Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 10

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What do we have here? The first magical girl backstory that actually made me feel something, and elicit something other than an indifferent shrug. Like all the other backstories, it still comes too late to be as impactful as it could have been, but it still connected. And what do you know, it’s Hardgore Alice’s alter ego: Hatoda Ako.

One reason Alice looks so dark is because Ako comes from such a dark place. Her father murdered her mother, making her a pariah at school. While her auntie seems nice enough, Ako knows she’s not needed by anyone; she’s just a burden. Then she heard about Snow White, and thought they would make a pretty sweet black-and-white duo.

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Of course, this is MagiPro, so that turned to shit pretty fast. Mina disguised herself as Alice’s stuffed rabbit in order to learn Ako’s home address. Once Swim Swim knew that, all she had to do was ambush Ako when she wasn’t in her invincible form.

There’s a special twist of the knife in play here, what with Alice trying to reach out to Snow White as a friend, but simply being unable to say the right words at the right time.

That time is when Koyuki is simply freaking out about all the horrible things happening (which is justifiable), but that doesn’t make it any easier when Snow White is holding a bloody, dying Ako in her arms and learns it’s her would-be only friend in the world.

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That leaves Snow White, Ripple, Swim Swim, Mina, Tama…and Cranberry. And in case you haven’t been paying attention in the last few Cranberry scenes, Cranberry isn’t like the other magical girls. In fact, she seems to be some kind of facilitator from the magical world, overseeing what is in fact a super-bloody selection process that is nearing its end as the ranks dwindle.

For the record, Cranberry would have preferred to simply kill off all the weak ones right away, but has seemingly left the administration of the game to Fav (and whoever is controlling/speaking as Fav).

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Swim Swim has proven to be a one-girl wrecking crew, and when she comes to Cranberry’s forest to take her down, Cranberry uses is as an opportunity to get to know Swimmy a little better. She’s impressed by her, if not her sidekicks (she kills Mina with ease, in one of the show’s more unceremonious killings), but she still doesn’t think Swim Swim can beat her.

As for Ripple, who is out there on her own with only revenge on her mind, I’m not sure how she’s going to be able to actually exact any on Swim Swim. The first time they fought, Swim seemed to have her number, and that was with Top Speed’s help. And then there’s the possibility Cranberry will kill Swim Swim before Ripple can get to her. In any case, it’s never a dull moment in MagiPro Land.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 09

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Ripple has had it with Calamity Mary, and we finally get a good look at what Ripple can do when she’s seriously cheesed off. Unfortunately for her, like Mary with Alice, she underestimates just how formidable her opponent is. Mary is able to hold her own in close quarters, deflect Ripple’s can’t-miss shuriken, attack from range, and set traps.

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Ripple can’t beat Mary on her own. It takes help from Top Speed, who saves Ripple from a land mine and grenade trap, but then turns around at Ripple’s insistence.

After some failed dive-bombings, Top Speed hovers high over Mary while Ripple rains down thousands of tiny shards of glass, which distract Mary enough for her not to dodge when a shuriken hits her in the forehead, killing her. A violent death for a violent (and not particularly compelling) bad gal.

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Ripple and Top Speed get to celebrate for all of five seconds when Swim Swim shows up, kills Top Speed, and hassles Ripple until turning to water and slinking away, having greatly weakened her enemy by killing her ally. Swim Swim may be dull and monotone, but she’s also proven to be an stone-cold killah, always thinking steps ahead and trying to be a better Ruler to Ruler.

R.I.P. Top Speed: I should have known the recent cut to your real life, and all the mentions of the six months you needed, meant you weren’t long for this world.

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This whole time, Snow White and Alice are helping care for the innocent people Mary attacked, and even in peaceful duty like this, Alice’s immense strength and durability comes in handy. She comes in even handier when Snow White is ambushed by a vengeful Minael, who turns into a throwing axe that Alice catches in the same spot Mary took Ripple’s shuriken.

Naturally, since her body regenerates, it’s no biggie for Alice, but the message has been sent: Minael is gunning (or axing) for Snow White, so she’d better watch her righteous back.

Oh and Fav announces (to the surprise of no one) since there’s now fewer than eight magical girls left (seven to be exact), they might as well keep going until there are only four. The gears immediately start turning for Swim Swim, who wants to attack Cranberry next using the magic energy potion. That should be some fight.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 08

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It’s sad to say, but Habutae Nana was definitively the worst thing to ever happen to Ashuu Shizuku. Sure, it’s not entirely Nana’s fault—how could she know the game she was getting her lover involved in would lead to that lover’s death?

But the bottom line is, Nana did get Shizuku involved…then kept helping her enemies by leading Winterprison into ambush after ambush. You’d think Nana would have gotten the memo by now: there will be no peace until there’s one magical girl remaining.

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Winterprison manages to slip away from Calamity Mary, but when Nana insists they meet with Swim Swim’s crew, the numbers and tactics prove too challenging to escape with her life. Swim Swim is cold, calculating, and obsessed with surpassing Ruler, whom she still admires despite having betrayed and killed her.

Winterprison does not go quietly, taking Yuna down before succumbing to Swim Swim’s blade. Forgive me for not shedding any tears for Yuna, but she and her twin sister Mina have been nothing but amoral, devious little pills for the entire run of the show, and we didn’t even get a glimpse of their human lives.

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We do get a little snippet of Top Speed AKA Murota Tsubame’s life as a pregnant housewife that makes her husband worry when she runs after him with his lunch. She’s trying to keep Ripple close to increase her chances of staying alive long enough to give birth to her kid, and Ripple seems totally okay with this for now.

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The episode ends with nine magical girls still alive: Snow White, Hardgore Alice, Calamity Mary, Cranberry, Swim Swim, Mina, Tama, Top Speed and Ripple. One more death and the group will be halved as Fav decreed…but next week’s episode title about a “rule change” probably portends another halving, then another, until there’s only one girl left.

With Hardgore Alice apparently by Snow White’s side, it’s looking more likely than ever that Koyuki will be the one to survive this ordeal. Whether her soul survives is another issue entirely.

Speaking of souls, we learn that in real life Calamity Mary’s husband left her because she’s a drunk who abused their daughter. So naturally Fav thought it would be a great idea to give her more power. But we saw how ineffective that power was against Alice, and Alice seems to be protecting Snow White. We’ll see where this goes.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 07

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After the ordeal with Magicaloid and Hardgore Alice, Koyuki wakes up in her bed, shaken but none the worse for wear, and in possession of a rabbit’s foot, a rare item Fav says belongs to Alice. Koyuki wants to return it, but wants nothing else to do with Alice, who freaks her out royally.

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When Calamity Mary gets wind of Magicaloid’s death, she seeks out Alice, but no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t kill the bitch. Riddling her with bullet holes? Nothing. Blowing her to a bloody pulp with a shotgun, machine gun, and grenade? Nada. Chopping her gooey remains to pieces, setting them aflame, pouring acid over them, burying them in a drum full of cement and tossing it into the ocean? Absolutely no effect.

Calamity Mary has finally found an implacable adversary, and it’s uncertain whether she’s excited or simply going insane from that prospect. It is interesting, however, that by trying to take out Alice, she’s showing a kind of loyalty to her former business associate. Honor among thieves and all that.

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Sazanami Kano AKA Ripple is billed as a main character alongside Koyuki, and we’ve seen a bunch of her, but didn’t know quite where she was coming from until this week. Her life is presented as a series of incidents where she can’t take it anymore, lashes out physically, and ends up alone.

Granted, people say and do awful things to her that warrant a good punching, but it’s clear she’s not exactly what you’d call fulfilled. Maybe she sticks with Top Speed out of a desire to connect with someone that still endures despite all the awful experiences she’s had with people…as enduring as Hardgore Alice’s invincible Terminator body.

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As for Alice, she confronts Koyuki, and won’t leave her alone even when she tries to run away, but while doing this makes her threatening, Alice takes no violent action against her. In fact, she’s adamant that she merely gave Koyuki her rabbit’s foot because “she felt like it.”

Maybe despite appearances she’s not someone Koyuki needs to be worried about. Swim Swim is another story, as the episode ends with her setting up an ambush for Nana and Winterprison, who are seeking unity in these troubling times.

As for Calamity Mary wanting to meet with Ripple, I’m not sure what that’s about, but surely someone has to bite the dust at some point, as there are currently more girls left than episodes.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 06

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La Pucelle never had a chance. Cranberry played her like a fiddle till the end, first by rejecting his call for a “fair fight” (she’s clearly more powerful than her, able to block her sword with her bare hand), then getting him to launch one more last-ditch assault to “rid the world” of such an objectionable magical girl, only for Souta to get knocked out, tossed in the street, and run over moments after coming to.

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It’s a strong statement from Magical Girl Raising Project that really ups the stakes for Snow White/Koyuki. Her friend and protector is lost. She’s all alone and all-too-tempting a target, both for more aggressive girls and for Fav to try to tease some years out of her life in exchange for rare trinkets.

Koyuki’s fear of death finally leads her to hit “buy”, only for everything to be sold out; she waited too long. Now she’s in even more trouble: no more ready to fight, but without a defense against those items. The show is really piling on with Koyuki’s misfortune, further convincing me she’s the one Fav either is trying to build her up into the Ultimate Girl—or kill her trying.

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As for the items, they seem to have been snatched up by Swim Swim’s crew, with her taking on the most lifespan reduction. She wants to protect herself and the gang at all costs, even going so far as to name her weapon after the old ruler who failed them and led Swim to pick up the ball and run with it.

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Ripple is disappointed she couldn’t acquire anything and nervous about the consequences, but Top Speed assures her they’ll be fine and that neither of them will die, based on…well, nothing but blind optimism, really. Despite her titular speed, I’m wondering how long Top Speed thinks she can stay above the fray, and how long she can keep Ripple as an ally. It seems she only needs six months.

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The final act of the episode is the goriest and most chaotic, with Hardgore Alice (groan) finding Koyuki and seemingly preparing to kill her, only to be beheaded by Magicaloid 44 (who was ordered by Mary to kill someone that night). For a moment, Alice seems like she was never anything more than a MacGuffin.

Then, before Magicaloid can kill Koyuki too, she is killed by a headless Alice, whose power is quick regeneration, making the quick look back to pre-magical girl Andou Makoto at the beginning of the episode seem like a too-late attempt to humanize her. As for Koyuki, she’s starting to lose it fast.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 05

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Surprisingly, no one dies this week, despite plenty of palls being cast over various magical girls, and none darker than those upon Sister Nana and/or Weiss Winterprison, AKA Habutae Nana and Ashuu Shizuku, a couple in real life.

What we get instead of a death is the full laying-out of what I’ll call the “Spectrum of Light and Dark”. We now know more or less where everyone stands, and the makeup is such that Fav will likely get what he wants: the field of sixteen is already fourteen, and it’s gonna get smaller.

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Mind you, this is a spectrum, not a black and white situation. Way over on the Light End end are goody-two-shoes like Snow, Pucelle, Nana and Weiss who want to end the conflict. Then we have those way over on the Bad Side like Calamity Mary and Cranberry, who just want chaos and good fights, but also want to win. They like Fav’s new strategy.

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Other than these extremes, a whole bunch of people are various distances from the middle of the spectrum. You have opportunists like Swim Swim and her gang, who might be less unscrupulous if circumstances were different. You have Magicaloid-44, who is after a buck first, but seems at least aware of how much she screwed the person who became Weiss Winterprison. Others, like Top Speed and Ripple, are on the fence.

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Now that we know more about where people are coming from—both in their real lives, in Nana and Weiss’ case, or where they stand on the spectrum, like everyone else—I’m starting to become more invested in the supporting characters of this show. Nemurin’s fate moved me, and I even felt bad for Ruler even though she was a haughty piece of work.

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Now, as Cranberry descends upon Nana and Weiss, I feel bad for them too. Weiss depends on Nana’s buffing power, and Cran would rather fight a strong Weiss than a weak one, but someone has to die eventually, and it’s more likely to be those who would rather not fight than those who love to fight. Nana loves peace, and she loves Shizuku. The baddies will exploit those things to ruin her.

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The only chance the good-to-near-good guys who don’t what to fight is if they stick together and look out for each other. It’s not enough for Nana to rely on Weiss, or Snow on Pucelle: they’ve got to join forces. The baddies aren’t going to make that easy.

Newcomer Hardgore Alice seems singularly fixated on Snow White (as she’s kinda the opposite with the Goth look), Swim Swim’s crew has yet to come up with a solid plan but will shit on Snow White and Pucelle on social media for now, and Cranberry wants Pucelle.

There are magical girls on the board who are in this for themselves, and those who are in it for or because of others, and the ones they love. This isn’t just a last-girl-standing battle, but a struggle to determine what a magical girl should be. Classically, it’s the ones who want to protect the weak, but they’re the ones looking weak in a game rigged to favor those with poorly adjusted—or nonexistent—moral compasses.

Then again, we’re currently being led to believe the likes of Nana and Koyuki will simply crumble if they lose their respective knights. But is that really the case? If that happens, it will be interesting to see if these “light” girls will embrace the darkness and, having nothing more to live for, commence personal quests for vengeance.

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