The magical girl anime genre is probably one of the most notable and recognisable of the anime industry. It is so well-known that the tropes or cliché aspects of the genre have been done to death. Even mocked in the anime themselves. Recent years have seen both a shake-up of the genre as well as a back to basics approach. We can see this through reboots of fan favourite anime in line with anniversaries such as Sailor Moon Crystal and the upcoming Cardcaptor Sakura anime. The shake-up came most notably in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a series that took the genre and turned it upside down.
It is hard to believe that an anime could take the genre to an even further and darker place. In late 2016 we got just that in Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (魔法少女育成計画) or Magical Girl Raising Project,
Set in N-City, where the closest individuals can get to being a magical girl is playing the popular social mobile game Magical Girl Raising Project. Only for some special players their dreams are to become reality. Koyuki Himeka is one of these rare few where playing the game gives them the chance to become a real life magical girl. She accepts and becomes her avatar from the game Snow White.
The main objective of a magical girl is to help those in need and in return earn candies. Koyuki and her fellow magical girls receive many notifications from the admin, the most notable that they want to reduce the number of magical girls in the area. How? Simple, the one with the least magical candies at the end of each week will lose their powers. However when a real world tragedy the girls soon realise that things may not be as magical as they believed. As one by one the girls drop out, more dark warped rules are added. Soon the fight to be a magical girl is a fight to survive.
Not Another Magical Girl Anime
Like with other magical girl anime this one starts off with the same kind of tone. It is bright, colourful and cute. You really think you are in for another cliché anime series with some magical girls bopping around helping others. We are quickly introduced to our main girl Koyuki who like other magical protagonists before her is the exact kind of person you would think she is. She is cheerful, bubbly and just a little bit naive. All she wants in life is to be a magical girl, someone who can help others just like in her comics and games.
This is an aspect of the anime that made it interesting, everyone in this world knows about magical girls. They perceive them as we do; figments of fiction. They are there to be enjoyed and in the cases of people like Koyuki; a role model for who she wants to be, an icon of pure good and innocence.
The obvious difference in this anime is the route it takes later and the tone that blankets the series. Where Madoka Magica is a more artsy and psychological take on the genre this anime took it to a different place entirely.
Well This Just Got Dark
So, without a doubt you know this is not your typical magical girl anime by now. Considering we have already tossed Madoka Magica into the ring. There is the opinion that this is a spiritual successor or even a Madoka rip off. However, it takes a different angle, this being a more Battle Royale style of character development. Killing the perceived fan favourite characters who could or have had an influence on the story while those who are deemed weak are revealed as some of the strongest.
This anime certainly has a dark tone to it but it is more focused on the violent reality of the situation rather than any sort of psychological effect. It certainly has a vicious shock factor to it. It manages to create new and cruel scenarios for the girls to go through where you know they will not all survive. Interestingly enough the anime does not limit it’s motif to the actual fights and magical girl scenarios. The constant reference and insight into the girls’ normal lives transfers these personas over to their magical girl life.
Those Magical Girls
Some of the girls’ lives are only really hinted at. We catch glimpses of them as each episode is centred around one of the girls. We get a more in-depth look into some of the characters which allows us to see how their real lives affect their magical girl identities. These characters are all well designed, each with their own views and ideals. They range from the innocent to the outright deranged. Each have redeeming factors where you see they have hopes, fears and moments of insanity.
The anime is dark and violent without a doubt. A lot of this darkness is provided by the characters themselves and their own take on this new world. Some become power-hungry and cunning in their attempts to get ahead. Others take a more stand back and watch approach while some are downright deranged in their tactics. We see the effect this new role takes on the mental health of the girls.
If you are in need of the usual bright, cute and light-hearted magical girl anime then this is not for you. Whether you love or hate the magical girl genre you will be able to take something away from Magical Girl Raising Project.