Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku First Impressions
“Himekawa Koyuki, I’ve determined that your behavior, personality, and intellect are all suitable for a magical girl, pon.”
The idea of making a dark subversion of a magical girl series has one major inherent problem with it, and that is the fact that it will undoubtedly lead viewers to draw comparisons to another series from recent memory. And no, I’m not exactly referring to Re:Zero here. Comparisons to Madoka Magica are inevitable, and, if Ikusei Keikaku was hoping to avoid evoking that connection, then I think it is safe to say it failed miserably. The opening scene had me double checking to make sure that I hadn’t somehow started watching the first episode of Madoka by accident, and I don’t even mean that as a joke. It is also possible that the episode intentionally structured itself in such a way so as to acknowledge the parallels and then establish it was going a different direction, but, if that was the intention, I question how effective that approach was. Still, I don’t mean to be negative. The primary concept for this series, while a bit odd, does succeed in hitting on some original notes. I’m not clear on where the narrative is heading, but I’ll probably be sticking with this show for at least a few more episodes.
The episode starts out with what appears to be a flash forward to a devastating battle, with images of injured magical girls strewn about as a single one who remains standing takes on a monster. It quickly becomes clear, due to the character designs and general aesthetic, that this is not Madoka Magica, but there are notable similarities in how this all kicks off. However, it’s clearly bloodier than Madoka ever was, which leads me to question who the audience is for this. I suspect this is targeted towards older viewers, unlike Madoka Magica which, despite some dark themes and the occasional obscured decapitation, was intended for both younger and older audiences. Once things get properly underway, the viewers are presented with the basic premise. Our main character is Koyuki Himekawa, a student who has had a strong affinity for magical girl stories since she was young. There have been rumors lately of appearances of magical girls throughout the city, though most assume them to be hoaxes, including Koyuki herself. That being said, there is a rumor that one in ten thousand people who play the titular free-to-play mobile game, Magical Girl Raising Project, will become capable of transforming into a magical girl. To be honest, I thought it would be difficult to make a creepier source of magical powers than Kyubey, but a free-to-play mobile game comes close.
Joking aside, this is an interesting idea as it takes some elements of “the game is real” stories that have been popular in recent years and applies them to a different genre. There are some obvious questions that pop up, including “What happens if a male who plays the game is the one selected?” or “What if someone who is older plays the game?,” but the narrative handles those questions rather quickly by revealing that, when Koyuki transforms, her physical appearance alters as well. The episode even goes so far as to reveal there are male magical girls, which potentially opens the door to some interesting themes regarding identity, and, fortunately, Ikusei Keikaku seems to take this somewhat seriously and doesn’t go the route of Is This a Zombie? *shudder* If this episode has one notable shortcoming, aside from the fact it is attempting to supply a niche market that already has what many consider a masterpiece meeting such demands, it would be the fact it has to deliver on a sizable amount of exposition. It’s not to any terrible extent, but, when this much information must be conveyed in such a short amount of time, there is bound to be some occasionally stiff dialogue.
While I have been a fan of anime for a long time, the magical girl series remain a subgenre that I have had little exposure to. Outside of my oft-referenced viewing of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I can’t think of any other entries in the genre that I have any degree to familiarity with. Despite that, I do feel like there is some potential here, even if Ikusei Keikaku hasn’t established its own identity yet.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- For many, Sailor Moon is the definitive magical girl series, in the same way that many view Dragon Ball Z as being the definitive shonen action series. Though, my exposure to Sailor Moon is even more limited than my exposure to Dragon Ball Z, seeing as I’ve only watched the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal.
- While the first scene didn’t exactly wow me, the opening for the show did a moderately decent job winning me back.
- As mentioned before Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku translates to Magical Girl Raising Project, and is based on a light novel series of the same name that originated in 2012.
- I didn’t talk much about our main character, Koyuki Himekawa, but, aside from a sense of naivete and a seemingly strong sense of how best to be a magical girl, she doesn’t have much to define her yet.
- The design for the characters is a bit too moe for my tastes, though I don’t find it irritating to any degree. I can always adjust to odd aesthetics; I remember Kanon really throwing me for a loop with its eyes. I think it is the eyes here as well that I find off, though not to the same extent.
While it is impossible to ignore the similarities that it shares with its notable predecessor, Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku presents an interesting enough concept that it may prove capable of standing on its own as a series, even if it will never succeed in shrugging aside those comparisons. At the very least, it is worth a look.