4.138 out of 5 from 467 votes
One night, Madoka has a terrible nightmare – against the backdrop of a desolate landscape, she watches a magical girl battle a terrifying creature. The next day, the teen's dream becomes reality when the girl – Homura – arrives at Mitakihara High School as a transfer student, mysteriously warning Madoka to stay just the way she is. But when she and her best friend Miki are pulled into a twisted illusion world and meet a magical creature named Kyubey, the pair discovers that magical girls are real, and what's more, they can choose to become one. All they must do is sign a contract with Kyubey and agree to fight witches that spread despair to the human world, and in return they will be granted a single wish. However, as Homura's omen suggests, there's far more to becoming a magical girl than Madoka and Miki realize...
Alice Seno is a plain and ordinary fifteen-year-old girl, and that's exactly her problem. Perpetually overshadowed by her beautiful and popular older sister Mayura, Alice grows to resent her sister for being so perfect. But when Alice finds a rabbit while crossing the street one day, things change forever. The rabbit turns out to be a magical scout named Nyozeka who claims that Alice is a Lotis Master - a person capable of harnessing the power of words to enter people's hearts and dispel the darkness within. However, Alice accidentally uses this new power on Mayura, and she vanishes. Now, Alice must join forces with her handsome upperclassman Kyou and Lotis Master Frey to rescue Mayura and rid the world of the dark power of the Maram Words.
Alice 19th and Madoka have very different plots, and even tones - but what struck me about the two is a very similar theme (that I won't go into without spoiling). Madoka is definitely the better of the two, but fans of one would likely appreciate the other.
Both of these manga are about adorable girls that somehow get roped into saving lives/maintaining the peace, and it is the worst job ever. If you liked the extra-terrestrial manipulation and the contrast between the cute characters and gory action scenes in one title, you're bound to love the other.
When a group of children discover a strange cave at the beach, their lives are forever changed. Inside they meet a man called Kokopelli who seems to have a lot of advanced gadgetry. He invites them to participate in a ‘game' in which they play heroes saving Earth from fifteen giant monsters. To defeat the invaders, he will give them a powerful mecha of black armor. The children eagerly sign the contract, name their new weapon Zearth, and must now take turns to pilot it; but the ‘game' is in fact all too real and the consequences of battle become the stuff of nightmares. With no option to cancel the contract, is there any way to stop the game before it is too late for all of them?
Bokurano is a much better, more dark/psychological version of Madoka (even more so compared to the Madoka manga, which is far more light than the anime). Still, those who appreciate the themes of sacrifice will enjoy these titles. Just bear in mind Bokurano is better!
The year is 1983 and the place is Hinamizawa, a sleepy countryside village far from the rest of civilization. Keiichi has just moved to the town with his parents and quickly makes new friends in Rena, Mion and a few other girls. But soon Keiichi discovers that there’s a hidden, brutally violent and murderous past to Hinamizawa that its residents keep secretive to outsiders. As he investigates the town’s troubled past, Keiichi begins to realize that those who are close to him may not be as they seem…
Higurashi is MUCH better, at least much better than the Madoka manga (which is lighter than the anime and less impactful). Still, fans of 'WTF', other dark themes that are spoilers, and a good read will enjoy these (Higurashi more than Madoka)
Yuuhi Amamiya is a loner whose mistrust of people was instilled in him at a young age by his abusive grandfather. So when an annoying talking lizard tells the university student that he is one of twelve knights chosen to stop the gigantic "biscuit hammer" before it smashes the Earth to smithereens, Yuuhi has no inclination to rescue such an unkind world. Despite his apathy, the boy is targeted by a golem while going about his day-to-day life, and ends up teaming up with the other knights anyway. One of his new companions is Samidare Asahina, the "princess" and leader of the knights, who secretly is only trying to protect the Earth so she can destroy it herself! Entranced, Yuuhi swears eternal loyalty to this cheerful devil that promises to crush the world he despises.
Both Madoka and Samidare are darker takes on standard "kid's show" plots, with deep character development and tragedy. The element of receiving a single wish in exchange for fighting is also common between the two, although they deal with it somewhat differently.
The combat scenes are handled similarly, especially the eventual use of conventional weapons against magical foes, and both have themes of the cycle of death and rebirth.