Fictional stories that are continuously hyped have had the tendency of not fulfilling the audience’s lofty expectations toward the work. Hype, as defined by the dictionary, is to promote or publicize a product or idea intensively often exaggerating its importance or benefits. Puella Magi Madoka Magica matches the latter definition of hype but is the exception to the frequency by which a narrative is embellished; indeed, the story of this anime is exceptional. In addition to fantastic storytelling, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has a strong cast of characters whose very essence is conveyed by stylistic presentation and an impeccable soundtrack as much as they do represent themselves.
The high quality of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s narrative can be attributed to the fact that nary a moment of the show can be disregarded. Every single scene of this anime is dedicated to developing the cast, continuing the story, or contributing to the characters and plot simultaneously. Of course, having no unprogressive space within the series does not mean a lack of moments which disguise themselves as meaningless. For example, there is a scene early in the series where Madoka Kaname and her mother are washing their faces in the bathroom. At one point during the scene, Madoka is feeling around the sink looking for a towel. Without so much as diverting her attention from what she was doing, Kaname’s mother slides the item toward her daughter. The previously described moment establishes the mother’s maternal instinct that would increase in prominence as the titular character’s situation became worse. Another scene of note is a comedic moment in Sayaka Miki’s classroom where her teacher goes into a rant about romantic relationships because the instructor had just broken up with her boyfriend. Sayaka and her friends respond to the teacher’s situation with a bit of laughter but the moment is harsher in hindsight considering the main point of conflict for Miki in the story. The main reason for mentioning the two aforementioned scenes is because some people would prefer to be ingratiated into a work, often with “meaningless” or filler moments, before the story progresses. Puella Magi Madoka Magica understands that easing the viewer into the narrative is just as important as wasting no scenes and does both at the same time.
However, every moment of Puella Magi Madoka Magica being important does not mean the time itself was utilized to the best of its ability. To elaborate, most of the anime spends its time developing the characters of Sayaka Miki and Kyoko Sakura instead of Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi. The counterargument of saying that the series main character and titular character need not necessarily be the same person would be valid, were it not for the fact that the eponymous cast member and Homura are the most important characters of the series. The writers of the anime seemed to be aware of how unbalanced the screen time distribution for the shows characters was, however, and provided an episode that would leave an implication as to why Kaname and Akemi were not developed over the course of the series to the extent that Miki and Sakura were. Although it demonstrates why Kaname and Akemi are integral to the story, the episode itself merely glosses over various events concerning Madoka and Homura instead of providing the singular focus which allowed Sayaka and Kyoko’s dynamic to be so believable. The anime could have used more episodes, or rearrange the time it was given, to provide a solitary focus on Kaname and Akemi’s friendship before showing the differing scenarios concerning the two characters. The lack of time spent on Madoka and Homura’s relationship serves to make their finale relatively underwhelming compared to the climax of Sayaka and Kyoko’s story arc.
Of course, a character in a story not being as well written as another character who shares the same narrative is hardly an issue when the overall quality of the cast is impressive enough as it is. Although it is certainly easy to describe them as cute, those who watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica may find themselves remembering the ensemble more for their personality than their attractive appearance. Many of the characters reasons for becoming a Magical Girl is entrenched in well-intentioned naivety and they soon realize the consequences of their decision to become a Magical Girl. As each of them goes about their duty in varying ways to cope with the severity of their situation—some approaches to the title of Magical Girl more ruthlessly practical than others—they will also make some of the worst decisions that could be done. One character may well be the most selfish person in the entire series while another’s selflessness ironically becomes her undoing. After all of her indecision another cast member’s only course of action deals with a side-effect of the problem instead of the issue itself. The characters of this anime have a lot of faults beneath their visual appeal but tasking young teenagers with the responsibility of essentially saving the world, realistically, would induce that sort of stupidity. Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s cast is not young for the sake of being cute; they are believably flawed because they are young.
However, conveying a show’s characters to the audience is as much a visual effort as it is a written one and this anime has a solid grasp on how best to use its stylistic graphics to represent its cast. For example, when one of the characters is driven to the brink of insanity the details of her figure—clothing outline, eye color and the like—are replaced by pitch black fill. The Witches themselves also represent the mental progress of sorts the Magical Girls have made. For example, early in the series the Witches tend to be indistinguishable from the chaotic background that accompanies them. However, as the story progresses the Witches become more identifiable from the rest of the scenery and it represents the Magical Girls becoming acclimated to fighting their enemy. What makes the unique presentation even better is that it is used sparingly. An excess of something used to create emphasis loses its impact the more it is used. The value of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s graphics is not the originality itself so much as how the style is used.
Yet the technical aspect which really lets this anime’s cast stand out is the music. One of the most prominent examples of befitting audio is the song Credens Justitiam used for a character that is only in the early part of the story. The upbeat and fast-paced nature of this choir piece conveys her personality extremely well. Credens Justitiam is also likely to be the most memorable tune as far as being associated with characters goes just for the fact that its character’s first appearance is accentuated by this composition. Fortunately, the rest of the series music is no less excellent than Credens Justitiam. The quick tempo and subdued lyrics of Sis Puella Magica is perfect as the theme for both Madoka Kaname and the show itself as the significance of its title becomes more apparent as the story progresses. A simple change in instruments between the songs of Puella in Somnio and Inevitabilis manages to communicate entirely different messages about Homura Akemi. The three theme songs of Sayaka Miki—Conturbatio, Decretum, and Symposium Magarum—represents how she changes over the course of the series. Confessio is a nostalgic composition that shows Kyoko Sakura’s sense of resignation; keep in mind the aforementioned songs are still being limited to character themes as there is even more the show offers in terms of audio. The soundtrack of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is as hauntingly perfect for the series as much as it is fantastic on its own.
More time could be spent on citing the rest of the show’s soundtrack but the character themes alone are varied and perfect for each cast member. Likewise, the stylistic presentation for the characters is used to the best of its ability without overindulging itself in its creativity. Although the series has its problems, let it be known that the flaws of this anime are still good. That is more than can be said for the faults of most other works. Perhaps the only real issue with this anime is overcoming the amount of hype surrounding it to watch it in the first place. Then again, the series is not embellished because nothing about its quality has been overstated. Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s combination of excellent storytelling, strong characters, and fantastic technical execution make it a very good anime.
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