Review/discussion about: Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
I was raised in a good home, a loving home.
I had my wants and my needs like any other kid, but, looking back on what my parents provided me, there’s absolutely no way I could complain about my upbringing. The family get-togethers. Trips to the ice-cream parlor and the video-game store. Support in my endeavors, schooling, and milestones. I don’t tell my father and my mother every day, but I thank them, with all my heart, for giving me a childhood that led me to a worthwhile adulthood.
Truth be told, my parents never did raise me as a magical girl. And, after watching Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, I’m gladder than ever that they didn’t.
Ikusei Keikaku follows Koyuki Himekawa, a sweet middle-school girl who dreams of becoming one of the very magical girls that she so often fantasizes about. To her surprise, the mobile-phone game she was playing grants her wish, giving her the chance to help as many people as she can. However, something sinister lurks in the nearby shadows.
Those shadows are light at first. New rules are enforced where the lowest-candy-getting girl of the week loses her magic. Then the shadows get darker when the loser has a coincidental heart attack in her sleep. And they get at their darkest (and stay this way) after the girls escalate their plans to thievery, violence, and eventually straight-up murder.
Much of Ikusei Keikaku’s content is quite demented. For example, Cranberry forces La Pucelle to walk out into oncoming traffic, mangling his body so profusely that his parents couldn’t even provide an open casket at his funeral. Some of it is morbid, like when Sister Nana commits suicide by hanging herself with her beloved Winter Prison’s scarf (which she received from Sister Nana) following her death. But no matter the case, each encounter is inhumane in some way.
And that’s the biggest reason (arguably the only reason) to watch Ikusei Keikau: witness a bunch of cute girls eviscerate each other in cruel ways. Smashing their heads, slicing their necks, and burning their disintegrated bodies are just a few of the actions made by the girls and women as they go about attacking one another. It gets a little strange when the audience is reminded that half the “candidates” are in middle school or younger, but this contrast between the innocent portrayals and the brutal betrayals makes for an entertaining time.
Oddly, some of the deaths and kills are anticlimactic, or, at the minimum, they occur in a way or at a time that doesn’t seem like the best point to off the cast. Calamity Mary is a wildcard psychopath, but she dies to just one of Ripple’s shuriken. Cranberry, despite reigning as the mastermind behind the whole murder-fest and being the (in some sense) final boss, has the top half of her body completely obliterated by Tama in a sudden turn of events. These two are the most extreme examples in terms of oddness, but many of the magical girls, once death is imminent, find themselves out of the match per se.
Arguably, these unexpected outcomes are a positive. Not only do they keep audience members on their toes as they watch the story play out, but also these outcomes give Ikusei Keikaku a realistic edge. The anime doesn’t setup any unfair scenarios based on the contexts created, simply removing the next unfortunate soul in the plot’s path.
Looking more closely at the narrative structure of the anime, though, it’s about as pretty as Ruler’s bloodied corpse.
The show sometimes tries way too hard at appealing to the audience’s emotions for many of its revelations. Top Speed was more than three months pregnant when she was killed by Swim Swim. Indicated by her holding her bigger belly in her death pose and dropping her maternal notebook on the ground next to her. And Ripple’s new “dad,” courtesy of her lascivious mother, is so beyond creepy that it’s a miracle he has been able to hide his sick behavior his whole life.
These scenes are meant to influence the audience, get them understanding bluntly the messed-up world a lot of these girls come from and the untimely deaths they experience. Instead, they only deliver a hefty case of the eyerolls.
Ikusei Keikau also falls prey to the depict-personal-backstory-right-before-it’s-needed syndrome. Often times, it kicks in immediately before a character dies, like when Winter Prison remembers Sister Nana or when Tama explains her entire past (since she was intentionally a useless character up until her demise). Where the bluntness from before tries too hard, these last-second scenes don’t try enough, making it hard to care for some of the proceedings since the anime likewise didn’t seem to care about them to begin with.
There’s also a very lazy attempt at making the plot even more dire with the introduction of purchasable special items. Energy medicine and a rabbit’s foot literally shave off years of the buyers’ lifespans – but only supposedly because this life-shortening deal has no impact on the events therein.
These items even call into question whether the anime did enough with the girls’ own powers. The invisibility cloak and the giant halberd are practically required to spice the events up because the show failed to have many of the characters interact with one another, and, subsequently, their abilities were not combined in intriguing ways.
Ikusei Keikaku does contain a couple of nice story beats. The girl that Snow White helps later comes back as Hardgore Alice, a magical girl. And Nemurin’s death, despite being the first, isn’t at all pointless since it is her words that (accidentally) spur Swim Swim to take over Ruler’s role and (indirectly) cause most of the chaos.
But more pitfalls exist. The behind-the-scenes magical-girl society is barely touched on, and the show’s shoddy attempts at exploring strength, idealism, goodness, and purpose are jammed into the plot without grace.
In the end, if one is only looking for violence and nothing more, then the story delivers on that front. Otherwise, the narrative needed to earn a few more candies to come out unscathed.
Ikusei Keikaku puts a ton of stock into its character designs, demonstrating finesse and care in the looks they bring.
For instance, Snow White’s design is quite involved. She dons many muted colors – light pinks, whites, greys – that match her soft personality. The darker colors, like the brownish headband and the black scarf, starkly contrast with this softness, giving her design an aesthetically pleasing balance. Her frilly dress, her flowers, and her golden eyes not only up her cuteness levels but also contribute to her sense of innocence and purity and goodness.
Not every design is as nuanced as Snow White’s, but they bring their own flavor nonetheless. Yunaelle and Minaelle are twins, so their designs are nearly identical save for the mirroring, single wing they wear upon their backs. Tama, a dog in design, wears a spiked collar that dangles a bone. La Pucelle’s blue-and-gold armor, antennae, and long dragon tail allude easily to her knightly nature while concealing her true gender.
Simply the sheer variety of looks that are easily discernable at a glance is commendable. Ripple is a ninja. Top Speed is a witch. Calamity Mary is a cowboy. Magicaloid 44 is a robot. Sister Nana is a nun.
On top of the detail and the variety, their designs also often coincide with their abilities. Swim Swim dresses like a swimmer (one-piece bathing suit, goggles) for her phase-through-anything power, and Nemurin (clouds, pillows) invite sleepiness, and thus dreams, just by looking at her.
The character designs are arguably Ikusei Keikau’s strongest trait, so it’s unfortunate that the rest of the artistry misses the same appeal.
The constant nighttime period and refusal to move away from anywhere but the city and a couple of forests drag the locales towards blandness. Cinematography and shot composition don’t try for anything fancy either, leaving many of the scenes wanting. At the minimum, the anime does show off as much of the violence as possible. Sister Nana’s swinging feet, Cranberry’s lower half falling limp, and Winter Prison’s flying severed arm are enough to get the points across.
As for actual animation, the anime doesn’t have many strong moments, but it doesn’t have many weak moments either. Ripple jumps, Calamity Mary fires her sniper, Tama digs, Winter Prison summons her slabs, and La Pucelle swings her sword. None of the battles have sustained choreography due to the nature of their abilities and the quickness with which their duels end, but, given that no notable mistakes or lags were seen, the show remains consistent in quality throughout its run.
Ikusei Keikaku houses a large cast with over sixteen different magical girls struggling to survive.
Anime with a lot of characters like this one inherently make it difficult for themselves to let everyone feel worthwhile in some form. Not that they all need to be, depending on the circumstances. But, given the fight-for-the-death-brawl format that Ikusei Keikaku crafts, each character is more or less as important as the next.
To this end, the anime deserves at least some credit. It manages to explore each magical girl (however slightly), providing their backstory or focusing on their development to some extent. Naturally, some receive more attention than others, but they each get something.
For example, several characters are given the bare minimum. The twins were college girls who not only did everything together but were practically identical (hence their twin status). Calamity Mary was a horrible mother and fervent alcoholic who drove away both her husband and young daughter. Magicaloid 44 was girl who always did what she wanted to do, including sharing meals with and talking to a kind homeless man beneath a bridge.
Again, that’s not a whole lot to go off of for a character, and many of the characters receive about as much, meaning they simply aren’t very interesting. But these snippets of their past keep them from being just another lifeless body.
Some characters are given more, especially on a relationship basis. Ripple and Top Speed connect thanks to Top Speed empathizing with Ripple’s behavior as well as doing what she can to look out for the troubled girl. Snow White leans on La Pucelle for support, the latter vowing to be her steadfast knight. Sister Nana and Winterprison are romantically involved.
Arguably, though, the best and most intriguing relationship exists between Swim Swim and Ruler. Ruler commanded her “idiots” with meanness and derision, but her wisdom was not unfounded. Swim Swim, like a watery sponge, absorbed everything that Ruler taught her to an unorthodox degree. Unfortunately for Ruler, Swim Swim (from Nemurin) got it in her head that she no longer wanted to be a “liege” but rather a full-fledged princess – just like Ruler. So, Swim Swim eliminated the very woman she idolized.
In fact, Swim Swim may even go down as the best character of Ikusei Keikaku simply for being an unconventional villain. The plans she carries out almost always work, netting her (directly or otherwise) almost half the kills among the sixteen magical girls (Ruler, Winterprison, Top Speed, Sister Nana, Hardgore Alice, Cranberry, and Tama). She never does anything of her own thinking, instead relying on past words and remembered guidance from Ruler. And her potential psychopathy can be attributed to the fact that she’s literally a kid (and the youngest magical girl among the group), turning her deranged delusions into “mere” childlike wonderment.
Interestingly, another major character is likewise unconventional in her role. And, doubly likewise, she also deserves an analysis: Snow White.
Technically speaking, she’s the outlier among the other characters. She wants to be a magical girl through and through, so she strives to be “pure, righteous, and beautiful” in all that she does. And she achieves just that. Aiding people as much as she can, she exemplifies what being a magical girl truly means, and, for her, she has finally accomplished her dream.
However, once the conniving and killing gets underway, Snow White does next to nothing of merit.
She sits atop the radio tower too much. She has her candies stolen from her. She cries a lot after La Pucelle dies. She pushes Hardgore Alice away when she tries to get closer. She shows up way too late to the final duel between Ripple and Swim Swim. In a way, Snow White is less the main protagonist of this story and more the cute bystander who nobody seems to care about or listen to.
In context, though, that makes sense. After all, she herself cannot do much. She’s a pacifist not only because her ability is almost solely for helping others but also because of the tenets she vies to uphold. And the demonizing events, the loss of her best friend, and the unbelievable reveals make her sadness and her lameness understandable.
As such, Snow White’s passiveness was constructed to give her some of the only tangible development in the season. Come the end, she yells at Ripple to not listen to Fav, going against her own perfect persona. Plus, she ignores the admins of the magical girls by helping other districts without their consent, and she trains with Ripple, learning how to properly fight to protect those in the future to atone for the ones that she could not save before.
Unfortunately, this development comes in the final few minutes of the last episode. And, given how she was sidelined for nearly the entire story, her transformation from wholly good to still-good-but-not-wholly-so isn’t compelling let alone impactful. Still, like the other side characters and knowing the anime is more story-driven than character-driven, it’s something.
There are other smaller moments and ideas at play. La Pucelle’s fear when she is about to die at Cranberry’s hands earns sympathy from the audience since it’s one of the only times where someone acts or responds rationally. And the anime may even have something to say about what people “deserve.” That is, nobody deserves anything. From broken families to failed expectations to wanting to start anew, the girls, like every human being, have a past. Pasts that are most likely not the same and that don’t automatically give the girls special treatment. Evident in the anime killing off whichever characters it wants whenever it so chooses.
This last idea is not explored outright. However, it at least allows the characters’ deaths to not be as in vain as they perhaps are, boosting the cast’s execution to some extent.
Alongside the character designs, Ikusei Keikaku’s ending track stands out as a clear strength. It gives off a strange, almost unfitting optimistic feeling when considering what the show actually entails. The whispering and space-like sound-effects in the beginning start the track as peaceful, and, as the English lyrics interweave with the rising beat, the tone gradually shifts into that hopeful territory. Strong vocals carry the piece through to the end, leaving its listeners conflicted as they already know what has become of the girls therein.
The rest of the music sadly doesn’t reach the same heights as the ED, but it deserves some credit. Listening to the opening track, it blares at first, gives way to a soft, acoustic segment, and finally transitions into violins and vocals that match the intensity of the anime itself. As for the other soundtracks, the anime uses a mixture of techno, light piano, and grating sounds. These instrumental choices help with giving the battles more pop, supporting the more bittersweet scenes, and creating the spooky, foreboding ambience that directs the content (respectively).
And for the voice-acting performance, only Kurumi Mamiya as Fav provided anything notable. The cute, digital overseer of the magical girls seemed to always have left over pep to share as well as a “pon” or two lying about.
My biggest issue with this one comes from the simple fact that I don’t care about almost all the characters.
A lot of that comes from the lack of info or attention given to them. Nemurin and Cranberry come to mind in this category. It also comes from general unlikability. The twins Yunaelle and Minaelle were always too mean, Calamity Mary was too over-the-top, and Magicaloid 44 was too untruthful in her dealings.
Interestingly enough, I didn’t mind Ruler despite both of the above points. She at least looked out for her subordinates because, as she similarly phrased, a leader is nothing without her followers. Ripple, too. She was a bit disgruntled all the time, but her constant “Tch!” remarks and drive to avenge Top Speed made her all right in my books.
Unsurprisingly, I was more a fan of the nicer girls. Top Speed for her easygoing attitude and motherly instincts. Sister Nana for her absolute kindness. Tama for her innocent behavior and spare comedic relief. La Pucelle for protection of Snow White, and Snow white herself for being the only true magical girl. Again, they weren’t outstanding in my eyes, but they at least prevented me from outright disliking the entire cast.
If nothing else, the violence was entertaining. It’s no doubt demented, but watching Ripple stab Swim Swim’s corpse a few times too many and seeing Winterprison smash Yunaelle’s head into a concrete wall had me laughing at the gratuitous gore and guts.
Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku brings magic and blood, but this occult combo doesn’t summon anything too worthwhile. The character designs are quite detailed, and the ED should be listened to more than once. Unfortunately, similar thoughts cannot be had for its story, characters, and the remainder of its content. If only it was raised by loving parents.
Story: Bad, the dichotomy of cute girls murdering one another is a spectacle, but the obvious appeals at emotion, the lazy writing, and the lack of further substance leave the narrative bruised and bloodied
Animation: Fine, involved character designs are a definitive strength, but artistry and actual animation does not go for anything interesting let alone fancy
Characters: Fine, everyone was given at least something, and both Swim Swim and Snow White were unconventional in their roles
Sound: Fine, okay OP, good ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, uninteresting characters all around, but the violence was eye-catching on occasion
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3