Genre: Action, Fantasy
Aired: Oct 2016 to Dec 2016
Also known as: Magical Girl Raising Project, 魔法少女育成計画
Summary: A mobile app game called “The Magical Girl Raising Project” is rumored to selectively choose candidates to become “magical girls.” While the odds are supposedly quite low at 1 out of 10,000, the rumors are actually true. As it turns out, magical girls possess extraordinary physical strength and endurance as well as unique, magical powers.
But one day, the moderator of a distict containing 16 magical girls claims that the amount of magical girls must be halved due to a shortage of magical energy. What starts as a weekly competition to collect “magical candies,” where the magical girl with lowest amount of magical candies is forced to stop being a magical girl, quickly becomes a bloody battle with magical girls killing other magical girls in order to survive.
Review: One issue I had with the show is that it starts off slowly, which caused a good amount of viewers to write it off as a Madoka knock-off, as another “dark magical girl” series riding on the coattails of the popular show animated by SHAFT.
And in some regards it could be regarded as such. Things aren’t all fun and games as a magical girl in general these days, however, so I think it’s a bit hasty to just slap on the label and call it a day. Sure, the fact that some of these magical girls are not very heroic, coupled with the fact that there’s a mascot-type-of-character who is clearly up to no good, does make Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku seem like a dead ringer for Madoka at first glance.
I could probably go on and on about why that’s not the case, but I won’t be doing so for various reasons (one: that’s not what this post is about and two: I want to rewatch Madoka before I make these sort of statements since it’s been years since I’ve watched the show). As such, I’ll just stick to talking about Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku instead and leave the comparisons to you, dear readers.
In my opinion, the show is rather upfront with its premises. While it does take a while, the magical girls eventually find themselves in a “battle royale” situation. The suspicious mascot, Fav, abruptly announces that he needs to halve the amount of magical girls by a weekly, ongoing competition where the magical girls are to gather magical candies. The magical girl with the lowest magical candy count by the end of each week is forced to quit being a magical girl and the competition continues until they reach the desired total number of magical girls. Simple, right?
Well, some complications and implications arise. When a magical girl quits being a magical girl, she will actually die by default. Furthermore, the girl with the lowest magical candy count will not die at the end of the week if at least one magical girl has died. As such, this “gather-the-magical-candies” competition is essentially a free-for-all in disguise where murder is encouraged.
Therefore, in order to make the cut, stay as magical girls, and survive, they stoop to scheming, murdering, and dying in spectacular fashion (this last one is quite a bit less intentional) more often than not. The problem is that some characters never truly catch onto the point of this battle royale, which was frustrating for me.
Snow White, in particular, never loses sight of helping others (like a typical magical girl) yet she also never realizes why the other magical girls are killing each other and that all of this is an exam that’s structured to choose candidates to become actual magical girls in the World of Magic until the final episode. I’ll elaborate more on this later.
The show’s strong points were the twists. A lot of characters die within this series and most of the deaths were due to clever ploys or gruesome battles. Some deaths had me in tears even after I rewatched their final moments over and over. And yet, I have to admit that the emotional impact was lessened for the first half of the series since the show seemed to follow this predictable pattern of “show flashback for character during the episode-> said character dies within the episode.”
It’s something that probably can’t be avoided when there’s so many characters and so many impending deaths just crammed within 12 episodes since it would have made less sense to give flashbacks for dead characters, so the studio opted to give flashbacks to characters who will die or characters who are dying. Later episodes subvert this kind of build-up, however, leaving you wondering who’s going to survive. There still is a lot of flashbacks per episode, nonethless, which may have some viewers upset that the studio makes use of this type of storytelling over and over.
And because there were so many characters, they all had to share a limited amount of screen time. As such, viewers may not even have a chance to bond with some characters before they’re abruptly killed. Some characterization was even cut out for specific characters, turning them into targets for the viewers’ hatred. Ruler wasn’t actually a total bitch at all times in the original source material, folks, believe it or not. The studio also added anime-original scenes in order to flesh out certain important characters, which is good since a fair amount of the characters could be considered one-dimensional. I won’t tell which lucky girl received the special treatment
and is thus the best girl in my opinion, but you’d probably have an idea if you pay attention.
Speaking of paying attention, the show really awards people who focuses on the smallest details. There are some scenes that are seemingly very minor and inconsquential, but they all tied in together and viewers could make educated guesses regarding what happens next with reasonable accuracy. I’m a fan of shows which don’t waste a single moment. Of course, some people may argue that it makes the series seem to be even more predictable, but I prefer that to shows where unexpected developments happen out of nowhere. Your mileage may vary.
However, studio Lerche did sort of waste Snow White’s screen time. In an attempt to make her seem more saintly or innocent, they made her too trusting compared to how she was in the original source material. Furthermore, while the studio gave the other (hidden) main character the right kind of anime-original scenes that fleshed the girl out, Snow White received scenes that only made her a little ungrateful. The studio also didn’t give enough focus on Snow White’s emotional trauma or nervous breakdowns, which is actually an important aspect of her character. Studio Lerche essentially made her an extremely passive, helpless protagonist.
Something that’s beyond the control of the studio is the fact that most of the magical girls did not have happy family lives. I believe that there’s an in-story reason for why that is the case (Fav wanted to pick outcasts for this magical girl exam), but it also makes readers have to endure through a lot of sob-story-backgrounds. Some may get tired of it; some may eat it up and feel bad for the unlucky girls.
The animation as a whole was acceptable. There were a few attempts at censoring with CENSOR STEAM MISTS or BLACK THINGS but the bloody and gory moments were mostly kept intact. However, sometimes the animation was a bit off. It was a bit sad to see an instance during a fight where Ripple’s gloves suddenly disappeared since the fight scenes are the major draw to this series. Some of the fights were also similarly changed and were probably made less awesome in order to be more easily animated.
The OST isn’t anything special. I think there were a few instrumental pieces that played during one or two emotional moments and those caught my interest..yet I’m not in a rush to hunt them down to listen to said pieces again. The OP and ED both got me excited for the show whenever I heard them, to be honest, but they did not make it to my office playlist which I rely on to stay sane at work. The OP’s animation was alright, but I really liked the ED’s animation even though it just consists of a potted plant growing in Snow White’s hands as well as the rest of the magical girls apparently sleeping. Wow, this is the first time I commented on an OP and ED’s animation since I usually just vaguely talk about the music and whether or not I like it.
As for the yuri, there’s one official couple who lives together. All the others remain as ships, for the most part. If you’re like me, then you could ship the survivors together!
I guess what really stuck with me is the fact that the there was, suprisingly, a message behind this battle royale mess these magical girls got tangled up in. Said aesop is about how being a magical girl, in the end, boils down to just trying to do the right thing. While some good girls who didn’t deserve to die end up kicking the bucket, it’s the survivors who managed to pass this deadly exam who give an optimistic spin on this otherwise dark setting.
Another dark magical girl series, huh? But the characters get into a battle royale and the twists keep the simple premises interesting. However, the show suffers from the typical problems associated with too many characters. The fact that most of these characters die means that the viewers will find there to be little time for them to relate to a magical girl before she inevitably dies. Not to mention the fact that most of the characters, particularly Snow White, are a little slow to catch on to the underlying meaning behind this “magical candy” competition.
Some anime-original scenes were added, which provided mixed results. One character, in my opinion, ended up becoming bit more fleshed out, but her development was a bit of “tell” instead of “show.” The other character who received the bulk of the screen time was changed into a helpless, annonying character, which is a far cry from how she was in the original source material from what I’ve heard. Meanwhile, the villains seem rather one-dimensional and we don’t really get much backstory for them. As a result of their fiddling with the story, the studio also threw in a considerable amount of exposition in order to pad out the episodes (the final episode is the worst offender).
Still, I really enjoyed watching this series since the pieces all came together as the episodes progressed. If you’re a fan of shows which make great use of foreshadowing and “chekov’s gun,” give Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku a shot. Doubly so if you’re not against gory death scenes and emotional flashbacks.