Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

Anime Review


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Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica


Director: Akiyuki Shinbou
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Studio: Shaft
Original Run: Jan 7, 2011 - April 21, 2011
Episodes: 12
Genre: Magical Girl, Psychological, Thriller
Rating: R
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Winter 2011 animes hasn't been very interesting to me. Sure, there was some animes that entertained me, like Gosick, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?, and to an extent, Level E, but they weren't anything special. We mostly got a lot of ecchi. However, there was one anime that I, and I believe a lot of people have, overlooked, that may look cute and innocent, but couldn't be farther from the truth.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, or Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, or Magical Girl Madoka Magica, or just Madoka Magica for short, is an original anime from Shaft, the studio behind Bakemonogatari, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Poni Poni Dash!, and Maria Holic, and is hands down one of their best works yet, and also happens to be the best anime of winter 2011, and possibly the year. Not only that, but it's also one of the best animes I've seen in recent years.

Warning: May contain mild spoilers

Story
The story takes place in what looks like the near future, in the city of Mitakihara. Madoka Kaname, a 14 year old girl who lives with her very caring family, was living a normal life until the day a mysterious transfer student named Homura Akemi begins to attend her school. Later that day, Madoka, along with her friend Sayaka Miki, meet a magical girl named Mami Tomoe, and a familliar named Kyuubey, who offers to grant them any wish they desire, and make them become Puella Magi.
What is a Puella Magi? Well, when a girl makes her wish, she forms a contract with Kyuubey. In exchange, he turns them into Puella Magi, or magical girls, each with their own powers depending on their wish, and gives them their soul gems, the source of their magical power. The more they use their power, the more their soul gem becomes tainted. A puella magi's job is to fight Witches, evil entities that feed on peoples despair. These witches, when defeated, drop grief seeds, which are used to regenerate magical power.
Chosen by Kyuubey, Madoka and Sayaka follow Mami to get a taste of what a puella magi does before deciding to make a contract. However, after a witch hunt gone wrong, they soon realize that being a magical girl isn't anything like Sailor Moon or Cardcaptors. At the same time, Kyuubey seems to have a particular interest in turning Madoka into a Puella Magi.
Madoka Magika is what many consider the deconstruction of the magical girl genre, much like how Evangelion is the deconstruction of the mecha genre. A lot of the story is loosely based on the Faust legend, where the characters make a deal with the devil to get their wish, and it also makes a few references to it. At first, it seems innocent enough, but take a complete turn later on, and it only gets darker as it goes, and the atmosphere gets thicker. It's a bit faster in pace than most other Shaft works, but is still pretty slow paced, making the episodes seem longer than they really are, but it also gives the writers a lot more to pack in to each episode. Every episode is a total thrill ride, each better than the last, with plot twists and action abound. The story also runs on speculations and theories, alowing the audience to predict what will happen next, and interpret certain scenes.
And of course, this is not for children.

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Left to Right: Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka, Kyouko, Kyuubey

Art/ Animation
The art style is done by Ume Aoki, who did the art for the Hidamari Sketch series, and is known for her "wide face" art. At first, it looks pretty cutesy, and some people might be turned off by it. However, this is Shaft, so some of you may know that it's gonna have some strange visuals, and this is no exception. Madoka Magica has some of the strangest, trippiest visuals you'll ever see in a magical girl anime, although still not the strangest thing to come out of Shaft. In fact it's probably one of their tamer looking series. The witch / monster designs look like stop motion paper cutouts. It's like the characters accidentally walked into a Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei opening. The lighting and shadows are also top notch. The visuals range from colorful to incredibly dark and surreal. Everything about the animation is great, and seems remeniscent of Bakemonogatari. There are a few flaws in the animation here and there, like faces may be slightly off at times, but it's all minor and doesn't affect the overall appearance. The action scenes are animated beautifully and are intense to watch, although there's very little blood. Like a few other Shaft animes, there also a few hidden things in the background, or that a certain scene may have a greater meaning. Overall, this is one of the most visually interesting animes out there, from the misleadingly cute opening sequence to the dark and eerie ending secquence.

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Ringo! Mogire! BEAM!

Sound
The soundtrack is fantastic. Music been done by Yuki Kajiura, who worked on the music on the Kara no Kyoukai: Garden of Sinners movie series. The music goes from lovely guitars and soft ballads to beautiful choirs and booming orchestra. The opening theme is performed by junior high school singing duo ClariS, who also did the opening for Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. The ending is done by female group Kalafina, who are known for their work in Garden of Sinners. Both songs fit the anime in different ways, and both greatly contrast each other. The opening is a lot lighter in tone, and sounds almost hopeful, while the ending theme sounds like darkness creeping up on you. Either way, their both great songs.
Now the voice work. Aoi Yuuki, who also plays Victorique from Gosick, plays the role of the heroine Madoka. Although she seems fairly new to the industry, she does a great job, especially here. Chiwa Saito, who's known to play a lot of roles in Shaft's anime, including Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari, plays Homura, who always speaks in a cold manor. Emiri Kato, best known as Kagami from Lucky Star, plays the role of Kyuubey. Others include Eri Kitamura (Toradora, Angel Beats!, Highschool of the Dead) as Sayaka, Ai Nonaka (Clannad, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Poni Poni Dash!) as Kyouko Sakura, and Kaori Mizuhashi (Hidamari Sketch) as Mami. All the actors do a fantastic job, and it could lead to some emotionally powerful scenes.

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Just because it's a lot darker in tone than other magical girl animes, doesn't mean it can't be as over-the-top.

Characters
This anime has a really great cast of characters. Lets start with Madoka herself, who lives a modest life, but sees herself as talentless and without special qualities, so as a result, she's emotionally weak and has little faith in herself. In other words, she's like the Shinji Ikari of this anime, but then again, I never had a problem with Shinji, so I don't really mind at all. Then we have Homura, who is a cold figure who shows little emotion, but for some reason doesn't want Madoka to make a contract, and tries to the best of her abilities to prevent her from doing so. Why doesn't she want Madoka to contract with Kyuubey? Well, saying any more is a spoiler, but she's hands down the strongest of the characters. We also have Mami plays the mentor for Madoka and Sayaka, and is mostly determined to save people from witches, but is often lonely and scared. Sayaka, who's cheerful and caring towards her friends, later attempting to follow Mami's footsteps by protecting the people from witches, but slowly falls into despair dued to the consequences of her contract. Later we have Kyouko, who at first seems like a rival for Sayaka and almost villainous in nature. Working souly for herself, and is almost always seen eating something, but later developes feelings towards her and even tries to befriend Sayaka and try to help her. But out of all the characters, the one that steals the show here is Kyuubey. At first, he just seems like any other cute magical girl mascot, but later turns into one of the best villians I've seen in a while. Emotionless, decieving, and always having a permanent smile on his face, making a contract with him is like making a contract with the devil, and causes the cast much grief, and he constantly tries to get Madoka to make a contract with him. His true motives is unknown, but you always get the feeling that he's hiding something or at least purposely fail to mention something important. Throughout the anime, he shows no emotion, and his only concern is his job, and fails to understand human nature. He's like the HAL 9000 of anime, and just as creepy. I can't decide if I should despise him or envy him. All the characters here are great, and there's some good character developement.

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The face of pure evil.

Overall
Do not miss this anime. It's the best anime this year so far, and is now one of my favorite, and is definately not as it seems, so you basically have no excuse not to watch this. It takes everything you know about magical girl animes, stomps it to the ground, and throws it in a fire. If you never seen a magical girl anime, then I really suggest not starting here (And in that case, you do have an excuse). On the downside, it can get pretty predictable for some, but the way it's presented makes it a great experience. If you're a fan of the genre, then be prepared for something a little different.

However, as of writing, only 10 episodes has been release, and the last two have been postponed, and is said to be released sometime in April, so this review is based on episodes 1 - 10. Whether it gets better or worse depending on the last episodes is yet to be determine. But as it is now, it's a damn fine anime.

UPDATE (4/21/11): After finishing the last two episodes, I've finally came to a conclusion...
It's still awesome. My opinion stays and I still highly recommend it. This is now pretty much on my top favorites of all time. Don't miss it.

WATCH MISLEADING TRAILER HERE:

You review is well written, the only improvement i could suggest would be that you use smaller pictures.

I myself have already seen all current episodes and would have overlooked it if people didn't tell me of its unusual rather dark theme. I hope we will see the last episodes sometime soon.

Solid review.

Just started watching this one after I learned it was written by Urobuchi (of Saya no Uta fame) and had a score composed by Kajiura (recently finished watching the Kara no Kyoukai movies, and the score is phenomenal). Not much of a "magical girl" fan - in fact the closest I've previously come to the genre was Puni Puni Poemy - so ordinarily I wouldn't have given it a second glance considering its immediate presentation; but something involving those two just can't fail.

Imperator_DK:
Solid review.

Just started watching this one after I learned it was written by Urobuchi (of Saya no Uta fame) and had a score composed by Kajiura (recently finished watching the Kara no Kyoukai movies, and the score is phenomenal). Not much of a "magical girl" fan - in fact the closest I've previously come to the genre was Puni Puni Poemy - so ordinarily I wouldn't have given it a second glance considering its immediate presentation; but something involving those two just can't fail.

I'm not much of a magical girl fan either, but I've seen enough to get the whole idea of it, but this somehow interested me, even before I knew about it's dark themes, mostly because I loved Bakemonogatari and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and saw that this was made from the same studio. I agree Kara no Kyoukai had a fantastic soundtrack, and I never heard of Urobuchi until I saw this show.

lapan:
You review is well written, the only improvement i could suggest would be that you use smaller pictures.

But I like using big pictures. When I use smaller pics it looks less complete to me.

lapan:
You review is well written, the only improvement i could suggest would be that you use smaller pictures.

But I like using big pictures. When I use smaller pics it looks less complete to me.[/quote]

I won't stop you from using them, it was just my personal opinion since the pictures themselves while being well chosen still are bigger than your paragraphs.

I'd have to agree, this is very quickly becoming one of my favourites. Just the sheer attention to detail (have you rewatched the first episode in light of #10?) and well-thought-out-ness of the plot is worth watching it for. It's a fantastic show, and I don't mind admitting that in the slightest. I was initially pretty iffy about a show with "Magical Girl" in the title, and I'll admit I struggled through the first episode. Then the second had me hooked on the music, and the third...well, if you've seen it you'll understand. I wish I could've seen my face. Cannot wait for the last 2 episodes.

Great review too, very descriptive, informative and well written. Nothing wrong with giant pictures either when you wanna show off the prettiness in greater detail.

I'd just like to add, FUCKING KYUBEE CAN DIE IN A FIRE AND THAT TRAILER IS LIES.

Deskimus Prime:
I'd have to agree, this is very quickly becoming one of my favourites. Just the sheer attention to detail (have you rewatched the first episode in light of #10?) and well-thought-out-ness of the plot is worth watching it for. It's a fantastic show, and I don't mind admitting that in the slightest. I was initially pretty iffy about a show with "Magical Girl" in the title, and I'll admit I struggled through the first episode. Then the second had me hooked on the music, and the third...well, if you've seen it you'll understand. I wish I could've seen my face. Cannot wait for the last 2 episodes.

Great review too, very descriptive, informative and well written. Nothing wrong with giant pictures either when you wanna show off the prettiness in greater detail.

I'd just like to add, FUCKING KYUBEE CAN DIE IN A FIRE AND THAT TRAILER IS LIES.

I've rewatched the episodes about 3 times, and even watched the Nico Nico broadcast version of episode 10.

I actually started watching it when it was already 4 episodes in, but when I first heard of it I was intrigued, and after the first episode it seemed promising enough.

And yes, Kyuubey needs to die, but for some reason I just find him awesome.

[Kira Must Die]:
And yes, Kyuubey needs to die, but for some reason I just find him awesome.

He/she/it/they reminded me an awful lot of H.P. Lovecraft's stuff in how little he gave a crap about anything. Very "cold uncaring cosmos" of him. He's just there to do his job and frankly couldn't care less what happens to the girls (or the planet) and that's what makes him so scary. I liked that. If they'd turned him into a specifically evil malicious bastard it wouldn't have worked quite as well; it's the thought that he really can't understand why you don't want to die horribly so your screams of anguish can stave off the heat death of the universe that gets me.

Rewatching for the second time now, although prolonged exposure kills my soul.

Ps your avatar fills me with glee.

Deskimus Prime:
KYUBEE CAN DIE IN A FIRE AND THAT TRAILER IS LIES.

Yes, after that six episode, I just had a certain hatred for that thing.

Okay this maybe a pointless bump, but I just found out that episode 11 and 12 will air on April 21 back-to-back and I am just really exited!

[Kira Must Die]:
Okay this maybe a pointless bump, but I just found out that episode 11 and 12 will air on April 27 back-to-back and I am just really exited!

But I thought it was going to air on the 21st, and not the 27th.

radarbsm:

[Kira Must Die]:
Okay this maybe a pointless bump, but I just found out that episode 11 and 12 will air on April 27 back-to-back and I am just really exited!

But I thought it was going to air on the 21st, and not the 27th.

Wait...sorry that was a mistake, I wrote down the wrong date >.<

That's how exited I am.

[Kira Must Die]:

radarbsm:

[Kira Must Die]:
Okay this maybe a pointless bump, but I just found out that episode 11 and 12 will air on April 27 back-to-back and I am just really exited!

But I thought it was going to air on the 21st, and not the 27th.

Wait...sorry that was a mistake, I wrote down the wrong date >.<

That's how exited I am.

SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS YES. Back to back finale? Color me excited.

Where can I actually watch this...?

Seems very interesting.

Flamezdudes:
Where can I actually watch this...?

Seems very interesting.

PM me and I'll give you a link, or you can just look it up on an anime streaming site.

Psst: Now that it's over, what did you all think of the ending? Good/Bad/WTF?

I really really liked it, but have yet to find someone who feels the same. Too much Gainax ending maybe?

Deskimus Prime:
Psst: Now that it's over, what did you all think of the ending? Good/Bad/WTF?

I really really liked it, but have yet to find someone who feels the same. Too much Gainax ending maybe?

I loved it. It was a perfect ending, and if you were able to understand it, it pretty much tied up all the loose ends.

A lot of the criticism is that it's a bit confusing, but if you've paid close attention to the series, it actually explains a lot, and ends the anime perfectly.

[Kira Must Die]:

Deskimus Prime:
Psst: Now that it's over, what did you all think of the ending? Good/Bad/WTF?

I really really liked it, but have yet to find someone who feels the same. Too much Gainax ending maybe?

I loved it. It was a perfect ending, and if you were able to understand it, it pretty much tied up all the loose ends.

A lot of the criticism is that it's a bit confusing, but if you've paid close attention to the series, it actually explains a lot, and ends the anime perfectly.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I've run into so many people who either had no idea what happened in the last episode, or who were so morally against a happy-ish ending they couldn't accept it no unless everyone died a horrible death. To them, I can't help but ask if they even watched the entire series; it makes perfect sense to me according to the rules they set down throughout the series. It's not a Deus Ex Machina; it's not an Ass Pull. The plot might've written itself into a corner but left itself a way out for Madoka to find, and she did find it. Plus if you read the interview Gen Urobuchi had after he wrote Fate/Zero, it's almost uncanny how well he followed his own predictions.

I loved the ending; it was the best one could hope for with the writer of Saya on board, and it didn't feel cheap or unearned.

Also, as a lifelong atheist, I have to say Madoka is probably the closest to any God I'd ever consider worshiping.

I also enjoyed the ending. While a large part of the series was predictable it still made it into my favorites.

Just finished the final episode.

Epic. At first I had to try a little to get into it but then I gradually got into it although I was kinda waiting for Madoka to become a Magi until the reveal...

Anyway, great anime.

Great review.
I only dabbled in magic animes with Negima and that was the remake of it that was 1000% crazy.
Loved every second of it.
I LOVE the large pictures and that cute face of Eeeeeevil.
Your really good with anime reviews but would like to see you try some other stuff to and see how it works.
Other then that KEEP IT COMING!

 

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