Finally we reach the point were I started to review anime. Yes, I wrote this back when I was pretty new to TV series anime, up until then the only other TV series I had seen were Soul Eater, Tatami Galaxy, and that god awful Final Fantasy anime called Final Fantasy: Unlimited. Wow that was a bad show!
Anyways, back when I first wrote this I was rather proud of it, and I was also more than a little bit in love with the Madoka Magica itself. As time has gone on my opinion of the show has lessened, along with my opinion of it’s writer Gen Urobuchi, but I still believe that Madoka Magica is a very good show. It’s extremely engaging, full of interesting characters (Well, except for Madoka), and features some of Akiyuki Shinbo’s best work as a director. I still consider it to be one of my favorite anime of all time, even if it’s only in the lower half of my top twenty.
That being said, in terms of review quality, this one is pretty lame. Like all my old reviews, it’s extremely simple and badly edited, and also like my old reviews, the best parts of it were inspired by JesuOtaku’s Review. While I don’t like her style much anymore, it’s still ten times better than my review, and it examines a lot of the reasons why Madoka Magica is great, though I don’t think it’s exactly perfect like she does. So yeah, like I said in the disclosure for the Daria review, you should watch that instead of reading this crappy old review. Seriously just do that.
Old Review, Commence!
On January 7th, 2011, the anime television series known as Puella Magi: Madoka Magica, aired its first episode and continued to air until April 22, 2011. Now before I get started I just want to say, wow, just wow… How many spinoff manga’s, video games, and light novels can one anime get. I mean I know Madoka Magica is really popular in the here in America and in Japan, but there are so many spinoffs its crazy. With that being said I just want to say before I start that I know everyone has already praised this series to death, but I just really want to get my feelings out about the show because to be honest I don’t know if I can contain them… Also I’m relatively new to anime shows so this may be a little clunky. Anyways on with the review.
So Madoka Magica’s story, without much spoiler, is about a girl named Madoka Kaname and her best friend Sayaka Miki. One day, after hanging out with their friend Hitomi in the mall, Madoka and Sayaka are confronted by this cute animal who is known as Kyubey. Kyubey then proceeds to asks them if they want to make a contract with it to become a magical girl, they only have to make one wish and it will be granted for the power to defeat witches, who feed on human grief and cause suicides. It all seems like an amazing deal, but with the mysterious Homura Akemi seeming to not want them to become magical girls, they begin to wonder, is the deal to good to be true?
Now from this description it sounds mostly like a normal magical girl anime like Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura. The opening, which I’ll talk more about later, also suggests a simple, children friendly magical girl anime but it isn’t. What Madoka Magica really is, is a magical girl anime in the real world, it dares to delve into questions Sailor Moon wouldn’t dare ask! Such as: Who’s Kyubey, where does he come from, what is the price for becoming a magical girl and granting this one wish, ect. ect. Of course with this added bit of information you may ask what is the result of this change to the formula of the magical girl anime? Well the answer is it makes the bar for future magical girl animes so high it makes my head hurt to think the next magical girl anime could just be another Sailor Moon.
First, let’s review the plot, since it is the main element of the show. The plot of Madoka Magica (which is written by Gen Urobuchi), in case you haven’t already figured out, is very good. It really makes you feel for these characters throughout the story and you root for them because of this, of course it also doesn’t hurt that the characters themselves are genuinely likeable. Of course you have your Homura and Kyoko, who are not likeable at first, but they soon get a backstory which makes them a lot more sympathetic and well after that you pretty care about every single one of the characters.
Another great aspect of the plot is definitely how it tackles making the magical girl deal realistic and shocking. It really pulls some good twists throughout the whole 12 episodes which, by the way, are the most plot focused episodes I’ve seen in an anime, there is literally no filler episodes. I should also mention that the show does start out rather like a stereotypical magical girl anime, but looking back on it the fact that it’s like this really helps cement the whole descent into darkness and trickery elements of the show well. Overall, the plot of Madoka Magica is well crafted and everything has a place and meaning in Madoka, leading to one of the most focused, well executed shows I’ve ever seen. In fact the only things that I think could possibly bother people is that it does take a while for itself to explain some aspects of the story, and that it’s a little too cute to start off.
Secondly, we must explore the animation of the show. Now this show was made by the animation company known as SHAFT, whose previous works include Bagemonotari and Hidemari Sketch. So right from the beginning one of the biggest things that sticks out like a sore thumb, is the extremely moe art style, which resembles Hidemari Sketch. From the previous descriptions of this show it seems like this would be a weird choice for what sounds like a dark and depressing show, but in the end it works really well, contrasting the show as a whole.
This brings me to how the animation actually holds up and to be honest it is extremely clean and beautiful animation. You can especially tell this, when the characters enter the various Witch Labryinths, in these parts of the show the creators use different types of art styles and techniques to make each place seem new and different. I’d also like to mention before I move on about the really amazing scene in episode 11 where Kyubey is explaining stuff to Madoka, for some reason that scene just seems extremely beautiful to me.
Finally, we are going to talk about the music and the opening and endings, first let’s start with that opening shall we. Now the reason I want to talk about the opening first is because this definitely sticks out in the final episodes of the show! You see like I said before the opening is a very happy typical magical girl opening, with very pretty animation by the way. The song on its own is good and catchy and trust after watching 6 episodes of the show in a row I can say that the song will loop in your head for hours afterwards. The opening may be a little out of place near the end of the show considering by then all remnants of the typical magical girl elements have been erased, but it also helps contrast the show just like the art style does.
Then there’s the endings and yes there are a multitude of them. The first is only in the first two episodes and plays over a non-animated picture of Madoka, Sayaka, and Hitomi. Besides that being lackluster the ending like the beginning is that kind of catchy j-pop song that may get stuck in your head for hours, good thing its only for the first two episodes. The second ending is the main ending of the show and is the only one with fluid animation, of course it’s just a typical character running animation, but the song that plays over it, is great! It’s dark and it fits the shows tone and atmosphere extremely well, it’s also not a song that annoys you when it loops in your head! Then there’s finally the third ending which only plays at the end of Episode 9, it fits the tone of that episode extremely well but is not that memorable.
Now to end of the music section of this review let’s discuss: Yuki Kajura, Anime Score Composer Extraordinaire! So to many anime fans Kajura has composed the scores of many animes and all of them have been amazing. This is definitely the case with Madoka’s soundtrack which is filled with beautiful choir pieces and pianos and strings alike. It’s all very pretty and once again is another masterful work of Kajura’s. Overall, the music is amazing even if the opening can be grating if it gets stuck in your head.
In the end, Puella Magi: Madoka Magica, is a masterful anime that deconstructs the magical girl genre and makes us gasp at its twists and turns! It truly is a great anime and is really a work of art in its animation, writing, characters, and everything in general. The only complaints I can possibly foresee from someone is that the story does take a while to explain some things and the opening and some cutesy aspects of the show may annoy some. In my opinion though Madoka deserves to be watched by all anime fans and if you can you should watch it as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!