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, Houbunsha
Duration: 24 min. per episode
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)L represents licensing company
Score: 8.611 (scored by 174664 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
Today, 4:55 AM
The show is a rather unusual and dramatic twist on an everyday magical girl show. The main word being dramatic. There are fights, transformations and monsters but the thing this show dedicates most attention to is drama. A well written and for the most part beautifly executed drama. The show takes a huge advantage of the protagonists being 14 or so year old girls to explore the psychology of teens and how they can balance and swiftly change between bright hope and endless despair. I can boldly call this anime a master of controlling and manipulating the mood, atmosphere and the undertones to it's advantage to make you feel just what the show wants you to feel. Rarely I have seen the show knowing just what buttons to push and when to tell an deep, adult and intruiging story.
Another word that I would use to describe the story would be gripping. Now people throw that word to left and right like it is nothing and I don't think we should treat it that way. I have seen many good and interesting anime shows which were not neccerely gripping. Madoka Magica is really what I can call a gripping show. The episodes flow into each other flawlessly and always make you want to watch more without using the cheap tactics like awful cliffhangers at the end of the episode which did not really bring anything cool in the following episode but were impemented only for you to turn on the next epsode.
The reasons for being that gripping is that the pacing of the show is near flawless after the first 2 episodes. As I said the story flows with no filler and no time spent on unneccery things. The dialoges are well written and the voice actors did an outstanding job.
The show also had a memorable soundtrack with nice opening and amazing ending. And that says a lot because I mostly skip my endings even if the song is not bad. The reason that the ending stands out is not only because of the song (Which is wonderful) but because of the way it was implemented and how the last scenes smoothly flow into the said ending. The original soundtrack itself always helps create a special mood and is subtle when needed and energyzing when the scene demands it.
The animation of the show is superb. There are not as many fight scenes as one would hope but they are all animated and stylized in a great fashion. The style change when the protagonists fight witches is imaginative and always cool to look at. Still this anime often reuses the same shots of character animations especially in dialoge. It is more apperent in the second half of the show. Still it looks more like a directing technique than the means to save some budget.
From here the review enters the spoiler section because to explain the things I did not like about the show I need to get more in depth into the story. If you have not watched this anime I urge you to do so and I also urge you to avoid any and all spoilers concerning it because it can really ruin the whole experience for you.
Now it is time to discuss the things I did not like about the show and really all of them come from the last 4 or so episodes. To tell the truth the frist 8 episodes are near flawless and are a 9 or 10 out of 10 material. I can't say the same thing about the rest of the show. It was still rather good but not as good as what preceeded it at least in my opinion.
I will start with a small nitpick which is the thing I personaly find a bit silly. The fact that the universe runs on the energy which is collected by aliens by giving young girls powers to turn into magical girls and then gather even more energy from their despair as they turn into witched is a bit silly to me. Yes it is a magical girls show and this kind of thing does not seem that much of a silly concept for the genre but this show had a completely different tone. Still it may just be me.
The real problems I have with this show started with the show introducing us to the information that one of the protagonists is a time traveler and that she has relieved this events many time already to try to get the different outcome but she always failed and went back in time to relieve these events again to try to fix things and make the outcome different. First of all it is rather dumb that she has the powers of complete time travel but only travels to a single perioud of time. I think anyone would think of going back a little further than a few weeks to try to fix things after you have failed numerious times. The anime did not set any limitations on her powers so it is not like she can travel only to that set time a few weeks ago. Often she failed only because the events she tried to stop from happenening already started happening at that time she returned to. You would think she had enough brians to go a bit further into the past.
The fact that the whole show till the end was just another timeline she traveled really and I mean REALLY undermined the events that happened before we were introduced to this twist. I mean why should I care if I knew that she could and did come back in time so that the events happened in a different way? The first part of the show starts feeling rather unimportant even though it was much better than the last few episodes.
The other problem I have is the ending. I was left unsatisfied with it and it produced close to no impact on me. It leaves many questions and answeres close to none of them. The protagonist becomes a sort of "God" and just waves her hand to fix everything and make everything good...well at least it would be good if she actually thought the wish through. While better, what she wished for was not really a good solution to the problem.
Also one thing. The collosal potential of the main protagonist is explained as following. The more impact the magical girl has on the fate of the world and ETC the more powerful she becomes. But following that logic the time traveling protagonist should wield far greater power. She has the power to travel through time and basicly holds the fate of the unverse in her hands to some extent and it is only because of her obsession that the main protagonist has this much of an impact of the fate of the universe. In reality the timetraveler is the one who has a much bigger impact. I mean the universe has repeated the same few weeks a dozzen times just because she wanted to save her friend.
Still all of that issues may not bug you at the end of the day, but they did bug me.
To tell the truth overall I stil highly enjoyed the show, especially the first 8 or so episdoes. I can't be mad at this show beacuse in it's first half alone it accomplished more than a huge chunk of shows do in their long 26 or more episode run. The ending was not straight up horrible. Even though the idea was rather dumb in my opinion, it was executed very well. I still HIGHLY reccomend this show to anybody and urge you all to watch it.
Nov 20, 2014
Becoming a magical girl for any wish that can be granted may seem like a perfect deal, but the side effects that come with being one is truly terrifying to say the least. You give up everything to fight for your life against witches, and monsters that can affect just about anyone and anything in the world around you.
Following Madoka, a girl in middle school, she runs into a contract maker named Kyuubey and meets a mysterious girl named Homura. From there on Kyuubey begins to insist that she become a magical girl and make a contract, which introduces her to witches and the concept of how it all works. The initial first few episodes seems a little slow, but definitely is important since it builds foundation for the rest of the story that is about to pick up rapidly.
Looking back at the anime, it seems to be mainly focused on one big picture, yet has a subtle story that is uncovering through all the chaos. When watching this you'll notice that perspectives and ideals are changed for every character. It provides a lesson that many people might not notice from all the action, our desires can get the better of us and make us into people that we might not want to become.
For having characters that are putting their life on the line, you'll have characters that definitely seem the opposite of who they are. Each have their own circumstance for becoming a magical girl and just brings out the emotion that the show is giving off perfectly. Possibly one of the strongest features of this anime is its strong cast line that it offers.
To start you have Madoka, a girl who's living a normal life and ends up just getting thrown into a whole new world. Her mindset is definitely one the best of show and she seems really strong willed, though it doesn't really seem like it. She experiences many tribulations that can definitely throw off many people, yet she manages to hang on and over come them. Arguably the most bland character for some people due to her personality, but is definitely on the strongest in certain aspects.
Second you have her best friend Sayaka. She's someone that is steadfast and cares for her friends greatly, but can sometimes do things before thinking. She is one who has a crush on a guy and is greatly affected by his personality and thinking. He sort of drives her and pushes the story further by his unintentional actions. From then on she is sort of the trigger to the story with something that ends up happening and sends the whole cast into despair.
Lastly you have Homura, possibly the most interesting of the entire group. Making a mysterious appearance, throughout the story she seems cold-hearted and rude, but is similar to any girl out there. She gets lonely and wants to do the best for her friends. Being misunderstood throughout the series, she's labeled as a bad person generally, but gets her true intention out towards the end. From start to finish, Homura is just a bundle of surprises that many wouldn't expect and added a whole lot more to the anime.
The rest of the main characters are Mami and Kyouko. From the start Mami is possibly one of the icons of show and brings a lot to the table from helping Madoka with her decision, to just being the trigger of the terror that this anime can bring. While Kyouko is one of that seemed to be rude at first, she turned out to be just like Homura, a lonely person who wishes to have friends by her side. She exposes some secrets about being a magical girl and ends up joining the group while experiencing it all with them.
If there was anything that was most deceiving about this anime, it would have to be art. The age old saying of "Don't judge a book by it's cover" truly shows for this and is the perfect way to describe it. From the childish appearance, it can make it seem like it's bland, but it's an art style that I barely see done ever. Coming from the famous studio Shaft that's produced many popular anime recently, you're given an art style that is from Umi Aoki, the person who also made Hidamari Sketch. She's a person who puts a lot of detail in background and characters, but makes it look cute and eye catching. With a bright color scheme for most of the show, you have nice aesthetics to look at from start to end. For the scenes with witches, you have sort of a collage looking art, and it definitely gives it a sense of creepiness, but makes it interesting. It's an art style I rarely see done, so it's something new for everyone to experience. From the background to the witches themselves, they're all unique in design and give the "dungeon" or lair that they reside in, a sense of uniqueness.
ClariS is a duo that I enjoy heavily and all their songs for this anime are wonderful. Though only introducing "Connect", the opening, to the original series, the songs in the movies are also wonderful and definitely give off the feeling each one was trying to give off. Then onto the OST, it's probably on the biggest factors that made me enjoy this. It has a sense of despair while also giving a hint of survival. From "Credens Justitiam" to "Sis Puella Magica" you're given music that fit the mood that the show is giving off at the perfect moments to make the suspense and emotion even better.
With all of this in mind, it's truly a contender for an anime of a perfect 10 rating. From the intriguing art style and concept that this anime throws at you, you have characters with a sense of despair and hopelessness from the contract, their plight for survival is at an all time high. The soundtrack is marvelous and adds a whole new level of excitement each scene and especially during all the fighting and shocking moments. Though it is labeled Magical Girl, a genre generally aimed towards children, it's definitely not. With a grim story and dark tone, it's not for everybody, but provides a lesson that anyone can learn from and have a new perspective from watching. 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
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
Dec 22, 2014
What really baffles me is how Madoka Magica is a moe drama along the lines of Elfen Lied and yet people praise Madoka ad nauseum whilst talking shit about Elfen Lied at every available opportunity. Even people like JesuOtaku who generally have no patience for moe dramas ended up giving this programme a glowing review despite the fact that Madoka Magica and Elfen Lied end up trying to accomplish similar goals. It's amazing as to how much the power of emotions can override one's better judgement but then again, maybe that's why I couldn't get into it in the first place.
Let's just get this out of the way first: moe drama by and large is an extremely manipulative genre at its core that's rather poorly written in general. Why is this the case? Well, the writers know all too well that most viewers will gladly put up with all this shit so long as they get their cute girls in anguish that they can fantasise about consoling and/or fucking. Obviously, Madoka Magica has quite a way's worth of better writing put into it than Elfen Lied does but it still falls prey to the same traps that plague moe drama when it comes down to the writing.
The first biggest problem that Madoka Magica has is the fact that the pacing is horrendously rushed. I don't care what you have to say about the pacing, because quite frankly... it's shit. The 12 episodes we were given did not allow for the events taking place in the story to flow naturally and instead make this programme come off as a rather forced melodrama. Something is horrendously wrong with your programme if I cannot bring myself to feel even the slightest modicum of emotion for what transpires despite the characters making a big deal of it all.
Aside from the rushed pacing, another glaring flaw that Madoka Magica suffers from is the fact that it's heavily reliant on shock value, which is probably another big reason as to why this anime is so lauded in the first place. Shock is a powerful emotion indeed and it can definitely work to great effect to further strengthen the writing whenever necessary. The problem is that Madoka Magica goes out of its way to shock the viewer and then ultimately relies on manipulating your emotions to keep you invested and distract you from the flaws in the writing. People are definitely going to disagree with me on this one but please hear me out.
The way Madoka Magica's been marketed in the past by Aniplex is a dead giveaway that shock value is a major cornerstone of Madoka Magica as a whole. The trailers, the OP, and even the blurb on the back of the Aniplex DVD release basically paint this show out to be your typical magic girl show despite the fact that it couldn't be further from the truth. Granted, a lot of the punch has been taken out of that sort of marketing tactic given that Madoka has become so popular to the point where it's essentially common knowledge that this is a dark, angst-ridden magic girl melodrama but the point still stands.
It seems like Madoka Magica was fundamentally designed to be a smash hit. The very combination of shock and moe drama has been a proven formula for success (look at Elfen Lied if you want an example). However, Madoka Magica takes this a step further by being a magic girl show. Magic girl programmes (and battle shonens to a similar extent) suffer from this "image" that exists in the minds of most people as nothing more than childish drivel about friendship and idealism that can't grow the fuck up. Given the fact that Madoka Magica is a shocking moe drama as well as a magic girl show, the end result is basically having thousands of fans saying that Madoka isn't like other magic girl shows and is a definite must-watch.
Yes, Madoka isn't like most other magic girl programmes but then again, neither is Kill la Kill or Princess Tutu. A series doesn't automatically become a masterpiece just because it "breaks the mould" as the saying goes. If that were the case, films like "The Room" would have to be considered masterpieces of drama despite evidence to the contrary. Don't get me wrong: individuality in anime is a good thing, especially given all the repetition going on in the industry. What isn't good is relying on being different to be your main selling point. This isn't to say that Madoka doesn't have any other merits to stand on, rather the very merits it does have are flawed to high heaven.
Madoka Magica is often praised to no end as a deconstruction of magic girl anime. Yeah... I don't buy it. You mean to tell me that all it takes to be a deconstruction is psychologically torturing your characters whilst going out of your way to be as dark and edgy as possible? I thought there was more subtlety involved with the writing when it comes down to deconstructions. Say what you will about Evangelion, but one thing that Gainax has that SHAFT lacks in its entirety is tact. Don't get me wrong, subtlety isn't exactly Evangelion's strong suit either but it certainly has more than Madoka does, that's for sure.
We got to spend a good deal of time in our typical mech setting before shit got morbid and we realised that being a mecha pilot in the world of Eva isn't a walking sex fantasy. Sure, Evangelion sends us flying head-first into the plot like Madoka does, but once again: we're given time to actually connect with the characters which is something that Madoka's 12-episode runtime simply doesn't allow for. I understand that the length of a show isn't necessarily indicative of whether or not the characters are good because there definitely are 1-cour programmes that deliver quite a bit on the character front (i.e. White Album 2, OreGairu, Usagi Drop, etc). At the same time, this story contains far too much content for it to actually work with the 1-cour length.
I know that some people like to tout this 12-episode length as a strength, saying that it's free from all the unnecessary bullshit that plagues other magic girl shows and goes straight into the good stuff. While I can certainly reciprocate that praise to a certain degree (especially given that Madoka Magica is far more engaging than Sailor Moon is), people fail to understand that without the boring parts of a show, the good bits wouldn't be nearly as good and would instead become mediocre. Princess Tutu understood this concept quite well as it was able to balance out the otherwise boring bits about ballet with the deliciously macabre moments involving Drosselmeyer. Madoka has no such balance.
Another problem that the 1-cour length brings up is an over-reliance on plot twists. Now, plot twists aren't inherently bad and can definitely work to the show's advantage if it was given proper foreshadowing. Unfortunately, the short length doesn't allow for foreshadowing of any kind to really happen so they just take you by surprise (oh look, more shock value!). I don't know about you, but these plot twists don't do much of anything for me. In fact, it made me question the logic behind this show even more. I'd question why shit had to constantly get worse for the characters in every episode, but then I remember that this is moe drama and that it doesn't matter how nihilistic the world actually gets so long as we still have our cute girls writhing in anguish.
What really surprises me about Madoka is the fact that despite being a sadistic viewer who loves seeing cute things being crushed by nihilism, this show was enough to make *me* do a double take on what's being shown. Make no mistake: I couldn't find myself feeling any modicum of emotion (not even pity) for Madoka, Homura, Sayaka, Kyoko, and Mami but at the same time... there was just something rather unnerving about how their circumstances just kept getting worse by the minute. It doesn't help that the short length also brings up stuff that may very well qualify as fridge horror or unfortunate implications (I don't know which trope it is, so bear with me).
For example, the fact that magic girls have to be adolescents because apparently, they're emotionally volatile at that age range brings up so many questions that just don't get answered. For one thing, does this mean that boys that are of the same age don't go through emotional turmoil like teenage girls do? What of teenage girls who happen to suffer from psychological disorders/trauma? Why does Kyubi opt to only focus on teenage girls when there are many other people of both genders across all age ranges that are just as emotionally volatile if not moreso? There's also the concept of power with a price.
The whole "power with a price" concept is not uncommon in TV, film, manga, comics, literature, etc and there have been many twists on the same formula. Madoka tries to do this concept but it doesn't go all the way with it because of the lack of world-building. Because of that, it would seem that the price the girls have to pay is unending psychological torture which is all somehow the girls' faults by the end of it all. Basically, Madoka's flat-out telling you that you're fucked if you decide to remain a Muggle because you're going to die regardless and yet you're fucked if you become a magic girl because it means you'll go through continuous psychological torment. At the same time, it's also telling you that you'd be much better off as a Muggle because of the fact that you're going to die a lonely, merciless death where nobody's going to remember you if you choose to be a magic girl.
Now I could bring up the whole wish fallacy argument that plagues other shows that involve wishing, but then you have to remember that all the wishes that the girls made in Madoka horribly backfired because apparently, the wishes that the girls made were really selfish even though they seemed selfless at first. Even if Madoka herself was to make a wish like being able to grant her own wishes exactly as she intends for them to come out, there's no telling how horribly it can backfire because the world this show takes place in is an extremely cruel and nihilistic one. This actually brings me over to another problem I have with the show: how sexist it actually is.
I don't consider myself a feminist of any flavour, nor can I say whether or not a specific programme is female-positive media because I'm a guy. At the same time, I don't understand how people can just let all this bullshit slide. Have people forgotten that women have been pressured for millennia to be as selfless as possible and to put their own desires to the side? What's so wrong about wanting to be with the person you love? What's so wrong about not wanting to die or to actually eat something for dinner? Madoka's logic in and of itself is something that really just doesn't sit right with me one way or the other.
Am I reading too much into Madoka? I don't even know at this point, but there's no denying that there are many fundamental flaws that exist within Madoka Magica as a whole. However, there's this one aspect of Madoka that never ceases to piss me off more than anything else and that's how it ends. For a show that spends 11 episodes psychologically torturing its characters, I'd expect for the show to at least end on a downright depressing note but that's not the case at all. In fact, Madoka Magica's ending couldn't be happier. Fans like to say that the ending wasn't completely happy, but we all know that the circumstances the ending presents to us are infinitely better than what Homura et al had to put up with for the bulk of this show's run.
I don't understand how a show can simply spend 11 episodes saying that ideals will only result in permanent suffering only to do a complete 180 at the final episode and say that hope, happiness, and whatnot will always prevail. Then again, Madoka Magica IS a moe drama and we all know that moe dramas wouldn't be as successful if they don't end on *some* semblance of a happy note (I'm looking at YOU, Clannad: After Story!). One thing's for certain though, this ending is something that I take umbrage with on so many levels because it just forces a happy ending out of nowhere, which is the kind of ending that I really just can't stand.
All things considered, Madoka Magica is certainly an interesting beast to tackle indeed. I wouldn't call it average in the slightest because it managed to evoke this much of a reaction out of me and it's definitely a cut above the more typical entries of the magic girl genre. At the same time, this show gets far too much praise than it actually deserves. I'm not saying it's terrible, because it really isn't and I suppose you'll have a good time watching it if you don't read too much into the story. Regardless, I don't think Madoka Magica is a "good" show. Feedback is always welcome, so with that... I'm gonna start barricading my house so that you rabid Madoka fans don't come at me with the intentions to kill me. Peace. read more
Jan 28, 2015
Madoka Magica is great for a magical girl animé, but certainly no Stein;s Gate or FMA: Brotherhood.
The Story (8/10) is where the main issues with the Madoka Magica can be found. The pacing is utterly abysmal. I found myself bored out of my skull for the first 9 episodes. While this issue is certainly not unique to Madoka Magica (Gurren Lagann *cough*) the perceived overall value of the show is far more largely damaged as there are only 12 episodes in the whole thing, meaning that three-quarters of it isn't worth seeing on its own. This said, even I cannot deny that the sudden change in pace (and grand revels) that take place in the final few episodes of Madoka Magica made the whole experience worth while, if only just.
The Art (9/10) is fascinating - both clean and simple moe and a far more chaotic, collage (similar to that used in Bakemonogatari) styles are used with a good deal of success.
The Sound (9/10) was quite well done - the soundtrack is solid and the voice acting (by the end, at least) is believable.
The Characters (8/10) are the other area that could have been much better. While there are some (well, one) characters that one cannot help but fall in love with (or at very least feel incredibly bad for), I couldn't help but hate the self-pitying (and frankly whining) attitude of Madoka herself. It may be said that her character is acting as most would in the situation she finds herself in, but the whining is frankly insufferable. At least in the case of Evangelion's Shinji Ikari he actually takes some action between bouts of his angst.
The resulting enjoyment was underwhelming for the majority of the series, only a 5/10 at best. The majority of the show was simply too tedious, too slow, and too (seemingly, until the end) pointless. While the impact of this slow buildup is fantastic, there is simply not enough content to justify giving Madoka Magica more than an 8/10 overall. read more
Jul 28, 2014
I went into Puella Magi Madoka Magica hopeful. I desperately wanted to love it, and I was expecting it to really pick up after episode 3 or 4. Yet there was something about the blend of pastel riddled innocence and trippy, Burton-esque darkness that didn’t settle well with me. Admittedly, there was a slight turn for the better, but not enough to instill in me a strong desire to keep watching. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and continued the show, if only because of its huge reputation. To be frank, I didn’t find many of the earlier plot twists very shocking, and I didn’t feel personally invested in the characters.
My perception of this show soon began to change, around episode 8 or 9. Here I was beginning to get frustrated. I found Kyubey’s course of action to be predictable, and almost cheating on the part of the show’s writers. There were so many plot holes, and the science used to explain some of these plot holes was just plain wrong (from a physics, biology, and medical standpoint). Plus, the show presented so many unanswered “what if’s” for me that I was becoming more and more skeptical.
Episode ten was bittersweet. I was impressed with the direction that the show had taken, and was excited to finally get answers to some of my questions. But the further I progressed into this episode, somehow, the more disappointed I got. Without getting into the physics, the events that took place in this episode completely nullify the explanation that Kyubey had given in the previous episode. And what’s more – I had seen this type of plot before. While it might be a revolutionary idea in the magical girls genre, it certainly wasn’t my first time seeing these sorts of events play out. There was nothing I could distinctly say I had never seen before.
Overall, I would classify the story as fairly entertaining, but not high quality. Those willing to overlook gaping issues in the show’s logic will likely find more enjoyment in it than I did.
Here is where I believe Puella Magi Madoka Magica is most lacking. Madoka is a flat, and to be honest, boring character that did absolutely nothing for me. She is not interesting, and the fact that this show is so Madoka-centric was a little off-putting.
The other characters start off in a very stereotypical fashion and don’t really get that much more interesting. Though it might be argued that they change perspectives throughout the story, I found the character development to be either too predictable or too unrealistic. There seemed to be no happy medium. Call me heartless, but I had a very hard time connecting to any of the characters personally. They were all likeable enough, but there was no motivation for strong attachment. Of all the girls, I would have to say that Homura is probably the most exciting, given the sacrifices she makes. I could sympathize with her the most, even if her actions seemed a little unreasonable.
And while many people seem to like Kyubey, I have a few issues with him as well. First and foremost, I could not (and still cannot) fully see him as a villain, probably because he reminds me too much of a rejected Pokémon to be seen as that formidable of a threat. Plus, his lack of true malice and total indifference as a facilitator doesn’t make him seem like a true “villain.” But what really bothers me most are Kyubey’s monologues. If you’re going to have a character centered on logic rather than emotion, make damn sure that the character’s dialogue is, in fact, logical.
The art and sound of Puella Magi Madoka Magica were probably its best features. The contrast between the animation style of the witches and that of the magical girls is outstanding as a means of symbolizing dark vs. light. Although it was definitely unsettling for me at first, it was something I grew to appreciate as an art form the more I watched the series. I do wish the characters were more unique in their designs. While I can understand that certain animators have their own individual styles, I would have liked to see more variety. Most of the characters were only distinguishable by their hairstyles and eye color, since they all wore the same school uniform when not in their transformed states. (With that being said, the costume design for each magical girl and the transformation animation were both on par).
The soundtrack certainly complimented the visuals, though the opening and ending themes weren’t anything to write home about.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica was far from the masterpiece that it is claimed to be. Though it certainly breaks away from the magical girls mold, it did not live up to the raving reviews that praised its name. Yet even with all of my criticism it definitely wasn’t a total waste of time. I would not classify Puella Magi Madoka Magica as a favorite, but it’s certainly well worth a watch.
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 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
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
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
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
Jan 3, 2015
In their spring 2014 preview for Selector Infected Wixoss, the Zac Bertschy set at Anime News Network invoked yet another set of comparisons between their chosen prey and Madoka Magica. Not only was this show copying Madoka's aesthetic, but also appeared to be "aping [Madoka] thematically," an assertion that made me wonder why they hadn't ever called Madoka out for aping Heartcatch Precure thematically, since if Madoka differentiates itself in any way from the magical girl pack, it certainly isn't in its themes. Putting Selector Wixoss' (many) merits aside, magical girl is niche enough as a genre that outsiders only have a handful of comfortable touchstones, Madoka chief among them. In that light, perhaps Zac's mistake is forgivable. But why this anime? What does Madoka actually do to the magical girl genre?
Let's answer that question. Expect spoilers.
A lot of Madoka Magica is rigidly conventional. The characters, for instance, are your standard Urobutchered archetypes. Madoka is the worst offender here—she's the big-hearted mahou shoujo protagonist, but she lacks any other distinctive personal qualities. None of Nanoha's intensity, or Sakura's energy, or Tsubomi's introversion, or Rabu's insanity, or—you get the picture. Sayaka is your hotheaded justice-oriented Cure March. Homura is a less interesting Fate Testarossa (until Rebellion Story—but that's a different review). Magical girl gets away with worse characters but this set of color-coded cardboard cuties aren't exactly bringing psychological realism to the table.
Urobuchi's strength has always been plotting and pacing, and this is no exception. The action moves steadily and comfortably. As is usual for him, the pulse-pounding tension obfuscates the show's weaknesses and is probably the principal reason for the show's mainstream success.
Oh yeah, then there's the Worst Joke In Anime Ever i.e. "girls shouldn't love girls!" the ill-advised outburst by an appalled classmate in response to Sayaka and Madoka's apparent closeness. It's a joke no doubt intended as a self-aware ribbing of the intended audience but instead comes off as awkward and incongruous. Consider yourself warned.
The themes of Madoka Magica are hope vs. despair, growing up, choice, and empowerment vs. sacrifice. You may recognize these as the themes of every magical girl show ever. The treatment of these themes is largely consistent with mahou shoujo in general—hope and friendship are able to triumph, the girls successfully navigate their externalized adolescent trauma, and ultimately are empowered by growing up (i.e. becoming magical). What the show does differently is the route it takes to that endpoint.
The world of Madoka Magica is a sort of dark Eden where teenage girls are punished for the sin of choice and cannot grow up and bear the burden of adolescent trauma properly without being literally dehumanized and cast into despair. Under typical circumstances, mahou shoujo characters are rewarded for choosing to become magical i.e. beginning the journey to accepting adult emotions and responsibilities. Not so here. Interestingly, the fairy character Kyubey is no different to any other magical girl fairy in that he uses the power of the girls' emotions to his own ends, but his interests are significantly more alien than the childlike desires that characterize the fairies of Precure.
This distorted Edenic world is destroyed in the final episode, when Madoka is positioned as a sort of teenage girl Jesus to bear their sin and create the conditions necessary for a world in which girls can be empowered. In other words, in order for girls to grow up and be empowered by adult choice, it necessitates duty and dependency as well—so much so that they find a patron saint in Madoka to bear that burden.
That's more or less a summation of Madoka's subversive qualities. Its principal innovation is that it emphasizes the value of sacrifice, suffering, alienation, and dependency over empowerment, but it ultimately still holds to the hopeful, upbeat worldview that the genre is associated with. It is not the most subversive magical girl show ever, nor the most comprehensive reexamination or challenge to the genre and its conventions. Nanoha, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, Cardcaptor Sakura, and yes, Selector Wixoss, do just as much or more to mess with mahou shoujo. Madoka Magica is, however, pretty good.
Madoka is also notable for its distinctive look and sound, courtesy of SHAFT and Kajiura Yuki, respectively. It's fond of its pathetic fallacy—the early episodes are sunny and bright and take place at Madoka's iPod-like school, where everything is white and rounded, while events in later episodes seem to take place exclusively during evenings and nights with stylized buildings shadowed menacingly in the background. The alternate dimensions that the characters enter during fights are imaginative and meticulously detailed. The show is visually stylish and dynamic, though perhaps a little disconnected from reality for my taste (Homura apparently lives in the void). I have no similar complaints about the music, whose doomy tone suits this rather melodramatic show.
Whether it was the dark content and tone, the tense story, or the flashy production values that earned Madoka Magica its popularity, it has today become the albatross of mahou shoujo. Make no mistake: this is a great anime that ought to be watched if only for its legacy. Just don't call it a "deconstruction." 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
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
Jun 18, 2014
By the first episode I was somewhat intrigued. The characters all seemed fairly likable, if not coming off as a little juvenile, considering they are in middle school. The production and animation of the show was also demonstrably well-done which certainly made it more engaging to watch. However, the component that really piqued my interested were the witch fights and their bizarre and trippy animations. I really enjoyed watching those scenes and experiencing somewhat of a sensory overload as various, indiscriminate objects haphazardly wrapped around the screen and the textures and colors came to life. I did my best to try and describe these scenes, but really there is no substitute for viewing them yourself.
We continued with two more episodes, and throughout I found that the exposition (where the laws of this universe are gradually explained to the viewer) was nicely intertwined with action sequences and the further revealing of character motives and backstories. I watched this show in early 2014, long after it had already been released, and looking back now, I consider myself very lucky that I had managed not to overhear anything about this wildly popular show. Due to this, I was entirely unprepared for the bombshell twist that was dropped on me at the end of episode 3. It was so unexpected that I nearly lost my head at how sudden a development this was. In my opinion, shock value in media can be done either very well or very poorly. Let Puella Magi Madoka Magica be a textbook example of it done flawlessly. I had originally come for the trippy presentations of the witch fights, but now I was definitely staying for the story.
After the ensuing episodes, which glue the rapidly advancing plot together quite nicely, I was beginning to understand that this was a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. Not being very well versed in the genre played straight, my only regret is that I had not watched some conventional magical girl anime beforehand so that I could better compare and contrast. Nevertheless, the writing is enthralling enough that it shouldn't matter too much for viewers without much previous experience with genre.
Then we come to episode ten. There are too many brilliant factors to cover comprehensively in this acclaimed episode, so I will only talk about a few. We finally gain some semblance of a true understanding in regard to what is happening in the plot through very smart and angled storytelling that allows us to sympathize with several of the characters (trying my best to be vague in the interest of avoiding spoilers). Through this, I found it very hard to not perceive the sadness and sense of hopelessness that was so heavily percolating from the storyline. It is here that mask comes completely off and this anime reveals the full extent of its dark undertones for the whole world to see. And at the end when the opening credits play, and then the lyrics start to make sense... saying I was touched would be putting it much too lightly. I have to admit, I consider this episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica to be the single greatest episode in television anime of all time.
The ending, while considered controversial by some, in my opinion put a very satisfactory ending to this magnificent and breathtaking tale. The ending was not some thoughtless, happy-go-lucky fairy tale ending, but more of an intellectual and thought-provoking close to the story that caused me to parse and ponder its true ramifications for weeks to come; and that's just the way I like 'em. With dazzling and intriguing visuals, a great and emotional soundtrack, and writing on a level that I have not yet seen another anime match, I can't recommend this series enough. But if you haven't seen it yet, I hope you didn't read too much into my review. Go watch it now, and just keep in mind the wise words of my friend: "After all, it's just a show about cute magical girls." 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
Feb 2, 2015
It's easy to be fooled by Madoka Magica. As you start watching you feel the familiar mahou shoujo theme: a group of young girls who are approached by a cute talking animal who wants to partner up and help them fight evil, whilst in frilly and girly outfits. But under this illusion Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica reveals itself as a memorable masterpiece.
To become a Magical Girl you are granted one wish. What will you choose?
Starting out smoothly, this anime truly begins on the third episode. This is the point at which the viewer realises that behind the guise of a cutesy show lies the cruel and hard story of the reality behind being a Magical Girl. The turning point of the episode happens so unexpectedly that it left me dumbfounded for quite some time. However, this was but the beginning.
As the story progresses you are faced with the many perils of the the five girls, Kaname Madoka, Miki Sayaka, Akemi Homura, Tomoe Mami and Kyoko Sakura. Despite its short length Madoka Magica manages to flesh out all of its female leads, and given that character progression and development are central points in this anime it presents us with the girls' fears and expectations, their past and the motive for which they chose to make a contract, and while there was an undeniable favourite for me, Akemi Homura, I found myself empathising for all of the girls, their distinct personalities and stories with all of them having traits I adored and related to.
The most powerful moments of this show are key situations for the character's development and the story progress, and while I will not spoil them I can simply say that they were cruel, heart wrenching and utterly powerful, completely shattering the illusion created by its first episodes
By the twelfth episode I was fully aware of the show's emotional power and its ability to make me feel for its characters, having felt an almost full spectrum of emotions. However the ending managed to once again surprise me, succeeding to wrap up this tale in the most perfect of ways, twisting and turning the show's own world. Finale wise I am yet to find a better anime.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica has two very distinct art styles. The normal one is the one present in the character designs being bright, colourful and somewhat simple and childish. However, as the girls find themselves in the witch realms the artwork changes completely, switching to something entirely unique, featuring a magazine collage like theme in dark, vivid colours, combining real and drawn elements in a delightful manner that still maintains its cutesy way.
As I see it this contrast contributes to further cement Madoka's genre, the twisted magical girl anime. It helps disguise the nature of this show's world, shrouding it in an aura of cuteness making you not expect all it throws at you. It's hard to see harm come to cutely-drawn girls in a fantasy-like witch world, and that is exactly why it is so good when it does happen. It plays with your expectations as a viewer.
There are not many anime shows that have me listen to the entirety of their soundtrack after watching. But then again, there are not many shows like this one. The music is superbly executed, either blending eerie vocals into multi instrumental backgrounds or being purely instrumental, helping establish show's emotional tone. As a part of the series' soundtrack each magical girl was given her own theme song that subtly reflects her personality and dives into her views of the world, complementing both the character and her very own story.
Being absolutely outstanding Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is an anime you should not let yourself be fooled by, and one you should definitely set as a priority, with its compelling characters playing into a rich, superbly written story guaranteed to make you feel even if you try not to.
Nov 12, 2014
The story starts out extremely slow and confusing and becomes predictable over time. It being called a deconstruction is a giant spoiler tag for me, as I can see what to expect. If you go on the premise of a normal magical girl show, the plot will seem overly dark and brilliant in some eyes. This was not the case with me, as I only became interested in the plot around episode 9+. The story wasn't that dark, and became similar to a classic thriller, giving immediate signs of following a similar formula.
Shaft's animation quality was great, but the art style itself was unappealing in my eyes. The characters seemed bland and uninteresting, as well as the abstract enemies and backdrops portrayed throughout. The sound was top notch, not the best soundtrack, but not far off from perfect for this show.
The characters in Madoka Magica are easy to sympathize with and intriguing in their own rights; nonetheless, they're not perfect and their natures are distinguished early on. Each girl's personality is revealed early on, and with past examples of similar characters, they're, again, predictable.
Overall, I did not enjoy watching Madoka Magica; however, I still see it as a good, well rounded anime and an amazing example of a deconstruction. I give Madoka a good 7/10 and a recommendation for anyone who likes thrillers or unique art styles to watch it immediately, or if anyone want's THE deconstruction of the magical girl genre. read more