Hey all, Kaushik here, with a very special review. Now, I have a confession to make. Up until last week, I had never actually seen Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Yes, yes, I know. Stone me if you wish. But hey, I finally got around to watching it, and boy do I have some opinions to share on it. If you’re interested in some other writers’ opinions, check out this objection, and this review of parts 1 and 2 of the movies. This article’s all for me, so buckle up, this’ll be a ride~
Note that this post will contain spoilers for the Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime series
Madoka. It’s a show that invites some strong opinions, mostly positive. A lot of people liked it, and I’m definitely seeing why. In fact, the major reason I watched it is because it’s one of my friend’s favorite anime of all time. And while it may not have gotten there for me, it’s definitely pretty damn good. Some basic info before we move on. I watched the Blu-rays of Madoka, so this review will be based off of that. The show was produced by Shaft, written by Urobuchi Gen, composed by Kajiura Yuki, and directed by Shinbo Akiyuki. Some big names in there, and the quality is definitely representative of their work. It aired from January 7, 2011 to April 22, 2011. And that’s the basic run-down.
So let’s start with the big dog here, the plot. Imagine a world where any single wish of your’s could be granted (as long as you are a young girl). Any one at all, all you have to do is pledge your life to a life of fighting witches, as a magical girl. Cursed beings who do nothing but hurt other people. That is the world presented in this show, and of course not all is at it seems.
While I did know some aspects of the show going in (in fact, one of the major twists was spoiled for me quite some time ago), there were definitely some misapprehensions I had. In fact, the opening theme didn’t do too much to help. The misapprehension I’m referring to here is the fact that Kaname Madoka, the main character, does not become a magical girl until the very end of the series. When I had first picked up the series, I expected a slow build up with Madoka slowly growing into her magical girl powers, but that was definitely not the case.
Honestly, a big part of me preferred the way that the show was handled (though I’m interested in seeing how the show would have gone down in the original timeline!), but I still can’t help but feel I was cheated out of a proper magical girls show. Still, I really enjoyed the plot of this show. It was sweet, it was creepy, and the ending was profound and touching and maybe a little bit sad. It ran the entire gamut of emotion and portrayed them all quite well.
The characters are a major part of this show, and their motivations drive all of the major events. Starting with the titular character, Kaname Madoka, everything begins. She’s a small, sweet girl who comes across as entirely normal and unimpressive. And to be quite honest, that’s what she is, and what she should have been until show’s end. However, due to some other characters’ interference, such a simple life was not meant to be. Supremely giving and incredibly patient, Kaname Madoka exemplifies the concept of “good”. A true a just God, if you will.
Moving on to a character with seemingly complex motivations and emotions, Homura Akemi. Or at least, that’s how the show tries to portray her early on. In fact, Homura is likely the simplest character the show has to offer, when you boil her down a bit. Her motivation, her reason for living, everything she does is for Kaname Madoka. Due to some small act of kindness in a timeline far removed from the show, her motivations borders on obsession. As a result, it’s simultaneously cute and creepy how Homura feels for Madoka. Near the end of the show when it’s shown that Homura is the reason Madoka has gotten so powerful, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for her. Continuing fighting by herself, so many times, only for it to ultimately be in vain.
Those are the two main characters, but of course there’s a wonderful list of supporting characters, each interesting in their own way. Miki Sayaka, Tomoe Mami, Kyouko Sakura, and Kyubey. The first three are, like Madoka and Homura, magical girls. The last one, however, Kyubey, is the closest thing this show has to an antagonist. Though it is a little bit difficult to say that. Unlike most antagonists, Kyubey bears no ill will. In fact, Kyubey bears no emotion at all. All it does is try to gain energy, as a representative for another species. Still, from a human perspective what he does has some evil sides to it. Particularly in withholding exactly what is done to you when your wish is granted and you become a magical girl. Still, Kyubey is a difficult character to hate. Maybe dislike, but it’s difficult to understand its position as another person watching the show. Someone with a totally different value system than a human, how could a human possibly understand?
So I enjoyed the plot and characters, but there’s more to a show than that, right? Let’s go with the art and animation to begin with. The art style is deceptively cutesy. You can tell that the aim of the art style is somewhat of a joke, or even a deconstruction on the genre’s norms. It’s a softer style not really suited to some of the high-paced action this show has to offer, but it’s clear that it works. One thing I really enjoyed from the show was how they handled the eyes. It’s a weird thing to say, and really it doesn’t amount to much, but for some reason the little stitching effect on the eye was something I found cool.
Beyond the art of course is the animation, which was stellar when the show called for it. The battles were cool, flashy, and spectacular and I definitely enjoyed those. There were several situations where different types of media and animation styles were used, and those were used to highlight some differences between the human world and the “world of the witches”, so to speak. I found those quite interesting, and not something you see every day. In short, the animation was varied, well-done, and high-quality.
The last section I’d like to tackle, and easily my favorite aspect of the series… The music. Composed by Kajiura Yuki, the sound track is nothing short of stellar. I’ve never been a big music critic, and I can’t really identify interesting musical styles as the reason I liked the music of this show (though there’s definitely some sort of theme to the show’s music that I found really appealing), but needless to say the music is incredible. There were some vocal inserts courtesy of Kalafina, and I’ve always been a huge fan of Kalafina. The opening theme is “Connect” by ClariS, and is one of those things that caused my initial misapprehension with the show. Of course, I understand some of that misapprehension was intentional, and I think Connect fits into that intention. Still, with the BGM and the vocal songs, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has some of the best music I’ve ever heard in an anime.
— Great plot
— Interesting range of characters
— Stellar music
— Good art and animation
— Takes a little while (3 or so episodes) to really take off
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Character design: Ume Aoki (original), Takahiro Kishida
Music: Yuki Kajiura
Original run: January 7, 2011 – April 22, 2011
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