significant, possibly the most important, theme of the show. At this point (ep 8), you can see it in the ways that Swim Swim has taken Ruler’s lessons in leadership to heart, to the point of doing what she did. Ruler, ironically, sets up her own destruction perfectly innocently – innocent of any intention there, if not innocent generally. That particular instance becomes more pronounced and explicit over time, though I forget how much by this point in the series so I’ll just let it go with that. But that’s just the most obvious instance, the theme crops up over and over through the show.

        • I’m afraid I’m still failing to be impressed. “Success” is defined by intended goals, so people with different goals will obviously measure success differently. That’s merely a matter of defining terms and not particularly meaningful.

          Swim Swim backstabbed Ruler because Swim Swim is a psycho. That was established somewhere around episode 3 or thereabouts. Certainly she’s following in Ruler’s footsteps, in a sense, but so what? Ruler, in spite of some hints of a deeper character that were abruptly done away with, was apparently merely using her lieutenants, so one of those lieutenants returned the favor.

          • That’s fair enough, though I do disagree with your analysis. I still say that the series has more subtlety, and possibly depth, than you’re giving it credit for.

          • We’ll have to see how it finishes up. By the end of episode 10, once we learn what Fav and Cranberry are up to, it gives the impression that it’s planning to twist things back around to right at the end, in a way. Apparently, these two are not actually doing what their bosses want.

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