I’ve had my dose of “misfortunate” anime that are all the rage nowadays; Madoka Magica, Gakkou Gurashi and Yuuki Yuuna to name a few. These shows are brutal in their own right but at least mercifully gives you some time to take a quick breather from all the anguish before shoving it all back down in your throat again twenty seconds later. Magical Girl Raising Project (Mahoiku from here on) is kind of like that but without the generous timeouts.
Mahoiku is what you would get if Pikotaro smushed together Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero… and maybe Elfen Lied while we’re at it. It rips a page out of the magical girl genre interpreted into the modern world of 2016 following Koyuki – a normal highschool girl who idolises magical girls since she was child who one evening signs a contract with
the devil Kyubey Donald Trump a strange creature called Fav to become a real magical girl after being chosen by the prophecy inside a smartphone game. Given the alias of “Snow White” Koyuki must now do the deed and help those in need in her city, oh by the way there’s also 14 other magical girls already dealing business in the area. One thing lead to another and with the introduction of a new magical girl after Koyuki, Fav decides that 16 magical girls are 8 too many and pits them all into a candy-collecting competition who every week the contender holding the least amount of candies will be killed off sent to the shadow realm. Another different thing lead to another miscellaneous thing and suddenly things go south into a free-for-all bloody battle royale.
Abusing every single member of the main cast and denying them of their hopes and dreams, Mahoiku is unrelentingly unapologetic pushing the shock factor – perhaps a little too unrelenting for its own good. Mahoiku contains a colourful cast of characters of varying ages from different walks of life, and, you guessed it, all hold some form of negative past bringing them to where they’re standing now. As with any battle series; characters team up into alliances, fight solo or partner up throughout the course of the show; forming strong bonds only for them to trigger tragic death flags; igniting the surviving partner’s reason to fight ever so stronger. Of course, betrayals, coup d’etats and backstabbing are naturally a given in this sort of environment and I admit, many were strategically clever. One certain character pulled a such a massive and surprising twist during the climax which really fucked me up; it was the only moment of the show I thought that felt really genuine.
The pacing in Mahoiku persistently grinds to a halt before things start to pick back up again; and you only know that because the characters just lost a part of their limbs from a split-second attack that appeared as a smear in the animation frames. Mahoiku is overall magnificently depressing in the way that literally everything was so negative with little to no traces hope or feel-good positivity. Mahoiku’s atmosphere from beginning to end was so radically poignant I don’t even know if there was even a moral message the show was trying to convey. Mahoiku force feeds you misfortune on top of misfortune with a side helping of misfortune until you become human foie gras material. The author seems to have absolutely no chill it’s almost criminal.
Don’t walk into Mahoiku expecting to see the hottest top 10 anime fights ever as you’ll be left utterly disappointed and forever ponder if there is any meaning in living anymore and then load up Granblue Fantasy on your phone. Don’t get me wrong the fights that do happen in a coherent manner are great, nicely choreographed and employ clever use of combat mechanics as each magical girl have their own streamlined abilities and weaknesses. It’s just so frustrating that nearly all fights end anti-climatically in an obnoxious deus ex machina fashion ruining the senses of power level scaling between the cast.
More plentiful shock value is added unsurprisingly as both fodder and important characters
get killed off sent to the shadow realm but in the most low-key methods possible. Characters’ power levels get bigged up only to instantly fall left and right and center as if a needle just popped their balloon. One character comes into mind as she was hyped up in the middle of the series as the almighty final boss planning for world domination; only to fall so easily in an unsuspecting attack in the following shot. Much of the character’s deaths journeys to the shadow realm felt so out of script I always found myself thinking there must be some kind of silly punchline to it all, and 10 times out of 10 failing to find it. Perhaps the true moral of story exemplifies the fragility of life both weak or strong… or that La Pucelle got what was coming to him for supporting Manchester United (seriously what’s up with that).
What Mahoiku does reasonably well is challenging the core definition of what a magical girl is, its raison d’etre and how the cast go about different ways utilising its power. Each character have their own definitions based on their upbringing and ideals; from Snow White’s pacifism and Ruler’s authoritarianism to Calamity Mary’s alcoholic recklessness and Swim Swim’s extremely twisted royalty.
Lerche was the perfect and obvious choice to handle Mahoiku with all of its disheartening content, coming from its track record of dark shows such as Ranpo Kitan, Gakkou Gurashi and… Monster Musume. The production quality is top speed solid as expected of the rising studio and continues that ‘Lerche aesthetic’ in prominent use of thick outlines and flat colouring. The character designs are just simply gorgeous yet feels so dazzlingly over-designed; to which I have no choice but to forgive as that the designs are technically the custom game avatars created by the their real-life counterparts, who all look like subtle-varying degrees of background characters. Voice acting was superb with the usual A-List seiyuu suspects, including Nao Touyama who seems to be the anime mc seiyuu of the season (I swear she’s fucking everywhere recently). The OP and ED are alight, though I didn’t really paid much attention to them cause I marathoned the bulk of this series in an evening.
Mahoiku is a cool-looking yet shallow battle magical girl series with stellar character designs and animation with an unwavering sense of suffering. Even the inclusion of a gender bender character wasn’t enough to sway me. If you somehow look past all of that there sadly isn’t anything else going for this series, well, other than some free candies and super rare items. A series built around an anarchic but archaic free-for-all battle royale has very little to go with besides its miserable 24/7 shock-value.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have an SR Kotori event to grind on Love Live! School Idol Festival.