Mahoiku, or Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, or Magical Girl Raising Project, is not a good show. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, as we live in a world where “magical girls except dark” is a genre all of its own, and naturally draws the attention of lazy, incompetent light novel authors everywhere who all think they’re being original and subversive. But as I watched the whole thing from start to finish, one thing in particular stood out to me among all the usual crap, and that’s how bad the main character is at being a main character.
There’s no shortage of bad main characters in anime, so why did I decide to single out Snow White? Well, because I just finished the show, and it sucks and I need to get it off my chest. But also because for most of those other characters, I can at least understand why they were written that way. Kirito might be a terrible character, but I can understand why some people would consider him their favorite character. It’s pure wish fulfillment, sure, but at least I can see the logic of wanting to be a badass who’s good at everything that everyone likes. I can’t see why anyone would particularly like Snow White beyond superficial reasons like “I like her character design”. It’s not just that she sucks (and trust me, she does), but she seems utterly pointless as a character.
Generally speaking, my issues with Snow White are as follows:
- She never has to overcome any obstacles or grow as a person.
- She never shows any agency and never has a direct impact on the story.
- She is never put in real danger unless someone else is there to bail her out.
- She was already plain and uninteresting to begin with.
- Despite all of this, the show presents her as a character to admire.
And what better way to illustrate these issues than by going through the entire show in chronologically order? Thankfully, this doesn’t take as long as you’d expect because of how little it actually focuses on her.
The first three episodes are mostly just setup for the premise. Snow White gets her magical girl badge and briefly gets to enjoy her new life until things get dark, and edgy, and bloody. It’s clear what her basic character type is. She’s the pure and innocent girl who loves magical girls and wants to help people. You can tell right away that it’s introducing her just so to have a sweet girl to torment by subjecting her to horrible tragedies. But even that is giving it too much credit.
Episode 4 is where things start for real. Ruler’s gang attacks Snow White to steal her candies (after a convenient rule change makes this possible). This episode is sort of interesting because it’s the only time Snow White will ever be in actual danger for more than a few seconds. The fact that she ‘loses’ the fight and her candies is actually a good thing in story terms: she gets to experience a setback that shows the seriousness of her situation. Sure, someone’s already died by that point, but despite that Snow White was not in any danger herself. Everything up til now was decided by candy count, and Snow White is the undisputed leader in the rankings. Now it’s shown that her position isn’t so safe after all. It would’ve been a perfectly fine setup for later developments. If they happened.
And by the way, the fact that she survived was pure coincidence. If Swim Swim hadn’t betrayed Ruler, Snow White would’ve been dead. This is not a slight against this particular arc, but will be relevant in the long run as these things start to add up.
Episode 5 barely even features Snow White, but it sets up the battle between La Pucelle and Cranberry that happens in 6. Again, something happens that could make for a perfectly sensible story progression: La Pucelle, Snow White’s friend and the person who unquestioningly protected her, is now dead, leaving her alone and helpless. In a better story, this would be the point where the main character grows and learns to stand on her own feet. Instead, by the end of the episode, a new character has appeared who also unquestioningly protects Snow White. The loss of La Pucelle really has no long-term consequences. He could’ve not been in the show to begin with and nothing would’ve changed.
One other thing happens in this episode, and it’s the reveal of the special items. While she’s grieving over her friend, Snow White is forced to choose whether to sacrifice years of her lifespan to buy powerful items. Take note of this, because it’s the only time in the entire show that she is ever forced to make a hard choice. However, she ultimately gets to have her cake and eat it too. She makes the ‘tough’ decision of choosing to buy them, but since they’re already sold out, she doesn’t actually have to go through with it. What’s even worse is that it turns out Hardgore Alice bought the most expensive item for her. Basically, Snow White gets the supposedly best item in the game for free, while also being able to feel good about it because she was going to buy it herself.
Now, I guess you could argue that she earned Alice’s trust and everything that came with it, because before Alice became a magical girl herself, Snow White helped her find her lost keys once. But if that’s the standard by which we’re judging people worthy of giving up 25 years of your life…
Anyway, episode 7 comes around, and Snow White is again barely even in it. Halfway through she briefly shows up because Sister Nana is trying to get the sane people to join forces. Once again, this is something another character starts and Snow White doesn’t have to do anything. It’s also irrelevant, because next episode Nana and Winterprison both die anyway. Snow’s very brief appearance in episode 8 also hurts her character more than it helps: she makes no effort to learn who Alice is and why she’s so keen on helping her. There’s no real reason for this other than plot convenience (they have to save this reveal for when it’s more tragic), but it just serves to reinforce Snow White’s tedious passivity. We’ve now had two episodes where the main character was a total non-presence.
But hey, episode 9 is here, and it’s a big fight! Almost everyone is there, including Snow White! Surely things will start to develop now. Well, not exactly. Snow White’s role is mostly to help bystanders caught in the crossfire, and commendable as that might be, it’s about the bare minimum you would expect from any of the non-crazy characters (and indeed, both Alice and Top Speed are shown doing the same thing). It lets her do the ‘right’ thing without actively involving her in anything that’s going on. Then she gets attacked again, and Alice saves her again. Nothing different here. It’s worth noting that she still shows the same naivety that she had from the beginning that leads her to let her guard down and almost get killed, showing that she’s still made no progress as a character. She hasn’t toughened up, but at the same time she also hasn’t made any effort to stop the fighting. Apparently it’s good enough to pat yourself on the back for being such a good magical girl and let everyone else die. But more about that later.
Episode 10 is a melodramatic train wreck, and also the first time in ages there’s any real focus on Snow White. This is where she reaches her lowest point. Everyone she cared about is dead, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. It’s the classic “running away from your responsibilities” moment, which usually leads to the character coming to terms with the situation and confronting their problems. But not only does it come way too late to be meaningful, Snow White’s running away has no real consequences. Alice is killed, but it’s not a direct result of Snow White pushing her away because she’s ambushed when she’s not transformed and would already have been alone regardless. So again, Snow White doesn’t have anything to feel guilty about. She’s really racking up these karma points through no effort of her own.
But finally, in the episode 11, Snow White finally gets active in some sense and tries to accomplish something. Except it’s the wrong fucking thing. Ripple approaches her to try to get information on Swim Swim, because Ripple’s looking to kill her. Snow White is not just aghast and desperate to stop her, but even says that doing so would make her a murderer. Let’s remind ourselves that Swim Swim is responsible for the deaths of about half the cast, and there’s no reason to believe she would stop there. What are they going to do instead, call the police? But no, having reached the conclusion that murder is bad, Snow White is content to just continue to choose the easiest road and do nothing. What should they do instead of fight? She doesn’t say.
But Ripple is not convinced, and runs off. “I’ve always admired you, Snow White,” she says as she leaves. Seriously? Why? The only reason she says that is because the story itself wants you to admire her. Ripple never had much contact with Snow White in the first place. Even if you want to go into the whole “but she embodies what magical girls are supposed to be like!”, that’s plain bullshit. Top Speed, who was Ripple’s close friend, acted just as much like a real magical girl. Just like Snow White, she was one of the few characters actively shown to be regularly doing good deeds. She’s also the one who taught Ripple all her Important Life Lessons. She died fighting a character who was putting innocent people in danger. She’s the one Ripple actually looked up to. Who is Snow White in comparison? Just some kid who only survived because she got lucky, and thinks that gives her the moral high ground.
And this really cuts to the core of why Snow White is such a shitty character. She never had to do anything. As mentioned, the amount of candies collected was going to determine who would die. Even if the others hadn’t immediately started killing each other at an alarming rate, Snow White’s position was never in danger. She always topped the charts, thanks in part to her special power that gave her an edge over everyone else. At the same time, even after the violence started, she was never the target of anyone else, because she was not a threat. The few times she was in danger (usually due to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time), she was fortunate enough to have someone else there to protect her. She could’ve just sat out the whole contest and just focused on her regular magical girl job, and she would’ve still survived until the end.
She also isn’t very unique. As I mentioned, Snow White is presented as the ideal, but there are several other characters who are also nice, helpful and not crazy murderers. Many of them even tried more actively to save lives than Snow White ever did. They just happen to be dead now, so Snow White gets all the praise.
So does the final episode offer a satisfactory conclusion? Far from it. Snow White is certainly in it a lot more, but for most of it she’s just there as a target for Fav’s exposition about the whole plot. After this long, tedious explanation, Snow White finally decides that she doesn’t want to play along anymore. I mean, not that she really was playing along in the first place, but at least she’s doing something. Great. Only about 10 episodes late. So what is it she does? Well, uhm… nothing actually. She tries to break her magic gizmo, but it doesn’t work. I guess violence is not the answer, after all.
And then we get the exciting ending. Swim Swim and Ripple basically took each other out, leaving Snow White as the last girl standing. Snow’s lucky rabbit’s foot item (which Alice gave to her) activates and revives Ripple, and Ripple then uses Swim’s magic halberd to break aforementioned magic gizmo and thus end the whole thing. Snow’s only real contribution is her special power allowing her to hear Fav’s thoughts which is how she knows that the magic weapon would do the job. That’s right, the only thing she did was something that just came naturally to her and required no thought of effort. Even at the very end, Snow White was essentially irrelevant. Ripple could’ve done everything herself by just surviving the fight (which she might have anyway, it’s not explicitly confirmed that she died). Are we supposed to applaud Snow White’s bravery in trying to end things as soon as they were basically already over, at a point where doing so put her in no danger whatsoever?
It really is a fitting ending. Snow White only comes in at the end, uses the item someone else sacrificed her life for, to get another character to finish things. All the killing was done by other characters, so the bad guys are dead and Snow White didn’t have to dirty her pure little hands herself. Congratulations. You are truly an exemplary magical girl.
And yeah, there’s an epilogue where Snow White scales up her operation, plans to fight greater injustices and asks Ripple to train her. But something’s not quite right when more character development happens after the story has ended than at any point during it.
At this point, I think I’ve said enough about the characters and how little she does in the show. But just to wrap everything up, let’s go over all the things she didn’t do:
She never tried to stop the fighting/killing. There was plenty of whining about how magical girls should act, but she never seriously tried to stop anyone from dying. She never tried to convince anyone not to kill. The only time she did anything of the sort was when she tried to get Ripple not to fight Swim Swim. And even then, it was too late and for all the wrong reasons.
She never fought anyone. Surely fighting to protect the innocent doesn’t go against what it means to be a magical girl? She certainly never minded La Pucelle or Alice using violence to save her life. The odd thing is that it didn’t even come up. Until the epilogue, it wasn’t clear if she even could fight. Either way, when your fellow magical girls are getting killed by the truckload, that’s as good a time as any to get off your ass and help out.
She never tried to rebel against the system until the very end, after everything was explained to her and there was nothing else left to do. Instead, everyone (not just Snow White) just went along with it. No one tried looking for a way to stop the death contest. No one so much as called the Mahoiku.com helpdesk to raise a support ticket.
Any of these could’ve given her character some involvement, some real stakes in the situation, something to fight for and hopefully accomplish. But instead, we got nothing. Just passively going with the flow until victory is thrown into her lap.
So what happened? It’s easy to just say that the story is very poorly written and leave it at that. But more specifically, the author came up with Snow White as the ideal magical girl to contrast with everyone else who immediately got stabby as soon as the situation presented itself. The fact that she had nothing to do was not a problem. She just had to be there, so that others could look at her and think, “Wow. Now there’s a real magical girl.” The author was never interested in giving her any agency or putting her at the center of the story. In fact, it’s better to have her sit on the sidelines, so that she’d never be tempted to compromise on her ideals. It’s cheap, and it’s unfair. It’s like having a middle class American kid tell an African child soldier that war is bad. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you deserve credit for stating the obvious. And just because the situation is fucked up doesn’t mean you’re a saint for staying out of it.
Congratulations to Ripple. You did what you had to do, and saved that useless piece of shit. You might’ve starred in a bad show, but at least you were the only one who got something out of it.