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English: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Synonyms: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika, Magical Girl Madoka Magica
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jan 7, 2011 to Apr 22, 2011
Producers: Aniplex, Shaft, Mainichi Broadcasting, Movic, Nitroplus, Aniplex of AmericaL, Madoka Partners, Hobunsha
Duration: 24 min. per episode
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)L represents licensing company
Score: 8.671 (scored by 126863 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top anime page.
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Jul 23, 2013
I'll start this review by pointing out that I was not expecting much from this show. I didn't really want to watch it, either. The Mahou Shoujo genre has never interested me, so when a friend of mine, who in the past suggested things like Mirai Nikki, Deadman Wonderland, Death Note and Psycho-Pass to me, told me to watch Madoka Magica, I thought he was kidding and I ignored the series for a while. Once a month had passed, my friend insisted, and I ended up watching the first episode with my sister.
Throwing all my prejucide aside, I sat quietly and watched the first episode. I found it oddly entertaining, so I proceeded to watch the 2nd episode, and then the 3rd. After the 3rd episode ended, I was completely hooked. And by the end of the 12th episode (or the last episode, if you prefer), I was blown away. Gen Urobuchi had done it again.
– “Make a contract with me, and become a magical girl!”
The main character, Kaname Madoka, is a normal 8th grader. Albeit very shy, she is happy, and her family and friends love her exactly the way she is. However, her life takes a dramatic turn when, on a trip to the mall, she rescues Kyuubei, a cat-like being that was being chased by a mysterious black-haired girl. Kyuubei, as a reward, offers Madoka and Sayaka (one of Madoka's friends) a unique deal: he'd make any of their wishes come true, and in exchange, they would become Magical Girls. And that is how Madoka, and the viewers, are introduced to a world of magic and witches.
Not much else can be said about the story without spoiling anything. However, I have to point that this is NOT your typical Mahou Shoujo, and it's target audience is NOT little girls. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is a very dark anime, please keep that in mind.
The way the plot begins to unveil is simply magnificent. The build-up of tension, the plot twists, the drama, the (really heavy) psychological atmosphere-- all contribute to create a story that will keep you on your toes at all times.
– “If someone says it’s wrong to hope, I will tell them that they’re wrong every time. I could tell them that countless times!”
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica has a pretty small cast of characters. Because of this, each relevant character grows and changes throughout the series in ways you wouldn't expect. We get to know a lot about the past of some characters, the reasons behind their actions, their feelings, amongst other things, and that makes each character feel unique-- they don't follow any usual patterns.
[Art & Sound]
– "Is she some kind of anime character or something?"
As usual with Shaft (Bakemonogatari, Maria Holic, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei), Madoka Magica has a very original/weird style of animation. The design of the characters is rather simple and features very light colors. However, the animations are good and fluid, specially during action scenes (more on that in a bit). Buildings, on the other hand, are very futuristic and look pretty cool. The use of glass and fluid decorations makes me think of a very peaceful futuristic world. Nature, on the other hand, doesn't stick out of the norm, but the mixture of green + the futuristic monochromatic buildings is a very neat contrast.
However, this wouldn't be one of Shaft's best works if they didn't add their “touch”. When Kaname Madoka and her friends enter the realm of the witches, one of the coolest styles of animation I have seen in anime to this day steals the spotlight. It's very hard to explain, since it varies from witch to witch, but it's definitly intriguing. And of course, Shaft's signature: weird cam angles during dramatic scenes. Both of these add to the overall chaotic feel of the series, so I have to applaud their use.
Madoka Magica's opening is “Connect”, by ClariS. Although it's nothing out of this world, I feel that it fits the “Mahou Shoujo” theme perfectly. The show has 4 different ending songs, but “Magia”, by Kalafina, is regarded as the “real” ending, since it plays in the most episodes, and denotes the dark nature of the anime. As for the background music, everything fits right into the scenes; whether it's to add intensity to fights or dramatic moments, the music helps and doesn't feel out of place.
– “With kindness comes naïveté. Courage becomes foolhardiness. And dedication has no reward. If you can't accept any of that, you are not fit to be a magical girl.”
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica has got to be the best anime I have ever watched. The way the producers trick the viewers into thinking that this anime is just another Mahou Shoujo is simply brilliant. The characters are interesting, the art managed to catch my attention, and the music is good, but this series' biggest selling point is definitly the plot. Plot twists, drama, heartbreaking AND heartwarming moments... all of these converge into a brilliant plot with a really good ending.
PS: Do not judge a book by its cover!
[Final score: 10/10] read more
Jan 22, 2014
In a vague futuristic city in Japan, lives a girl named Madoka Kaname. She's entirely ordinary, and not very talented, but she treasures her life nonetheless and loves her family and friends entirely. But one day a mysterious transfer student named Homura Akemi gives her a warning, that if she truly loves her life and the people around her, that she shouldn't do anything that would change it. Her warning quickly becomes prevalent as she meets a mysterious being in the shape of a cute fuzzy entity named Kyubey that offers to turn her and her friends into magical girls. They will be granted one wish to gain these powers and in return they will be obligated to fight the witches that hide in the shadows of their city. Then..... well i can't really say. Basically everything that follows that basic description could be labeled as a spoiler, so if you want to know more, i suggest you watch the series for yourself. Hint though, if you're familiar with the works of Faust and Hans Christian Andersen, you might get some kind of clue as to what goes on. After 3 years since its premiere, it's common knowledge now that Madoka is not the moe fluff that it appears to be. There are many fans out there that will describe the show as a dark subversion that deconstructs the magical girl genre, and to this claim, i say that it's true. In the first two minutes of the anime, Madoka shows that it's not the happy-go-lucky magical girl anime from our childhoods, but a dark story that, along the way, points at some of the flaws and inconsistencies of the magical girl genre. But the thing is, Madoka is not good because it's a dark subversion. Madoka is good because it's terrifically written and has ended up being one of the few good modern tragedie. Nothing the show presents to us feels arbitrary or manipulative, but it feels inevitable, as though there was no way around it, even though our own ideals hoped that reality would stop crashing down on these girls. Of course this only works because the writing in the show is airtight, filled with foreshadowing, both subtle and obvious, and not wasting a single moment on scenes that could be considered meaningless filler, there is purpose to every interaction and every conversation. In fact there's so much detail in these short 12 episodes, that it doesn't just give it rewatch value, but it practically demands to be watched more than once, and from personal experience, it just gets better with each viewing.
The art and animation in Madoka was done by Studio Shaft, a studio known for it's high animation quality and obtuse visuals, and who i personally dislike for their vanity. Yet, i acknowledge good work when i see it, and to say their work on Madoka is just good is an understatement. Madoka's design has one thing that most moe shows lack, distinction. Their color palate, their ordinary pastels made extraordinary by crayon tones, and a certain flexibility that makes you really appreciate the work put into it. Not to say anything about the ever present city itself, large in scale, and containing areas both lavish and hollow. As the series progresses, the city continually gets more bleak and ill-boding to fit the tone, yet never losing the presence that it's had since the first episode. Still the highlight of the shows visuals is easily the witches labyrinths. Each of them is abnormal, outlandish, and unique with different themes and designs for each one, like one is designed after a hospital, another looks like a scrap book, and my personal favorite is where everyone in the labyrinth is depicted as a silhouette. It's unorthodox to it's core, and like the city, only gets more grim and uncomfortable as the series progresses. Not to say anything about the animation which meets the usual Shaft standards of high quality, with fluid and fast paced action scenes, and the notorious “sideways glance” that we see in every single Shaft anime. Madoka is art from anyway you look at it, and it's visuals to good to match it.
The score for the show was done by, Yuki Kajiura. Yuki Kajiura's soundtracks are well known for shedding a tear or two, and Madoka is no different. With a glorious blend of synths and electric orchestra's, weeping strings and piano, and, of course, a towering choir, the soundtrack to Madoka is attention getting to say the least. Haunting, mysterious, and at times sad, needless to say, the OST is good, almost too good in fact. It's actually kind of hard to talk about the soundtrack because it's, honestly, just something you have to listen to for yourself. As for voice acting, i'll have to go sub over dub. It's kind of hard for me to judge Japanese voice acting since, I myself, do not speak Japanese, but still, it's not hard to notice a great performance when you hear one. In Madoka, it just so happens, that all of the actors are equally great, both subtle and overwrought for whichever situation. As for the dub, well, it's listenable. To be fair, it's not a bad dub, but it's not very natural sounding and very wooden on places. I will give special props to Cassandra Lee Morris for her performance as Kyubey. She obviously got what kind of character it was and captured its essence enough to rival its Japanese counterpart. If you prefer dubs then go ahead, the dub doesn't really do anything to hurt it, but i recommend the Japanese track.
As a tragedy, Madoka only works to it's fullest with the stellar cast of characters they provide, although it may not seem that way from an limited standpoint. By limited standpoint, i mean those who follow a formula to judge what makes a character, one such as "background A + situation B = reaction C" characterization", rather them what's in front of you. The characters are humanized beyond their archtypes and over time, things like motivations change and the characters are corrupted by a situation that, despite being ideal candidates for, none of them were mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared for. Of course, in classic tragic fashion, the situation was a near impossible one that could've been avoided, if not for their own personal flaws. Their naivete, their desperation, their love, their desire, even things that seem like good attributes like kindness and courage prove to be more harmful than they seem. This is brought out through the contrast of the rookie magical girls and the veterans, those who went in with hope and the best of intentions, and those who have learned the hard way about the price of being a magical girl. Of course this applies to all the main cast, except for two. The first being out ordinary protagonist, Madoka, who consistently goes through the series with a justified indecisiveness towards becoming a magical girl, feeling the guilt of not doing her part, but fearing for what will come when she makes her wish. Her natural sense of what's right and what isn't, her own insecurities, and being witness to the consequences that unfold is what ultimately drives her character throughout the series, slowly building her up until the climax, and while she isn't the best of the characters, she is the one most suited for being the main protagonist. Then there's Kyubey, who i sadly can't go into much detail over, so i'll just give you the gist of it. Kyubey is the representation of logic versus emotion, and the needs of the many versus the needs of the one. It's indifferent towards the ideas of good and evil and acts however it feels is necessary to get what's needed. The mere fact that i've been using it for Kyubey, over him or her, should be indication that Kyubey is more than it originally seems. There's not much to talk about outside of the main cast, as there's only 6 other characters that aren't just nameless background fodder, but they still contribute their fair share to the story. The conversations between Madoka and her mother Junko often reveal a lot, how close they are, how much Madoka admires her, and often works as vessels for foreshadowing, and were always interesting to watch. Madoka and Sayaka's friend Hitomi is another story. She's not a bad character, but her switch from comic relief to super serious seemed a bit sudden, but even that's just a nitpick. The characters is Madoka are surprisingly complex and give off more than enough humanity to make this series exceed expectations.
Gen Urobuchi has stated in interviews that his intention with Madoka was to make an interesting, thought-provoking, fantasy set in an established genre. Did he succeed? More than i could've ever expected. Madoka is a masterfully written modern tragedy that works on par with classic european literature. Some may claim that Madoka is nothing more than shock factor with cute girls designed to be an instant hit, to which i recommend you rewatch it since you missed the point of what the series is about in the first place. As for others, while i can't guarantee that you'll like the series as much as i do, as with any other work, but i recommend you watch it, sooner than later. Few series seems to hit every target, from characters, to story, to themes, and work every way, inside and out, to make a series as, for lack of a better word, perfect. Anyways, that's all for now, til next time. read more
Jun 7, 2011
It’s a magical girl series by definition that for quite some time I’ve been avoiding because frilly clothes and magic wands is not something a young adult should be watching or so I believe. But after completing it, I felt fortunate and privileged that I tried it, rarely is a series that can be considered a game-changer, at least in my viewing experience as it convinced me that the magical girl genre can still be enjoyed by young adults like me. The end result is that I’m willing to watch more of this kind of animated works from the past and future.
It all begun with a strange dream followed by the introduction of the main character and the world she lives in. Then it was the usual setup in most anime, a new transfer student in the class that will call the attention of the main heroine, followed by a setup that will lead her to a world that she never dreamt existing – the world of magical girls and witches. The subsequent episodes will document the heroine’s journey meeting people, experiencing different events, journeying bizarre worlds, discovering the truth of the magical girl system and its purpose – all that will cultivate the one wish she will want granted.
The story is introduced into the audience in a well planned and carefully executed series of events that will reveal important elements of the plot to move the story forward. Every time it is done, it leads the viewers in the edge of their sit as they ponder what exactly is going on. New characters are eventually introduced along the way, each has an important role; their back story examined and will have their very own moments in the series. The pacing is excellent, never a dull moment in here as each episode is packed with excitement and the right amount of details to keep the viewers looking forward the next episode. It doesn’t help that some episodes ended in a cliffhanger, which lead the viewers particularly me dying from wanting to watch the next episode immediately and hope that it is already the next week. The series ended with a satisfying conclusion; it feels complete but still leaves the viewers wanting for more.
Knowing SHAFT’s notorious past regarding their animation works, in Madoka Magica there is a welcome change, no longer is the “NO-ANIMATION” as very evident in Bakemonogatari episode 10 will be seen in here, or the character only animation and simple colored background as seen in Hidamari Sketch. For this particular series, SHAFT has produced a world that is engaging with a futuristic approach in their architectural designs from the very spacious, technologically sophisticated, modern design of the main character’s house and the school where she study completely devoid of tight physical space. The background animation is superb, very detailed and probably rivals their other previous best background works in Bakemonogatari (provided there is an actual animation, not the random flashing wallpaper text thing). The color tones are dark and sometimes movie quality indicating how SHAFT probably gave everything they got to animate this one.
The modern architectural structures some of which are based on real life building designs used to create the cityscape of Mitakihara are very imaginative. The witch’s realm showcases a different kind of creativity in background designs, each realms are carefully designed to evoke emotions from the viewers. “Bizarre and surreal” are the proper terms in describing those otherworldly places which offers a hint of the witch’s past before being consumed by despair.
As for the characters, I like Aoki Ume’s “wide face” designs which gave the characters these “nice and cute” facial features, at the same time able to evoke such powerful expressions e.g. when the characters are sad, happy, annoyed, or worried, the wide face design allows the viewers to clearly see those expressions making it possible for them to relate and feel attached to the characters. The character designs used for the witches is a different matter, some look cute and very stylish (e.g. Witch Charlotte), some looked terrible and will give this unsettling feeling of being too real compare to its surroundings (e.g. Witch Gertrud), while some simply look too ugly and has a design that probably only a mother can love (e.g. Witch Oktavia von Seckendorff).
The transformation sequence are something to look forward also, Tomoe Mami’s transformation sequences are probably the most impressive transformation sequences I have seen to date, thanks mostly to the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies it. The transformation sequence from the other magical girls is all unique looking but not as equally impressive as the one above. The fight animation is also something worth mentioning about since the animators doesn’t cut corners on this one; the fighting scenes are very good and pleasing to the eyes.
Lastly, while I say a lot of very good things about the animation, it comes with minor flaws, one is about the character faces specifically the animation of the eyes appearing a bit off or distorted in distant camera shots and the animation in general is not very smooth for motion. There are also some production errors that are worth noting. Overall, despite the noticeable changes in the animation of Madoka Magica, the series still retains many characteristics that define the unique visual style done by SHAFT like the head tilts, close facial shots, and creative camera angles among others.
Music is one of the highlights of Madoka Magica. The OP theme “Connect” by ClariS is very catchy and pleasant to the ears, makes you want to become a magical girl and currently one of my favorite OPs. The ED theme “Magia” by Kalafina, meanwhile has this very eerie feel on it which is very good in expressing the dark undertones of the story.
The soundtracks created by the much famed “Kaijura Yuki” (which is also the behind the awesome soundtracks of Kara no Kyoukai, Gundam SEED/SEED Destiny, and Tsubasa Chronicle) confirmed that feelings I have, that when you listened to it, the music simply gets into you and all you can think about are magical girls, frilly costumes, and awesome transformation sequences. All the soundtracks are so memorable that I can immediately associate those to the events in the series where it is used as the background theme. My personal favorites in vol.1 and vol.2 are the “Sis Puella Magica!” (You Should Be a Magical Girl!) from the scene where Madoka finally said her wish, “Decretum” (Decision) Sayaka’s main theme, and “Credens Justitiam” (Believing in Justice) which is played during Mami’s transformation sequences. Equally impressive though are the soundtracks in vol.3 that are present in the final two episode of the series, the “Surgam Identidem” (I Shall Always Rise) during the battle of the hour, and the “Sagitta Luminis” (Arrow of Light) which can also be called the Goddess soundtrack, it is a very heartwarming theme created specifically for the events in the final episode.
Featuring the voices of Yuuki Aoi as the heroine Kaname Madoka, with Saitou Chiwa, Mizuhashi Kaori, Kitamura Eri, and Katou Emiri as support characters, the voices behind the characters in Madoka Magica is an all-star cast that made the overall viewing experience much fun just listening to everyone speaking.
Madoka Magica has a small amount of characters, mostly girls that are very cute in my opinion. Kaname Madoka, the heroine of the series is very convincing as a female lead, her struggles that results from the events leading up to her finally saying her wish as well as the measures that she used to counter it are very well portrayed. The other main character that is really well portrayed is Akemi Homura, just like Madoka, her descent to what she have become up to the very end is very well told, her actions justified. Tomoe Mami’s appearance is short but has a very lasting appeal, I always remember her as the “What a Magical Girl should be”, her performance, confidence, and graceful movements especially in her fights are very elegant to watch. Then, there is Miki Sayaka, whose story is just sad to watch. The other main character that is introduce late in the series is Sakura Kyouko, initially I hate her character only seeing her as a jerk and a warmonger, but as the episode progress and her past eventually revealed, I believe her actions are justified and I eventually liked her character. Lastly amongst the main characters, I’ll talk about Kyuubey, as a familiar, he is like no other, his performance as the acting villain is really a very wild ride, his words are very evil at the same time not really evil, and his trickery into convincing the girls to make a contract with him makes you want to curse him and shot him with weapons till his body broke into smithereens deserves a high praise and probably an award for doing so. In the end, when all is said and done, especially when he explain the purpose of his existence, I eventually seen him in a good light.
The minor characters which represents the rest of the cast like Madoka’s parents, brother, teacher, as well as Sayaka’s love interest and rival also added very important contributions that leads to the development of the main characters. Worth noting is Madoka’s mother Kaname Junko, her conversations and closeness to Madoka as mother-and-daughter is very touching and very refreshing to watch. Also is Shizuki Hitomi, as she did an important role in the middle part of the story. The Witches, while having no real character, with the only hints given about them concerning their past is the design of their realm also added a different form of storytelling.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the most outstanding series I have seen in recent times. Rarely is a series that has its contents in the form of story, visuals, music, and characterization that are all equally impressive that results in me enjoying the series so much. Even more impressive is the fact that Madoka Magica is a “magical girl genre,” something I already avoided years ago thinking that there is nothing about the genre that will interest me anymore. After all, the notion about the genre is that it’s “too girly” and a “kid’s show”, this series proves that it is not, that it can touch audiences outside its main target audience. It also assures that the genre is something I will be looking forward with enthusiasm and eagerness. Appropriate also to say is that Madoka Magica is the kind of series that appears once every few years that really hit the right marks, the things that makes an anime very great.
As for my final note, I would recommend this series for viewers who like anime in general. Most recommended to individuals who like a magical girl theme anime that is geared towards the more mature young audiences as the series contains drama and dark themes that is not really very unusual to the genre, it’s just that the series used it correctly, and intricacies that could either make the viewers like or dislike the series.
Note: Updated, added additional impressions after completing BD release read more
Apr 8, 2014
Madoka Shoujo Madoka Magica is a supposed, "deconstruction," of the magic girl genre. I use the term deconstruction loosely. It gained popularity, or rather notoriety, due its "deep," themes, "symbolism,", "complex" characters, and of course Urobuchi's trademark cruelty. All of these factors combined should be the recipe for success, correct? Not in this case. Madoka isn't a bad show by any standard. It is a show that reaches for the stars and falls drastically short.
Story(6/10)- Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica starts off misleading the viewer into thinking it is just a regular magical girl show. You have a pink haired protagonist with low self-esteem, a blue haired tomboy-esque chick who serves a foil character, and a magical creature that basically grants wishes. This has been the formula for any magical girl anime released in the past decade. However, this is all a facade to mask the fact that Madoka is a relatively dark show. The titular character, Madoka, comes into contact with a strange creature called, QB, who makes her an offer that is hard to refuse. You will be granted one wish, and in return you will become a Magic Girl who has to fight these monstrosities called, "witches," to save the world. Sounds like any young girl from Japan's dream right? However, little does poor Madoka know that their are huge consequences that come with this contract. Very early on in the show, we witness the hardships of being a Mahou Shoujo. Death, loneliness, despair. These are all that await these young girls. Sounds enticing right? Well, the show's execution is flawed and I will explain why.
Firstly, the show's pacing is off. The viewer is quick introduced to events without sufficient foreshadow or buildup, thus all the plot twists come off as contrived. Madoka would have benefited from being a 24 episode show as opposed to a 12 episode series. Everything comes off as rushed. There is not sufficient world building or anything that makes the show come off as organic in terms of the narrative.
Secondly, there is an over reliance on plot twists but most of these plot twists are simply just shock value. You thought what happened to Character A was awful in every way? No, that was just the beginning, THIS is much worse. And what lessons do we learn from all this suffering and cruelty? Nothing. There is no greater insight in seeing horrible things happen to these girls aside that Urobuchi's sadistic tendencies manifest themselves in interesting ways. The central theme in Madoka is to, "be careful what you wish for," and it is made obvious the first couple times bad things happen to the characters. But constantly adding new twists every couple of episodes to make the main characters lives increasingly harder becomes borderline ridiculousness. It doesn't help that most of these twists seem to come from thin air aside from a few that were alluded to.
Third, it is advertised as a deconstruction but it is anything but. Madoka may be a dark show but dark does not automatically mean deconstruction. At its core, Madoka is the same as every other Magical girl show out there only more edgier. It does nothing to point out the flaws of the magical girl genre and give us deeper insight into what it truly means to put your life on the line for an empty cause. Side point, the show also has underlying misogynistic themes. If you look closely, QB says that many of the great women in history were magical girls but all failed or messed up in some way or form. Is this to say that women are incapable of handling any sort of real power? Who knows, but that is my take on it.
Art (8/10)- Mahou Shoujo Madoka was animated by Studio SHAFT, a studio best known for their eccentric animation style. Madoka is a beautiful show. The backgrounds are very detailed and are laden with symbolism. The lighting gives Madoka this dark and ominous feel which adds a lot to the immersion. It makes it very hard to take your eyes off of the show. The character designs are a bit off putting to me though. The faces of the characters are square and a bit pudgy. Pretty weird in my opinion.
Sound(8/10)- The soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kaijura, famous for her works on The Garden of Sinners and .Hack series. This is probably one of her greatest efforts to date. The soundtrack is composed of melancholic soundscapes with occasional orchestrated high energy tracks that suit the more tense fight scenes. The sound direction for this show is truly impeccable as each track captures every moment appropriately.
Character(4/10)- The character aspect is arguably the show's Achilles Heel. The title character, Madoka, has to be the worst character in the show. She starts off with low self-esteem, leading me to believe there is going to be some interesting character development but surprisingly she never changes. The entire show literally revolves around her and yet she does nothing of interest for most of the show. Madoka is a character defined by her environment, a reactionary character if you will. She cries and moans over the bad things that happens to her and her friends, but we rarely ever get a deeper look into her character.
Her best friend, Miki Sayaka is hardly any better. She starts off as brash and bold, but we slowly get to learn more about her character. However, her backstory isn't fleshed out sufficiently to the point where I feel like she is an actual person. Her wish, although understandable, lacks any substance behind it. What I mean is, there wasn't a sufficient explanation as to why she made this wish aside from, I like this guy. As far as we know, there is no deep history between the characters so the wish comes off as stupid to me. Although she does, develop throughout the show, it hardly makes her likable or a better character. Her character developments seem inorganic because once again, they rely on shock value via plot twists.
The other characters such as Akemi and Kyoko are only slightly better but their motivations and reasons behind most of the things they do, don't make sense within the time frame it occurs. Kyoko goes from hating Sayaka in one episode, so much so that she wants to kill her, and in the very next she is revealing to her a sad sob story about her origins. There was no build up. What made her change her mind so quickly? Yes, she did say Sayaka reminded her of herself, but that isn't an adequate reason to change your mind about someone you were going to kill the episode before. Their "friendship," was rushed to the point of disbelief, and didn't make sense. Akemi is the same way, although her situation is slightly more understandable. But the extent to which Akemi would sacrifice herself for Madoka didn't make sense because they haven't even known each for a year and barely even a month. It does not make sense. Nobody would go through so much turmoil for someone they just met. And Akemi also has a power that was poorly explained and comes off as a plothole but due to spoilers I will not say what it is.
My favorite character is QB. I felt as though he was the easiest person to empathize with and his reason for making girls sign the contract was understandable aside from a few gripes I have with his reasoning behind it. But I don't think the show wanted me to empathize with someone they painted as a villain, but I felt he was more realistic than the aforementioned characters.
Conclusion (6/10)- So in conclusion, is Madoka the masterpiece it was hyped up to be? Not at all. It did not do to the Magical Girl genre what Evangelion did to mecha, and at it is core it is the same as all the other anime in its genre. The comparisons made with it being similar to Faust and European literature are superficial and borderline offensive to the authors. Madoka does not match the quality of most literature so I thought I should just put an end to that notion. The reason I am so harsh towards Madoka is because I look at what it could've been and what it is, and I am deeply saddened it turned out this way. However, Madoka is not completely without merit. It is an interesting take on the magical girl genre, and has some phenomenal production values. I would definitely recommend a watch but don't go in with high expectations because they are bound to be crushed. read more
Jun 28, 2013
Thankfully, it is the characters that are the best part of the anime. Sayaka, Homura, Mami, and Kyoko are all fascinating to watch and each have their own layered characterization and moral philosophical themes that drive the story forward. Themes such as individual dreams, wishes, societal views and conflicts, relationships, etc... It's all so fascinating and brilliantly told. What is even more amazing about the characters is that they develop not only through great dialogue but also through visual means as well. Characters will change stance and opinions but the audience needs to pay attention to facial expressions and character actions throughout the show in order to determine where and when these amazing characters grew. The main protagonist Madoka is probably the most straight forward character of the bunch. She's definitely less fascinating than the rest of the cast but she is still fun to watch due to her kind nature and expressive personality. She believes herself as being a coward who can't help people, but low and behold she ends up being the smartest, wisest, and bravest of the show. She's a fine character and role model, but not a very deep one. Another little problem I had with the show is the adults of the world are all morons. How come the teenagers are the ones talking smart and philosophical while the adults are the unbalanced irresponsible weirdos who have no clue about anything? Also, there is some questionable character morals that will make you scratch your head and wonder if it is a legitimate reason to be frightened/traumatized, but they are still interesting to ponder about none the less.
Finally we must talk about Kyubey, who is probably one of the greatest villains ever to appear in an anime. This little cat like alien is fascinating in so many ways. He deceits, plots, scams, and lies all the way through the entire series all the while always having a permanent smile on his face (creepy). He tortures and plays around with the lives of these little girls all to further his plans, plans that are a bit understandable but completely unacceptable in the method that he's doing it in. He is the stark contrast of the usual talking cat side kick character found in magical girl shows which is once again the writers trying to play with our expectations. I love this villain yet hate him for being such an awful manipulator. This is exactly how amazing villains should be written.
*END OF MINOR SPOILER*
But now unfortunately we must talk about the curse of the show and how the magical girl theme while being its strength is also its weakness. The reason the Magical Girls genre is targeted to kids is because the premise is meant to make kids feel like they can be heroes with good moral values, but in a realistic premise it is simply ridiculous and implausible. It is also at points very silly because intricate plot details and philosophy concepts are being discussed by teenage girls, girls who have probably only recently been through puberty. There are many times when I simply laughed at serious smart plot discussions because I couldn't believe little girls were talking about such things. Just the concept of Magical Girls itself is ludicrous and yes, the story does try to explain why an alien cat would give little girls powers of incredible strength but it unsurprisingly doesn't make any sense and feels forced. The conclusion as well is a very lame and predictable anime plot ending. I don't want to spoil it but all I got to say is, "I bow down to our lord and savior Madoka, the perfect moral being!".
A part from these main gripes in the story, the rest of it is very good. The plot moves along with the character development very well and the main themes of the story are well handled. Themes such as natural order, space and time, etc.. all come together exceptionally well with the themes of the characters in order to create a very fascinating 12 episode anime series. The art is also very good but nothing too exceptional. It does its job well by showing us the character feelings and expressions, but it never "wowed" me in any way. I also never got used to the casts chubby looking faces (but that's just a bias opinion). I will say that the art style works well in order to create a magical girl feeling and the action was very well handled. The sound was also amazing in the show. The openings and endings of Madoka Magica worked in with the themes and moods of the series, and I found it very intelligent in how they used it. For example, the ending song of the first two episodes are very happy sounding melodies, which fit in with the happy magical girl mood the show first puts on. But then the third episode is where the series becomes serious and violent, thus it plays with the audience by having the ending song sounding dark and depressing as if it is stating, "prepare yourselves people because things are about to change". I like it when shows play around with music like that.
I definitely recommend Madoka Magica to any anime fan. It is a brilliant and adult like take on the magical girl genre. It takes the stereotypes and reverses it. As I explained before, there are limitations to the reversing of this genre, but it is none the less a brilliant effort that deserves praise. read more
Aug 9, 2013
Now, there are already quite a few reviews of this anime out there (and more to come, most likely) but since all of them differ in some way, I might as well write mine too. However, the first thing I’ll tell you is that if you haven’t seen this show (or had it spoiled for you), and you have any intention whatsoever to actually watch it, then my tip would be to actually not read too much about the series before watching it...
Now then, let’s get down to it... I was very much on the fence (and still am) about some of these scores, and whether they should actually be a 9 or 10, so take it with an additional pinch of salt (and remember, a perfect score does not mean it’s all perfect).
Story: (9 / 10)
In all its simplicity, Madoka★Magica is a breakdown and reconstruction of the “Mahou Shoujo” genre, in an attempt to make it more realistic and mature. And to be totally honest, they did a fantastic job with this.
The buildup, plot twists and all the emotional moments in this series really come together to make it all a wonderful experience. Now, I’m aware (and have been told by several people) that the start of the series is quite slow, but I really think that adds to the whole “psychological” effect of the anime. This isn’t your standard, fast-paced good vs. evil action series with a dash of romance and comedy (as many “regular” magical girl shows tend to be). No, this series is about following the struggle of a few select girls who can have anything they want, in exchange for everything.
At first there’ll be a lot of questions raised, many left unanswered until almost the end of the series, but thankfully there don’t really exist any gaping plot holes, nor are any questions really left unanswered in the end.
Art: (10 / 10)
Animation is done by Shaft, and if you’ve seen any of their other works (Monogatari series, Zetsubou sensei etc) then that should be all you need to know. The art is absolutely amazing, which you’ll see from just the first 10 or so seconds of the opening sequence. Aside from the great quality of the art, I really enjoyed the “clean” aesthetics of the environment/backgrounds, and the use of light colors for many of the characters.
Character design is well done, but nothing overly amazing, tho it certainly distinguish all the characters, and makes them more memorable in a way. As for fan service, well... There is none. I mean, there’s not a single indication of fan service anywhere... at all...
The animation isn’t anything to scoff at either. Fluid both during fighting scenes and... well, non-fighting scenes, some good animations really help a lot in the portrayal of characters and their feelings.
As for the opening/ending scenes, there isn’t all too much I can say. The opening really shines at portraying that “advertised” feeling of “this is a happy show about cute girls” that the creators wanted to convey. The ending sequence however, is more or less just a silhouette of the main character walking away to music...
Sound: (10 / 10)
Let’s talk about the musical score first. The opening theme, “Connect” by ClariS, is quite a happy song, and just like its accompanying opening sequence it does a great job of portraying that aforementioned “happy” feeling. Now, previously when I talked about the ending sequence, I was more or less referring only to that in which Kalafina’s “Magia” play, as this is the most “prominent” or well known of the 4 ending songs. The other 3 consist of the opening theme, “Connect”, a rather sad song called “Mata Ashita” by Aoi Yuuki, and finally a not so sad, but not really happy song called “And I’m home”, by Ai Nonaka and Eri Kitamura.
“Magia” however, receives quite a bit more credit because not only is it played in 7 of the 12 episodes, but it’s also the most outstanding of the songs. Aside from being the ending theme of the series, it’s also used quite frequently during some of the more “epic” moments of the series, such as fighting scenes, and it really helps bring out the feelings of certain scenes.
Speaking of background music, Madoka★Magica features quite an amazing soundtrack. It’s overall pretty varied, ranging from happy themes such as “Credens Justitiam”, to darker songs such as “Walpurgis Nux”, there’s always a song which fits the situation, and really helps in conveying the feelings which want to be conveyed.
Characters: (9 / 10)
Madoka★Magica consists of a rather small cast of characters, but interesting ones nonetheless. The characters all felt very real to me, and the amount of character development in this series is just great. It makes the characters feel even more “alive”, and really helps you relate and connect with them. The characters all (mostly) have solid and interesting backstories, however I feel like the reason this part is only a 9, is simply because of the fact that a certain character didn’t have as much backstory or information about her which I felt like she should have (but who knows, maybe that’ll change in the last movie).
There really isn’t too much more I can say here, without spoiling anything, to be honest.
Enjoyment: (10 / 10)
This is easily a 10/10 for me. I was lucky enough to not have anything really told to me about this show more than maybe “it’s a bit dark”, or “it’s pretty weird”, so the shock factor and all were quite high for me. All the emotions, and the lingering feelings of this show really makes it an amazing #1 favorite of mine.
Now, this is obviously not your regular “mahou shoujo”, nor is it intended for the regular audience of said genre, but rather for a more mature audience. If you’re a fan of darker, slightly psychological shows, then I assure you you’re gonna love this if you can ignore the slightly slow beginning.
+ Amazing plot, with lots of twists and drama.
+ Outstanding soundtrack.
+ Great art (as expected of Shaft).
+ Interesting, fleshed out characters.
+ Lots of heart wrenching / heartwarming moments.
- Starts out fairly slow.
- Shock factor of certain parts may decrease if you’ve read too much about the show. read more
Apr 23, 2014
I don't like Magical Girl anime and while I like the idea of deconstructing a genre I find that most deconstructions spend more time trying to throw ideas at a wall and hope they stick instead of breaking apart the genre. So what makes Madoka Magica so good? Simple, the execution.
Madoka Magica takes pretty much every stereotype the Magical Girl genre has and brakes it apart to see how it works. Why is this stuffed animal trying to give us superpowers? What are Magical Girls? What are the psychological effects on a little girl who has to fight evil? All these and more are drawn out in great detail over the course of the 12 episodes.
While I do like all the characters I don't really consider them to be in any way the focus of the show. They all play a role in telling the story but if they were replaced with a completely different type of character I doubt it would hurt the show at all. Ask yourself; if you were to slap purple hair on Sakura and make her all sweat and nice do you think that would change the show even a little bit? in my option no.
The art style and animation are both great in almost every episode the only exception being episode 9 when Madoka is sitting on her bed talking to Kyuubey.
While I typically hate moe-ish character designs and think it is a lazy way for animators to draw the same characters over and over in different colors I feel it works to Modoka Magica's advantage since the show in a nut shell is breaking down a children's cartoon. Art from a show like Mushishi or a movie like Redline (while technically better in every way) would warp the tone of the show and lessen the impact of the story.
The backgrounds on the Dub version are so detailed and clear so even when the characters are just talking there always seems to be some form of motion or eye catching event going on and doesn't seem to cut any corners (other than the bedroom scene in episode 9). I just love the chaotic art style used in the labyrinths and the shading colors that the show uses to give such a dark vibe to the cutesy little world of Madoka Magica.
The score also adds to the tone of the show, the incorporation of a character who loves classical music helps the score to blend in without setting off any red flags and the score helps to turn the art direction from "dawww how cute" to the shit that fuels nightmares without feeling like it is jumping all over the place.
Madoka Magica is the perfect example of how to deconstruct a genre the right way and it is slowly becoming one of my favorite anime. Couldn't recommend this show enough. read more
Apr 30, 2011
Then there are the anomalous titles that deviate from the tried and tested approach as they attempt to broaden the horizons of the genre, the most successful example being Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. The franchise gave audiences a chance to see Takamichi Nanoha grow from a very young and naive magical girl into the Ace of Aces for the Time-Space Administration Bureau, and combat instructor to the next generation of heroes. The surprising thing though, is that somewhere along the way the series managed to successfully bridge the shoujo-shounen divide, which is a difficult thing to do in a genre that's generally aimed at girls who still think bright (sometimes almost fluorescent), pink is a good colour to wear.
Unfortunately there are only a few good titles on offer that have broken with the traditional mahou shoujo mould, which isn't surprising if one considers the difficulty of the task in question - take something for young girls and make it appeal to as broad a fan base as possible. Then again, Shaft seem to relish that sort of challenge, and while their take on magical girl anime retains a certain "fluffiness" that is prevalent in the more stereotypical shows, Puella Magi Madoka★Magica is an altogether different beast.
The story begins with a young girl looking for and exit with which she can escape a strange black and white checkered area, but instead of finding the outside world she finds that surreal destruction has come to Mitakihara City as a dark haired girl fights a very odd creature in the sky. A small white animal named Kyuubey advises her that she has the power to help the dark haired girl, to change this fate of grief and destruction, to be granted her heart's desire. All she has to do is make a contract and become a Puella Magi ...
And then she wakes up.
After the rather dramatic first few minutes the storyline takes on a fairly staid measure as the main plot is laid out and the characters are introduced, but while the narrative is relatively well constructed, it's not without its flaws. The series has a tendency towards melodrama that can sometimes slow the pace of events, and this brings into focus certain aspects of the plot which are very clearly designed to evoke a sympathetic reaction from the audience. In addition to this, while the rather obvious influence from Buddhism (the whole deal with maintaining balance, karma, etc), is prevalent for much of the show, the decision to broadcast the final episode on a specific date only serves to highlight the reference to Christian beliefs that forms the grand finale. That said, it's easy to overlook these as the main thrust of the storyline is entertaining , and much darker than one might initially expect, especially when one considers the character design and everyday scenery.
One thing that is interesting is the manner in which the writing team have tied in the importance of the third wish to the whole concept of resurrection (ask me if you want an explanation), which may sounds a bit strange at first but it actually works rather well, especially as the traditional "deal with the devil" scenario generally doesn't have any kind of achievable escape clause.
Unfortunately there are two problems with the storyline, both of which aren't immediately obvious. The first is the assumption that only girls of a certain age are ideal for becoming Puella Magi, with all that entails. The justification for this is debatable, and brings up the whole idea that "boys don't cry". The storyline is built upon the concept that adolescent girls are more emotionally unstable than boys of that age, yet this is an untrue statement for two reasons, the first one being that boys are also undergoing physical and emotional changes. The second reason is that boys are taught from a very young age that they shouldn't cry or show certain emotions, and the continuous bottling up of all those feelings more often than not manifests itself during the adolescent years.
The simple fact is that a race as advanced and intelligent as the one in Madoka★Magica would have known this, and would have experimented with male Puella Magi as well, yet the story makes no reference to this. Quite the opposite in fact, and the explanation given states very clearly that all Puella Magi throughout history have been female.
And before you ask, there are such things as male witches in the realm of the occult. They're called Warlocks.
The second flaw is the explanation given as to why Kaname Madoka has more potential than anyone else, which again makes a major, yet highly debatable assumption. The simple fact is that if one follows the idea to its rather logical conclusion, the most powerful Puella Magi should actually be Akemi Homura. It's a far more conceptual plot hole, but given the usage of the many worlds theory, especially at the end, it quickly becomes a major issue that could destroy the foundation of the story.
So it's a good thing the series is as entertaining as it is.
Now given that this is an anime by Shaft one might well expect a degree of experimentation with the visuals, and the opening sequence gives viewers some very clear signs of things to come. The character design is very similar to that of Hidamari Sketch, and while this adds a degree of cuteness to the show, it also emphasises the stark difference between the Puella Magi and the witches, especially in terms of their humanity.
The experimental nature of the series is prevalent during the combat sequences, and Shaft really have gone to town in creating surreal, mind bending environments that serve as a home for the witches, and the arena in which the Puella Magi must fight. The mixture of animation techniques on display during these scenes is surprising, not only in terms of application but also in quality, which is why it's somewhat disappointing that there are occasions where entire frames have been left out of the animation during everyday events.
That said, Madoka★Magica is a good looking anime for the most part, even though much of the effort has been expended on crafting imaginatively unusual other world settings and surreal enemies for the girls to fight. Strangely, this may actually be purposeful as while the everyday environments are colourful yet mundane, like the character design these emphasise the difference between the real world and the one in which the Puella Magi must combat the witches.
The opening theme, Connect by ClariS, is a fairly uplifting J-pop song that's set against a surprisingly routine (for mahou shoujo anime), sequence, all of which belies the darkness of the story proper. Thankfully the ending theme, Magia by Kalafina, is more in keeping with the atmosphere of the anime, especially with the ephemeral approach to visuals. The series is also littered with a variety of background tracks that are generally appropriate in their usage, and one of the high points of Madoka★Magica is the quality of the audio choreography.
As for the acting, the cast is made up of experienced seiyuu who add depth and nuance to proceedings, for example Kato Emiri's role as the amorally enigmatic Kyuubey really is something to see, especially with her off hand explanations and her ability to make the character sound devoid of emotion. The rest of the cast also perform very well, except for one, but the issue isn't actually with her skills. Yuuki Aoi (Kaname Madoka), generally works well with the other seiyuu and delivers her lines with a decent amount of passion, but she's unable to express the true depth of emotion that the character feels because the script simply does not allow for it, which is a shame as it's a minor blemish on a very good performance.
Scripting issues aside, it's interesting to note that the series seems a bit lacking in core characterisation, especially as Madoka, Sayaka, and Mami have personalities that verge on the mundane. It's this averageness that makes the story that little bit more accessible to audiences, even though some rather fantastic back stories have been used to justify the actions of one character or another. Which brings up an interesting issue with the developmental process as rather than try for an intuitive approach, Shaft and Aniplex have applied the "growth by numbers" method. Each character is given the opportunity to adversely affect Madoka in some way, and the order in which this occurs is dependent on the relationship between the two. The problem is that this methodical approach is in clear conflict with the experimental nature of the series, and while it can easily be overlooked or forgiven due to the entertaining nature of the story, it's still not what one would expect from a studio like Shaft.
Now I will admit that at first I was expecting nothing more than another cutesy mahou shoujo anime, so finding something that was more to my tastes was a bonus. That said, the series isn't without its flaws, but these can either be ignored outright or forgiven as the story is a very interesting and unusual take on what it means to be a magical girl.
It's just not as groundbreaking as some might believe.
While Madoka★Magica may at first seem like a totally unique concept, it should be remembered that the Nanoha franchise possessed some dark themes, Black Rock Shooter featured a young girl's alter ego fighting strange creatures in a surreal other world, and Uta Kata tried to show the breakdown of a person who becomes controlled by their power. There are other shows that explore some of the themes of the series, sometimes in more detail, but in truth these are only minor niggles as Shaft have managed to create a mahou shoujo anime that, like those that came before, successfully displays the true potential of the genre.
Which leaves only two questions. If Shaft wanted to experiment with the genre, then why not go the whole hog and have a mahou shounen? Why leave that sort of thing to comedy anime like Kore wa Zombie Desu-ka? read more
Apr 27, 2013
This anime takes everything you know and love/hate about the magical girl genre and flips it 180. The plot starts off with your typical 'Magical Girl' traits and cliches, but soon takes a turn for the dire. This anime's story is dark, really dark. It tackles issues and questions that should, but never really do, arise in other magical girl anime. Though previous magical girl anime have had dark aspects to them, all in all those aspects have never been dark to this extent. The darker than average plot comes as a shock to the viewer that was expecting another cutesy moe anime, but got something totally different. The story is rather complex, and the answers are not given to you. Meaning that you have to figure everything out for yourself, this might be a good/bad thing, depending on your taste. I personally found the story very enjoyable and intriguing. I was not all that fond of the ending mind you and I felt that they could of done a better job with it, but I think that's up to personal preference if nothing else. And it did not break my experience.
The characters are arguably the show's weakest aspect. They get plenty of development, but as the show goes on, their actions just become more and more unrealistic. I personally liked all the characters, and didn't find anyone annoying or not needed. I also liked their development, and didn't really care for their unrealistic actions. This again depends whether or not you let this kind of thing affect you. Seeing as I'm a sucker for messed up characters, I found Miki Sayaka to be highly enjoyable, and definitely my favorite character of the series.
The animation for Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is great, studio Shaft did a splendid job with the character design and how they contrast the otherwise dark story. Although for some it might be the total opposite, and the characters might reduce your enjoyment of the show. This again is up to personal preference though. The anime gets really gorgeous if you watch it in BD quality. Shaft are known to rush out their products, but they are also known for polishing them up for the Blu-Ray release. So, if possible, do try and watch this show on Blu-Ray, as the animation is vastly improved and adds a lot to the anime.
The music is composed by none other than the masterful Yuki Kajiura. It contains pieces that range from cutesy moe-like themes, to intense battle choruses. And the ending song in particular is very memorable. One thing to note though is that parts of the OST sound really similar to other Yuki Kajiura works. So for instance if you've watcher Kara No Kyoukai, you will hear a lot of similarities, to the point where you can replace songs with one another from both shows, and it wouldn't matter. A minor nitpick.
All in all Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is a great anime, and a must watch for anyone that is interested in the psychological genre. It's not the best at what it does, but it comes close to the heavy hitting contenders. read more
Mar 31, 2014
Madoka Magica is put on a pedestal by many as a brilliant decomposure of the Mahou Shoujo genre and for all the credit it's getting it does live up too it.
*MINOR SPOILER - DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO WATCH THE SERIES WITH 0 KNOWLEDGE*
The story follows the high school girl Madoka as she lives her everyday life but one day she hears a voice inside of her head calling out for help.
Following the tracks of the voice she meets with a girl called Mami and a cat-like creature called Kyubei and learns about the world of a Mahou Shoujo and how they live and protect the people around the world from witches.
As the story progresses more and more dark secrets reveals themselves.
*MINOR SPOILER END*
I think the main brilliance of Madoka Magica is it's story as it turns into a very enjoyable series but also a very deep and intellectual one who has very dark and real themes which is very contradictory for the Mahou Shoujo genre.
There are some small flaws like how with consideration you realize how stupid all the adults of the world they live in are but no show can be perfect and it's definitely deserving of a very high score.
As for the art style of the show I found myself questioning it at the beginning as it's pretty unique and as a standalone I can't say I liked it however due to the general theme of the series I found the art style very fitting and adjustable and somehow it had something special I just can't put my finger on.
I also wanna give credit for the animation of said art style.
My reasoning is that the art style within the witches world and outside of it is substantially different but due to wonderful work they have animated it in such a way that it feels complete and not just like two series stuck on top of each other.
The general animation while having no real excellent points had no major flaws either so generally a very good job with art and animation.
The SFX of Madoka Magica are very good as they fit into their purpose and I can't think of any that sticks out as poor.
As for the music it's brilliant, I found the soundtracks to be after the story the most brilliant part of the series as they swap the OSTs accordingly with the current mood of the story very well and manage to merge the swap of a track into another without being noted unless you're looking for it.
As for the opening it makes you feel happy and hyped for the episode that's coming which is very reoccuring with work from ClariS and that causes this to be an excellent choice for the Madoka series in my opinion and "Connect" as a standalone song is also very good.
The most astonishing thing is the ending though.
"Magia" by Kalafina is one of the anime communities most liked songs and with good reason, it fits well with the dark theme of the anime, it's powerful and it instills some kind of craving in you causing you too want more and more making it the perfect choice for an ending theme and the ending for Madoka Magica especially.
This is the flaw of the series in my opinion.
While the characters and it's development are extremely good this is only true for everyone but Madoka.
Don't get me wrong as Madoka is also a good character and helps the story advance forward but she just gets outshone by the side characters as they all develop extremely interestingly including their personalities, skills, values and so on.
My personal favourite character to watch was Sayaka as she gets so much development and changes so much during the series while my favourite character in general was Kyubei who had such an interesting character development and is quite possibly among the top of his kind in all of anime. (I will avoid saying anything further about the characters as while they put too much focus on the main supporting cast it's still extremely interesting watching them evolve)
I throughly enjoyed Madoka Magica and it's dark theme and I appreciated it's decomposure of the Mahou Shoujo genre and while I think people are putting it on a pedestal way too often I'd still rank it in my top 10 animes ever thus far but I think overall the best way to watch Madoka is to watch it with as little knowledge as possible.
I tend to be very heavily influenced with my overall scores by enjoyment and as to avoid that I have simply taken the factors of Story, Art, Sound, Character, Enjoyment and Ending and with the help of math arrived at a score of 9,17/10
At the time of this review I have not watched either of the Madoka films and as such I am only using the anime as a reference.
If you did watch Madoka Magica and liked it I'd recommend you check out "Princess Tutu" which is another great decomposure of the Mahou Shoujo genre.
Or the all so famous "Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni" as it too has a very dark theme.
Thank you for reading this review and I hope it helped you decide whether or not to watch this series, forgive my grammar mistakes and enjoy the show. read more
Jan 6, 2011
SHAFT is my body, and drugs are my blood.
I have created over a thousand seizures.
Unknown to DVD sales.
Nor known to stream on time.
Have withstood food to create many anime.
Yet, those hands will never hold money.
So as I pray, “UNLIMITED SHAFT WORKS”
-a rewrite inspired by those thousand freaking awesome muskets shooting at moustachioed dandelions during the end sequence of the first episode.
You have just stumbled upon the ultimate Mahou Shoujo, one that doesn't care if it's morally ambiguous or not, one with no stock footage, and one where the magic used substitutes candy for bloodbaths.
Story: Magical Girl overtones combined with the trance-like aesthetics of SHAFT and the glorious character designs by a small green man who lives on top of an all-girls Japanese high schools dormitory (see Hidamari Sketch). The script is written by Urobuchi Gen, known for his work on Fate/Zero (hence the poem) and the highly-acclaimed (and crazy good) visual novel Saya no Uta. He's also noted for making me rub out to a pile of sludge. I really like Mr. Urobuchi.
The story is a dark Mahou Shoujo. Not like Nanoha at all. Nanoha had some seinen elements in it, but Madoka is a seinen. It takes all the elements of Mahou Shoujo, chucks them in the trash, and completely rewrites the genre. I should note that I have watched a fair amount of anime tagged Horror here on MAL, and not a single one has actually instilled fear in me like Madoka has. This is the only Mahou Shoujo I have come across that actually covers events like suicide, murder, and death in a serious manner and keeps them believable. There is a heavy amount of psychological elements in this anime, too, I should warn. In congruence, I want to laud how the characters mental states and characterization pushes the plot forward unlike many productions. The psychological aspect is so crucial to the story, that without it, the story would be nonexistent.
A slight digression on becoming a magical girl: (minimal spoilers)
Even after a couple of episodes Madoka does not become a Mahou Shoujo. I've heard a lot of complaints that "she isn't even a magical girl yet, this is stupid" etc. If you're part of this group, please enlighten yourself with this knowledge; Madoka takes a spin on many magical girl aspects. Thus, gaining magical powers, which usually occurs in the first or second episodes of most magical girl series is an event that is pushed farther off in Madoka. Don't get me wrong, the anime doesn't just do this to be nonconformist. Madoka utilizes the obtainment of power as a driving part of the story and character development. What Madoka factors into it's execution that other magical girl anime don't is the risk of death, and how gaining powers makes you even more susceptible to it. That is why I believe the anime didn't just give the girls powers very early in the series, and I hope this short blurb clears up this little misunderstanding.
Art: SHAFT WAS HERE (insert every other company name here) IS A LOSER
The dreamscapes in this anime are stupendous and the frightening nightmarish worlds that appear are undeniably scary. The expansive frontier that the cast is thrown into really delivers the sense of isolation that I believe the staff wanted to present. As for the normal world, SHAFT works it's magic on the buildings and rooms - applying an almost futuristic setting while still within the boundaries of reason. The skyline shots and the pans over wide areas are notably beautiful and quite reminiscent of Ef - a tale of memories (another SHAFT work). There has been some complaint about the character designs, but I would say that they're used in this anime the same way Higurashi used theirs. With the lure of a peaceful and happy scenario, fleshed out with a goofy looking set of characters, the anime seems so innocent. That is until you watch a little of it. Don't create a predisposition on this anime by it's naive appearance, this is one scary anime.
I would also like to praise the transformation scenes. They are never extensively erotic, as that aspect tends to be abused in anime such as Moetan or Nurse Witch Komugi, and they are always different. The second time a transformation scene happened I double took the scene and watched it again to make sure that my eyes weren't deceiving me (so I guess I ended up watching the animation twice anyways, but regardless). That's right, a magical girl transformation sequence that is different every time and isn't overused to consume air time.
Sound: The opening is like this fabulously intense orchestration that just makes you feel LARGE. The opening animation accompanying the sound definitely contributes to the song and I find it very fitting. One thing to note about the OP is that there's a larger portion of crying than there is of laughter, which should be hint enough to prepare you for an experience that doesn't want to make friends. The ending preformed by Kalafina (Kara no Kyoukai, Sora no Woto) is eargasmic. It has a brutal and rough distorted sound, and isn't full shown until the ending of the third episode. It's stark contrast with the opening really works. The animation set to the ending is a bit spooky if anything, and the hard angry vocals of Kalafina make it all the more intense. The sound track throws in some "acid music" (there's not a word for what SHAFT has done here) so just watch out for that music. Word on the street is that side effects include chronic arousal and aviator application. I can personally vouch though, that the soundtrack is varied and creative, and that it's hard to remove your sick shades for more than a few seconds while watching.
Character: Madoka Kaname is the average personality-less protagonist who is best described (by herself) as "kinda dumb" and "has no special skills." She leads an average life with a loving family. Her friends are a tomboy and aradere that at first prospect have no impressive qualities. Then Madoka learns about Mahou Shoujo who fight in secret to defend society. They fight entities called "Witches" that spread distress and anxiety. If you're expecting a happy-bubbly slice-of-life, you couldn't be anywhere further away from the mark. Mahou Shoujo Magica Madoka is a very dark anime. It quickly shifts from drinking tea to suicide's with unsettling skill. The characters are a whole lot more complex than the average Mahou Shoujo - where the characters often don't develop at all, within the first few episodes so much development occurs that you might be wondering if you're watching the same anime (and the development is presented incredibly believable). With Urobuchi Gen on staff mind shattering moments are abundant. Gen has even come out straight and said this is an anime that can be understood even better re-watched. The characters are a lot more in depth than you would expect from a Mahou Shoujo, and are surprisingly realistic. If you want moe~moe~ magical girls, then please refrain from watching Mahou Shoujo Magika Madoka, because Madoka deals a lot more with relationships and human issues than it does try to be cute and funny. Yoshinoya-Sensei also plays a cameo (but she's wearing a wig so watch carefully).
Enjoyment: This is your brain on drugs. Cue Freezepop's song Brainpower.
Overall: Madoka has an uncanny knack for going from quaint to disturbing incredibly fast. It also has the ability to BLOW YOUR MIND. So go watch it, okay?
After the final episodes have aired, I can say with confidence, if you're willing to brave through the first three episodes that totter between "cliche Magic Girl anime" and "mysteriously dark" then you'll be pleasantly surprised that the latter is what you'll receive throughout. Madoka ranks with very few anime. It is one that start with a whimper and ends with a whimper, but is packed with bangs throughout.
The following are notes I added after each episode aired between January 7th, 2011 and April 22nd, 2011:
PS: I WISH MY MOM GAVE HI FIVES LIKE MADOKAS DOES
WHAT AN EXECUTIVE
PS2: GIGA MUSKETTT BUREEAKKKKERRRRRRRR... and imma sip some tea now.
PS3: Needs a hardware update.
PS4: I cry out of fear watching this.
PS5: fat chicks yum
PS6: DON'T PLAY WITH MY EMOTIONS LIKE THAT HOMG
PS7: I can see Kyouko being all like "GIMME ALL YO FOOD, OR I WILL EAT YOU"
PS8: Fried Kyubey on a Stick - A southern American delicacy
PS9: I think I'm watching a Darren Aronofsky production
PS10: I liked this episode because they explained Homura's hair.
PS11: Battler would approve of this end read more
Apr 18, 2014
EDIT : it's come to my attention that it would be important to precise that I was new to the Maho Shoujo genre, which might cause disagreement upon my review. It's understandable, really. I wrote this review with nothing to compare the anime to.
Story : 7/10
I was in my horror anime phase when Madoka came to me in a suggested anime list. For this only point, the anime deserves a strong 10. The ambiance is creepy and a lot more will be said on the Art/Sound points. However, since this is really about the story, I might want to explain why the anime deserve a 7 from my part. I really, really felt like the story was way (way, way, way) too much for the small amount of episodes. Madoka brings you to an universe that had a lot of potential : magic. Dealing with magic in an anime is pretty much opening every possible door and I felt like only a few were opened. Sure, the witches were present to doom this world and make fall in despair and agony, but there are some details that weren't clear, that didn't satisfy my curiosity of always knowing more. I'm like that, so it's pretty much a personal overview.
Art : 8/10
Ok, very good art, BUT, only on the scary side. The characters were well drawn, but pretty much all over the same height, same kind of face, same kind of clothes. HOWEVER, the witches art, everything that is inside them is completely insane. It's a crazy universe, at one time very creepy and awfully ugly. This, along with the sound effects I will talk about, makes watching Madoka worthwhile.
Sound : 10/10
Incredible. The music, the sound effects, everything. You say magic, you get magic. Sounds are well done, incredibly accurate for the ambiance of the anime. This deserves a strong 10, or even 11 if I could.
Character : 6/10
This is where I lost it. I understand how people might have seen the friendship, the bonds and especially the struggle of the characters, trying to save the world knowing they were doomed to begin with, but I didn't see it quite this way. In my opinion, Homura is the only character that deserve an higher note than 6. Madoka is the classic main character who does the impossible at the very end to save it, while Mami is the strong and confident character that guides the other on the right path. Sayaka is the weak-hearthed but strong-willed character who wants to help but can't and Kyoko is the classic vilain-not-so-vilain character. Again, I understand how people could have seen the over view of the characters, the bonds they shared, but I'm analyzing them on a personal point of view and on an individual basis.
Enjoyment : 6/10
For my part, everything was really rushed in. For some animes, this method works, they're made to be fast (I'm thinking of Btooom! or Elfen Lied, for example). However, Madoka, in my humble opinion, deserved way more episodes than that (I know there were movies, but please bare with me, I'm rating the anime). I watched it really fast and I think that it just went by, nothing really had the time to amaze me, even the 'so massive' plot twist of the end.
Overall : 7/10
Madoka Magica is a nice anime. It has some fairly good points, it is creepy and it gets you in an hollow mood. Pretty much what you'd be looking for if you were seeking something similar to Higurashi no Naku Koro, which, in a way, shares many similarities (young girls, normal ambiance mixed with very creepy and scary stuff). I would recommend Madoka Magica, but with caution. I know it is considered as a masterpiece by many users on here, but for me, it was only a good anime with amazing music and sounds, but way too short for it's potential.
As always, critics are welcomed, but only if you motive them for a reason different than '' I liked it, your review is bad, you suck ''. Thanks for reading! read more
Feb 21, 2011
Even though the story starts like any typical magical girl anime, you can clearly see it is going to be different from the very beginning - it is the girls' choice, not fate, to go on the path of magic. Being a magical girl is rather a cold business deal rather than a divine blessing. And magic is not a perfect cure for everything - using it can cause a strong and hard-to-predict backlash. All that is there as early as in the first two episodes. And then episode 3 happens, and while trying not to spoil the story, I must say that all hope of this series being a normal magical girl show is lost since then. Beginning with episode 3, Madoka★Magica follows the Hitchcockian principles of storytelling - with every following episode there is some unpleasant surprise, we can't wait to see what happens next - oh, how convenient it will be for all those watching Madoka after the whole series' original airing...
I can't really decide if I should call the story predictable or not. As you may know, the show has spawned an enormous amount of speculation and discussion on 2ch, 4chan and throughout the anime fandom in general. As the story went on, many of these speculations turned out to be true. When following the discussions on the Web, it's hard to tell if the story would be predictable to a lone viewer or not. But one thing is certain - Urobuchi and Shinbou managed to tell the story in such a way that even when you know what's going to happen, everything is still exciting and makes a huge emotional impact.
All of us fans were anticipating the finale, with much speculation about the ending going on. Since the actual last episode aired, opinion about the ending varies greatly between the fans - but my personal opinion is that the ending is as great as the whole show. Of course I won't go as far as to explain the ending, but what actually makes the ending good is its... well, I'd say ambiguity, but it's on a meta-level. There are ongoing discussions even whether the ending is ambiguous or not! It makes you think, interpret it your own way, and no thought is better than any other - but at the same time, it is not an open ending, the story is completely concluded. It is truly a sign of very good writing by Urobuchi Gen. It's often said that Madoka is the same to the magical girls genre what Evangelion was to the mecha genre years ago. And I won't be surprised if it'll end up becoming a cult classic of comparable caliber.
The story is heavily character-driven, with many events happening because of the characters revealing their feelings to each other. Even though many characters are quite clear from the beginning, nothing is certain, as the world - and other characters - constantly turn out to be different than we all thought. There is no white and black, characters are deep and believable, which is certainly one of the key factors of this show's enjoyability.
This show is quite unusual for Shaft, because it is very serious in atmosphere. There is not much comedy, and when there is, it's very subtle and natural in tone. This also means we won't be seeing Shaft's signature walls of flashing text and pushy creative typography (it's still there, though, in much less obtrusive form of runes). The art still manages to be very "Shafty" in tone, however. Slightly futuristic backgrounds, heavily inspired by recent architecture of the real world, look quite similar to what we've seen in Bakemonogatari - but are usually less symbolic and significantly more polished. The characters were designed by Aoki Ume of Hidamari Sketch fame, and bear significant resemblance to that series. Such bright and happy character designs may feel out of place for a series so dark in tone, but it's aiming for an effect much similar to what Higurashi did few years ago - and it actually works here, too. Unusual proportions of Aoki's drawings feel a bit strange at the beginning, but it's easy to get used to it after an episode or two, and then both background and foreground art blend well together.
The closed worlds where witches reside, deserve a separate paragraph. Shaft employed Gekidan Inu Curry for this part, and their creative potential truly shines there. The art is very abstract, animated with stop-motion and similar techniques, feeling considerably out of place, while still working out well. These visuals are often compared to opening animations of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei seasons by fans, and Shaft's fans should recall this kind of art in other works of this studio, too.
Talking about voice acting is not really much necessary - there are many well-known and popular names in the cast, which alone gives some degree of warranty for the quality. The voices match respective characters' personalities well, too. There's nothing much more I can say about that. The music, on the other hand - it really adds up to the overall feel. The opening theme by ClariS (known for OreImo OP) builds up a nice innocent atmosphere... soon to be brutally broken by the plot and BGM, composed by Kajiura Yuki, best known as the founder of Kalafina - who also performs the outstanding ending theme - and for Kara no Kyoukai's soundtrack. Her instantly recognizable style fits astonishingly well with Madoka's atmosphere, and builds both a considerable tension and atmosphere of mystery.
The BGMs, though well-fitting, didn't stand out much for me at first. But with the progress of the story, with the mood getting darker and story more absorbing, the music also started to make more impact and I can even say that it has become catchy. The style of the soudtrack also shifts significantly during the finale, which makes it feel even more epic. Overall, I don't know if the whole OST will be worth owning, but there are few tunes which I'd really like to have is my music collection.
To sum up, Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica has got everything a good visual entertainment should have. I can only deplore that anime is somewhat looked down on outside the otaku community, because I truly believe that anime non-fans would also enjoy it. And the title sounds somewhat embarassing, too - but it's a perfect proof for that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
March 12th - updated after episode 10.
March 14th - reworded some fragments according to a reader's notes.
April 23rd - updated after the final episodes. read more
Dec 23, 2012
Boy, was I wrong.
Most reading this will know the story. Reading other reviews will reveal that this is an anime that makes one think it will turn out one way, only to violently and, sometimes, unexpectedly switch gears. Since that has been hashed out so much, I'll skip that and cut straight to the ratings:
Beginning (15 points): 14
The story begins fairly simply, introducing the general plotline in the first few episodes. As the characters are introduced, their personalities are very slowly (sometimes painstakingly so) revealed as to show their hidden motives and interests, which piqued my interest early on. Curiously, characters' pasts are not well-documented here, unlike in some of the manga and even the PSP game that exists now. My only criticism of the introduction is that Mami and Madoka, the main focus of this arc, could have benefited from even a few more minutes of delving into their past and/or present lives, but even in omitting that information, the viewer still has plenty of information to understand the characters. Even still, this is enough of a flaw to deny the beginning a perfect 15. The beginning was sufficient in explaining the beginning of the character development, and it amazed me in how it very efficiently shifted the plot into the middle of the story and on into the climax--every single scene had a purpose that became crystal clear as the story progressed.
Climax (15 points): 15
The story continues, throwing plot twist after plot twist at the viewer. Not only are they true to their name in that many of them are simply unexpected, but they also have amazing cohesion into further developing the characters. Not only that, in the transition from the beginning to middle, I found the emotion on display during each episode to be so strikingly real, that my emotions matched each character's own feelings with disturbing consistency. In no other anime has my empathy been that strong and consistent with the characters. It's common to feel bad for the characters, but it's much more difficult to give a viewer that level of empathy. As much as I try to think of a flaw for this section, none comes to mind. As a result, the climax gets a perfect 15.
Ending (15 points): 15
At some points, I got a little misty-eyed towards the end of the climax section. In the end, I was holding back tears through most of it. The level of emotion easily eclipses that of the climax, making it very hard to keep a straight face, much less outright sobbing (Clannad After Story, anyone?). At first, I honestly didn't like how the very last episode worked, but as I looked into it through reading other reviews among other things, I realized that I simply didn't understand it, and then it really grew on me. I then concluded that there was no other ending I would have liked more than that one--for the dark nature of the anime, it really was a perfect ending in that it wasn't your stereotypical "Happy ending". It had a giant asterisk. What it was, well...you'll have to find out ;) Combining the emotional appeal of the episodes leading up to the final one as well as the conclusion of the last episode itself, I would have to say that the ending also earns a perfect score. If you are easily touched by happy or sad scenes, bring a hankie. You'll need it.
Character Quality and Development (20 points): 19
I'm really trying to find flaws here. In my opinion, it's damn near impossible. EVERY character has a 3-dimensional personality, and there wasn't a single main character who didn't seem real, human, and likeable, within reason. The weakest link of all the characters is really Madoka, but even her personality is realistic. The ONLY flaw I can think of is the lack of history in two of the five main characters (even the Pokemon reject Kyuubey gets his own development) that I mentioned in the "Beginning" section of the story review. One point lost for lost potential, but other than that, any criticism is really just splitting hairs.
Art (15 points): 15
The character art is pretty good stuff. As you progress through the story, the witch world art is absolutely surreal--the term I used to describe it after my first night watching was "Alice in Wonderland-meets-LSD hallucination". It was so good, and even haunting, that I had a dream where my surroundings were witch world-esque. The art was creepy at first, but it grows on you. I really liked it. Perfect score.
Sound (10 points): 10
Really hard to argue with the sound. SFX were as creepy as the art. BGM was probably a little thinner than most, but so many scores stuck with you. Stuff I hadn't heard in a week, I still remembered. The rest made it on my iPod. Really hard to criticize a soundtrack that you're listening to in your spare time.
Enjoyment (10 points): 10
I never thought I'd watch an anime that I would like better than Clannad. Till now. Though it's close, this has to be my new favorite anime, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. I spent several rewatches staying up until the wee hours of the morning simply because I couldn't put the series down long enough to go to sleep. With that kind of obsession with Madoka Magica, I can't give it anything other than a 10 for enjoyment.
Tally that up, and the final score for the series is a whopping 98/100, good enough for an easy MAL score of 10. Outrageous as it sounds, I've never had an anime that made me laugh, cry, and spend sleepless nights awake in a mixture of shock and horror as much as this one. I truly enjoyed it fully, and if Kyuubey were real, I'd contract with him to let me watch this over and over again for the first time every time. read more
Jan 29, 2014
The story itself is unique and done surprisingly well, especially considering how it’s only a 12 episode long show. It revolves around Madoka, a seemingly ordinary high school girl, who, through a strange chain of events, gets introduced to a very mystical and twisted reality, unknown to ordinary people, in which magical girls exist and constantly fight against witches, their sworn enemies, in order to keep the world safe. Now, when hearing the words “magical girls”, you probably wouldn’t think of girls using swords, spears, rifles or even bombs as their weapon of choice. Well, this is merely one of the things that sets this anime apart from others in the same genre. For some reason, it made me think that these girls are dead serious about their job, as they’re ready to use just about any means at their disposal in order to accomplish their goal. As mentioned before, the series is full of twists around every corner and, needless to say, it made every episode interesting and continually kept me asking for more.
Another thing that I found really unique about this anime were its fascinating visuals. Though the characters themselves don’t look that impressive, Studio Shaft definitely did a great job on making the backgrounds, special effects and the overall artwork look absolutely stunning. This is especially evident when looking at the designs of the witches’ labyrinths (realms of witches) and the witches themselves. They’re extraordinary, bizarre and look just like something that came out of a child’s dark fantasy or nightmare, which additionally contributes to the overall twisted feel of the show.
The soundtrack of the show is nothing short of amazing. Yuki Kajiura’s music was phenomenal as usual and it really fit the overall tone of the show. I still occasionally catch myself searching up the music, just so I could listen to it over and over again – though, I will admit, it doesn’t sound nearly as good when taken out of context. In the show, however, it does its job incredibly well, making many of the scenes even more dramatic than they already were. The opening song, as mentioned before, is very pleasant and catchy, though it eventually starts to feel really out of place as the series progresses, since the show only gets darker and darker. The voice acting is, for the most part, pretty standard, though I would like to specially mention the performance of Saito Chiwa, Homura’s voice actress, which was, in my opinion, absolutely spectacular, as it fit her role perfectly.
Unfortunately, nothing is flawless, and such is the case with Madoka Magica. If I were to look for a real weakness in this show, it would have to be its characters. Now, mind you, the characters aren’t exactly bad, but they aren’t that good either. This comes from the fact that most of the magical girls fall into a number of stereotypical categories. This way we have the main character, Madoka, who’s a pretty typical cute and clumsy girl that hates conflicts; Sayaka, her cheerful, tomboyish best friend; Homura, a gloomy girl, full of secrets… However, there is one girl that appears later in the show that does manage to leave a much better impression. This isn’t only because she’s more interesting than the aforementioned characters, but also because she’s probably the most developed; her backstory is presented so well, that it perfectly explains why she acts the way she does and will most certainly make you genuinely care for her as well. I just wish that this exact treatment was given to all characters, and not just her. Still, I liked how every girl represented a different human emotion, as this definitely made them more memorable and made me care a lot more for them in the end.
Another thing worth mentioning is that a lot of the explanations offered throughout this show may seem hard to process, depending on whether the viewer is willing to accept them or not. In fact, the overall enjoyment of this show may vastly depend on the viewer’s willingness to just “go with the flow”. This is especially evident when talking about the show’s ending. While many (myself included) will probably think that it is a gratifying conclusion to the show, I can also imagine many others scratching their heads trying to figure out what happened and how it was made possible. Nevertheless, I still think the ending offers a very satisfying conclusion to the show, even though it’s definitely open to interpretation.
If you’re reading this review wondering whether you should watch this show or not, then my answer would be: definitely. Not only is this series a great deconstruction of the magical girl genre, but it’s also a great show by itself; one that I would surely recommend to anyone, regardless of their preferences. Overall, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is a fantastic anime and it would be a shame to pass it up.
Jun 30, 2013
Produced by Shaft as its first original anime series, the same studio that brought us the anime adaptations of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, ef – a fairy tale of the two, and the monogatari series, Puella Magi, or Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, begins with what appears on the surface to be another typical take on the magical girl genre... one that usually places adversity, action, and fluff, sappy stuff, in the same room. The show, even from the beginning on, begs to differ. It commands us of this: To see what's off color from that strange, ominous dream. To listen to the warnings of that mysterious, yet familiar girl. To be aware. To be ready as plot and character are tested and contorted by this tale from both within and without, from the heights of pre-subversion heaven into the depths of post-subversion hell. It is full of twists and turns meant to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, if not fall off of them altogether. To accomplish these twists and turns successfully, adequate and subtle foreshadowing is imperative. A balance of expectations must be struck: one that could happen rather than should, one that invites shock while warding off suspension. And to the show's merit, with what it did with the first major subversion and beyond, it does that very well. This show is subtleties a plenty that suggest those traumas and horrors, delivered with a certain finesse, letting it all sink in before letting another wham smack you upside the face or double up the gut.
Director Akiyuki Shinbo's unconventional style of surreal artistry, odd angles, variant lighting, and object placement, alongside allusions to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust not only give audiences something strange, yet innovative and exciting to look at. The standout sight, however, the witches, the familiars, and their lairs, inspired by Russian and Czech animation styles, are thanks to troupe Gekidan InuCurry. They provide the perfect complement, unnerving perversions of innocence, to Script Writer Gen Urobuchi's dark knack for character brutalizations. This is not to say brutalizations are a crucial trait toward excellent storytelling, but Urobuchi's prowess in fingering through bowels make it work in a way as to have either result in screaming in anguish and/or sobbing uncontrollably at and/or on their screens. However, a story cannot hold itself up to scrutiny unless there is more to the content than just subversion, since subversion is a more a means, a device, rather than the end. The end to subversion is a deconstruction, and the end to deconstruction, to the show itself... But what is a deconstruction? What is it besides another means? Deconstruction is a postmodern form of literary analysis that tears into how genre tropes are presented in the story. Fluff, for instance, is one common expression of magical girls, sweet and simple. It's so ubiquitous in magical girl anime that one tends to take it for granted. Yet on whose authority is fluff the end all, be all? Is this all that this genre can amounts to? Deconstruction questions these assumptions through the binary oppositions, or dialectical opposites. What becomes of this is the juxtaposition of fluff with grit and gore. Grim consequences brought to the fore. In addition, new perspectives, interestingly enough, result in further deconstructions of other issues present in the form of philosophical inquiry. What is the nature of warfare? Is there such a thing as altruism? What does it mean to be human? Is hope real?
These writings are complemented by show's incredibly well done battle sequences, both avoiding the pit-fall of becoming a distraction while serving more than just spectacle. Aside for fan favorite arrays such as “Unlimited Musket Works” (though I happen to be fonder of the RPG and Mortar versions myself), no where is the action shown just for a rise. In fact, Some contribute to that dangerous sense of elation. Others suit the tone of desperation. Still others build heroic defiance.
Along with Shaft's trademark aesthetic is its rather clever and dynamic utilization of OPs and EDs. Minor shifts in detail, choice temporal placements, and, particularly with the EDs, the incorporation of different musics and visuals at the conclusions of fait accompli intervals not only reflect the direction the show is headed. They provide new insights under the lenses of new contexts. Picking directly at the music itself, we have the official OP “Connect” by the female J-Pop idol duo ClariS, which, paralleled with the OP art and animation, provides for primarily the fuzzy feeling one gets with bright lights, energetic hijinks, and happy images. Yet there is foreshadow; subversion, we salute you. The official ED “Magia,” by Yuki Kajiura's band Kalafina, by contrast, follows the show's descent into the dark and disturbing: bleak and steadily blackening backgrounds swallowing the colored silhouettes of characters coupled with those chimes, cymbals, strings, heavy metal, and eerie, eerie chants. Both OP and especially ED, if not for the music, deserve repeated by observant and fanatical fans as they hint at later developments that might not otherwise be appreciable on first watch. The OST, composed by Kajiura itself, is done fittingly within the contexts of characters and scenes as well as on their own merits, whether it be with the intensity of one violin or the epic of an entire orchestra: happy-go-lucky to heart-wrenching, mysterious to evocative, tragic to inspiring.
All this being said, the show is not without its flaws. Though I don't have much issue with Shaft and its tendency toward quick vacillations in camera views, peculiar angles of characters within some of the shots, such as the studio's iconic tendency toward head tilts, admittedly, can feel distracting. The Hidamari Sketch character designs by Ume Aoki, for the most part, fit the subversive features. They can also demonstrate, from body language to facial expression, a surprising amount of pathos. However, far distance panoramas can have faces looking somewhat like moe blobs which can take away from the immersion of moments otherwise meant to be taken seriously. The animation is fluid, save for certain parts when much isn't happening on screen, whereby things may feel stilted. Character development is superb throughout, but if complaints are to be had, the introduction to one character's back story felt a bit rushed and unnatural. Another's was hardly touched, though hers worked fine for the purpose that she was set up for while containing a subtle, yet surprising amount of depth. It would just be nice if her background was more thoroughly explored.
Regardless if Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is as revolutionary as Neon Genesis Evangelion was for mecha... Regardless if it is darker than cousins Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Princess Tutu... it is nonetheless a piece that deserves a watch, regardless of preconception generated by the genre. After all, it is a human story foremost.
I give Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica a 9 out of 10. read more
Jun 28, 2013
If you have an obsession with the “magical girl” genre, but want something new and different, I highly recommend this anime.
1) This magical-girl show is filled with tragedy and uniqueness. It’s not just about girls who are fighting crime, and bringing justice. There is a high amount of depth in this show. It goes away from the rainbows and butterflies of magic.
2) It’s a combination of various genres. It has a bit of sci-fi, action, drama, magic, etc.
3) Though this show only has female main characters, both genders will enjoy it.
4) For a 12 episode series, it answers a lot of questions we are thinking through out the show about the contract, Kyuubey, and the wishes.
5) The ending is bittersweet. The writers did an excellent job of concluding the show even thought it is predictable and pretty unoriginal.
6) The relationship that the main character has with the mom is something that should be done in more anime. We get to hear the wisdom and helpful advice from mother to daughter, and we are able to see why the character is the way she is. I just wish that they showed the other girls parents (where the heck were they?)
7) I have yet to do this, but rewatching the show will not kill the enjoyment. The first episode will actually make more sense after you finish the series.
8) I did not really focus on the songs when I was watching the anime, but it has been mentioned that even the songs (especially opening theme) starts to make sense when the show is in its final episodes. It sounds bright and cheerful, but is it really?
9) The artwork was intriguing. The “other realm”, the background, the fighting sequences was done brilliantly. You might not understand it in the beginning, but like everything else in this anime, the pieces of the puzzle seems to come together by the end of the series (might be a turnoff for some).
10) There was character development. You learn more about the characters that you actually want to know more about.
1) I absolutely did not like how the characters were drawn. The eyes, hair, and the facial structures were not my cup of tea.
2) Although the characters had development, the characters role in the story was obvious. They were very irritating in the beginning, because they were the typical archetypes of any anime.
3) Even though the first episode might have hooked many people to continue the show, for others (like me), it’s only when we’re half way through the anime (approx. episode 5-6) that we start to fully enjoy it.
4) Though I said this anime does not follow the cliché’s of the magical theme shows, there are a lot of unoriginal content; I cannot really mention them because it contains spoilers. Some people might not be emotionally invested in this anime because of it. I think the thing that saved this anime was the fact that it did well in its presentation/execution of the storyline. It made up for those unoriginal moments.
Things you may want to know before you watch this show:
1) There is blood and violence.
2) There is little to zero romance.
3) There is nudity by the end of the series (nothing too explicit or detailed). Actually, it's really nothing.
4) It does emphasize on friendship.
5) The storyline is not shallow; it’s not just about happy people.
I have not seen many anime of this genre (I didn’t even bother watching Sailor Moon when I was little), so I could not completely appreciate the originality of this show. Though I enjoyed it, I believe many others who are familiar with the magical theme will applaud it. I would recommend some people to watch it!
…12 episodes wouldn't hurt anyone, right?
Jun 24, 2012
In this review I am going to limit myself to what I consider to be the two most interesting aspects of this show. The writing, and the art. The review contains moderate amounts of spoilers.
This was the first of Gen Urobuchi's works that I had the privilege to experience and I have since watching it, sought after anything else that he has been involved in. His name only, has become enough for me to check out a work, be it anime, book, or visual novel. He has a very peculiar, unorthodox style of writing. It isn't by any means flawless and I am sure that a lot of people would find it off-putting, but when it works, it is golden. Urobuchi's writing is all about deception through the clever use of turning-points and unexpected, yet logical developments.
If "Madoka" was a conventional story, it would use the first few episodes to establish a premise (magical girl anime), follow it up by introducing some sort of main direction for the story (defeat bad guys, save people, etc), introduce an eventual villain, end it with a climactic battle, and perhaps wrap it up with an epilogue of some sort.
Instead, the premise for the beginning of the story is dropped almost immediately, only for the story to head in several completely different directions that are in a similar fashion dropped along the way, either because they were only there to decieve you in the first place, or because they only serve as a foundation for what is to come. The true nature of the story isn't established until it is a bit over half way through. Homura's story is only told right before they are about to head towards the show's climax. To put it simply, if at the start of the show, you think Madoka will become a magical girl by the end of the first or second episode, you will have to guess again... and again... and again... and again... and by the time you have given up playing guessing games, you will find yourself unexpectedly in love with a story that you never would have guessed was coming.
There is no real villain as "Walpurgisnacht" is treated more as an apocalyptic weapon than as an actual character, and "Kyubee" though he may technically be the source of all the destruction, he isn't by any means acting out the role of an antagonist. In the same sense, Madoka isn't exactly the kind of protagonist you would find in a magical girl show. She is powerless, afraid, unstable, and generally helpless to the horrors that surrounds her. Homura on the other hand, is where the heart of the show lies. Her actions, her efforts, her beginning, middle, and end, are the most defining aspect of the show.
If you are expecting a more conventional story, this kind of writing might rub you the wrong way, but for me, it was amazing. At the end of the show when I think back on what I have just watched, it amazes me how much it contrasts in where it starts, where it goes, and where it ends up. It really feels like a journey, and it leaves me breathless, staring up at the ceiling in silent awe. Of course, you can never achieve the same experience on a second viewing as you are already prepared for everything beforehand, but that first time you watch it is an experience unlike any other.
This show is absolutely beautiful. If you took away all of what I have already mentioned above, leaving only the art and preferably the music, I would have still loved it. As a big sucker for deranged animation and surrealist art styles, "Madoka" is right up my alley, reminding me of works such as Mamoru Oshii's "Angel's Egg", Tatsuo Sato's "Cat Soup", and even of German expressionism from the 1920's such as "The cabinet of Dr. Caligari", or "Metropolis". The art itself is very imaginative and vivid. My favourite part is the scene that is done completely in silhouettes.
My best recommendation is to watch the enhanced bluray version that even goes back and adds extra changes in the animation throughout the series, creating an even stronger effect, and making the experience all the more complete.
However, just like the story, the real beauty of the animation isn't the art itself, but how it is used. The surreal mode only kicks in when there is a witch nearby, meaning all other scenes are drawn in a relatively normal style of animation. Most notable are the character designs. The characters were all designed by Ume Aoki, author of Hidamari Sketch, who was never told what the show was about. She actually thought she was designing characters for a regular magical girl anime. Thus we have the perfect illusion of an innocent, saccharine, moe, girly looking show for when the art style is in normal mode. More importantly though, it also makes for an amazing contrast when the setting suddenly changes into surreal mode, and the cuteness of the characters make it all the more jarring when seeing the horrible environment that surrounds them. In fact, combining cuteness with horror seems to be a running theme in all aspects of this show, be it art, story, characters, music, etc. Combining opposites in a fictional work is somewhat of a risk but "Madoka" manages it exceptionally well, creating something rather unique.
There is much more to discuss about "Madoka". The Faustian themes of the story, the cosmic horror aspect, the deconstruction aspect (as well as the reconstruction aspect), the amazing soundtrack composed by Yuki Kajiura, the characters, the production, the story itself, etc. A single review simply cannot bring it justice, as even this one that barely scratches the surface has already dragged on for too long. As for concluding words, "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" is an experience that you cannot afford to miss. The story is rich, it is provocative in more ways than one, it is unique, it looks great, it sounds great, it is a must see. read more
Mar 28, 2012
I can't say that I'm a fan of or that I've had much experience with the magical girl genre of anime. I've watched Sailor Moon, and that's about the extent of my exposure to this particular genre. Therefore, I feel unqualified to talk about genre clichés and whatnot, so I won't say anything like, "Madoka Magica redefined the magical girl genre with its twisted and dark plot" or "Madoka Magica is a refreshing break from the classic cheerful magical girl animes".
From a completely objective standpoint, Madoka had a compelling and intriguing plot. It starts off not unlike the typical magical girl anime (or so I would presume): we are introduced to the protagonist Madoka Kaname and her friends Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki in a typical middle/high school environment. The mascot character of the series, Kyuubey, appears shortly and offers to grant Madoka and Sayaka any wish under the condition that they become magical girls and dedicate their lives to fighting malicious beings called witches which, apparently, are the cause for many unexplained accidents and suicides. Sounds like a simple and innocent proposition, doesn't it? But, obviously, there's more to it that. The story, in short, follows Madoka as she gradually learns of the hardships and suffering that befalls all the girls who choose to accept Kyuubey's offer, and truth behind the witches and the seemingly good-natured concept of wish-granting.
The plot definitely introduces one of the more creative concepts I've encountered in my history of watching anime. To be frank, I can guarantee that you will never be bored at any point during the series. The action is fast-paced, the drama is effective but never overdone, and the shock value alone is enough to keep you at the edge of your seat.
So where does Madoka fail to live up to my expectations?
One of the biggest issues I have with the series is its choice of Madoka as the central character. Simply put, she just doesn't have what it takes to be an effective protagonist. Remember what I said about her being thrown into a situation where she is forced to cope with the consequences of becoming a magical girl? In a sense, I lied. She is never really faced with that situation, because she is always on the sidelines, watching the action unfold around her. It is due to this reason that we simply cannot sympathize with her and her story in the same way that would if she had played a more important role. It's difficult for the audience to feel like they are part of the show because, frankly speaking, Madoka isn't part of the show. It honestly feels as if she could be demoted to the role of the narrator, and it wouldn't make a difference as far as the unfolding of the events is concerned. Until, of course, the last episode.
On the topic of the last episode, I must admit that I was thoroughly confused throughout the majority of it. Those of you who have seen the anime will probably know what I mean. I also can't say that I enjoyed the way the series ended. It was, by all means, a satisfactory resolution to a series for which I had difficulty predicting an ending, but, in hindsight, it came across as borderline absurd. Madoka's sudden and drastic change of personality was not in the least bit convincing, and, as bittersweet as the conclusion was, I had a hard time believing that a middle school-aged girl could muster up the courage to show such a huge sense of responsibility and selflessness.
I would honestly like to discuss some of the plotholes that cause the believability factor of the series to waver, but doing so would inevitable lead to some major spoilers. I suppose some of them are minor enough to the point that they can be overlooked, but as a highly critical person, I found them difficult to ignore. Hopefully, those of you who have watched or are planning to watch the anime will be able to set these flaws aside and not let them affect your enjoyment of the series.
If I were to rate the art of the series on character design alone, I wouldn't be able to give Madoka more than a 5. I simply did not like the way the characters looked. I've heard that the characters look much better in the manga, and apparently not even the animation in the anime did the manga justice. The series has often been criticized for reusing the same bland appearance for all five of its magical girl characters, and this criticism is justified. But it becomes pretty obvious when the witches show up that the characters weren't the major focus of the animation team.
The first thing that came into my mind during the first witch fight was that the animation must have been inspired by LSD-induced hallucinations. Although that opinion never really changed throughout the series, I grew to appreciate the witch sequences so much that I was more excited to see the design of a witch's lair than the battle against the witch herself. The sequences feature some of the best examples of surrealist imagery I have ever seen. I guess it's to be expected of a studio that produces art-driven anime like SHAFT. In addition, I love how many elements of a witch's past are (presumably) incorporated into the design of her lair as well, undoubtedly leading to fan speculation on the histories of the many witches featured in the anime.
The animation is very fluid and the fight sequences are crisp and well-choreographed. I don't really have any comments or complaints about the non witch lair environments either, although the fact that all the buildings seem to made out of glass really stands out. It gives you the impression that the story is set in a futuristic world. Overall, the series is visually attractive, if one can overlook the mishaps in character design.
Simply put, the soundtrack is flawless. The background music never once fails to enhance the atmosphere and manages to evoke a wide array of emotions. You know that you've found an amazing soundtrack when you can enjoy listening to it without the visuals presented in the animation. My personal favourite is Sayaka's Miki theme; although it seems like a joyful song on the surface, a melancholic undertone can be detected upon careful listening. Homura Akemi's theme stands as well, because it is quite representative of her character - cold, mysterious, and spine-chilling.
The opening theme, Connect, is a pretty generic J-pop song, suitable for any magical girl anime. The cheerful opening also presents you with images of Madoka engaged in typical magical girl activities, lulling you into a "false sense of security". The ending theme is much more consistent with the atmosphere of the series, and I think the decision to not use it until the third episode was justified. Although unrelated to sound, I must also mention that both themes change visually as the story progresses. I won't discuss all the details, but one of the more interesting changes is that the ending becomes darker and darker every episode, reflecting the gradual descent of the characters into despair.
The seiyuus did a great job on the voice acting, and I honestly can't say I have any complaints sub-wise. I particularly loved Kato Emiri's convincing performance as Kyuubey, as her voice remained consistent with his emotionless character throughout the entire series.
While I loved most of the main characters of the show, especially Homura, from a subjective point of view, it's hard to ignore the fact that the series has some problems in this department.
I have already discussed Madoka's failure as a protagonist in the story section of the review. In addition to this unforgivable "identity crisis", it would be an understatement to say that Madoka is one of the least interesting main characters in anime history. There honestly isn't much to her other than the fact that she's your average middle school girl faced with a not-so-average dilemma. Why the writers decided to centre the entire story around her is honestly completely beyond my comprehension. She does, however, change in the last two episodes and develops an independent mindset and sense of justice. Unfortunately, this drastic change in personality is all too sudden and happens too late in the series to rectify her initial shallowness.
On the other side of the spectrum is the mysterious Homura Akemi. She's enigmatic, seemingly emotionless, and doesn't say or do much for the majority of episodes apart from the repetitive "do not become a magical girl" warnings to Madoka and occasional deus ex machina. We do find out later why she has developed into the type of person that she is, justifying most, if not all, of her actions. However, it's honestly difficult to feel sympathy for her because her personality is introduced too late in the series in the span of a single episode. Forgive me for speaking the truth, Homuhomu-chan. I still love you, though.
My feelings towards the tomboyish Sayaka are mostly positive. I loved how her descent into hopelessness and despair was portrayed in such a relentless manner. I did feel sympathy for her because, unlike Madoka, she had a strong sense of justice from the start, but her childish naiveté led to her eventual downfall. The subplot with Kyosuke, although extremely generic, was also a welcome addition to the series, as it shed light onto her character and motivations and showed the extent to which she was affected upon learning about the 'fine print' of the magical girl contract.
Admittedly, I found that Kyouko had the most interesting personality out of the five magical girls. She's cynical, selfish, hotheaded, and even reveals her sadistic side to Sayaka. Not exactly the formula for a likeable character, is it? However, when the story eventually sheds some light on her past, you begin to understand why she acts the way she does and she becomes even more interesting. It's quite regrettable that she is a major player in so few episodes.
As for Mami, there isn't much to say about her, and it isn't exactly her fault. She has a motherly and optimistic character and introduces Madoka and Sayaka to the world of magical girls, but doesn't play a major role in the story.
Finally, a couple of words on Kyuubey. He doesn't have much of a personality, and once again, it's not his fault. He initially seems good-natured and innocent, but you soon realize that this isn't the case. It isn't difficult to guess that his intentions are not pure and his manipulative side suggests that he has ulterior motives.
Overall, I think the biggest problem of the series is that the seemingly less important characters contribute much more to the enjoyability of the story than those who are essentially forced into the spotlight without much depth to offer.
I will say this one more time. I love Madoka Magica and I enjoyed every second of it. And that's why this review was so difficult for me to write. I wanted to present to the community a completely unbiased view on an anime that has been constantly revered as "the best anime of 2011" and even "one of the best animes of all time". The verdict? It simply does not deserve the amount of praise it gets.
Don't get me wrong. I would definitely recommend Madoka to anyone without a second thought. Don't let this review change your mind about watching Madoka. After all, it isn't fair to judge an anime based on the opinions of another person. At the end of the day, I guess all that matters is whether or not you enjoy the anime personally.
Apr 29, 2011
I finally understand why one should not judge a book by its cover. To be honest, I never liked the design of the characters in Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica and I’m sure there are those out there (like me) who may be skeptical with this show due to that fact alone. I mean … doesn’t the swollen, flattened, wide, and overblown faces turn you off? It sure did for me. But boy, I cannot describe how glad I am now after marathoning Madoka★Magica in two days (despite all the assignments, projects, and exam deadlines)!
So what can you expect out of this show? Certainly not the typical magical girl story one would be expecting. Taking place in a futuristic world, the story started off like most other magical girl series. School setting, bunch of young girls hanging around together, the typical “happy care-free” life. But that quickly changed as the pace of the story drastically increased as well as the mood darkens at the same time. Soon the viewers are engulfed with deep hatred and sorrow and a wide range of emotions that will only leave one hanging and lust for more. To say Madoka★Magica is an emotionally driven show is not an overstatement.
The sound department is just as brilliant as the story itself. With the new junior high duo ClariS doing the opening theme and Kalafina doing the ending theme, that should automatically ring some bell for some hardcore anime followers. But putting the fame of these singer groups aside, both the opening and ending theme songs for Madoka★Magica are just splendid in itself. You know how some songs have to grow on you; where you need time to get used to it and even then, it might not be catchy enough for you to fell in love with? Rests assure there is no such problem with neither the opening nor ending themes for this show. As if that is not enough, Yuki Kajiura-sama herself is responsible for the BGM, theme song lyrics, and composition! We all know how emotionally driven her music can be, certainly one of the greatest musician in the industry to date.
Character. Can’t really say there is a lot of character “growth”, BUT, I can safely say they have enormous depth making them more believable and lovable. The depth mainly comes from the background stories of the girls. Viewers will find out why each girl chose to become a magical girl and how they live with their choice afterward. If you are a keen viewer, perhaps you may even be able to see through what each girl represents symbolically and relate their experience throughout the show with our own daily lives. On that note, I have to give the production studios (SHAFT and Aniplex) credit for a job well done as well as finding the appropriate seiyu to voice cast the respective characters.
On to our last topic, it’s also one that I have briefly mentioned in the beginning. Yup, it is regarding the animation of Madoka★Magica. Surely most of us are familiar with SHAFT and its style of production, but not everyone accepts the way SHAFT handle its own anime. While one can argue that SHAFT is being creative with their work, which certainly differentiates them from other studio, but for the everyday norm like my humble self I cannot say I appreciate their work of mixing reality into anime to create something nightmare-ish. By that I do not mean the incorporation of real city sceneries into the anime, but rather, I am referring to the infrequent random usage of flowers, candies, or butterflies that takes away any seriousness to the show. Perhaps I just don’t understand “art”.
Lastly, I wish to say that as an anime original work (not adapted from light novel or manga like many anime these days), Mahou Shoujo Madoka ★Magica certainly deserves some praise. If I were to describe the excitement level of this show, the closest I can think of is a mathematical exponential curve. The early episodes serve as the typical story foundation blocks, but right after that is done, you can sure as hell expect an emotional rollercoaster ride =D read more