A veteran magical girl who garnered attention ten years ago. A nervous, plain girl who uses her magical girl transformation to get the confidence to approach her crush. A woman who spent her life trying to become a detective only to discover her best detective work is done as a magical girl.
These are only three of the sixteen magical girls selected to participate in the second version of Magical Girl Raising Project, the eponymous mobile game set up as a way to choose the greatest magical girl of them all. But, like in Volume One, this game is masterminded by a Master with a mysterious and diabolical purpose: to create a tournament that viciously pits the magical girls against one another until just one player is left standing.
I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I’m a huge fan of deathmatch series. Though the subgenre’s been around for literal decades, it was really after the game Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (published in English as Higurashi: When They Cry) that the deathmatch concept really started ramping up in manga, light novels, and anime — and creating genre-bending combinations that end up being even more enthralling. The Danganronpa game series, for example, combines the deathmatch genre with murder mystery and courtroom drama genres. (It works, I promise.)
The first volume of Magical Girl Raising Project: Restart, published in English by Yen Press as the second volume of the Magical Girl Raising Project series, is another genre-bender that ends up much more successful than if it was only a deathmatch series.
In my review of Volume 1, I noted that one major aspect that held me back from highly recommending the light novel was the fact that there was little innovation and not much to distinguish this series from other similar series. (In particular, it had a lot of shared aspects with the Madoka*Magica series, but was much less effective in those.)
The first volume of the Restart arc, on the other hand, is more effective and represents much better storytelling in a number of ways. Like the original light novel, Restart 1 shows several perspectives: the veteran Magical Daisy, the anxious Pechka, and the detective Detec Bell are three mentioned above, while ten-year-old Nokko and the bitter bodyguard Shadow Gale are also prominent perspectives.
Unlike Volume 1, Restart 1 isn’t just a combination of the magical girl and deathmatch subgenres: it’s also a murder mystery, which kicks off after one of the teams logs back in to discover their teammate lying facedown in a pool of blood. (You can see why I mentioned Danganronpa now, right?) The remaining magical girls struggle to discover not just how they can win the game and escape their own deaths, but also how they can locate the traitor within their ranks.
Though this volume contains several characters who fit archetypes similar to those in the previous volume, the characters are handled very differently in terms of delivery and how they participate in the story; for example, there’s an imperious rich girl similar to the magical girl Ruler in Volume 1, but in Restart, the imperious Pfle isn’t just a dictator — she’s got the intelligence and tactical skills to back up that arrogance.
Like the previous volume, Restart 1 has a handy guide to the cast in the front, which is rendered in a very pretty full-color spread over a total of three pages. The characters look exactly as they’d be depicted on a mobile game screen, which is very cute and pretty consistent. It’s also helpful because it shows the different teams that the girls self-sort into as well as their “special power,” which one occasionally forgets when there are that many characters to keep straight.
Restart 1 shows a huge improvement in writing style and novel structure in the series, with a cliffhanger ending that’ll make you impatient for the release of Volume 3 (Restart 2) in March. I would absolutely recommend that readers who’ve seen the anime but not checked out the light novel start here. If you’re a completionist or just really love the series, the next thing to keep an eye out for is the release of the first volume in the Magical Girl Raising Project manga, forthcoming in December.
4 out of 5 stars
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