Adorable little magical girls have been getting into contracts for decades. It’s about time that someone asked what would happen if those contracts went wrong. Of course, the concept has worked in other genres (mecha show Bokurano is a strong recent example) but considering the magical girl genre hinges on naïve, wide-eyed adolescents trading security and peace of mind for adventure, more anime should be dedicated to the implied nastiness of it.
In fact, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica exploits this contrast to brilliant effect. The magical girl genre was arguably the final bastion of innocence - almost every other had been corrupted by the cynicism of disenchanted youth. Short of turning Chi’s Sweet Home into Chi’s Domestic Violence, Madoka Magica represents one of the starkest genre subversions on the market. It takes all the sugary tropes - transformation sequences, colour coordinated outfits, hamster-cheeked character designs - and defaces them with an Immediate Threat of Death. The sheer novelty of seeing cheerful baby faces swallowed by a deep, groaning horror that just wouldn’t exist in the schema of Sakura Kinomoto (Card Captor Sakura) is enough to hoist us along on this bracing ride.
I sometimes struggle to recognise Madoka Magica as ‘mahou shoujo’ because of this. It wears the right costume but its feminine soul has been gutted out and replaced with the hot-blooded bravado of shounen. Just consider the macho dialogue and the stylised action focused on making everyone look cool; not to mention that cute girls acting violent is a gimmick more commonly targeted at male audiences (Elfen Lied, Narutaru, Gunslinger Girl). Often, I am tempted to describe it as Bokurano with magical girls and leave it there, although that again would be flippant and dismissive of Madoka Magica's special success.
On the other hand, I hear murmurs of ‘revolution’ in corners of Madoka Magica discussion, that it might do for the genre what Neon Genesis Evangelion did for mecha. If the argument is made on the basis that it brings dark, sophisticated themes to an otherwise shallow genre, then the revolution already happened with the superior Revolutionary Girl Utena and Princess Tutu (WATCH THESE SHOWS!). But if we mean attaining a broader, more financially rewarding appeal that might encourage further copies, then Madoka Magica is indeed well placed for such a title.
In any case, while the show may not be a fount of heretofore undiscovered genius, it wears ‘old hat’ stylishly. If we can laud James Cameron’s Avatar for being a smart person’s Fern Gully, then we can celebrate Madoka Magica’s more visceral recasting of everything Sailor Moon. Director Akiyuki Shinbo shows a surprising sleekness and control here considering his repertoire of scatty, irritating comedies. So bright and glossy is the story he weaves that the plot holes and frayed ends (often a result of the girls’ unique powers) hardly seem to matter. The show is able to give us a general sense of its trajectory while dropping thick breadcrumbs of surprise and beautifully designed battles to keep us skipping joyously to the end.
The cute human character designs by Ume Aoki (Sunshine Sketch) are the visuals' weakest aspect. All the girls in Madoka Magica have the same bland, bulbous appearance and are distinguishable only by their colour-coded hair and costumes. But as soon as the witches (the show’s antagonists) turn up, the animators begin to party. With monstrous bodies made of mechanical and organic parts, the witches look as tortured as implied. They bring along dancing evil spirits whose body parts are a collage of crayon drawings, photographic images, and CGI.
Their presence also warps the world into technologically crisp displays of smooth motion and atmospheric environs. The opening sequence sees the protagonist, Madoka Kaname, running through a chequered black and white world seemingly inspired by M.C. Escher. It's one of those nightmarish places where the landscape never changes no matter how far you run. And, though vibrant in some sense, Madoka Magica takes a leaf out of the Princess Tutu book and stuffs every fluffy nook with palpable wrongness. For instance, as Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki sit on a riverbank, notice the eerie white wind turbines superimposed upon a jet-black silhouette of the city behind them. This approach of washing everything in murk is arguably heavy handed: the whole world is seemingly lit by a low-hanging lime light so that even scenes in broad daylight feature shadows slashing ominously across the ground. But it nonetheless succeeds at illustrating the show's uncompromising malevolence.
Yuki Kaijiura (the lady who made Tsubasa Chronicle sound epic even though it’s not) lays on a dramatic score whose main expressions are loneliness, despair, and disquiet. Some of the ditties on offer include euphoric choral works with grand, floating strings during action scenes, echoing xylophone tinkling for the more personal moments, and, when real gloom descends, eerie dance tracks with portentous wailing like angels singing warnings from the sky.
The appeal of the main themes seem less obvious. While the formulaic J-pop opening theme does not tickle my ear, the ending theme with its metal guitar and keening strings guided by brooding female vocals sure does. For younger or more traditional magical girl audiences, it could be the other way around.
Homura Akemi is not the titular character. She is nonetheless the standout one. She stalks through the narrative, emotionlessly delivering bursts of glorious action, all the while making perfectly clear that she knows something we don't know. Her emphatic performance is a welcome one because her co-star Madoka mostly remains a formless concept. While the script likes to remind us again and again that There’s Something About Madoka, mostly through prophetic lines of dialogue about her latent potential, she is ordinary and often watches confusedly from the sidelines while the horrors of battle unfold. The conclusion finally sees her take centre stage but that is too little development too late to encourage any attachment to her.
Sayaka, Madoka’s blue-haired friend and the only other memorable girl, falls squarely into the trench of subplot melodrama. But her idealism contrasts well with the show's cynicism and makes her role all the more poignant as soon as the main conflict kicks in.
And then there’s Kyubey, the show’s sardonic attempt at a mascot. Whether accident or not, Kybubey will throw up sharply unnerving memories of Dung Beetle from Bokurano. This is partly because Dung Beetle's sneering, pitiless performance is so indomitable that it haunts us at the slightest provocation, and partly because the two characters embody the same idea: cute things that are creepy. Kyubey’s wrongness stems from the disconnect between his sugary vocals and unsympathetic attitude; even the way he insists on asking the girls to contract with him at every given opportunity ceases to seem like genuine attempts to help and more like… something else.
The magical girl genre has been overhauled before - Revolutionary Girl Utena and Princess Tutu brought a sophistication desperately needed to drag the genre into the twenty-first century - but Madoka Magica has given it teeth to compete in the mainstream. It is not really made for innocent little girls but for a cynical audience who have long learned that pretty things are easily defaced and magic powers swiftly turned against us. The highlights are undeniably the lavish duels and its unrelenting shock value, but sometimes in a short work that is just enough to be great entertainment.
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.
WOW!! What a ride I have been. This anime has redefined anime for what supposed to be a proving ground to creators to make an impact in today's world and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica does it all. No wonder every people being hyped with the series from the start. I mean seriously, this anime make me feel that every single despair and sorrow that every people in this world experienced cannot dissapear but we must believe in ourselves that we can change these despairs into hope for the better. That is what we learned from this anime and this anime proves to inch out every single detail about the message for not only youths but for the entire world to believe in yourself and fight no matter how wretched incidents happened.
Let's start by saying that the storyline is WAY more than meets the eye. The story starts with the usual, a girl (Madoka) finds a cute, fluffy creature (Kyuubey), hurt by an apparent mysterious villian (Homura) and then Kyuubey wants her to accept a contract in becoming a Magical Girl. Pretty simple for a magical girl anime. However, by episode 3, the dark ambience of the storyline really kicks in and the outcome, an emotional and mind blowing developments. This is more like I'm watching a movie directed by a world class director that I think even exceeds Christopher Nolan's standards. The gruesome and life-threating situation every single Mahou Shoujo have encountered just making the story so unique and full of plot boosting that I was not expected from an anime. The ending also really captivated me on how the remaining main characters have potrayed in what I considered as the "Change the World" phase. Overall, the story really exceeds my expectations and coexist with the dark deep plot that they executed. Well done, SHAFT!! Well done!!
The art for this series really amazed me on how they draw the entire atmosphere into one hell of a bizarre universe that some people said that this is not their cup of coffee. The facial expression of each of the character is really wierd and different than normal animes. However, the fight scenes is done with the perfection. I can see every angle of the action as if this is like the real thing. The two last episodes also have mindblowing art that I think shines and makes it even more exhillarating to watch the finale. The art styles, however, does seem a bit too scary and maybe haunt me to nightmares but this is a slight minor scare that I can see.
The soundtrack in this anime is my another great praise to this series because Kaijura Yuki does every single theme matched the conversation or certain events that accompany, just like bread and butter. Most of the soundtracks have certain emotions inside the story, like despair, hope, jealousy, worries and more that I really enjoyed. Plus, the opening theme (Connect by ClariS) in my opinion, match what Madoka expressions are in her road in becoming a Magical Girl. The ending (Magia by Kalafina) also redefines the characeters of Homura with sadness and wiltedness of her feeling in true meaning.
Not only the storyline is awesome, but the characters are well developed to its fullest. We have Madoka, who at first glance, she's just a crybaby desperate in holding on to her life in the midst of their friends' death. However, she growned up every single episode and thus, becoming a girl with hope and meaning to make every single people in the world end their suffering and start on a new chapter in this world. There is also Homura, will-hearted, brave in facing challenges, and never gives up on fighting to protect the ones that she loved the most, Madoka. Then, there's Mami, who is shy, polite and caring, Sayaka, naive and in desperation trying to impress her love ones who he is a violin meister, and of course, not to mention, the devil in teddy bear's shirt (my description), Kyuubey, cute but evil,enough said. Every single character have their own perspective in elaborating their own stories that are perfectly done. This series also implicates what every character's emotions deepens from start to finish thanks to a great interaction. Even I'm also impressed about the Kyuubey's World Balance theory and explained information really precise about the life of an incubator.
All in all, I got to say, this had been a wild and treacherous ride from start to finish. Madoka Magica have defined Magical Girls anime in a whole new level and way exceeds the quality of the Magical Girl animes from the 60's. This anime also redefined the way how an anime could elaborate on a real world situation that is rare for anime nowadays. Excellent storyine, great art design, weird and dark atmosphere, great soundtrack, superb characterisation and amazing plot development made this series a true classic. I mean, what animes could match this masterpiece that came from nowhere and we have never saw a true classic during the 2000's era. This absolutely blows ALL the fanservice, moe animes that have become a trend. It's a piece of magical powers, sci-fi, social issues and dark plot that made this a must watch for all otakus. By far, in my standards, this had to be THE BEST ANIME OF 2011, better yet THE BEST ANIME OF THE 2000's or maybe become AN ALL TIME CLASSIC. Seriously, even Deadman Wonderland or Hyouge Mono or other anime could NOT match this superior masterpiece. Thank you, Urobuchi Gen! Thank you, Kaijura Yuki! Thank you, Magica Quartet! And most of all, THANK YOU SHAFT!! You're all AWESOME!!
Madoka is like SAO and AOT,the reason why people call it good cause of its shock value.
Madoka is all about SHOCK value nothing more.and its not dumb to think so.
It also good for being "Gen Urobochi's" work.Reputation rather than actual quality.
Madoka also has the worst consistency in plot writing that I have ever seen in years.
Even the newer anime can keep things together better than this.
I don't hear much talking about it the plot and characters but advertising it.It isn't just moe killing the industry,its more about anime fandom wanting to show off than care for actual storytelling.
So in the beginning, Madoka through Mami learns of the magical world,and wants to be a magical girl then Homura tries to stop her.the second half is poorly done time travel and changing the rules of the game.through a lot of deus ex machinas and contrivances.
Madoka- basically some one who does absolutely nothing till like ep 12.that makes a wish to be a god .Only works through a time travel conivence power up.Homura did nothing different that warranted this wish in the first place, therefore it is a contrivance.Her moral conflict to wish or not to wish means nothing special as she had no real choice.
Mami-Her death made it a 10/10 masterpiece,Oh yeah it is a epic plothole, considering ep 12.
The 'Forget what you kow about the magical girls/deconstruction" title is very undeserving for the story.People get brought BACK TO LIFE.why should i care for the Dark consequences if their wishes if this is the case.Just like Kirito for SAO.
Blue haired-"Waah even though being a magical girl already makes me not human that nobody stopped me from getting a boy i like, "i will kill myself".For a Shoujo,Girls are pathetic in this story,and that's saying something.
Red haired-seemed interesting at first but she ended up dying for blue one for some lame to "stay by her side" reason.
kuubey- These people can make wishes to create god more powerful than themselves,they cant think up the solutions to entropy themselves?Why can they get one girl to wish for no entropy and don't give me that time travel power up bs that is a plot hole because of how shoehorned it is.
There was never a real explanation for the witches origins,being magical girls doesn't explains the first witches and the original existance.They make things worse for the universe in the movie.logical yeah right.
Homura-You can't change the future using information from the past,its bad writing and each reset the characters had completely different personalities,Mami turn from her justice to just killing her friends for no sane reason.
So now the rules have changed, the witch are now something else and Madoka is god
Change the rules,destroy the original plot.destroy every reason for one to care.
The visuals are stunning but mostly irrelevent to the story.its just there for show and sometimes it seems difficult to follow the plot.
Inconsistent characters,bad plot and botched themes,The SAO of magical girls.
I shall deal with the movie very soon...........
Coming into this series, you just see another lame Magical Girl series... but what caught my eyes was the studio that was making this series- Shaft. Seeing this, I decided to give this series a try... and I am very glad that I did. It took all of my preconceived notions about what a magical girl series is, and destroyed them. That being said, if you are to only watch one Magical Girl series ever, this is the one you should try.
This series is, in a word, dark. The ending, in a word, is bitter-sweet. This series manages to conceal the ending while making it painfully obvious. It manages to hide the main character while making her be extremely obvious. While leaving the viewer extremely satisfied, you're left wanting more. The ending hits on a somewhat philosophical note while not being as absurd as some endings (See Evangelion). As a whole, this will be one of those must watch series in the future.
This series bares a very distinct style of character design and a style of animation that, in itself, can be quantified to nothing other than Shaft. While having constant art shifts in a very well preformed method. If you can get past the original character designs, then there is no reason to complain- this blend of different mediums, smooth animation, and often detailed backgrounds is very well done.
Both the themes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBYbBrnexOQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlL1hMwLaZw (just the songs are the same) and the actual soundtrack are extremely well done. While blending in the ED into the sound track, they do an excellent job of intensifying the emotions felt in many of the scenes. The voice actresses themselves do a great job and are, for the most part, fairly well known, ranging from Aoi Yūki to Chiwa Saitō and Eri Kitamura.
The characters in this series manage to, in many cases, change dramatically, both in the series and simply in the viewer's eyes, while maintaining a sense of reality in them. Several of the characters are extremely well developed and almost all of them are very likable. None of the characters fall neatly into a trope which is very rare these days.
If you are going to choose just one series from the Winter 2010 season to watch, it needs to be this one. It was very well executed and I can say that the delay getting the last two episodes (caused partially by the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan) made the wait terrible.