I thought I had already said all that I needed to say about this show, and yet here we are. Its flaws have been pointed out and my ideas for fixing said flaws are open for all to read in my latest “From Bad Anime…” post. Even so, as I watched the final episode of the lackluster series, I couldn’t help but feel there was something still left to say about it. Something important to take away from this experience. And while a lot of it is basically elaborating on my previous statements, I believe there is still enough left to justify me writing about Magical Girl Raising Project one more time.
Mahoiku started off started off strong, with an interesting premise and enough subtle twists to the death game formula that I thought it had the potential to be something truly unique. The way the first two deaths in the game were handle made me believe the show wasn’t going to be about physical fighting and gory murder at all. It seemed to shake down more like a psychological game, one where a player’s downfall would not come from another magical girl, but from the flaws in their own character. Nemurin (the dream girl) was the first to go, and the cause of her demise was her apathy and all around laziness. After that came Ruler’s death, brought down by her own hubris and failure to doubt her control over her subjects. These deaths were compelling to witness, and caused me to believe that this show was going to be about more than just arbitrary death and despair.
With a little insight and build up, watching Nemu and Ruler fall was emotionally striking and thought provoking. Death from mistakes hold far more meaning than just deaths for the sake of…well, for the sake of nothing really. For the most part, the characters that die end up not mattering at all. Other than Ripple needing a reason to take revenge, the cease of existence for any character has little to no effect on the plot or the other characters. Snow White becomes sad, and it doesn’t change a damn thing. Sister Nana hangs herself after the death of her lover and nobody really cares. It all comes to the same conclusion eventually, and while it might be preferred for every death to pose some sort of significance in the story, at the very least it would be nice to have them be of any worth to the viewer at all.
The death game’s convoluted rules served no purpose other than to get us to the last person standing, giving absolutely no reason as to why the show pretended to be anything else in the first place. And that’s really what bums me out the most, because if that’s what the show was going for, why didn’t it just say so? I’d be fine with it so long as the show was being intellectually honest with itself and its audience from the start, knowing that what it wanted to be all along was just a simple magical girl death game. Instead these arbitrary rules that can only be assumed to have some sort of greater consequences later on turn out to have almost no ramifications whatsoever, so it begs to question why the series was even introduced like this in the first place.
In the end, I just wanted something more thoughtful (in terms of underlying themes and motivations). They could’ve shown the weakness of human nature through the failures of these characters and had the victor be the truest of magical girls, defining a magical girl as a being who cannot and will not succumb to the flaws of humanity, such is a perfect entity. And then that would bring up the dilemma of living off the sacrifices of others, as how could a magical girl be considered pure when she stepped on the lives of others to get there?
But back to just the simple portrayals of destructive human behavior. Each character could’ve had a major theme behind their own undoing, all related to the flaws of humanity. I already see a few left fairly untapped in the show, such as Sister Nana’s blind optimism/idealism, Calamity Mary’s relentless pessimism, or Magacaloid’s good old fashion greed. I guess I’m just caught up in my own idea of Magical Girl Raising Project being better off when it was being true to what I mistook the original vision to be. For what it’s worth, I think the show had pretty creative plotting when it came to killing some of the characters (like what Tama did in episode 11, hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler). While I didn’t hate my time spent with this show, I’ll probably always have this feeling of what could’ve been weighing me down whenever I think about it.
I wish I could’ve liked it more, but it’s just not what I thought/wanted it to be. And even after that, I couldn’t find much to appreciate about what it turned out to be despite any idea of what should’ve been, as it offered barely a lesson to be learned nor anything fairly inventive in any aspects aside from its narrative. Oh well.
3 thoughts on “What Could’ve Been – One More Thing About Magical Girl Raising Project”
It’s true that when you expect something more from a show and it doesn’t deliver you end up disappointed. I’ve been having that issue with Trickster. It isn’t all that bad but I walk away every episode wishing it had just been more than it was. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this series.
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“It seemed to shake down more like a psychological game”
Ughhh you are so right! And that’s just the thing– that’s what this anime was SUPPOSED to be, what it should have been, and what the original book it was based on actually WAS.
Oh yeah– Magical Girl Raising Project wasn’t just a stand-alone work. It was based on a light novel series of which the anime only covered the bare bones of the first entry (we’re up to like 12 books I think now). And it did it with all the grace and subtlety of a bull in a china shop. But you want to take a guess where the books shined? Mystery and psychology.
Hell, Magical Girl Raising Project: Restart and Breakdown are straight up whodunits! Limited is a crime thriller with political intrigue. JOKERS, ACES, and QUEENS are straight up political thrillers. And MGRP: Black is a Magical Girl spy novel.
What’s more, the books are HEAVILY character focused. As a series of stories all told through first person POVs, it practically lives and breathes on the quality and intrigue of its cast, of which there is quite an extensive list, all of whom are compelling. You could practically pick any random character in the series out of a hat and that’s probably going to end up being someone for whom whole side stories could be written about at length (and there are actually a bunch of official side stories just exactly for that sort of purpose).
So you can imagine my absolute frustration, when this anime hit, how it preserved exactly none of what made the series interesting to begin with. All of the psychological set up in the beginning is dumped within a very short amount of time to deliver a thematically and even visually bland slaughter fest. The cast of characters are stripped of any depth and are killed so quickly that you practically get no time to actually care about any of them. Motives are distilled to their most stereotypical or generic. Even the villains are robbed of any deeper agency to give reason for what they’re doing. It’s just a mindless kill game of flat archetypes, and if they were going to go for that, the least they could have done was make the fights at least somewhat visually compelling, but we don’t even get that.
Now compare with the books. The plot of every entry is intricate, with multiple characters, organizations, and factions involved to create this deep web of conflicting motivations and ideologies. Imagine A Song of Ice and Fire but with Magical Girls instead. Time is spent with each character so that you get to understand them, if not sympathize; and many a times, even the side characters can seem like a main ones in their own stories, so that once people start dying, it matters. A lot of death happens off-panel to keep the mystery and questions going, and when fights DO happen, they’re these thrilling engagements where powers are put to use in often incredibly creative or awe-inspiring ways that make you wish you could see it put to animation. There’s always a deeper reason for everything, another element to the picture you’re not seeing that may tie in later in another book down the line. And where the series often shines is in one of the areas the anime ironically failed the most—its villains. Some of the best villains in a Magical Girl series are in MGRP—yes, that includes Cranberry. Too bad the anime literally gave us nothing to go on with her for why SHE organized this death game, and many many others in the past.
Lastly, the conflicts our protagonists end up engaging in with the villains of this series tend not to be just these brutal physical beatdowns but deeply cerebral battles of wit. Hell—our main character Snow White is a MIND READER, exactly the sort of power you’d expect in a story that is going to involve high-stakes contests of intelligence, and her villains end up being the perfect counterparts to both show off and provide challenge toward such an ability.
It’s just so disappointing to see how this anime turned out. And what’s the most disappointing about it is that it was so underwhelming, that most who’ve seen it don’t even know that there’s a book series this was based on, or that that book series is actually worth reading. In many ways, I think this anime damaged the series, squandered its potential, and turned eyes away from what is truly a hidden gem. And even though I’d love to see any of the other books or side stories put to animation, as many cult fans would, if it’s going to be handled in the way this anime was, it may just be better for that never to happen. MGRP deserves a proper adaptation, not some cheap, 12 episode one and done, throw-away as this turned out to be.
Anyway, if you would like to see some fan-translated volumes of the book to understand why many of us love the series, there’s a lovely google doc of it here:
I’d encourage reading in order. Trust me, it’s worth it.
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Wow, this is pretty cool. I had no idea there was a book! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, I’m already reading it now!