Story: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica takes the concept of the "magical girl" genre and gives it a dark and intriguing twist. I had seen the opening at an anime convention, and the series is so much better than the cute story the opening portrays. There are many twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. The storyline is intricately woven with only vague hints of foreshadowing to the plot twists in store. Though there was use of symbolism, it did little to draw away from this action-packed story. I kept wanting more, wanting to know how many layers of psychological drama this anime had hidden. The only reason I haven't given this anime a perfect 10 for story is because I felt it wrapped up the ending too neatly.
Animation: The animation is beautiful. From the fluid movement of the girls and the intricacies of their outfits, to the dark and edgy animation of the "witches", this anime was full of amazingly detailed artistry. As I am still getting into the animation style of Shaft, I cannot compare the style of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica to the rest of Shaft's portfolio.
Sound: I definitely recommend listening to the main opening and ending songs. "Connect" by ClariS sounds so lighthearted and hopeful, giving voice to the dreams of the girls. "Magia" by Kalafina is much darker and edgier, foretelling more than anything the melancholic turns of the anime. The music in between is also beautiful, especially the classical pieces.
Characters: The characters are everything you would expect of teenage girls suddenly thrust into a battle of good and evil. They are flawed and imperfect, and they are beautiful. They are all given depth and exceptional emotional ranges that made me empathize with their plights. They embody the motif of the child soldier in a stunning manner. I had seen the split acceptance of the mascot character, Kyubey, and it made me curious. He definitely imbibes what this anime is all about; power comes at a price. He is full of twists and secrets that make him completely inhuman. Instead of making me hate him, however, this only added to his character and made him one of the most interesting creatures I had ever come across in an anime.
Overall: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica was an exceptional piece of work. It is not for those who cannot follow the twists and turns, but it will be an amazing ride for those that can.