A number of things come to mind when thinking of the mahou shoujo genre. Friendship, frilly dresses, cute young girls, and equally cute mascots ... what more could a young female audience ask for?
All of these of these things are prevalent within Madoka★Magica. And yet there's no anime quite like it.
Back in 2011, Madoka★Magica took the anime industry by surprise with a decidedly mature take on an otherwise lighthearted genre. Important characters die in brutal fashion. They struggle with the concept of right-and-wrong, that 'justice' is arbitrary and often fanciful. The villain is driven not by greed or vengeance, but by rational motives, occasionally making you wonder if the girls are the ones you should really be rooting for. It was dark and twisted - it took the tropes of the genre and fed them to the ghouls.
And it was a massive financial success. Enough to spawn a movie adaptation only two years later.
Now, let's be honest - the first thought that came to mind when hearing about these movies was that SHAFT was milking the money cow. TV to movie adaptations don't have the greatest reputation, and really, it's hard to be too surprised by that when comparing the bulk of them to the quality of their source material. So where does that leave Madoka★Magica? Somewhere else entirely. A place where a movie adaptation can not only equal the source material, but surpass it, too.
A glimpse at the art is enough to tell the quality of the movies. It is a beautiful anime to look at, befitting of a full-feature movie and far more than just a copypaste of the TV series. A TV series which, mind you, was marred by subpar animation and technical mistakes in its original broadcast (which have sorta-kinda been fixed in the BluRay release). There are next to no technical mistakes in the movie adaptation, and while the characters' faces could use some more work, SHAFT has put the effort into making the animation flow as well as possible. And that's to speak nothing of the art direction and scenery. Even simple locations like a secondary school are given unique designs (in this case, something resembling a cathedral), while the worlds of the witches are illustrated in some weird clay-like design which mixes in several widely different animation styles. Your eyeballs will be treated to one of the best-looking anime out there.
The pacing also sees a significant amount of improvement. A few lighthearted scenes involving the school teacher (rambling on about not being married-- poor lady) are added in to set a more appropriate atmosphere at the beginning of the story. The dream sequence from the beginning of the TV series has also been removed, which tones the foreshadowing down a notch and makes the big 'shock' scene seem all the more crazy.
It's a little bit odd, though, that SHAFT would make all these improvements and yet not keep in a vital scene for one of the characters. Mami receives no character development, no depth. The scene where she explains her past to Madoka is gone. Erased. And why? It was the only thing that made her seem like a human being and not just a mentor for Madoka and Sayaka. In the movies, she's just that - an archetype and a plot device. For a series which stands out for having well-written and developed characters, I can't for the life of me understand why they would remove such an important scene. It's an unnecessary blemish on an otherwise brilliant story.
The music, much like the art, is exceptional. Rather than simply accompany each scene, the music enhances them. Fights feel tense. Emotional scenes make you want to go and grab a blanket. It's a powerful soundtrack, and even listening to the music weeks or months after will be enough to get those same feelings back. The voice acting is stellar as well, with Kitamura Eri providing an especially commendable role for Sayaka's character.
For those looking to get into the series for the first time, both the TV series and the movies serve as equally valid entry points. I would argue that the movie duology is the better of the two, though, as the cinematic experience makes the climax so much more satisfying. Having only one break in the story does wonders for pacing.
Madoka★Magica is just as great as it's always been. There's no need to make significant changes when the existing formula is already so sound. All the little changes (with one notable exception) are enough to improve the story and make it even better than before. Has all the praise the series received over the past few years been exaggerated? I never thought so.
As much as SHAFT is reaching for our wallets, it doesn't change the fact that the Madoka duology is a solid adaptation of an excellent series. More of the same isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it's more than enough. read more
The Puella Magi Madoka Magica franchise is a juggernaut. When it first aired in 2011, the series quickly became popular, appealing to fans around the world with its amazing visuals and suspenseful story. Riding on the success of the original series, Shaft decides to expand on the franchise with a movie trilogy.
Yet, was it needed?
Let's set the record straight: the first two movies cover the same story of the original series. However this is not a simple rehash of the original. It's a bit unfair to use the term "recap" simply because most fans know the story; the movie contains the same events, but everything in the film has been revamped. Newcomers will be treated with an amazing experience, and fans will be delighted by the subtle changes. Mostly.
After the first few seconds, it becomes quite clear that Shaft had no intention on simply recycling Blu-ray footage: it's even better. The visuals are absolutely stunning -- these changes extend beyond fixing the infamous "meduka meguca" quality drops; the art is much more polished, the animation is more fluid, and backgrounds are incredibly elaborate. The use of the paper-cut-out style returns, bringing an dynamic contrast between the two worlds. Fortunately, these changes are more than simply cosmetic. I have always praised Shaft for having amazing cinematography and this movie is no exception. Familiar scenes have subtle changes: pans, close ups, dynamic angles, head-tilts. When combined with the directing of Shinbo Akiyuki, all these tweaks enhance the tension and suspense.
Shaft also spent much time reworking the sound design. Compared to the original series, audio plays a more prominent role is establishing the atmosphere. Whispers and footsteps add to the eerie nature of the witch-hunts, while the crashes and explosions add power to the action. Of course, the biggest highlight would have to be the amazing soundtrack. Kajiura Yuki created an amazing score that reflects the magical yet horrific world. And just like the visuals, the movie boasts a few new tracks to please the returning fans.
The most controversial change is the pacing. By switching from a television format (12-episodes, 25 minutes each) to a movie format (120 minutes), the story is definitely accelerated giving a great sense of development and plot progression. The movie covers the first eight episodes of the original. The faster pace works to improve the drama (especially with Sayaka's arc later on) and help give more personality to the characters. However, this change is the Achilles' heel of the movie.
The original series excelled in "shock and awe" tactics. Before airing, there was mysterious nature to the show. The eerie aesthetics and haunting foreshadowing toyed with the audience's expectations in the early episodes, only to dramatically reveal its true nature in a stunning plot twist. By deconstructing the genre and using parallels to Goethe's Faust, it was a roller coaster of madness as the world witnessed the tragedy and downfall of our protagonists. Every week, we were treated with stunning revelations and jaw-dropping cliff-hangers. The pacing was slow yet methodical, only to enhance the suspense and drama. The movie does not have this. The story continuously progresses from scene to scene, granting no time to let it all settle. The audience has no chance to reflect. This isn't to say the movie is incompetent. The experience is all in the story and the directing, but it's clear sacrifices were made. This ultimately boils down to one question: What is the purpose of these movies?
Essentially, these movies are a love-letter to the fans. The enhanced audio and visuals definitely deliver a new experience, though the added benefit is quite minimal. Shaft could have simply reused old footage, but it's clear they chose to make something more. The movie is fantastic as a stand-alone product, but it's hard to critique it without comparing it to the original. Fundamentally, the story is faithful, yet it lacks the same emotional impact of the original. I'm confident that both die-hard fans and newcomers will enjoy this movie. However, for new fans I recommend the anime original instead.read more
Well, by this time, most avid anime fans probably heard about a series that debuted in 2011 known as Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica). It features the traditional theme of magical girls which is nothing new to the anime industry. However, what it presents is something far beyond that after a second look for its presentation of the magical girl theme like never before. It's dark. It's twisted. It's Madoka.
For a movie to be adapted for another run (especially in terms of story retelling), popularity and revenue often comes as one of the reasons. In fact, anime that have been revived in recent years for a remake or rerun are not new such as Hunter x Hunter, Gurren Lagann, Berserk, Evangelion, and so on. When that comes to the equation, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica also becomes part of that formula. Despite being only 12 episodes with the original TV series that ran in 2011, it has achieved tremendous success that resulted in the record breaking sales of its BDs, numerous anime awards being won, and achieved universal praise for its presentation. So obviously, when a TV series of this caliber gets a movie adaptation, I was excited. No, I was more like ecstatic.
The movie covers the first 8 episodes from the original series in recap form. Therefore, don't expect any new plot twists or storytelling alternation in this film. In other words, this isn't a prequel, sequel or side story but rather a recap. This doesn't mean you should skip anything though especially if you want a refreshment of PMMM entertainment. For new viewers, this should be a delightful experience. As for those who have seen the original TV series, the movie should be a reminder of what Madoka really was.
As far as experience goes, the movie itself touches upon what modern technology can do – recreating the style of PMMM to its finest form. In fact, animation itself isn't a term to be used here but rather as a vivid expression of what the movie presents. As for starters, the tone of the movie is lighthearted. There's no change to Madoka's character from the original series as she remains her usual self. Easily recognizable by her round face and pigtail-like ribbons, she is obviously still the star of the movie. Then, there's of course the mysterious Homura who transfers to Madoka's school. As a new student, she's obviously the talk of the class. Her character remains generally the same and fills the void of the show with its mysterious tones such as the question:
“Do you treasure the life you currently live?”
From a magical girl theme stance, the question spells out a darker mood of the realm. It explores aspects of the magical girl genre like never before. Chiwa Saito (Bakemonogatari, Last Exile, Strawberry Panic) plays her role brilliantly as Hormura as she draws not only Madoka towards her character but the viewers as well. Coming from the TV series, the infamous Kyuubeymakes his return. As the familiar of the magical world, he can grant any wish to a certain girl, on the condition that she becomes a Puella Magi and fights against witches. For fans who are already familiar with him, it's nostalgic. But for new viewers, this is an experience to see just how dark his character can be. Other characters makes their reappearances too of course like Mami and Sayaka.
The story pacing itself is designed to fit within this movie in a span of more than 2 hours. (2 hours and 10 minutes to be exact) In other words, 8 episodes from the original TV series had to be fit into this presentation. It's no easy task especially that means some parts would have to be cut out. Perhaps most imperative of these parts involves Mami and her character. Otherwise, one other particular with a big appetite gets more screen time than I had thought which bought a big smile to my face.
Then, there's the magical transformation from a normal girl into a Puella Magi to fight the witches. The transformation itself is fluid with a strong OST to back it up. Yuki Kajiura's work is recognizable here with her style. The action itself is also colored with fantasy like atmosphere enhanced by the visual direction of this film. Indeed, it looks sharp. Shaft also adapts its style of presentation through its easily recognizable work. With a magical staff, gun, and determination, these girls can do just about anything.
The themes of solitude and despair also remains intact in the film. As mentioned by Kyuubey, the magical girls represents the spread of hope while the witches are the symbols of despair. That part comes with the tears running down on the face of Madoka after a startling revelation. It's amazing how almost every little detail gets captured though in this film. Shaft wastes no time with this adaptation to visually present this at its finest imagery. The voices of the characters captures the mood as well. In the beginning, Madoka has that cheery atmosphere surrounding her. On the other hand, Homura shows more of the darkness of the magical world. Then, there's of course Mami that represents a balance of both in a way. I give praise to the voice actors and actresses in their roles for an outstanding performance.
For character designs, there's that sense of magical girl feeling. The way they are dressed shows they are serious in fighting the witches just like from the original TV series. For new viewers, Kyuubey will be the surprising twist behind that emotionless smile. The city and its magical realm contrasts greatly in designs that shifts between the world of the real and the surreal. In fact, that fantasy world represents a surrealist sense of despair that also conjures emotions. Of course, there's emotions here and there especially since the responsibility of being a Mahou Shoujo is never easy, not once in this film. As for the witches, they are designed to be evil without remorse. Their visual representation seems to be sarcastic with their simple designs. However, make no mistake as they are the harbingers of despair.
Ultimately, this film may have a different impression depending on how you watch it. Obviously, not every single second from the original series will be presented in this work. However, what it has brings refreshment to fans of the PMMM franchise. It takes that magical girl theme and gives it to viewers once again with style. What it might lack though is new additions (such as new material inserted in) since this is a recap..but clearly, this can be supported by the OST, atmosphere, and mood of the movie. The original series had that as well so this is a pleasant refreshment. The production values are probably the strengths along with the powerful soundtrack. (make sure to turn the volume all the way up with headphones!) No random fan service, no forced humor, no stupidity, no still animations, no regrets. It's more than just a recap. It's a magical experience. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼ read more
I highly recommend newcomers to Madoka Magica to watch the regular anime series first before watching the movies. (Spoiler-free review)
Okay, now that I've said that let me explain. If you haven't already heard, the first two Madoka Magica movies are mostly recaps of the regular t.v. series with some added/modified scenes. I recently finished the series subbed and re-watched it dubbed. Before watching the 3rd Madoka movie which continues the story, I decided to watch the first 2 movies to avoid missing anything (I know, I'm crazy). The recap movies are great in their own right, but I would argue that it is mainly because it adapts an already great series. Other than the upgraded art and animation, I would argue that the t.v. series is superior in every way. The first two movies are great, but the series is just better.
Actually, not that bad. However, some of the changes in the movie make the series a better way to experience Madoka. One unavoidable change is the various cuts that the movie had to make in order to adapt the 12 episode series into 2 movies. A newcomer would be none the wiser, but to me the movie felt a bit rushed. There wasn't enough time for the viewer to soak in the plot twists or emotional moments. The anime series is fairly devoid of anything unnecessary to begin with so some movie cuts actually get rid of good character development and back story. Even when the essence of a scene remain in the movie, cuts make some scenes slightly rushed and lessen its impact.
This brings me to my other main complaint which is the decision to change the soundtrack for parts of the movie. This ruined what I consider one of the most beautiful scenes in the show (a little over half way through episode 7). The perfect syncing of the music to the visuals in the series version can be called nothing less than art. The movie fails considerably in comparison. Such a change was a clear mistake in my opinion.
Luckily, the bad is overall not that bad but merely bad in comparison to the series. One thing that the recap movies did better was adding detail to the animation. On more than one occasion I consciously noted how pretty the animation was. There was one scene where I felt like the more detailed art actually detracted from the focus of the scene, but overall the movie excelled in the animation. The series isn't bad, but the movies overall did better in this department.
I enjoyed watching the recap movies and even preferred one scene from the 2nd movie to the original equivalent. However, due to the pacing and music choices, I highly recommend watching the series first and then watching the recaps as either a refresher or if you're a hardcore fan. It's enjoyable enough seeing the better art and other slight changes. However, I didn't notice anything essential that is unique to the recap movies and thus one could very easily go straight from the series to the 3rd movie.read more
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