This is not a child’s magical girl show like Sailor Moon. It is extremely dark and asked questions that may just make you feel very small in the world. Seriously, this show depressed me slightly with its sort of morbid idea of what a magical girl does. We follow a young girl who is given a rather rare chance to make one wish come true but in doing so, she must become a magical girl and fight evil known as witches. A no brainier right? Who wouldn’t want to be a hero and get their wish granted at the same time? But like all good things in real life, there is a price that has to be paid. Sadly, to tell you would ruin the whole mystery behind the show and so it leaves me at a loss, how do you review a show that you can say very little about without spoiling anything?
I will try to do as best I can without losing the mystery. We will start out speaking about the characters. Madoka Kaname is well… she was boring to me at first. A girl who was the typical cute and moe anime girl who had nothing bad going for her. Hell, at times I even thought this show was going to just be about how even more perfect she could become but I was soon mistaken as not only the story went down a dark path but also the imagery. She and her friend soon find themselves following magical girl after magical girl and their own takes on what it means to be a hero as well as what they wished for. Her friend had already picked her wish, so what would a girl who is so happy want? That was what kept me going, wanting to know more and more about what was going on. After a bit, it felt like they were just pulling me around.
The imagery is slightly troubling, sometimes rather clean and perfect and then other times it looks like puppetry. I’m not saying it’s bad, far from it in fact. The artwork is stunning but there are times like for the witches where the characters feel like they are paper puppets moving. Anything in the witch’s world is also this sort of puppet style with odd squiggles and designs drawn on them. The colors normally look like they are dark and settle. When you are outside the witch’s world, the show actually feels very minimalist and clean lined. It’s very futuristic with bright, almost blinding, lights and pastel colors. Surprisingly for Shinbo’s work, there is not all that much of the little girl naked images that we know from him so that was a bit of a plus for me. There was some but not much.
The dub voices are another matter though. Many of the voices just feel they don’t work. Madoka’s was just annoying at times because of her sweet and innocent voice that was so high pitched. Some of the other voices seemed a little to childish but then again, they are middle school so I guess it’s alright. In the end, the sounds were what brought everything all together.
Story: I really love magical girl anime, its one of my favourite genres, so I thought I'd absolutely LOVE this anime- I had always wanted a more mature mahou shoujo to watch, then Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika came along. But I finally got round to watching it, and my hopes were simply too high.
The story wasn't AWFUL- it just failed to fully attract and maintain my attention, with the exception of about 5 scattered episodes. The story in the first 7 or 8 episodes wasn't really about Madoka at all- it was about her friend Sayaka who becomes a Puella Magi, only for it to all go wrong. Whilst this was interesting in the last few episodes of Sayaka's story, I was getting a little frustrated. Madoka just sat there idely every episode, watching her friends fighting, watching them grow depressed and suicidal, and she just...sat there. It made her, as the protagonist, in Tim Rice-Oxley's words, ''completely fucking boring''.
However episode 10 was a big improvement. The last 3 episodes focussed on Homura instead, another Puella Magi and her relation to Madoka. But, once again, Madoka was still not even a magical girl. She was sitting there, being told she had all this potential and she was still just SITTING there, weeping all the time. Then the last episode came- and it was...weird. The last few episodes had upped my rating of this show barely to four stars, then the last episode appeared and back down to 3 stars it goes, I just found the ending...odd. It was an acquired taste. Someone is erased from everyones memories, and one girl who has known her A MONTH remembers her- but oh no, her own mother and father don't! I just find that...too unbelievable. Homura's affection for Madoka what she gathered up within just a month? How can you grow so incredibly all-loving of a person in just a mere month? It was too short a timeframe for it to be even mildly believable for me.
Animation: At first I thought the animation of characters could look rather plain and perhaps tacky- but I gradually warmed up to it, the characters just naturally do seem rather plain to the eye. The character designs weren't particularly inspiring- the typical colour coordination, pink-haired protagonist and the darker character wearing black. But the witches made up for it, the animation during battles and of the other realms was amazing, bright and lively.
Sound: It set the mood well when the characters were depressed. There was a lot of silence without music too. But none of the music really reached out to me and grabbed me, without a few rare exceptions.
Characters: Meh. The protagonist did absolutely nothing for about 11 episodes out of twelve. Literally every single character except for Homura was barely developed, or their past wasn't brought up, except for maybe Sayaka. Other characters such as Mami or the red-haired Puella Magi seemed just to be there to demonstrate how many different coloured magical girls they could have.
Kyubey really irritated me. I've never been a huge fan of the magical girl familiars, but Kyubey was plain detestable. His species' inability to have emotion could make him very frustrating to watch, and all he ever did was try to CONSTANTLY turn Madoka into a Puella Magi for his own personal gain. If her friend had died? ''Oh care not Madoka, if you become a Puella Magi...'' If she was worried about witches taking over? ''Madoka, you'll be strong if you become a Pueklla Magi...'' If shes eating some canned brocolli and watching Doctor Who? ''Madoka, come become a Puella Magi...'' he just pushed it too hard.
Overall: Meh. It IS darker than other magical girl shows, but I wouldn't say that makes it any better. I am very relieved it was only 12 episodes long. Its definitely different from other mahou shoujo's and is worth a watch even if you don't like the genre...but its a acquired taste. And I think perhaps slightly overrated.
I wouldn't exactly call Madoka overrated, since it's generally a good show, I'd say that it just got too much praise for so little it has done. I never had any major problems with it, the truth is, it’s quite solid in every aspect, but it’s bold to say that it exceeded in anything or that it was original. Pff. Anyone who saw Bokurano would know that Madoka wasn’t very original with its general themes and plot pattern, and since it’s a “whish type anime” I already knew the ending because every singe anime where something about wishes and fate is present as a major theme it ALWAYS gets the same firkin’ ending… I don’t want to spoil any other series for something silly as giving examples, so… if you really want to hear such huge spoilers for more than 10 series then contact me or whatever.
Even thought I’m already sick of psychedelic Shaft animations, I’ll just say that this one was superb and not comment on it further. I’m a huge fan of everything funky, unique and bizarre, so I can’t consider it bad in any way, but it’s just that Shaft is really starting to annoy me with its virtual LSD. And yeah, design was quite moe… so that’s a thing, right? Music was also great. It was rich in content and everything worked pretty well, however, there are no songs that really captivated me or the ones that particularly stood out, but it all fits so no complain there.
The characters are something else completely. While I did enjoy their arcs the show didn’t allow me to enjoy them enough since it’s too damn short to properly flash them out. Madoka Magica follows the formula I’m not so fond of, and that is introducing and finishing the arc of secondary character in one or two episodes, and not exploring them further later on. There’s just no way I can care for them after so little time. When the blonde girl died I didn’t even flinch, and the same happened with Homura who got her arc going way too late for me to develop some sort of liking to her. Even so, Homura and Sayaka were the only memorable girls, while others were victims of too little development to get us properly attached to them. Even Madoka, who was previously just a passive bystander, was not developed properly, since she took the stage way too late. Kyoubey is a weaker version of Dung Beetle, who does everything Kyoubey does, only sicker and with 100% more emotion and sadism.
Even if I sound negative, I still think this was a good show, and it’s definitely not a waste of your time even if this review somehow put you off. Sure, not much is original and it’s not a revolution of magical girls (Princess Tutu ftw) as some consider it, but it’s quite solid for what it is and I’m sure many of you will find a lot of things to like about it.
Best girl: Sayaka
Story: Deconstruction shows are fascinating. After all, variation in a particular genre (in this case the magical girl genre) keeps it interesting instead of recycling a repetitive formula or certain characteritics that can be found in shows of this category. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is a brutal take on magical girls, showing the darker side of what exactly your getting into when you become one. The themes of "be careful what you wish for," are ever so present as even the most innocent and well-intentioned wishes can take a turn for the worse. Is becoming a Mahou Shoujo really worth risking your life over? What if you had the chance to help others or even the world, would you take it? These questions constantly haunt our main character Madoka as she desperately wants to protect those precious but it isn't all as glorious as it seems as she comes to learn and it feeds into uncertainty.
The only flaw I'll point out is the opening which makes the show look like a typical magical girl adventure (openings like School Days are brought to mind here in tricking the audience), even if it does end up making sense in context. However I cannot emphasize enough that the show scores high points in many areas.
Animation: Never has visuals contrasted eachother so much and yet work to a brilliant extent. First, we have the everyday world that Madoka lives in. Animation is bright, extravagent in even normal places like school, and just overall gorgeous. Then we have the witches world where the fighting takes place. It is a dark, bizarre, and twisted world which is what I would imagine Alice in Wonderland would look like if taken up to a eleven. Yet colors are still vibrant and it's easy to make out all the strange looking creatures that dwell in this world (seriously there are cotton balls with mustaches). Think of it as a moving collage, random images pasted,and present together yet forming a theme. Regarding character designs, I actually think the design was perfect. Cute, moe style are present here and it works becaue it only makes you feel more depressed that these girls are thrown into a nightmare. It also lets you know that normal people can get involved in this mess. Outfits in transformation themes are detailed and match each character. The witches design are just as crazy as the backgrounds they surround themselves in. They vary from grotesque to cartoonish design, yet you never lose the sense that these creatures are off and even deranged . As for Kyubey, I leave you with this ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人
Sound: The music is especially haunting in this series. The ending in particular is a dark piece of work that quickly gives away that this series is going downhill into terrorville. Special mention should also go to Mami's theme which had a beautfiul and hopeful tone in the chorus, and Sayaka and Kyoko's theme. Voice acting was excellent, which again makes it easy to symphasize with these characters. The only complaint I have is with the opening again. The song isn't all that spectacular and I think there could have been a better pick.
Characters: The characters here are well-developed and again very innocent, which it all the more depressing when they enter the contracts of despair. First we meet Madoka, a pink-haired sweet progtaginst who believes she isn't very good at anything which is one of her motivations into becoming a magical girl. But as I said before, she's in a dilenma about believing protecting others is the right thing to do yet she may end up only hurting herself in the process. Her friend Sayaka is interested in becoming a magical girl as well to help someone other than herself. Yet, she is cautious when she meets other magical girls. The magical girls in particular are equally developed and their reasons for entering the contract are all discussed and relate to their current personalities. Homura is definitely the most mysterious of the group and seems to know something about Madoka. Part of the good points of the show is the fact that all characters are given focus because while Madoka is not in any way boring, she is constantly questioning herself without really progressing forward with a decision. Without spoiling anything, it is hard to not feel anything for any of the characters in the end. Except for Kyubey, which while feeling no emotions for putting these girls into contracts, is a master manipulator in a facade of acting supportive as he originally came off.
Overall: A tragic tale happening to the youngest of characters and we hope throughout that a light at the end of an extremely dark tunnel will appear. This show deserves every bit of popularity that it gets as it delves into making tough decisions, if they are the right one, and what results from making such choices.
Coming into this series, you just see another lame Magical Girl series... but what caught my eyes was the studio that was making this series- Shaft. Seeing this, I decided to give this series a try... and I am very glad that I did. It took all of my preconceived notions about what a magical girl series is, and destroyed them. That being said, if you are to only watch one Magical Girl series ever, this is the one you should try.
This series is, in a word, dark. The ending, in a word, is bitter-sweet. This series manages to conceal the ending while making it painfully obvious. It manages to hide the main character while making her be extremely obvious. While leaving the viewer extremely satisfied, you're left wanting more. The ending hits on a somewhat philosophical note while not being as absurd as some endings (See Evangelion). As a whole, this will be one of those must watch series in the future.
This series bares a very distinct style of character design and a style of animation that, in itself, can be quantified to nothing other than Shaft. While having constant art shifts in a very well preformed method. If you can get past the original character designs, then there is no reason to complain- this blend of different mediums, smooth animation, and often detailed backgrounds is very well done.
Both the themes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBYbBrnexOQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlL1hMwLaZw (just the songs are the same) and the actual soundtrack are extremely well done. While blending in the ED into the sound track, they do an excellent job of intensifying the emotions felt in many of the scenes. The voice actresses themselves do a great job and are, for the most part, fairly well known, ranging from Aoi Yūki to Chiwa Saitō and Eri Kitamura.
The characters in this series manage to, in many cases, change dramatically, both in the series and simply in the viewer's eyes, while maintaining a sense of reality in them. Several of the characters are extremely well developed and almost all of them are very likable. None of the characters fall neatly into a trope which is very rare these days.
If you are going to choose just one series from the Winter 2010 season to watch, it needs to be this one. It was very well executed and I can say that the delay getting the last two episodes (caused partially by the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan) made the wait terrible.