‘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.