Spotlight Anime: Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
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Jun 10, 2011 10:19 AM
Joined: Feb 2009
Spotlight Anime: Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
MAL Anime Information Page: Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica
MAL Score – 8.87 (scored by 18065 users)
Ranked - #13
Popularity - #237
For the next week I would like to have a discussion about the anime that focuses on the key elements that we here on MAL use to critically rate an anime: Animation, Sound, Characters, Story, and Enjoyment.
I would like everyone to approach this thread as if you were going to write a review and structure your initial post like this:
Animation - insert rating
Sound - insert rating
Characters - insert rating
Story - insert rating
Enjoyment - insert rating
Animation - discuss any pros and cons of the animation styling used in the series, try to include some specifics.
Sound - describe any of the things you liked or didn't care for in regards to the music and sound effects used in the series
If you are having trouble writing up a review or coming up with specific pros and cons, please don't worry. Just do the best you can with it and if you can only write two or three sentences about any of the 5 elements then that's OK. Not everyone here is currently at a level which will allow them to articulate their thoughts and opinions.
After your initial post is made you can feel free to civilly discuss issues of contention. I am sure there will be many opinions expressed here that some of us will disagree upon and criticise and it is for that reason that this entire club exists. So I hope everyone has fun and I am really looking forward to watching this discussion unfold.
RESULTS OF THE YOU DECIDE POLL
Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica was NOT inducted into the club Anime list:
33 Yes - 61.1%
21 No - 38.9%
27 Don't know this character - 31.8% of the total number polled
4 Abstained - 4.7% of the total number polled
Modified by kokuro, Jun 20, 2011 9:22 PM
Jun 10, 2011 10:24 AM
Joined: Jul 2007
From my recently revised Madoka review:
Before this show was aired, anime enthusiasts were looking forward to cute character designs, pretty visuals, and charming stories of friendship. Weeks later, the same people were indeed enjoying those — while decoding encrypted text, citing 19th century German literature, brushing up on physics, and debating about ethics.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica has certainly been the center of much attention. Despite the efforts of the creators to tone down certain elements in their promotional videos, the anime has suffered from levels of hype and backlash unseen since Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Haruhi series. The presence of notable names in the list of collaborators suggests that the show could be mind-blowing at best, or worth seeing at the very least. Regardless of these (or perhaps, because of these), there are two things to keep in mind when watching the show: Don't judge a book by its cover, and read between the lines.
The story begins with our protagonist Madoka and her friends living ordinary carefree lives until Kyubey, the obligatory cute mascot, appears. He calls upon them to become magical girls and fight the menace of the witches; in exchange, Kyuubey offers the girls the chance to have any single wish granted. Thus the life of a magical girl begins with a decision, and this leads to consequences both intended and unforeseen. Once the perils of the vocation are revealed, it becomes apparent that, as with any position of power, there's much more to magical girls than being selfless, righteous, and idealistic.
While the premise seems fairly standard enough, it doesn't stay that way for long. Not in the hands of writer Urobuchi Gen. This anime takes the magical girl genre and infuses it with elements more reminiscent of Silent Hill 2 rather than Sailor Moon. The result is an unorthodox mix which induces cognitive dissonance.
However, Madoka☆Magica goes a step beyond simply contrasting ideas. More than just combining disparate details for the purpose of shocking the audience, Urobuchi Gen weaves these elements together to create a bigger picture. The plot itself is excellent, though not as revolutionary as hardcore fans would claim it to be. Even so, few anime titles out there could match this series in terms of thematic development, and it's a pity that only a handful express appreciation for this particular highlight. Some viewers may nitpick about factors such as technical details and suspension of disbelief, but given that the story prioritizes purpose over plausibility, I find most of the criticisms of these aspects to be blown out of proportion.
That is not to say that the story is without shortcomings. Having the series limited to a mere 12 episodes is simultaneously a boon and a bane. On one hand, it forces the creators to use a compact and focused style of storytelling which leaves no room for insignificant details. This accentuates the suspense of the plot and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. On the other hand, developments feel rushed on more than one occasion. Despite the good use of foreboding for most of the show, some twists still come suddenly with no warning whatsoever. Character development may have also suffered as the limited time made it difficult to flesh out the cast completely.
In contrast to the previous points, opinions seem to be less divided with regards to aesthetics. This comes as no surprise since the merits of the audio and visuals are much more evident.
Those familiar with Kajiura Yuki's previous works may set their expectations high as the music of this series does not disappoint. Similar to the soundtrack of Kara no Kyoukai, the pieces in Madoka☆Magica range from light and pleasant to haunting and dramatic. The ending theme in particular (Magia) is song that packs a lot of impact by featuring a mesmerizing tune and lyrics which are actually relevant to the story.
On the side of animation, director Shinbou Akiyuki brings in SHAFT's distinct art style puts it to good use. Although attentive viewers could easily spot signs of budget/time constraints at several instances, I find these shortcomings forgivable given how well the visuals were utilized for most of the show. Besides presenting eye-candy, the images play a significant role in presenting ideas. Appreciating the numerous details may require a bit of effort on the part of the viewers, but it does make the experience much more interactive and rewarding.
As for the characters, Aoki Ume's designs lie a bit on the cartoonish side. They're easy on the eyes and they have the unexpected benefit of having virtually no fanservice potential (except perhaps for the well-endowed Mami). However, these designs offer little advantage for later dramatic scenes after the dissonance has worn off.
Fortunately the voice acting makes up for this, and Madoka☆Magica has some of the most moving performances I've heard in years. Special mention goes to Yuuki Aoi for giving life to the main character in her moments of distress.
To sum it all up: This anime is by no means perfect, but I find its flaws heavily outweighed by its more outstanding aspects. Hype or no hype, Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica is a show worth paying attention to — if you're willing to pay attention.
Character analysis for Sayaka
I've been watching through the earlier episodes again. Good God, it's only now that I've come to really appreciate the extent of her character development.
There is no doubt that Sayaka was initially benevolent. Mami's death in episode 3 hammered in the reality that death is a constant threat to those who choose to become magical girls. Despite that, she agreed to the contract to heal Kamijou and to protect her loved ones from the menace of the witches.
True, external factors contributed to her downfall. The revelation that magical girls are essentially walking corpses made her believe that she was a creature which none could love. This may lead some viewers to believe that it was Kamijou's lack of willingness to reciprocate Sayaka's affection which caused the girl to collapse.
However, this is only the simpler half of the equation. What really pushed her over the edge was her righteousness.
As a coping mechanism, Sayaka tried to become a selfless magical girl. She wanted to become a hero who would uphold ideals, a knight devoted to a noble cause. That wish was eventually fulfilled in the most twisted way possible.
She believed in justice; that people should get what they deserve. She had admired and longed for Kamijou for so long, and given how much she had sacrificed for his sake, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that she deserved his gratitude or attention at the very least.
This belief in justice becomes apparent as she becomes more judgmental. She praised Mami for saving people from the witches, condemned both Kyouko and Homura for letting people die, criticized her best friend for not becoming a magical girl, and later implicitly kills the two chauvinists on the train. She tried to do the right thing, but the growing hatred made her shift from protection to punishment.
When Sayaka realizes the horror of her corruption and how she had come to contradict her earlier aspirations, all the hatred turns inward. It is precisely because of her unyielding nature that her spirit shatters. Unable to forgive this transgression, she inflicts her own punishment: a curse unto herself. From her Soul Gem hatches a mermaid-knight, a being representing the love and righteousness that she had once valued.
And that is why we have “I'm Such a Fool” as the name for episode 9.
Character analysis for Kyouko
It's obvious enough that Kyouko serves primarily as Sayaka's foil. One is a harsh judge who refuses to give in; the other is more well adjusted and accepts things as they are. In their misery, Blue attempted to be a selfless martyr while Red pretended to live a self-centered life with natural law justifying her attitude. That is not to say that one is better than the other, but both tried to deny a fundamental aspect of themselves and ultimately failed.
Unable to forgive herself, Sayaka falls deeper into despair and inevitably transforms into a witch. In response, Kyouko returns to her religious roots.
Remember that Kyouko is a girl who spent her wish to help her father, a preacher, reach out to others. Some benevolence remained embedded within her personality though she had consciously tried to deny it. Like her father, Kyouko tried to reach out to Sayaka. She brings her to a church, of all places. However, Sayaka rejects the offer, and her later battle against Elsa Maria could also be interpreted in a number of ways.
Still, Kyouko persists until the very end. She offers her companionship, and perhaps the forgiveness that Sayaka could not give to herself. Given Octavia's unusually passive nature in her final moments, one might say that she had finally accepted Kyouko.
In summary, I think Kyouko is indeed closer to the ideal than the other girls. Unlike Mami, she is able to handle the truth. Unlike Sayaka, she is able to live with her imperfections. Unlike Homura, she is able to accept death as a conclusion.
With these details, it can be inferred that the relationship between Kyouko and Sayaka was one of the primary influences which shaped Madoka's role, intent, and solution in the final episode. Madoka becoming a goddess makes sense given that she was preceded by Kyouko who served a priestly role.
Personally, I'm not fond of walls of text, but this stuff has been accumulating for quite a while now.
Modified by Yuunagi, Jun 16, 2011 1:40 PM
Jun 11, 2011 7:36 AM
Jun 11, 2011 11:11 AM
Jun 11, 2011 4:03 PM
Joined: Jul 2007
ridojiri said:It's Madoka's nature and desire to be of help to people, but her low self-confidence leads her to believe that becoming a magical girl is the most viable method. Her thoughts at the end of episode 2 and her chat with Mami in episode 3 make that clear enough.
So hang on, if this is true, how the fuck did madoka turn into a puella in the first fucking timeline. She couldn't have.
And if you think episode 12 makes sense.... well, um. awkward.
ridojiri said:Not friendship, altruism. If you want to be good, pay the price. Come on, as if airing the last episode on Good Friday wasn't explicit enough!
If we are to look at it as a parable, what of it? .... Friendship?
Conventional morality dictates that there must be a reward for every good deed, but doing good deeds assuming that to be true is contrary to the spirit of selflessness. Some girls such as Sayaka willfully try to carry the burden on their own but are inevitably crushed under its weight. It's not that Sayaka did anything wrong, but her desire to be loved hinders her from doing so. Only people whose desire is to help others (i.e. Madoka and Kyouko) could carry the cross. Madoka only happens to have been granted the power to do so on a grander scale, and her solution is an extension of Kyouko's decision.
ridojiri said:It's not a necessity, but it is relevant. Anybody familiar with even just the premise of Goethe's Faust would realize the similarities of the two stories; the runes in episodes 1 and 10 support this. The direct quote in episode 2 is a very early foreshadowing of Madoka's actions 10 episodes later. The runes of episodes 4, 8, and 9 give hints of the witch's defining characteristics and what led to their downfall.
You should read out of the way Germanic texts caus.... Um?
That code wasn't even particularly relevant, and again showed the halfassed job this production received.
So, no, I wouldn't exactly call it "half-assed". It's not a necessity, but it's a very nice bonus for those willing to dissect the details.
Anyway, here's an interesting quote from the writer from his previous work, Fate/zero. Perhaps this marked the conception of Madoka.
Urobuchi Gen said:
Gen Urobuchi wants to write stories that can warm people's hearts.
Those who know about my creative history will probably furrow their brows and think this is a sick joke. Honestly, I have trouble believing it myself. For when I start typing out words on the keyboard, the stories my brain comes up with are always full of madness and despair.
The truth is, I haven't always been this way. I have often written pieces that didn't have a perfect ending, but by the last chapter the protagonist would still possess a belief that "Although there will be many hardships to come, I still have to hold on".
But ever since I don't know when, I can no longer write works like this.
I have nothing but contempt for the thing men call happiness, and have had to push the characters I poured my heart out to create into the abyss of tragedy.
For all things in the world, if they are just left alone and paid no attention, are bound to advance in a negative direction.
No matter what we do, we can't stop the universe from getting colder, either, and on the same principle. This world is only maintained in existence by a series of logical, common-sense processes; it can never escape the bondage of its physical laws.
Therefore, in order to write a perfect ending for a story you must possess the power to break the chain of cause and effect, invert black and white, and act in complete contradiction to the rules of the universe. Only a heavenly and chaste soul, a soul that resounds with genuine praise for humanity, can save the story; to write a story with a happy ending is a double challenge, to the author's body as well as the mind.
At some point, Gen Urobuchi lost that power. He still hasn't recovered. The "tragedy syndrome" is still continuing within me. Is this a terminal disease? Should I give up on the pure "warrior of love" that I have longed for? Or mount a pallid battle steed and reincarnate into a bearer of the plague... could it be that I can only create pieces that give men courage and hope in my next life? (When I wrote this, I accidentally wrote "courage" as "lingering ghosts". I guess that's what I get for using IME — Ah, I just wrote "IME" as "hatred"... is there no way out of this for me?)
Modified by Yuunagi, Jun 11, 2011 4:20 PM
Jun 11, 2011 5:18 PM
Jun 11, 2011 5:53 PM
Jun 11, 2011 5:56 PM
Jun 11, 2011 6:08 PM
Jun 11, 2011 6:12 PM
Jun 11, 2011 6:42 PM
Jun 11, 2011 7:08 PM
Joined: Jul 2007
ridojiri said:If everything were so simple, why would schools still have years of literature classes in their curriculum? Are all those references to Biblical figures, Norse/Greek mythology, Shakespearean plays, and whatnot self-explanatory when you read older works of fiction?
Unless you are reviewing something, or writing a crappy fantasy book that relies on its metauniverse, than no, nearly all literature does not rely on other productions heavily enough for it not to be understood without having read the reference.
ridojiri said:Intentional or not, if there was irony, yes.
And if I was shot on the day of your birth, there would be parallels?
ridojiri said:Suffering is a part of the process, not a prerequisite.
Why doesn't kyubey collect energy [wtf is this shit] from every girl then? Or do average girls not wish for things in their teenhood?
The keystone is suffering. Kyubey directly states this as the law for the power of puella. No suffering, no power, no puellafication.
ridojiri said:Because it'd be boring as fuck if everybody simply agreed? =P I'd be disappointed too if every member just gave it a "yes" without a second thought.
I don't get why you are arguing against the integrity of this anime, which you are apparently defending.
Besides, you're talking to a guy who gave Because Goodbyes Are Coming Soon a 10/10. I enjoy squeezing meaning out of what I see, and I liked what I got out of this show. Whatever stupid reason Kyuubey has for doing what he does, it's still a story of about desires, disillusionment, and self-damnation.
Modified by Yuunagi, Jun 11, 2011 10:31 PM
Jun 12, 2011 12:47 AM
Jun 12, 2011 6:09 AM
Joined: Dec 2007
One word resumes my feelings about this show: disappointment.
And it was all your fault, guys.
Waratte Oemashou Sore ha Chiisana Inori
Jun 12, 2011 7:43 AM
Jun 12, 2011 2:09 PM
Joined: Sep 2007
I think the main problem with Madoka is that it is so plot-driven that it completely disregards the characters. The whole show felt not as the exposure of the characters' behavior when being introduced to this Mahou Shoujo setting(which would have made for great TV) but rather as the exploration of said setting through the cast. As such, at least for me, there's a sense of detachment from the characters because the situations and actions feel forced on the cast just for the sake of guiding the plot in the direction the creators intended. The result is that the majority of the cast feels not as real, dynamic characters who act and react to the current situation but rather blank slates who take whatever personality or mentality just to keep the plot in track.
Agreed, and this would be fine if the plot was any good.
A magical alien travels through space and time to steal emotions from little girls and turn them into zombies to stop the universe from ending while in the midst of this there is a godly schoolgirl, a time traveler, and Joan of Arc. Seriously, what the fuck is this shit?
Jun 12, 2011 3:28 PM
Jun 12, 2011 7:07 PM
Joined: Jan 2009
Joan of Arc.
Yes, that was particularly hilarious. I guess she was guilty of being a witch after all.
Jun 12, 2011 8:49 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Hm... on the fence with this one.
On one hand, Madoka does something special with the magical girl genre by using conventions of the genre to express all the themes that Yuunagi mentioned, desires, morality, etc. Also, the shows technical merits are just splendid.
On the other hand, it does sacrifice quite a lot from its characters. More than anything else, they feel like character-types common in the genre simply being used as vessels for those said themes (because that is exactly what they are), and honestly little else. Hardly good characterization; like say Elfen Lied, it felt as if Madoka was forcing me into sympathizing with these characters, rather than the emotion being genuine.
I'm not sure how much all the allusion to German literature helped. Sure it did do a lot in shaping the story and such... but in the end it feels more like NGE's heavy-handed unnecessary symbolism, rather than the connections to fairy-tales which proved to be a necessity for Princess Tutu.
Modified by judojon, Jun 12, 2011 9:14 PM
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.
Jun 13, 2011 1:20 AM
Jun 14, 2011 9:01 AM
Jun 14, 2011 10:08 AM
Jun 14, 2011 10:28 AM
Joined: Sep 2009
judojon said:Quite true. It's not always a bad idea to rely on archetypes though, provided that the writer knows how to make good use of them. In that regard, Madoka's closer to myths, religious stories, or tragic plays than it is to most anime. Besides, I get the nagging feeling that trying to emphasize the characters' personalities would be detrimental to the flow of the story given the very limited time of 12 episodes.
More than anything else, they feel like character-types common in the genre simply being used as vessels for those said themes
You bring up a good point, which is why I'm still on the fence... otherwise I'd just give it a definite no. At the same time though, there have been shows that provided great character development and interesting themes as well in 12 or less episodes, Hourou Musuko or Gunslinger Girl for example.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.
Jun 14, 2011 10:39 AM
Jun 16, 2011 1:27 PM
Joined: Jul 2007
judojon said:Can't really say much about the rest of the cast, but I found Sayaka, Kyouko, and the relationship between them to be far more interesting than anything else I've found in anime or manga. Pretty sublime stuff there.
there have been shows that provided great character development and interesting themes as well in 12 or less episodes
As for themes, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (Kai) and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann are the most similar I could think of, but they're not even half as good with the delivery.
Modified by Yuunagi, Jun 16, 2011 1:38 PM
Jun 16, 2011 7:38 PM
Joined: Feb 2010
I like the animation and surreal design of Witch's lair. From the other magical girl series I have seen ( a little ) when I was a kid, the likes of Sailor Moon, Akazukin Chacha and Cardcaptor Sakura, it's refreshing and trippy but not necessary universally appealing. When integrated together with the fight scenes, it undermines the tension. It look as though the girls are merely combating with sketchy pictures. The sountracks are commendable, it's so overt in delivering a daunting and disheartening atmosphere since the very first episode.
The plot progression did hinder character development, I still find it difficult to empathize with Homura, her single-handed dedication almost resembling Naruto but with a lackluster reason and rapid personality changes. Maybe because I was also annoyed with Shinobu's direction ( idlezeal brought up this to me ), the constant close up to emphasis something was a little redundant.
Jun 17, 2011 7:45 AM
Joined: Oct 2008
I read through the comments and noticed that no really dug into the the philosophical arguments occuring in Madoka. I started a conversation on baka a while back that might be a good introduction to begin a serious dicussion on the topic.
May 9th 2011
Madoka was very good but I agree with a few other people about it's ending basically being a shounen power-up failure. Although I've never actually finished the book Faust and this show was constantly using allusions from that work I can't be sure if there were any comparisons for it's ending. The ending of Madoka went more into the metaphysical realm of philosophy which aligns itself more with writings from Aristotle not so much Kantian Transcendental idealism and the master skeptic David Hume who would probably say that Madoka had a metaphysical ending that lead Madoka towards ascending towards the noumena or all encompassing goddess of the universe. It was fun at least but still it came off to me as being extremely pretentious and philosophically crammed. I see more parallels with Gurren Lagann than Eva here which isn't a terrible thing but it does make the shounen power up element blatant. The fact that this response has touched on so many different philosophies does point to Madoka at least attempting to create something more than the average fodder the industry has been creating. It's definitely worth the viewing and is surely one of the better shows in anime if you are a student of philosophy. Some other obvious flaws like it's "moe" character designs are only surface elements meant to make the average anime viewer comfortable perhaps. Even if you're clueless about philosophy I'm sure it's usage will intrinsically create something that is more than meats the eye.
May 9th 2011
I studied philosophy and don't understand how you can relate this show to metaphysical philosophy (maybe Spinoza for the "deus sive natura" or Merleau-Ponty -to be to the world, as part of it- but both very far fetched and extremely superficial). If you want philosophy watch Ergo Proxy.
By the way, the premise of the show is false. The universe does not lose energy, in fact it remains the absolute same. The "problem" is different, while the energy remains the same, the universe is expanding thus the energy density is decreasing. The universe is getting colder but not from energy loss.
Care to elaborate? Because you could say that the countless anime where the character attains god-like status are actually inspired by Hume (who is not a skeptic in my book).
I don't really feel like getting into a philosophical argument although your baiting is enticing. Saying Hume isn't a skeptic seems like something that really needs more elaboration. I was always under the impression he was, but of course being a skeptic is actually not being a skeptic right?
Madoka's transformation into a goddess seems to incorporate some metaphysical beliefs about god being both a masculine and feminine energy and or negative and positive energy. I was only trying to point out that some of these philosophies were used in the creation of her transformation. At least as I saw it. I actually majored in Political Science, so I only took exactly three classes in philosophy. No challenge here to a philosophy major. I think you're very close with Deus sive natura, "God","Nature" as what I was trying to say. Madoka seems to have transcended time and space and become part of the universes "consciousness"(god/goddess) which is also a metaphysical idea. The dual roles of Kyuubey and Madoka as destruction and Creation, Negative and Positive all seem to be metaphysical ideas that are expanded in this series. I don't remember the name of the school of philosophy that ascribes to this masculine/feminine, however it does seem to have become very popular in the new age religion of metaphysics. I think the series might actually be borrowing more heavily from these new age interpretations than the actual philosophy although the practice does tend to attempt to incorporate epistemology into their practices when dealing with physics. Your conclusions HolyAvatar about the premise of the show being false is forcing me to ask myself if I really need to watch this show again. For some reason I'm asking myself, what was the premise of the show? I got from the conclusion that hope, positive energy, matched despair, negative energy. I'm not sure if any energy was ever lost, it was just being transfered from one place to another right? Since the battle continued even after Madoka's transformation, we understand in the very end that neither hope or despair will ever win. That's what I got from the show.
After this discussion I might actually be swaying more towards actually really enjoying it's ending.
BakaBT discussion thread
Not too many shows that use cliche character designs and by now overdone time travel twists like Groundhogs day and Tatami Galaxy seem to hold my attention. But Madoka did. At first I really thought the ending was basically a cop out ending and the time travel twist was beyond overkill. But with further discussion and dissection of the philosophical eliments I think I'm convinced that this series truely is something special. It does successfully deconstruct the moe characters, and it's ending does have a solid moral, grounded in metaphysical beliefs and thermodynamics. Good vs. Evil, not really it's more like a symbiotic relationship between negative and possitive energy that's being played out in this series. Kyuubey could be seen as the absence of emotion while Madoka is emotions embodiment. Yada Yada Yada.
If something makes me think this much it has to have some merit in Anime. Plus the series was well animated, the voice acting wasn't distracting, and the musical scores were well thought out. I was leading toward voting no because of it's ending but after further disection I can't not vote yes. It use of the relvant laws of physics intreaged me. While this show is probably wet dream for psychologists, Madoka probably also appeals to philosophers and physicists, even if it is just the basic ideas being used. One could say Madoka is an interesting introduction to many scholastic ideas. Don't hate me, but the converse can also be true. The craming of so many ideas probably does seem convoluted and probably even too pretentious.
Jun 17, 2011 8:17 AM
Jun 17, 2011 4:42 PM
Jun 19, 2011 2:00 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
Is this entire thing about a soul residing within a human body having to do with human values a strictly japanese thing?
Jun 19, 2011 3:20 AM
Jun 19, 2011 5:15 AM
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Jun 19, 2011 5:26 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
Yeah, that's also one of the reasons why we compared it to rape.
But rape is violating somebody's body.
This is just... compeltely trivial. It doesn't change anything.
Jun 19, 2011 5:28 AM
Jun 25, 2011 8:09 AM
Joined: May 2010
I just finished this today and it was just an okay past-time. Nothing breathtaking, epic or wowing.
Even when I was in crowd, I was always alone