Light Novel Review: Magical Girl Raising Project [Volume 1]

‘Magical Girl Raising Project’, a very popular mobile game where you can become the ultimate Magical Girl. Rumor has it that if you play the game, there is a chance you can become one in real life…

Sixteen individuals have been selected to become Magical Girls, conducting their duties. However when the administrator behind the project suddenly declares to half the number of magical girls, it quickly turns into merciless game of survival between the Magical Girls.

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I’m returning to this series’ first volume because of its re-release by Yen Press. While my opinion of the series has not changed drastically, I’ve reconsidered and revised some of my thoughts on the Magical Girl Raising Project‘s first volume.

Let me cut to the chase right now. Magical Girl Raising Project follows the genre of “dark magical girls.” If this genre is not your type, then I would recommend picking up a different series instead. Having sixteen magical girls fight each other to the death is a very clear and set premise, regardless of the messages it presents.

If you are in for this roller coaster of a ride, be prepared for a bumpy trip. While Magical Girl Raising Project is able to pull off the twists and turns, its large cast of characters, which the effectiveness of the twists is very dependent upon, ends up hurting the volume.

The story begins with a page explaining what the Magical Girl Raising Project is: an mobile RPG where the player can become the ultimate magical girl. The next page then introduces a girl where she loses the key that unlocks a drawer, holding the pills needed to kill herself.

These two pages are a perfect example of how the story of this first volume is structured. Like in the game, Magical Girls are needed to help people in need and we soon get introduced to two of the newer recruits in the city, Snow White and Ripple. They conduct their own business as normal until one day the game’s administrator, Fav, has called every Magical Girl in the city for a very special event. Due to the overabundance of Magical Girls, he decided to cut the amount of people in half by eliminating the one who has the least amount of Magical Candies by the end of the week. It turns into a competition at first between the sixteen magical girls but it quickly goes downhill when they realize that elimination means certain death.

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As we process through the story, the fear of death haunts these characters and they are willing to do whatever they can to survive. While there are some clear antagonistic forces, most of the Magical Girls aren’t willing to do this: it’s either kill or be killed. That said, the volume focuses on the character’s struggle between moral decisions. Do I risk killing another person if it means I can save myself or do I stand on sidelines and pray I survive the this week and the next? For some individuals, it’s easy, as if it was the logical choice to make. But for others, it can be emotionally tolling, seeing others make their own decisions for themselves. Each person has something they feel strongly about and when those values are threatened, they are forced to act in order to protect them. From trying to save someone to protecting what’s precious to them to carrying out the duties of a ideal Magical Girl, the game becomes a test of willpower and perseverance for these superpowered humans.

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Speaking of ideal magical girls, the story focuses on two magical girls in particular: Snow White and Ripple. Snow White is a girl who has always admired magical girls and has dreamed of becoming one. Everything was what she had dreamed of, at least until the dreaded announcement from Fav. Being Snow White is absolutely terrible in this volume. She gets put through the roughest of situations and she acts as the main emotional voice in this volume. Throughout the story, her thoughts and reactions carry the other characters’ morals and ideals even after their death, which puts her own ideals into perspective.

She’d spent her whole life thinking magical girls were supposed to help people in need, and Snow White’s magic was for this express purpose. But maybe she was the crazy one, not everyone else.

On the other hand, she’s not exactly the best protagonist. Considering how very few actions she takes in the light novel, one might not exactly have the greatest outlook of her by the end of the story. Then again, the novel likes create ironic situations for how the magical girls end up.

Our other protagonist, Ripple, is not your stereotypical magical girl. Wearing a half-swimsuit, half kimono ninja outfit combined with an aggressive and unsociable personality does not exactly create the best first impression of a magical girl. Despite this however, Ripple strives to become like a certain other magical girl and the novel shows her slow but defining change.

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With our two main characters taking up most of the narrative, the other members of the cast have very little time in the spotlight. For sixteen characters, it can be hard to cover every single one of them in about 200 pages. To cover all of them, the novel spends sections dedicated to the backstories of certain Magical Girls. While the highlighted portions worked for Magical Girl duos, it became a fight between the characters for content. With so little time given to each person/team, we are not able to fully get to know some Magical Girls, which resulted in some of them being very one-note.

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The story conducts itself as a standard survival game between the cast of characters. Between backstabbing moments and straight action sequences, it’s pretty standard fare. What Magical Girl Raising Project loves to do however, is create ironic situations involving the members of the cast. Considering that most of them result in pretty big twists, the novel does play it up the shock value. However, as the story progresses, the deaths become more duller as the effect has already diminished by. How influential a character is to the story also acts as a multiplier for shock. Depending on how much of a character means to another character, or how the actions of one affects another can create a butterfly effect on the entire scene or even the plot. Of course, this is entirely dependent how much we know and understand this character or their character relationship as a whole. So if we never really got to know the individual, their value in terms of creating an effective twists decreases.

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The illustrations were drawn by Maruino, who has done a couple other light novel series in her unique artstyle. The characters she draws veer towards the more loli doll-like design with distinct characteristics fitting each Magical Girl’s look. The color illustrations leans towards the darker colors and the Magical Girls themselves match the tone. The black and white illustrations likes to use raw colors to create a defined contrast, outlining the Magical Girls in a white border for a black background.  Additionally, if you are ever confused on which Magical Girl is which at any point in the story, there are two pages with all the profiles depicted in chibi format.

 

Just by what the first volume has to offer us, it was simply too short for the amount of content it wanted to show off. The large cast of characters was ultimately its biggest weakness. By having sixteen characters, this led to the novel not having enough time to flesh out character backgrounds and developments, which in turn affected the amount of attachment each character, which then affected how much shock value a character had to the story. Regardless, the premise itself is grounded and conducted well, and the way the volume presents its messages and executes its twists kept the novel interesting and moving. Magical Girl Raising Project creates a very simple premise with a very open ended world, leaving numerous directions the story could take. I look forward to future installments of the series.

Rating: Recommended – Highly Recommended


 Author: Asari Endō

Illustrator: Marui-no

Translator: Alexander Keller-Nelson

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One Response to Light Novel Review: Magical Girl Raising Project [Volume 1]

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Review: Magical Girl Raising Project [Volume 1] | The August Hail

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