I abhor "Magical Girl" genres, finding the anime and manga with this staple to be full to brim with age-old cliches and overly-cutesy girly stuff that I truly am not into. That being said, if there are "adult" themes, or psychological components, then I'm in it to win it. And by win it, I mean devour it in one sitting.
So is the case of this anime, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Here's my review and my thoughts...
The story sets itself up as innocent and one-sided in the sense that here is a magical furry cat thing, here's the ability to become a sparkly, well-decked out "magical girl" and you can fight witches! And have cool powers! And get your own outfit! And have cool powers! And a spirit gem! Did I mention the cool powers?! Sign right here, make a wish, you get it, you got it!
Only it is quickly divulged that not everything is as it seems, and it is so like a 12 or 13 year old girl to realize it only too late the reality of such a situation that inevitably unfolds when one decides to dip their toes in a confusing and uncontrollable element such as "magic", or begin to trust a furry white creature without knowing its origins or its true purpose and only taking its words at face value.
Sigh...that's life for ya.
The story sets itself up to be a Magical Girl, Slice of Life bore that is cute but inevitably lacks depth (at least to me these are what they end up being), but every episode has a final note of foreboding worry, a dark shadow that seems to be curling up behind Madoka and her friend Sayaka, though it doesn't take a definite shape until the latter half of the show. Such building of the tension in the back of your mind, the thoughts that echo "Maybe this isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe this is actually a bad plan. Maybe Kyubee is actually Satan's familiar. Maybe I should do my laundry..."
Wow. Just wow.
I hate, hate, hate pastels and "Easter dresses". I find them so bland and just blah; pastels to me are like taking the beauty of real life and washing it out so that its former energy is but a small pulse overtaken by starched beauty.
I absolutely loved the color palette for the girls. Their eye-hair color matching and overall auras as they embodied their colors played out very well. I simply just love looking at them, as for once the pastels are done straight and cutesy. I can't resist cutesy.
And the Witches + Familiars and their own mini-universes are simply eyegasms. So much subliminal messaging, random art, patterns, CGI, magazine, newspaper shreddings and clippings and cut outs are all pasted together to form a world of chaos that follows its own pattern like a sentient being's nervous system: It breathes, it exhales its sheer insanity of colors and sensory overload that one can't stop themselves from taking it all in and desensitize themselves from the clear break from reality that the characters have reached by journeying into such a "Labyrinth". Indeed, these "Labyrinths" are much like a psychologist would envision the human mind to look like. So many different references, bits and pieces from previous experiences, dreams, or second-long exposure to some advertisement, piece of art, etc. is morphed and transmorgified into something horrific and nonsensical..
In short, Freud would have had a field day dissecting everything thrown at you in each of these Labyrinths.
The opening theme and ending theme contrast each other beautifully; the former sells you the idea that this is going to be a bouncy, "oh darn!" collection of adventures of Madoka and her magical girl friends as they try to figure out the whims of magic and have some laughs along the way (ALL LIES). The ending theme has a nice vamping, haunting sound that somehow reminds me of that kind of tune that reminds you of Egypt..weird, huh? Everything in the ending is grainy and flickering, which is obviously a symbol for something but I'm too stupid to really understand it. All my analyzing days are over :(
Anyway, there are church pieces and little inserts of the opening or closing theme at certain times in the story which are nice nods, but personally the soundtrack seems to drown out the "emotion" of the moment at times. But it's still very nice to listen to. Dark, foreboding choir music is always a win in my book!
The characters are driven by their core personalities, and nothing much more. They aren't cliches, per se, but there isn't much growth except for Sayaka's eventual descent into madness. With the exception of Sayaka, once you become a magical girl it appears your personality and default disposition is frozen in time. Appropriate, I would say. Once you sell your soul to the furbag, it is only fitting that any "growth" that may be experienced within a soul left intact would be non-existent in a magical girl.
Kyubee was a manipulative little furball, but one easily picked up the signs that something was a little amiss with him, subtle hints were dropped that everything wasn't all sunshine and rainbows where he was concerned. At least to me. I mean, look at his fucking EYES.
Look. At them. Loooook at them!!
Doesn't that just ooze sociopathy? At least as human being like us equivacate it to?
Personally, I didn't see any problem with Kyubee. I found his preying on the human race to be a little disconcerting, and his pushiness to become a magical girl very antagonistic, but if YOU make the contract, that's all on you.
And Homura kept telling Madoka and Sayaka not to do it, but noooo don't listen to the girl who obviously knows what she's doing. Sigh... Always trust the tsundere! Always!
I am so surprised I enjoyed this. I really am. I loved the music, loved the colors and the Witch & Co. "Labyrinths" and I surprisingly loved the whole twist on this genre. I highly recommend it to those who want something with a sugary outercoating but a bitter and dark center.