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Is Magical Girl Raising Project going to succeed at what it’s trying to do? What that question means is a little complicated, and comes from Magical Girl Raising Project’s nature as existing in the wake of the show it will inevitably be compared to, Madoka Magica.

While watching the PV for the show I got the sense it was trying to emulate three things; the sense of whimsy from Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, the visual motifs of Lyrical Nanoha, and the deconstruction elements of Madoka Magica. Well, in the first episode one of those becomes pretty obvious.

It seems like every Magical Girls series these days wants to be Madoka, and at times it’s hard to tell if it’s for better or worse. Madoka’s great, but rip-offs are bad.

One of the things that made Madoka a big deal was the surprise element, which its descendants can’t copy. Viewers now go in expecting the dark twist, so the creators don’t get a chance at build-up or subtle foreshadowing. Most of these shows wear their angst on their sleeve, showing the bloody violence and brooding right in the OP or, as in Magical Girl Raising Project, even in the pre-opening scene.

But to discount them for that is an insult to Madoka Magica. It implies the only thing that was good about Madoka was its newness, its novelty, but Madoka is so much better than that. It has well written characters, complex philosophies, thought provoking scenes, incredible art and animation, and an adorable mascot character ^.^. All of which are thematically tied to the Dark Magical Girl subgenre. In other words, there is more to be explored in Dark Magical Girl anime than mere deconstruction; while it came about through deconstruction, it, as a genre, has real artistic value. So the fact that Madoka exists doesn’t per se make every show after it redundant.

What does make them redundant is the fact that most of them suck, and are just trying to copy the success of Madoka. But it’s more complicated than that; cross-section of production reality and creative aspirations; yadda yadda, let’s not assume that everybody working on these shows is a capitalist robot. Animators are a strange group, especial when it comes to underage girls and a sense of purity in creative ideals. Chances are, creator Asari Endo was inspired by Madoka, and tried to make his own vision in Magical Girl Raising Project not simply repeat it.

Which brings me back to the original question, will it succeed?

So far we have eighth grader Koyuki Himekawa (aka Snow White), a pink-haired avid fan of Magical Girls. She thinks they’re wonderful, heroic, and kind. Then she becomes one, and starts being wonderful, heroic, and kind. Well, heroic may be stretch; she helped an old lady climb some stairs, and jumps around rooftops at night. But she’s clearly trying to live up to this image she has of what a Magical Girl should be.

(The fact that she’s already become a Magical Girl in the first episode is a departure from Madoka, but I don’t think we should look much into that because Madoka’s reluctance is sort of a complicated issue that is really only relevant when examining Madoka itself, not the stuff that came after.)

The city has a sixteen Magical Girls, each of whom spread good cheer and joy to a different district, but who all seem to get along and know each other. One of them, Souta Kishibe (aka La Pucelle, aka So Many Phallic Jokes), offer to show Koyuki the ropes. Phallic Jokes takes her out one night, and they run into Kano Sazanami (aka Ripple) and Tsubame Murota (aka Top Speed), two other magical girls.

Three things happen in the scene that set Magical Girl Raising Project up as the best case-study of a potential Madoka rip-off.

First, Koyuki mentions that Ripple and Top Speed don’t actually look much like Magical Girls. Top Speed looks more like a witch, and Ripple like a ninja. It’s the creator’s way of saying that these aren’t really Magical Girls and this isn’t really a Magical Girl anime, at least not in the traditional sense. There will be a dark twist, and the question we’re left with is what that twist will be. That’s the source of the dark intrigue that makes the Madoka comparisons inevitable.

Second is Top Speed’s comment that Ripple is a tsundere. A character in anime using the word tsundere can be some of the laziest meta, or can be genuinely subversive. Whichever this instance turns out to be will show whether Magical Girl Raising Project is self-aware, or just mindlessly chasing what’s poplar. Speculating, I don’t see why she would actually just be a tsundere cliché, considering Ripple has no lines in this scene and has generally been propped up as a character who will reveal herself later. If she were just a tsundere, why not have her show it now?

Lastly, there’s a reason I gave Phallic Jokes her nickname. It’s partly because her magic power is making her sword longer. It’s really because she’s actually a guy who turns into a girl for his magical girl transformation. That’s something Madoka definitely didn’t do. And like I said, what justifies post-Madoka Dark Magical Girl shows is that there are some pretty damn interesting themes and ideas that Dark Magical Girl shows should explore. A transsexualism is definitely one of them.

The point of this is that a show like this shouldn’t be written off as a rip-off. Madoka popularized a subgenre, and shows inspired by it can now fill that in. Based on the first episode, I think Magical Girl Raising Project is trying to be one of the good ones. I hope it succeeds.

Don’t Lose Your Way