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NOTE: This article contains spoilers for the first episode and beyond of Magical Girl Raising Project.

In the first episode of Magical Girl Raising Project, you learn a very surprising truth about the gorgeous and powerful knight-like character La Pucelle. She’s the first girl to offer a hand and assist Snow White (i.e., school girl Koyuki Himekawa) in learning the ropes as a newly-minted magical girl. La Pucelle is also actually a boy.

Well, a boy in the real world, that is. Her name is Souta Kishibe before she undergoes the magical transformation required to start working with the other magical girls in the district. She’s paired up with Snow White, so the two are often working in tandem–which works well as Souta and Koyuki are childhood friends who both share a love for magical girls and all the media inspired by them.

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Koyuki, as Snow White, is a magical girl too, of course. After being selected by the smartphone game “Magical Girl Raising Project” to become one of the hallowed heroines in real life, she finds herself lost in a strange new world where magical girls must earn special “candies” by doing good deeds for regular humans.

Unlike Souta, who keeps his magical girl fandom hidden, Koyuki is actually a young student who finds herself chastised by the other girls her age for being into such frivolities. This leaves her unable to share what she loves with others besides Souta. 

It’s strange that a young girl should have to be embarrassed of enjoying magical girl games or media, but it’s stranger to some that a boy might transform into one.

However you feel about either situation, Magical Girl Raising Project innovates by flipping the script on what’s expected when it comes to magical girls. Just because you see a youthful female-presenting heroine, it doesn’t mean she’s actually a magical girl.

For instance, the character Nemurin, or Nemu Sanjou in the real world, is the first magical girl to be removed from the “game.” She is indeed female, but a 24-year-old woman living at home and spending much of her time on the internet–occasionally doing jobs online. She’s not exactly the type you’d assume would be striking out on her own in the neighborhood to fight injustice.

What’s more, Sanae Mokuou, or the selfish, queen-like Ruler, is revealed to be an older woman who works in an office in one of the latest episodes.

It has yet to be seen what other secrets the rest of the girls are hiding, but going by the other reveals thus far their real-life counterparts will have some very interesting and possibly bizarre twists coming up in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two more of the girls were also male or even older women–maybe even older than the salarywoman age we’ve seen thus far.

The rules will be broken somehow and I’m giddy to see in what manner. The whole young, innocent girl phenomenon, when it comes to this trope, has been subverted before, of course. But I’m happy to see it becoming the norm where all types of different people, male or female, are able to live out their dreams and are chosen to fit the roles assigned to them by Magical Girl Raising Project’s mascot character Fav.

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These are the surprises that have kept me glued to my seat week after week, not the realizations that the girls will be locked in combat with each other to remain alive or that they’re being picked off one by one. It’s learning the identities of the individuals behind the magical girl costumes. That’s what will make Magical Girl Raising Project unique in the end–despite all of the constant comparisons to Puella Magi Madoka Magica–and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Magical Girl Raising Project can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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