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Contains spoilers to the previous volume, JOKERS
While searching for her friend Ripple, Snow White receives a message from Puk Puck, one of the Three Sages who controls a large section of the Land of Magic. She’s given a mission to search for a missing Magical Girl and escort her back to Puk Puck’s mansion.
ACES begins to lay the groundwork for this political battle between the Three Sages and their factions. Despite the events becoming the biggest conflict in the Land of Magic, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t have anything to do with Snow White. This raises the question of what all of this means in the long run, to which ACES abruptly leaves off. By the end, we see all the unfortunate circumstances that affects Snow White and the other characters that are involved, but the political struggle feels like a convoluted path to the conclusion.
Magical Girl Raising Project introduces the Three Sages in ACES. The Three Sages are the central power holders of the Land of Magic, and they live in Magical Girl reincarnations. Snow White has faced off against one of Three Sages, Grim Heart, and gets she called by another one of the Three Sages, Puk Puck, to help find her daughter and bring her back for a special ritual. Assisting with Snow White with the mission is Puk Puck’s other daughters, Uluru and Sorami Nakano.
Uluru, Sorami, and Sachiko are a family of sisters and the novel spends time referring back to their family experiences. We have the older sibling who works hard trying to protect her siblings, the middle sibling who is the mediator for both sisters, and the youngest who gets easily scared. The way ACES builds the relationship between the three siblings is sympathetic, however, there’s a trace of doubt that makes me doubt the authenticity of their relationship and that is Puk Puck.
Puk Puck is truly an enigma. For one, the ritual that Sachiko is needed for is hinted very strongly, but we don’t know exactly what the ritual is or what it does. The opinions and beliefs of the three sisters are prone to bias, especially Uluru. The actions Puk Puck takes-or rather the actions she doesn’t take, are suspicious as she does nothing to send reinforcements. And even by the end, we are led to doubt everything about her. Despite it all, her concerns for her daughters and her people appear to be genuine. Puk Puck is shrouded in mysteries and ACES refuses to show her hand.
If JOKERS showed how Snow White has changed since the events of Unmarked, then ACES shows off how Princess Deluge has changed from JOKERS. There’s no doubt that Princess Deluge has severe PTSD. After all of her friends have been killed, realizing that she can’t go back to her old life, and finding out that she wasn’t truly a Magical Girl to begin with, JOKERS left her emotionally broken. And in ACES, she returns to carry out her mission to avenge her friends.
Deluge claims that she has her plan completely figured out and she has been given the necessary tools and Magical Girls to help her accomplish it, but her raw emotions ends up taking precedence, losing sight of her goal in her rage and hostility. Her distrust in people becomes a reoccurring problem for her as she fails to effectively communicate with the team she’s been given, seeing them as tools instead of people. Her team tries to work around Deluge’s attitude, but the handicap in communication creates dangerous consequences for them. Deluge’s nature also gets reflected in the writing as she mainly now uses ice attacks in her fights, compared to JOKERS where she used a variety of water moves.
The only person who Deluge actually opens up to is her caretaker, Blue Bell Candy. While at first she was assigned to research Deluge, she sees the amount of trauma afflicted and she becomes deeply worried for her. As a way to rehabilitate her, Blue Bell would provide her emotion-changing candies through her Magical Girl ability. Even though the candies would provide temporary relief, they may in fact be hurting Deluge in the long run as she starts to increasingly seek solace in Blue Bell and her candies.
While Deluge’s actions and their consequences is a compelling part of her character development, other parts of the light novel take hits in the process.
A prime example is her extreme hatred for Shufflins. Shufflins return in the form of Shufflin II, but unlike the original, there is no Joker-therefore no respawns. There are moments when Deluge goes out of her way to brutally slaughter them, providing the novel with more unnecessary violence and gore than usual. In fact, there’s a case where Deluge kills a Magical Girl even before Snow White’s mission starts. Magical Girl Raising Project doesn’t hesitate to kill off Magical Girls early for the sake of the narrative, but it does so while emotionally impacting the characters. Here, the death feels like a waste, as we and the cast didn’t even get to know her beyond the first thirty pages.
With Deluge’s change in ACES, she resembles Snow White in her own change. Emotionally broken, they both seek solace in their caretakers* and they both desire to become stronger to pursue the goal they want to achieve. For Snow White, it’s to hunt down rogue Magical Girls. For Deluge, it’s to hunt down the perpetrator that killed her friends. However in their pursuit, the former suppresses her emotions while the latter is fueled by them. What’s interesting however is that the both of them avoid any interactions with others to avoid letting their emotions get swayed, and yet, they become hypocritical as the Deluge does so at the risk of her mission and Snow White gets put in the worst position possible.
Snow White was disappointed in herself, if that was truly a lie. She didn’t need to be her old self. She didn’t need to be naïve. It reminded her of how it could cost someone their life.
But Snow White wasn’t naïve. She made sure. She was certain this time.
Another faction that wants a portion of the action is CQ Angel Hammer and her Shufflin II army. CQ Hammer sides with the Osk Faction, the faction that Grim Heart was in charge of, and she wants to stop Puk Puck’s ritual from happening. Fortunately, she’s a much competent leader than Grim Heart, acting much like a general and pursuing low-risk strategies. Her ability to understand the situation is important as she’s one of the only few characters to act logically and tell the truth. And with her actual Magical Girl ability, her presence makes her a major player in ACES and eventually the volume, QUEENS.
The expressions on the characters are focused more in the illustrations in ACES, capturing profile shots of most of the cast. Some notable pictures are the bloodied close-up of Deluge’s face with Blue Bell running towards her and the frightened expression of Premium Sachiko. The colored illustration showcasing the cast are spoilers as ACES introduces Magical Girls both new and old.
I will displaying only the new Magical Girls below.
At the end of ACES, the volume leaves off at a cliffhanger with a lot of questions left unanswered. On Puk Puck and Snow White’s side, we are left to doubt everything that has been established, placing Snow White in a predicament. On the other hand, Deluge’s frantic actions and have caused discord in her radical development in personality. In an attempt to connect the previous volume, ACES by itself, presents an incomplete and overly complicated way to develop Snow White and Princess Deluge.
Rating: Average – Recommended
*In Volume 1.5, after the events of Unmarked, Pythie Frederica was assigned to be Snow White’s new mentor.
Author: Asari Endō
Fan Translator: PlatFleece