Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 1: Beginnings - Reviews

Alt title: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari

sort
bmcafee's avatar
May 8, 2015

Beginnings is just the condensed, movie version, of the first eight episodes of the Madoka Magica TV series.  Because I have already reviewed the series here, I will only be addressing the differences in this review.  Also, there are a couple of spoilers, but I have warnings for all and put them all at the end of the paragraph, so if you want to avoid them, just go to the next paragraph as soon as you see the warning.

It has been said many times that you can either watch the series, or the two recap movies, and you will pretty much get the same experience, with a similar overall running time.  I must disagree, for the following reasons:

Animation:  9.5  OMG this is beautiful.  The level of detail is so much higher than even the Blu-ray release of the series that it’s definitely worth a watch just for the upgraded visuals.  Not so much the characters, but the environment has been made so much richer.  There are some scenes that are just incredible, such as when Homura and Madoka are walking together in the “I won’t forget you” scene, where the background is so incredible that it almost steals the scene.

The down side to all of this is that in a couple of scenes, from a distance, the characters almost get lost in the clutter of all the new details.  Really this is a small complaint since I absolutely loved the look of this upgraded version.  If I was to have one real complaint it would be Kyosuke Kamijo’s hospital room.  It was so luxuriously furnished with high backed chairs, intricately decorated rugs and drapes, etc. that I started to wonder if he was supposed to be in bed at home in a mansion rather than in a hospital.  It took me a minute or two to get used to it and realize that he was in fact in a hospital room.  I doubt even Bill Gates gets a room like this when he goes to the doctor!

Also, skipping ahead so that I can generalize about both Beginnings and Eternal, they have made a solid effort to de-sexualize the girls, removing all nudity, even in scenes such as the final meeting between Homura and Madoka after the latter makes her wish.  Where it couldn’t be helped (they had to keep the scene because it was essential to the story), the characters have been clothed.  Where the transformation sequences either featured brief nudity, or had the camera focused in on chest/butt/etc., that has been changed too.  The new transformation sequences are more tasteful and feature some pretty cool effects which are a definite improvement.

Sound:  10 I gave the original series a ten, because Yuki Kajiura is incredible, and the Madoka Magica soundtrack is probably her masterpiece.  Maybe I should have left a little room for improvement because the sound in the movie is slightly better.  The music is obviously the same, as are the voices, but there is a slight improvement in the sound effects.  An example would be (SPOILER) the scene where Mami is killed by Charlotte.(end SPOLIER) 

In the series, the above mentioned scene is basically silent, with only the reactions of the characters, obviously done for effect, but in the movie you can hear the crunch of bones.  I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I knew the scene had some element making it seem a bit darker, or just a bit harder hitting, and when I watched the original I figured it out.  It was the sound.    

Story:  7.0  This is the part which I really have a complaint.  Many scenes were cut, probably due to running time limitations.  For instance, Madoka’s mom no longer stumbles home drunk.  For the most part, these omissions don’t really detract from the movie, but there is one glaring exception.  The scene where Kyubey explains grief seeds to Sayaka has been cut.  (SPOILER for the series) This is also the scene where Kyubey consumes the used up grief seed.  This isn’t simple exposition.  This scene establishes Kyubey as a monster.  He creates magical girls, who eventually devolve into grief seeds, which he then consumes.  He is a true predator.(end SPOILER)

Without the deleted Kyubey scene, the movie is nowhere near as dark as the series.  This explains why some people argue that Kyubey isn’t actually evil, just incapable of comprehending the misery he is causing.  It is easy to come to that conclusion if you have only seen the movie version.

Characters:  7.0  I’m rating this a bit lower than the series because we don’t get as much of Mami, or of Madoka’s family as we do in the series.  Also, for the reasons about Kyubey, which I have stated above.  Other than that, it’s the same as the series.   

Overall: 8.5   I wouldn’t give this a two way recommendation.  If you have seen the series, you should definitely watch the movie, if for no other reason than it is spectacularly gorgeous, has subtle differences which are fun to catch, and presents the story in a slightly different arrangement.  Visually, this is a feast for the eyes.  However, if you haven’t seen the series, start there.  If you are new to Madoka Magica, don't let the flashy visuals of the movies lure you into starting with them.  Story wise, the series is superior.  

7/10 story
9.5/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
CaseyJewels's avatar
Jan 13, 2016

I don't have too much to say about this movie, since it's essentially a high quality recap of the first half of the show, but I'll write down my few thoughts.

First off, the animation is beautiful! I loved the animation of the show, but this movie really kicks it up in that department.

I also like how this movie doesn't have the nudity issues of the show. I love Magical Girl, but I hate how they always have to sexualize the characters. Not that the show had a ton of this, but the movie is even cleaner.

Now, for pacing. This movie ended at just the right spot, with a major change that causes you to want to watch the next. Also, all of the scenes and whatnot flow nicely into each other. It felt almost like this had always been a movie, instead of taking half a show and turning it into a movie. Which, obviously there had to be some cutting of scenes and whatnot, but nothing felt disjointed and I can't recall anything of importance that may have been left out (granted, I have only seen the show once, so I easily could be missing something).

While this movie and the next covers the entire anime, I wouldn't say it replaces it. They're very similar, but the anime does have a little more time to flesh out the characters. Overall, though, I greatly enjoyed this movie.

9/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
0 0 this review is Funny Helpful
Larkawolfgirl's avatar
Dec 18, 2013

Yes, this movie is completely recap from the anime. No, I did not find anything truly new about the movie. However, the movie seemed fresh and overall more enjoyable than the anime. Now, this could partially be due to the fact that I was able to piece the story together better since it was a retelling. I for one loved the anime and enjoyed seeing the story yet again. 

 

The story flowed better in this movie format. As another user mentioned in their blog, the story is fit more for a dramatic movie than clipped episodes. The overall feels was more eerie than the anime, which I also credit the movie format for. Each episode of the show had to reset the stage and mood, whereas the movie never needed to do this. 

 

The previous mentioned is mostly compared to the show, but the following is more focused on Madoka as a whole. 

 

Story:

It took me a while to fully appreciate the ending to the anime. I personally enjoyed having this movie cut off in the middle so that I could fully appreciate the overall story minus the ending. The story unravels piece by piece leaving you hooked. The setting is so unlike other magical girl stories that it both excites you and puts you on edge. 

 

Animation:

I love the animation. It is very modern and aesthetically pleasing. The art for labyrinths and witches are so creative. They give off a creepy and unique vibe. 

 

Sound:

It was thanks to Madoka that I discovered the band Kalafina. Their song "Magia" highlights the story beautifully. It has a bit of eeriness to it but also a sense of desperation. The other music, though less magnificent (in my opinion), work perfectly within the scenes. 

 

Characters:

The characters all have a unique drive and a past that defines them. They all are ultimately struggling through the same war, but each experience it so differently. The girls display varying degrees of the human heart. 

 

Overall, not having to worry about opinions of the story's end, I think this movie was a pure masterpiece. The story works very well in a cinematic format without interruptions. 


Updated review at http://www.bubblews.com/news/2010979-mahou-shoujo-madoka-magica-movie-1-hajimari-no-monogatari-review

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
0 0 this review is Funny Helpful
CaptainSlow's avatar
Apr 5, 2014

What I Liked: Brilliant set design. While the animation is much the same as the series, there's been a slight improvement and the Labyrinth scenes feel more frightening. Great atmosphere, helped by a soundtrack that is less a driving force and more a solid part of the overall mood of each scene. Voice acting is improved apon from the series. Good pacing that never feels rushed or too slow.

What I Didn't: Some of the character animation still lacked consistency. Occasional low-quailty inbetweening. That Shaft head tilt, or tilts as the case may be.

Final Verdict: The first of two recap movies, Beginnings summarises the first eight episodes of the popular Puella Magi Madoka Magica series without sacrificing too much of the main story. While some of the animation and soundtrack has been improved somewhat, the inconsistent character animation may detract from the viewing

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
0 0 this review is Funny Helpful
Gzerble's avatar
Feb 13, 2015

You know, it really is hard to judge a recap on its own merit. Especially when it is a recap of one of the most innovative shows of the past decade. A lot of fat is trimmed, and what we have is a tight package that is more uptempo than the series. Of course, the worst part is that Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari takes everything that is the setup for the dramatic climax of the series, with only the mild payoff.

The lack of the climactic ending ultimately means that the story doesn't achieve the heights the original series does, and the characters gain less development. But that is missing the point. Judging Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari as its own film is easy. That is due to a very careful bit of editing.

The deconstruction of the magical girl takes a less patient and far more brutal approach in the film. Each battle is followed by the increasingly horrible revelations, and a far more accute sense of just how damaging the price paid is. The first battle somehow fits with the standard magical girl shows, and it is followed up much more realistically, but starting the second battle we go into an escallation of understanding what happens behind the scenes.

Still, the film is only two hours, and as such does not have the time to develop the rich psychological and philosophical implications that the series had. Nevertheless, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari is not only enjoyable, but fantastic. As its own film, it is a powerful offering, and will leave you waiting for the next installations.

Writing (Story and Characters):

Allow me the leisure of not elaborating too much on specifics. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari does something incredibly brave by ending with an ominous note and a promise of what is to come... we feel that the story awaits completion, and that it does. But whereas most films that do that are the second of a trilogy, this one is just the first. As such, the ending is particularly jarring.

A familiar plot to those who have seen the series; an edited exposition of the original series. That is the simplest way to explain it. There are tradeoffs, where the character driven element is more subdued and the action gains a greater focus. In the end, the story of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari is more balanced than that of the original series. Still, there is a loss of depth, and some explanations are skimmed or skipped.

Where Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari suffers most compared to the source is the characters. The loss of over a quarter of the running time removes a lot of backstory and depth from the characters. Still, the narrower focus on certain characters removes the arcs each focused on a different character and give the cast a more cohesive feel which makes up for some of the ground lost. Just like the story, the characters remain well above average despite the loss in patient delivery.

To say that the movie does as well as the series is too much. The writing suffers from the time constraints of the movie. Yet it gives a far harsher edge to the deconstruction of the magical girl in return for it. Where the series is patient, the movie cuts to the chase. From a strict script perspective, it is a very well executed movie script, written very well from a technical perspective. Just don't expect it to live up to the glory that was the series, after all, not only is it shorter, but lacking the final dramatic arc.

Art (Animation and Sound):

From an aesthetic standpoint, the artwork enjoys the tighter packaging and sharpening up. The battle scenes remain gloriously metaphorical and potent works of art, and we get to revel in them. The narrower focus helps the outcome's psychological effects to take the center of the stage, and as such the voice acting becomes a better fit. The patented Shaft camera angles work so well when they are used, and the artwork has been touched up in the right places for a true cinematic experience.

Starting to talk about the animation specifically, we must talk about the battles. The use of many forms of media, from a mashup of photos, CG, and hand drawn parts (both crude and detailed in parts), these are some of the greatest artistic triumphs anime ever had. The backgrounds remain detailed and clever. The character designs are distinct, though they (and the transformation sequences) are not groundbreaking in any way. Still, this is well into the top tier of animation because Shaft's penchant for artistic risk taking which is proudly cinematic to begin with just revels in the cinematic medium.

Where the animation enjoys the tighter story, the sound does as well. A lot of the faults due to pacing (especially with the voice acting) end up amelliorated or completely removed from the film. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari still has some flaws, but overall, it is professional and a great fit for the series. There are some minor quibbles about details here and there that don't allow me to say that the sound is truly exceptional, but it is great.

As a whole, the artwork of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari is doubtlessly in the upper echelon of anime. There are the occasional cuts which are a tad gimmicky, and the sound could be a bit more intense if there had been more use of ambient noise, but these are minor details. There is a huge amount of life the art breathes into the story, and some of it is downright jaw-dropping.

Overall:

On its own merits, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari is a great movie. It is obviously waiting for a sequel, and yet, it successfully recreates and even reimagines the first eight episodes of the series through use of sharp editing. Just don't expect viewing the movie to be a happy experience.

8.5/10 story
9.5/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
0 0 this review is Funny Helpful