Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku v3: The Deathgame of the Century

Pufure by btrn

Finally. Today I finished reading the second half of Mahoiku: Restart. If you’ve read my bit on the first volume, you should know how much I anticipated this book – Mahoiku v2 was definitely the best thing I’ve read in 2017, and that was a year wealthy in masterpieces. Did it live up to the hype? Before I get to that: first, a little refreshment of memory is in order. I did a re-read of Mahoiku v2 a few days ago (less than half a year after the first reading), and I do not regret the decision to do it – it elliminated the possibility of me forgetting something important.

The death game with magical girls continues. Pfle presents a hypothesis that the villain has unlimited power over the game world. Detec Bell suspects Lapis Lazuline and sets off to investigate her in real life. Snow White visits the Master – the mysterious girl overlooking this Battle Royale. As for beating the game itself, the girls reach the first enemy which could be called a boss – the Great Dragon. Just as they’re about to launch a meticulously planned operation to beat the monster, Genopsyko Yumenoshima, who was supposed to be dead, appears out of nowhere and starts the battle, before anyone’s ready. At this cliff-hanging point, the first volume ends…

Mahoiku v3 starts its shock-and-awe shenanigans even before the actual story starts – the character roster includes a person who wasn’t there in the first volume… And then, the introductory page titled “What is Magical Girl Raising Project?” serves you a sucker punch out of nowhere. A similar page could be found in the first half of the story. However, if you thought it’s just a formality to place a little explanation at the front of the book, it turns out to be much more. Halfway down the bit of text, it turns out to be addressed to the only one of the 16 mahou shoujo who was assigned the role of the villain, the Evil King. Not only is this the ultimate proof of the Big Bad being not an external force, but a participant in the game; it also shows that the villain isn’t an omnipotent executor – the Evil King has to work within the rules of the game, just like all the other participants. In a way, the two sides in the conflict are equal. The bit at the beginning serves one more easily missed purpose: it completely excludes the possibility that the Evil King is unaware of what she is. Hint hint…

As you can figure out from the way Mahoiku v2 ended, the follow-up volume starts with a bang. The battle with the boss, which was supposed to be a coordinated, orderly effort turns into a chaotic mess. At least reading about a dozen superpowered players managing to win the battle and limit their losses in ingenious ways is madly entertaining. Although I started reading for the murder mystery, the SAO angle is well done as well. What follows the boss battle, however, is several tens of pages of character backstories without much relevance to the mystery and descriptions of the girls progressing through the game world – for a while I thought that maybe I’d have to suffer through filler until the resolution of the plot the at very end. I turned out to be man of little faith, however – that was not the case at all.

All the mahou shoujo, now that forming parties has lost its point, reach the very last room in the game, the throne room, where the Evil King was supposed to reside. After a battle with two bosses, the Big Bad’s henchmen, they find a message saying that… the Evil King is absent. Fal tells them the Evil King definitely is in the game and all they need to do is find her. Enraged and exhausted, the game’s participants have no choice but to look for her… Since the girls are dying one after another, the pressure is on. Eventually, Detec Bell discovers a hidden item which unlocks the girls’ sealed memories: all of them are victors from previous magical girl Battle Royales. Now that her memory is back, on page 112 out of 193, Pfle declares that it’s now obvious who the Evil King is…

So, who were you betting on? Out of the entire cast, who’d been the Big Bad, in your opinion? Halfway into Mahoiku v2, I’d decided that the time is ripe to choose one. I was not 100% sure of my pick, but I was of the opinion that even after looking at the character roster and considering the girls’ powers, there was one particularly strong candidate. And I was *kind of* right. I picked the exact same mahou shoujo who Pfle singled out halfway through this book. So, now that the identity of the villain is clear, all that remains is killing her off, right? No. It takes a while to kill the villain – Pechka in particular had an incredibly impressive moment in battle. Remember Tama from Mahoiku v1 and how her seemingly useless ability proved to actually be jawdroppingly overpowered? That’s the trick Pechka pulls off… sort of. She dies anyway. Isn’t it sad how the cover girl doesn’t survive until the end this time? The mystery is explained and the villain’s actions are considered in detail. And yet, after the supposed Big Bad is offed, the game doesn’t end. Three participants remain alive. Have you considered the possibility of Mahoiku: Restart turning out to be one of those classic murder mystery with multiple villains? The Master, who’s been appearing in the novel from time to time, didn’t necessarily have to have any connection to the Evil King, either.

The remaining three players – Pfle, Shadow Gale and Clantail – deduce that the true Evil King must still be among them. Which obviously leads to a three-way death match, with every side fighting reluctantly, since something doesn’t seem right – is it the Master trying to force them into killing each other and leading the deathgame into ending with zero survivors? Or is Pfle the Evil King, even though she had not been aware of being her for the entire duration of the game? On page 181, Pfle has an epiphany – she figures out the truth, in the novel’s most impressive moment. My jaw was on the floor: it was completely possible to deduce and yet I never saw it coming. Neither of the three was the Evil King. The game ends. Three mahou shoujo are left alive. There had been three culprits working independently of each other. Meanwhile, I’m cursing out loud while reading a fucking light novel about silly magical girls. I salute you, Endou Asari.

Although it doesn’t change my opinion of the novel, I need to admit there has been plenty of bullshit in the story, storytelling-wise. Like superpowers suddenly changing the way the work without any way to foresee it: Melville’s power is the biggest offender here. It completely destroys the illusion that the reader could figure out the culprit early on. Also, the story pretends that Keek’s motivation for starting this Battle Royale has ever made sense. And the “mind crush” moment at the end was eyeroll-inducing. Snow White pretty much mentally destroyed her by saying “What you’ve been doing is no different from the behavior you’ve been criticising the entire time”. And she’s right. Keek started a deathgame and trapped a bunch of girls inside of it because deathgames are bad and shouldn’t exist. Good job making sense. Ugh. Her making excuses about being obviously evil doesn’t help her case either. Hurr it’s not me who killed them. Villains should be worthy of hatred, but not like this. One more thing: the number of survivors could easily have been higher, but Endou Asari killed off some girls needlessly. Pechka could have survived. Nonako, too. Nokko couldn’t, but at least the other girls could spare the reader their “it can’t be helped, let her kill herself” lines. In a story about a powergamer trying to prevent as many deaths as possible, going for shock value with silly Battle Royale-style death scenes seems contradictory. In the afterword, Endou mentions that the list of casualties wasn’t originally supposed to look like this. I can only speculate what happened. Also, the reason Shadow Gale is on the cover is: Maruino likes her. That’s all.

Mahoiku: Restart is about mahou shoujo. There’s a deathgame going on. They’re trapped in a virtual world where if you die in the game, you die for real. And before anything else, it’s a “wolf among us” murder mystery – a meticulously constructed, intricate puzzle. If you took a brief look at this clusterfuck of hip LN storytelling gimmicks, you might think this novel couldn’t possibly be any good. And yet it is. As I’ve said before, I have tremendous respect for proper oldschool murder mysteries and their authors. The intellectual effort put into making those leaves me with no other choice but to praise them, especially if you compare them to all those shitty pieces of pop-lit that don’t even know why they exist. It’s so impressive that in the future I’ll probably associate it with the late 2010s in my life and in Japanese nerdy culture. I won’t be surprised if I reread those two books within a year from now. Damn, Mahoiku. Anime when?!

Well then. Read Mahoiku: Restart. And look forward to me writing about the fourth book of the series…

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1 Response to Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku v3: The Deathgame of the Century

  1. ZakuAbumi says:

    >Like superpowers suddenly changing the way the work without any way to foresee it: Melville’s power is the biggest offender here. It completely destroys the illusion that the reader could figure out the culprit early on.
    Pfle mentions in volume 01 that the powers as they were explained by the other characters might not be their actual powers. As soon as she did that, I went back to the character sheet and figured that the scope of powers might be greater than what had been presented so far, suspecting Melville after, for some reason, Genopsyko’s corpse had disappeared without anyone noticing (as she is the specialist at blending in) as well as Rionetta and Nonako for their control abilities and that they might not have been as limited as stated as I immediately suspected Genopsyko to be already dead at the time of her reappearance and for someone to control her corpse. So yeah, it was already possible from volume 01 to guess as much.

    >In a story about a powergamer trying to prevent as many deaths as possible
    Pfle doesn’t care about other people’s deaths and this has been brought up by Shadow Gale ever since volume 01 when she keeps thinking to herself that Pfle could have prevented deaths but didn’t – all to find the culprit. Pfle is not a saint but a schemer. Pfle also isn’t a powergamer trying to minimize losses but an intellectual rapist prioritizing herself and Shadow Gale to insane lengths. Solving the mystery is more important to her than saving as many lives as possible. Heck, we still don’t know about the deal between Pfle and Cranberry, so there’s still a lot of characterization still left in the open. For what it’s worth, I’d say Pfle is a lot closer to being evil than most other characters.

    >And the “mind crush” moment at the end was eyeroll-inducing.
    Your reasoning here is wrong actually. Snow White offs Keek primarily through the relevation that Keek had been one of Cranberry’s children as well. To Keek, this was the ultimate sin. The one who addressed the flaws in Keek’s logic was Pfle when talking about how Lapis should not have been part of the game – and Keek didn’t mind. Keek has been characterized as a character with a warped and inconsistent world view throughout the entire novel actually, like when she was toying with the thought of intervening with Pfle abusing the game mechanics – even though, really, Keek should have accepted that as her loss for fucking up the game design. She had also created this faux personality of Daisy inside her head as being arrogant or something. Keek was delusional and had holes in her tunnel vision-esque reasoning right from the beginning so that’s not really inconsistent character writing.

    >the number of survivors could easily have been higher, but Endou Asari killed off some girls needlessly.
    That’s a weird comment to make for a death game story. One thing you need to consider is that it’s not just a battle royale but also a trapped inside an MMO story. Players aren’t just up against each other but also against Keek’s world deliberately created to fuck them over whenever they’d fail to notice something crucial – from not buying the monster encyclopedia to assuming that the dragon couldn’t understand their language to failing to consider the level raising. If you say that Nonako’s death is pointless then you might as well render Daisy’s death pointless. I had always considered the game itself as much of a foe as the true culprit, making for a very paranoid reading experience. Also, Pechka’s death is the single greatest moment of character development in the entire novel. The bigger issue here is what would have happened had the Evil King died to one of the game’s traps, that seems rather counterintuitative. I suppose Keek would have revived Nokko then and rewritten the players’ memories so the game would continue on smoothly.


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