Becoming a magical girl would be a dream come true for many. Transforming with an awesome talisman or locket? A cute dress? It looks like a fantastic profession, except for all the monsters and evil and general nastiness to fight. Things get even worse for magical girls in Magical Girl Raising Project, one of the grimmer takes on the cutesy trope. This is less Sailor Moon or Wedding Peach and more in the mold of recent dark magical girl riffs like Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Koyuki Himekawa is a player of the popular Magical Girl Raising Project app. One day the game’s mascot, Fav, selects Koyuki to become a magical girl herself, and she accepts her new powers as magical girl Snow White. It seems great at first, and Koyuki thinks she’s found her true calling. But there’s a problem. There are just too many magical girls, according to Fav, and some need to be “cut.” The dream spirals into a nightmare as the magical girls are charged with collecting enough candies to stay in the game each week. The losers don’t just get removed from the game. Instead, they die. Talk about “game over.”
This setup makes for a deliciously dark story as fast alliances and uneasy partnerships are formed, with some girls secretly sharing the candies they win for performing good deeds with their powers or taking part in underhanded schemes. It’s not clear who’s pulling the strings behind the increasingly evil plans, or what’s going to happen when the magical girls are finally culled.
Magical Girl Raising Project is a fast-moving adaptation of a property that started as a light novel before being adapted to manga and anime. It may be better to start with the anime series. The manga does its best to fill in important information but seems to assume readers are already familiar with the story as it speeds through 12 episodes’ worth of plot in two volumes. Unfortunately, that means not much time is spent on the characters. There isn’t space to provide backstory or develop the magical girls’ personalities and powers as the plot moves along at a breakneck pace.
While the art is lush and vibrant, reading Magical Girl Raising Project without any prior knowledge of the franchise is an exercise in frustration. The reader will be stuck with hundreds of unanswered questions, trying to make sense of it all. That doesn’t mean the series isn’t worth sinking your teeth into, especially if you’re looking for something a little different from the typical magical girl story. Just be sure to start with the anime.
publisher: Yen Press
story: Asari Endou
art: Pochi Edoya