Magical girl anime has long been a staple genre to keep the anime community entertained, with weekly doses of super cute magical girls fighting the biggest bad beast, saving the day, only then to go home and eat obscene amounts of cake to celebrate. However, with the introduction of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the magical girl genre was given a dark and edgy makeover, which has left the genre forever changed. No longer are magical girls safe in their world of glitter and sparkles, and instead death and misery are served up with a big spoon to help the feelings go down. However, this dark edge can often elevate the anime from the realm of mediocre to fantastic, and in the case of Madoka Magica, will give you an experience that’s hard to beat. “But why am I telling you about Madoka Magica?” I hear you ask. Well, as Madoka Magica was the first to pull the rug out from under the magical girl fanbase, any other anime to try this will inevitably be compared to this gem, and will often fall flat by comparison, be that fairly or not.
One such anime is today’s focus, the underappreciated gem, Magical Girl Raising Project (based on the light novel series by the same name), that in my personal opinion, has been unfairly discarded as just another Madoka-clone.
So, with all that out of the way, buckle up and get ready for this trip down the otaku rabbit hole to find out if Magical Girl Raising Project is worth your time as a cherished gem, or just another poor imitation of Madoka Magica.
The story focuses on a group of 16 magical girls all operating within N-City. The smartphone game “Magical Girl Raising Project” is insanely popular within the city, partly due to the rumor stating that one in every tens of thousands of players will be made into a real life magical girl – a rumor that just so happens to be true. One of these magical girls is one of our main protagonists, Snow White, a girl obsessed with magical girls and who has always dreamed of being a magical girl herself. After being slected as the next magical girl to gain her powers she immediately begins to make waves throughout the city and becomes the poster child for best magical girl.
This happiness is short lived however. One day, the system administrators announce via their mascot character Fav, a character who can only be described as the nefarious lovechild of Kyubey (of Madoka Magica fame) and Monokuma (of Danganronpa infamy), that there are too many magical girls in N-City. To resolve this, the magical girl who gathers the least amount of magical candy each week, earned by doing good deeds, will be stripped of their magical girl powers, and this will continue until only half the magical girls remain.
However, what isn’t revealed in this moment is that magical girls who lose their powers also lose their lives. As such, the loss of the first magical girl marks a turning point in the anime, where the events taking place after this point take a dark, twisted and often gory turn. To avoid unnecessary spoilers, Magical Girl Raising Project could be described broadly as “Magical girl meets battle royale”, and if this is something you think sounds interesting, I would highly recommend you check out this anime yourself and experience the story in all its glory. Just remember to bring tissues; you’re going to need them!
Each magical girl is granted incredible physical prowess, allowing them to lift heavy objects as though it were nothing, while also gaining incredible athletic abilities to scale tall buildings in an instant or jump between rooftops in a single leap. They are also given a single magical power unique to them to help them in their quest to perform good deeds, and these powers range from overpowered to incredibly underwhelming. These powers play an integral role in how the characters interact with each other and the world at large. These powers also play a key role in the progression of the story of Magical Girl Raising Project, sometimes in staggeringly shocking ways.
The diverse cast of magical girls could be considered as somewhat trope-y, however, the expectations that often go had-in-hand with these tropes are frequently subverted to great dramatic effect. The heartbreaking results of these moments allow the audience to bond with the vast majority of the magical girls as the series progresses. All of the characters are relatively well developed for an anime of only 12 episodes, with the characters falling into two broad camps, that being either pure untainted wonders that are far too good for this world, or an embodiment of pure, unrelenting evil. However, even these “evil” characters come with good or, at the very least, understandable explanations for the characters’ behaviours and motivations that will further the audience’s feelings of favouritism or hatred towards each magical girl. Interestingly, no opportunity is wasted in this series, as the many of the apparently inconsequential interactions that take place throughout the anime, will lead to events that will leave the audience reeling in shock, building a tense and encapsulating atmosphere that slowly moves towards an inevitable crescendo with each episode. One very important warning, though, for anyone who, after this review, plans to delve into this anime – be very careful who you get attached to as, with this being a battle royale-type anime, no one is safe, and getting attached will ultimately lead to heartache.
Compared to its source material, Magical Girl Raising Project is an incredibly faithful and well-realised adaptation. The story faithfully follows the events outlined in the first light novel and also integrates a number of the short stories found in the fourth light novel, which helps flesh out the characters with interactions that would otherwise have left the world, and certain characters, feeling both underdeveloped and somewhat shallow. The art style itself is also undeniably gorgeous and faithful to those designs seen in the light novel, with character designs being beautifully simple yet effective in communicating exactly what the audience needs to know about each character, while simultaneously aiding in building up some of the greatest reveals/ surprises that the anime has on offer.
Magical Girl Raising Project, whilst admittedly a dark magical girl anime, is so much more than your conventional Madoka-clone. Offering a highly immersive world with characters that will make you fall in love before ripping your heart through your nose, this anime is definitely one that is overlooked and criminally underappreciated. Sadly, due to its relatively poor reception, the likelihood of an anime adaptation being made of the other light novels in the series is low, which is a terrible shame, especially as the other stories told throughout the Magical Girl Raising Project series are just as engaging as this, if not more so. If magical girls using their powers in unusual ways, with a dark and gritty story that leaves the audience in pieces is something that really appeals to you, I can highly recommend this anime, and series as a whole. Additionally, if this anime hits the right notes for you, I can also highly recommend the light novel series that started it all, which fleshes out the universe and reveals just how deep the corruption runs in this world crafted so delicately and expertly by author Asari Endou.
As such, with all things considered, I give Magical Girl Raising Project:
As an underappreciated gem, I must say that this anime is definitely one for fans of dark and magical girl anime, but also acts as the perfect gateway for those wanting to dip their toe into darker anime that can subvert expectations at every turn.
With that, our first foray down the otaku rabbit hole is complete, and I hope you enjoyed this review. If you did and have been moved to watch this anime, I really hope you enjoy. Until next time, keep it weeby!