“What Are Magical Girls Made Of?” – Puella Magi Madoka Magica (anime) – 10/10 Flowers

Love is more than a noun — it is a verb; it is more than a feeling — it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing. ~William Arthur Ward

Genre: Mahou Shoujo/Drama/Action/Psychological

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

: As of the beginning of July 2011, this anime is indeed licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: While the animation may not always be the smoothest, it is consistently good. The colors are bright, the style is distinctive, and the art can get downright trippy at times. This was created with a variety of different styles- you have fairly normal, recognizable designs for the ‘normal world’, but the Witches and their worlds (and occasionally some flashbacks) are more roughly-drawn, like crayons and paper puppets, or cut-outs over static patterned backgrounds. This in no way detracts from it- it brings the contrast between them into focus, and can also be downright disturbing in some parts.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this.

Summary: Beloved family, good friends, laughter and tears – these things make up the ordinary life of Kaname Madoka, a second year student of Mitakihara City Middle School. One night, Madoka dreams of a mysterious dark haired girl struggling against a terrible evil; the next morning she discovers that the girl, Akemi Homura, has transferred into her class. This encounter will lead to an incident which will alter Madoka’s fate forever. (MAL.net)

Review: Nothing in this world comes without a price. It’s an integral truth for us, and in the world of magical girls. Yet, in magical girl shows, everything is totally fine when they make a contract- they get to sing or play games, use their magic for whatever, maybe only having to fight an occasional monster to do so. It seems almost disproportionate. Why should a young girl be given immense magical powers for essentially no reason? Madoka takes that question and runs with it. How is it possible? Why is it possible?

And what if it wasn’t?

There’s magic, time travel, aliens, all used skillfully to bring us this what-if of the mahou shoujo world. And off of it makes sense in the grand scheme of the genre. By that same token, the things that we are familiar with are twisted and subverted, sometimes in the most horrific of ways. This is an anime that doesn’t go for gore for a cheap thrill, no- this goes for the psyche. It’s amazing as the most innocuous or happy statement can, under the right circumstances, become a most horrific one.

It’s great to see how this plays with symbolism. The double-scythe pendulum is perhaps the most obvious one. You have themes echoed throughout the story, from mere side characters that don’t know what perils our heroines are facing: “You can’t have everything you want”. Not everything is as it seems- sometimes it takes two revelations to figure out what type of person (or being) someone is. All in all, if you’re looking for an anime that will make you think and keep you guessing, this is it.

What makes it great is how it works so well with the plot and characters. The plot is typical of Mahou Shoujo, and yet made into epic proportions. Madoka is faced with saving the world. Most of the story is taken up with her indecision of whether to go through with it, unable to decide what she really desires in turn for agreeing to become one. Of course, that’s part of the subversion. How many magical girl shows have you seen where the heroine doesn’t take the opportunity eagerly? But save it she must, and her decision is a bittersweet one. The how is both saddening, and yet brilliant.

Madoka really would be rather shallow if it weren’t for the characters within it, though. Madoka seems like most magical girls- she loves others with all her heart, and wants the best for them. However, she doesn’t make decisions rashly, as is shown in her actions throughout the series. Her friends are fully fleshed-out figures, all of them people who want nothing more than the happiness of the people they love, and yet make mistakes along the way or fail to do so regardless. They have all been hurt in some way, but continue to fight. They never truly lose hope for the world. It is through the trials and their tribulations that you see Madoka grow as a character. She watches, but takes everything in and learns from it, making a decision that is more than any mahout shoujo show before her has dared go.

Overall, this was a brilliant take on the genre, and definitely something every fan (and even non-fans) should watch.

Recommended: 13+. The nudity is never more than your standard magical-girl nudity, and most episodes only shows up in the opening sequence. The language level is low, with a bare minimum of cursing, the worst of it being the word for illegitimate child being used once or twice. There are perhaps two instances of swearing besides that. The worst of the violence is when you see one person’s head being bitten off- this is NOT shown in graphic detail, you merely see the outline of it happening, and it is brief. Besides that, you have blood spatter, some cuts, and see girls’ dead bodies which are left intact. Most violent stories are told with what looks like animated puppets, and the violence is merely implied, though you see the aftermath (but as it’s shown symbolically with those puppets, it isn’t as bad as one would think). Some of the worst violence happens to Kyuubei, who is shot full of holes (no blood or gore), shot so he explodes (again, no blood or gore). During one brief scene, two adults are drinking in a bar.

For those who have religious sensibilities, think of Madoka as a Christ-figure.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Princess Tutu (anime)
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (anime)
Mai-Hime (anime or manga)
Revolutionary Girl Utena (anime)
Bokurano (anime or manga)
Serial Experiments Lain (anime)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Best Anime of 2011 « Paper Chimes

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