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Sakura Kagami has just become the newest Magical Girl responsible for her city, but despite obtaining her powers, she doesn’t fully understand how to use them. Until one day, she is approached by a classmate in school who claims she’s a Magical Girl as well and offers to help.
Meanwhile, a mass email has been sent out to all capable Magical Girls.
“Investigate the creation of Man-Made Magical Girls.”
In this one-volume installment, Magical Girl Raising Project: JOKERS allows our first main character to return to the story albeit changed, while providing a chance for others to make cameos. For what is to be the beginning of a series of events that will impact the main story, JOKERS starts off strong.
Snow White returns to Magical Girl Raising Project, but she has changed drastically from an idealistic Magical Girl in Unmarked to a mentally broken girl six volumes later. While Snow White remains her efficiency and activeness at her job, she now focuses on hunting down rogue Magical Girls, given the title “Magical Girl Hunter.” Interestingly, the narrative does not focus on Snow White but rather her mascot Fal. Having been recovered from Keek in the Restart Arc, Fal acts as her partner and conveys Snow White’s actions to the reader. However, he also interjects own concerns about Snow White, to make sure she doesn’t fall off the deep end, and to protect whatever sanity she has left in her. Seeing Snow White’s change from an passive and innocent Magical Girl to a relentless and merciless Hunter is a big step for the series, and having Fal be her anchor and the perspective narrator helps reinforce her development.
Snow White will always seek a peaceful solution. She is on the side of good.
But of course, good doesn’t mean she’s nice. Not anymore. That girl was killed. Snow White was no longer a nice girl, even if she was still someone fighting for good.
As for new Magical Girls, we are introduced to the Pure Elements, Magical Girls of the four elements, plus one Prism Cherry. They can be described as the Power Rangers of the Magical Girl Raising Project: excited to become a Magical Girl, forming a team, and then fighting against evil creatures. More Magical Girls from the Land of Magic are also introduced from freelancers to officials, and even people who came just out of curiosity. These selected Magical Girls provide more insight to the public opinion of the Land of Magic, as well as disclosing the resulting effects from the previous arcs.
Before the novel puts these characters into the main conflict, we get time in the beginning to learn more about the Magical Girls. Typically, Magical Girl Raising Project begins with the main premise and conflict and then provides background information on the cast along the way. However, this method allows the reader to get more invested in our characters and as a result, their unfortunate deaths becomes more impactful. Additionally, instead of the novel pitting the girls against each other, all fourteen girls are cooperating with each other in order to take down two enemies, which is a breath of fresh air for the series. What’s also different is that the story becomes a bit of an engaging horror thriller as the fourteen Magical Girls are slowing being taken out one-by-one.
In probably the most brutal executions of Magical Girls date, Grim Heart and Shufflin work very well as antagonists. While Pukin and Sonia Bean worked as villains due to their unpredictability and raw abilities, Grim Heart and Shufflin utilizes the sheer force of Shufflin’s army, motivated with a clear purpose. For the Magical Girls, it’s like trying to take down hordes of zombies, each with deadly strength and abilities. And with Shufflin’s ability, it makes surviving much more difficult. Unfortunately, JOKERS neglects to provide these two with any significant background besides their given personalities of an arrogant queen and a loyal servant.
Outside of the main plotline, Magical Girls from the previous arcs are making small appearances. While there are some who contribute very little, offering small commentary, there are those who have a big influence over the JOKERS plot-line. Regardless, the actions they did will ultimately affect the overall story of Magical Girl Raising Project, and are clear indications of what is to come.
The expressions on the characters depicted in the illustrations feel a lot more expressive than previous volumes. For the colored illustrations, while do contain the usual set of sixteen Magical Girls, we get bright and lively colored pictures of the Pure Elements and Prism Cherry. And as if to counter those, we have a dreary picture of Snow White holding the halberd, Ruler, and an ominous depiction of Grim Heart and Shufflin.
Despite JOKERS being one volume long, its content foreshadows the future conflicts to come. However, JOKERS by itself presents a suspenseful tale of survival as our fourteen Magical Girls team up to defeat what appears to be an unstoppable enemy. And when the novel invests more time into our characters, the scenes become much more moving.
Rating: Recommended – Highly Recommended
Author: Asari Endō
Fan Translator: PlatFleece