English Dub Review: Magical Girl Raising Project “Server Down for Maintenance”

It’s a dog-eat-cranberry world.

Overview (Spoilers!)

During the last selection process, a demon killed all of the magical girls—except for Cranberry, who slayed it despite her fear. FAV asked Cranberry to work with him to craft the next exam.

At first, Swim Swim is able to slip through Cranberry’s attacks—but Cranberry realizes that Swim Swim is permeable to both light and sound, so she creates an enormous sonic blast that knocks Swim Swim to the ground. Upon discovering Swim Swim’s body, she realizes that her opponent is actually a young child. Sobbing in terror, Tama creates a hole inside Cranberry’s body, killing her.

Tama finds Swim Swim, who appears to be alive and well, and expresses surprise at her age. Swim Swim slices Tama’s neck. At home, Tama was overshadowed by her younger brother; her parents chided her lack of skills in every area. Although Tama’s grandma praised her kind heart, she soon passed away. Things looked up when Tama became a magical girl—she was finally good at something, and she had found kind friends. Her last thoughts before her death? She doesn’t understand where she went wrong.

Swim Swim cries, but she believes that Tama had to die because she knew Swim Swim’s true identity. FAV calls Swim Swim his new master, and she agrees to the title but refuses to work with FAV toward any of his goals.

FAV announces that they’ve reached their goal number of four or less, and the remaining girls—now only Snow White, Ripple, and Swim Swim—will receive individual instructions. FAV wants Swim Swim to read through the master handbook, but Swim Swim won’t let herself be bullied.

Ripple mourns Top Speed. Snow White cries for La Pucelle, Sister Nana, and Hardgore Alice. Ripple seeks out Snow White, expressing her desire to kill Swim Swim. Snow White begs her not to hurt another person, but Ripple wants revenge. FAV informs them of Swim Swim’s weaknesses and says that the game will now end when they’re down to two magical girls.

Swim Swim realizes that she isn’t a leader without any subjects and vows to make Ripple her own. Ripple imagines Top Speed thanking her for taking her body home.

Our Take 

Wow, this show doesn’t let you celebrate for a second, does it? As soon as I started cheering for Tama, glad that she was finally standing up for herself, sympathetic that she was so reluctant to hurt another person even to save her own life—she was gone. Her backstory, while not particularly surprising, sure did make me care about her. It’s so heartbreaking that, even in her last moments, she blamed herself for everything, believing that Swim Swim must be killing her because she did something wrong. I want to protect Tama! Please let me protect her!

Weirdly, this episode actually made me feel bad for Swim Swim, too. I mean, she’s so young. While I didn’t quite understand Cranberry’s surprise at her age—didn’t Cranberry design this game and hand-pick all the magical girls?—it’s really tragic that someone so young could be groomed to become so violent. At the same time, though, I don’t quite believe your average seven-year-old would just blindly believe everything Ruler told her and model her whole life around a random older girl she had only met recently. It’s an interesting statement on the impressionability of children—I’m thinking about the song “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods, which preaches that you should watch what you say around children because they are always listening and ready to emulate you—but I’m just not sure it’s realistic. Plus, means that Ruler’s legacy is truly awful, and I want so badly to like her, especially after the kindness and understanding she showed Tama. I guess we’ll learn more next episode when we see Swim Swim’s backstory (We will get to see that, right? Please?).

But yeah, as maybe Ruler’s biggest fan, I love the flashback we see here between her and Tama. I laughed so hard at Ruler’s self-published Way of the Magical Girl: Book For the Idiots with Brains So Faulty, They Can’t Grasp What I Say, complete with an illustration of herself doing the “OK” hand symbol on the front page. Amazing.

I’m less interested in the Ripple segment of this episode; quite frankly, scenes where characters hallucinate their lost loved ones have never rung particularly true to me. It’s an overdone trope considering how infrequently it happens in real life. Although to be fair, it is kind of interesting that Ripple acknowledges that Top Speed wouldn’t want her to seek revenge, and the scene where she drops Top Speed’s body at home is somewhat touching. The best part of the sequence is definitely the animation—during Ripple’s vision, the sky is made of shimmering rainbows, beautiful and yet eerily suggesting the Heaven where Top Speed now resides.

And, ugh, I do enjoy that we get to see a magical transformation in such detail, but—sigh—why did it have to be Ripple, and why do we have to see her naked? It’s like this show wants to go out of its way to sexualize the only sexual assault victim in the cast, and it’s gross and weird. Why can’t we see, oh, I don’t know… one of the adults naked, instead of the abused seventeen-year-old? Please?

Heading into the last episode of this show, I’m mostly just excited for the answers to my questions. What does a master do? What happens to the other magical girl once there are two left? And, of course, what is the true purpose of the Magical Girl Raising Project? Yet I’m a little worried that this show has given us too many hints already, and that the ultimate revelations won’t shock me as much as I want them to. I’ve compared this show repeatedly to Madoka and Danganronpa, and both of those are known for their excellently-executed plot twists. So far, none of the reveals in this show have really impressed me, but I’m holding out for a big ending.

Score
7.0/10

Bodie Shanis

Bodie is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can often find him in odd costumes, either because he's at an anime convention or performing in a musical. He's currently working on his first novel.

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