I had totally the wrong impression of this series. From first appearance and synopsis, one would think this might be a cutsie type of series with kawaii characters and a light theme. However....
Art, Animation & Character Designs
Artwork can almost be considered dull and boring "if" you don't interpret it as a form of stylistic animation. At times, one would easily think it but then at other times, it seems otherwise. Our characters for sure were pretty boring and didn't care for their facial structures.
The song in the beginning of the first episode was kick-assed! The initial beat and following riff sounded great. The OP was a pop piece with female vocals that didn't do anything for me. Just sounded like a typical run-of-the-mill song. The soundtrack for the most part had some.... what seemed to be gaelic instrumentals.... with flutes, etc. Pretty sounding really. Other times, it had some nice, if not eerie pieces that gave the series a sense of tenseness or dark drama.
Series and Episode Story
This series totally threw me off track. It was totally not what I was anticipating. This is not to say it was bad but rather..... completely different from expectations. With that in mind, this series turned out to be rather well.... no, really well done. All the fluffy things and cute magical girls instead turns out to be dark, gruesome and totally "WTF just happened"! This series is dark and almost disturbing.... mainly in the odd looking and ugly "witches".
The one issue I had with this series is no matter how pitiful and sorrowful our characters situations are, I didn't feel any real connection to them. They felt a bit flat..... or lacking depth. I think this has to do with the fact that we don't get to explore their backgrounds much but rather, we jump directly into their lives with a brief understanding that "something" happened in their past that caused them to gain their powers.
Overall, this series did well with the plot and setting. Characters were a bit lifeless but it didn't take too much away from the series. I'd pick up seson two if available.
Last updated Sunday, August 28 2011. Created Sunday, August 28 2011.
Anyone expecting a typical mahou shoujo title out of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is gonna be in for a huge shock. This series takes the genre and dips it into some very dark and horrific territory where it makes the lives of those given the power a living hell instead of a blessing. The first two episodes hint to a darker picture of things to come while meshing in the typical elements of slice-of-life with Madoka's everyday developments and the seemingly happy-go-lucky developments of the mahou shoujo genre. But once the end of episode 3 swings around, then things will start hitting the fan hard. The series delivers plot twists galore with the true natures concerning the seemingly blessed abilities that the girls are blessed with and the witches that they fight, doing enough to keep you hooked on the show's various developments.
Madoka Magica appeared to be focused on exploring themes related to human nature in the fact that the mahou shoujo in the series gained their abilities through tragic dilemmas or personal desires and Kyubey fulfilling his goals with the girls while lacking comprehension about human morality and emotions. In particular, middle school girls are the focus of this exploration where they are oblivious to many of the harsh realities of life while coming of age. With the mahou shoujo, they come to handle their issues in different ways as they become aware of the realities of their situations. Due to the lack of maturity they have in responding to situations such as rejection and death, they become negatively effected from the nature of their wish as they were oblivious to the possibilities that would occur with their wishes. This gives some of the mahou shoujo in this series a good amount of character depth as the series explores the inner struggles they face in responding to the reality of being a mahou shoujo and their mentalities affected by the past tragedies that occurred thanks to their wish. This helps make the characters seem more than the typical character archetypes you would get out of conventional mahou shoujo titles as characters come across as flawed in their mentalities and there is no true villain within the series. The only major issue I would have to fuss about with the show's plot is that certain major characters such as Mami and Madoka are rather underdeveloped compared to what we learn of Sayaka, Homura and Kyoko.
Another element that works well in the show's favor for the most part is its visual presentation. The scenery for the normal world has subdued color tones with a good amount of visual detail to go with its everyday, plain feel. However in the various witch worlds seen, a surreal landscape is presented with bright colors with macabre-looking renderings of environments and the various witches to give them a horrifying feel when they are confronted by the mahou shoujo. The show does have its moments of fluid animation shown through the mahou shoujo fighting the witches or one another making use of their various abilities. The only low point I would have to give for the show's visual presentation would be the plain looking character designs.
Overall, Puella Magi Madoka Magica makes for a worthwhile subversion of the mahou shoujo genre by dipping into dark territory with its exploration on human nature and making it so being a mahou shoujo isn't so morally black and white and happy-go-lucky compared to more conventional titles.
Last updated Saturday, August 06 2011. Created Saturday, August 06 2011.
This is as much a mahou shoujo anime as bokurano is a mecha anime. (There is a shout-out to Bokurano in this series) Think Bokurano but better: the plight of our main characters is explained, and a solution (of sorts) is eventually found. This masterpiece is Madoka.
So, for those of you who know what bokurano is about, you will have high expectations for the quality of Madoka, and this anime will meet all of them. With superb animation, art and music, Madoka will bring you into a seemingly harmless and innocent world of mahou shoujo. But the series keeps getting darker with every turn, and deconstruct all notions of what should be the mahou shoujo genre. And unlike Bokurano, the premise has a very satisfying explanation, all involved characters have very plausible motivations, and there is a satisfying resolution.
I do not know if my expectations for this series has been inflated to such a degree that my feelings for the characters are not very strong, or if this series does not try as hard to pull at my heartstrings, but unlike bokurano, i do not feel as much for the characters in madoka even though I have a lot more time with them. Perhaps it is because the inevitability of their fate is not as strongly impressed on me. I always had a little bit of hope that they will find some way out of it. Bokurano squashed that hope pretty early on. If there is one flaw, this is it. However, there is no question to the outstanding quality of this series. It is a must-watch, and will be remembered as the show that redefined mahou shoujo.
Last updated Wednesday, August 03 2011. Created Wednesday, August 03 2011.
(Rent+ or Buy-)
(All episodes watched):
This show kind of had two strikes against it going in, since I'm not a big fan of Mahou Shojo, but it got reasonably good ratings at ANN so I decided to take a look. I was immediately struck by the simple character designs, of the sort which I would expect in a comedy series, yet hints of a dark, possibly disturbing plot. I was hoping for a clear cut indicator of whether I should watch it or not, but was left feeling largely ambivalent. The scrapbook style imagery of the magical realm annoyed me somewhat. Since magical girls aren't a favorite genre of mine, I initially decided to pass. I didn't really detect any indicator of extraordinary quality, of the sort which even viewers like me might find intriguing. PMMM seemed more usual than unusual, what with the animal intermediary, for instance.
However, this show is supposed to be anything but ordinary magical girl fare, so I gave it a second try a decade later. Episode one seemed OK but not the brilliant stuff that one would expect. The almost psychadelic visions that characters experience seemed like a much more disturbing experience to me than it did to Kaname. I'd have asked myself what the F was going on, whether I had somehow gone instantly insane, and whether I'd ever return to normal and things like that. I'd heard that another student would warn her not to become a magical girl, and sure enough it happened, but the warning didn't have much 'bite'. It didn't seem to have as much of a foreboding, prediction-of-misfortune, feel to it as I had been expecting. The warning basically made little sense to someone who still knows very little at this point. Nevertheless, I will continue watching. Based on what I've heard, I have a premonition that being a Magical Girl won't be all it's cracked up to be and the characters will find themselves in some sort of damned-if-they-do-and-damned-if-they-don't situation; but again the hints we get weren't as powerful as I had expected. I think the wish I would make would be 'allow me to stop being a Magical Girl and return to normal at any point if I wish'.
In episode three we see for the first time just how dangerous being a magical girl can be. There's a cost behind the 'coolness' and heroism that Madoka and Sayaka admire. They still haven't committed to making a 'contract' and becoming one, so they could still back out (but that would be the end of the story right there). I'm glad they didn't just make a frivolous choice only to regret it immediately afterwards; instead, it seems as if they will have a fairly good idea of what they are getting into. They will only commit to being a Magical Girl for the sake of a worthwhile goal that can only be accomplished via a miracle. Sayaka's is revealed in episode four and I think I know what Madoka's will be: Resurrect Mami, who she saw get killed in gruesome fashion in a magical battle. The battle between Magical Girls and witches is supposed to be a fight between good and evil, but the Magical Girls can be less than exemplary. Homura has a cynical attitude that wanting to protect others is more of a liability than an asset. It can even get you killed. She reminds me of the grizzled veteran who offers advice to green replacements in a war movie.
In episode six the girls learn of a disturbing liberty that Kyubey has taken with their minds and bodies. The thought occurred to me, if he (and his superiors) can grant any wish, why can't they simply decree that all witches cease to exist? Something funny is going on here, but I'm not sure if this show will delve into it. It may conveniently ignore possibilities like this and concentrate on the four girls instead--sort of like how shows about futuristic mecha seldom consider that an atomic bomb could easily obliterate them. And all this before Madoka has committed to becoming a Magical Girl. I had started out thinking that she would sign up in episode one or two.
I thought episode seven was clever as several characters spell out their personal philosophies regarding how best to deal with being a Magical Girl. We learn red-haired Sakura's backstory, and how what she thought would be a miracle backfired on her. In episodes eight and nine we learn where witches come from and Kyubey finally explains what his superiors hope to accomplish through this system of Magical Girls fighting them. It made a good deal of sense, or at least it was so outlandish that it might conceivably be true. Clearly Madoka will be the key to fixing this, and clearly she will take the leap and become a Magical Girl herself at some point. This show remains engaging and intriguing.
Episode ten begins in what seems like an alternate reality compared to the remainder of the show. I found myself wondering if I might have somehow skipped an episode or two. It turns out to be (if I understood it correctly) an explanation of how things came to be the way they are: Once, Madoka was the experienced and confident Magical Girl while Homura was the fearful ordinary one. Homura used her miracle to revive a dead Madoka and has used her ability to time-travel numerous times to save Madoka from having to live the cursed life of a Magical Girl. But she hasn't been able to get everything perfect and put an end to the cycle once and for all. It was a powerful episode once I got a grip on things, and I also found myself wondering if this might have been the last episode of the series, but no, there was a preview of an episode 11.
You get the impression that now that she fully understands (assuming Kyubey has been straightforward with her) how this Magical Girl system works, Madoka may have come up with an idea regarding how to break out of Homura's cycle and maybe end the system itself. As is often the case, I didn't fully understand the solution she came up with--wouldn't this ruin the system for dealing with 'entropy' that Kyubey is working for? If so, why would he allow it? But it turns out (if I understood things correctly) that it only goes halfway: it ends the practice of Magical Girls being transformed into witches, but that's OK with Kyubey since he simply provides them with new opponents. Or something like that. Does this new way of doing things generate as much cosmic energy as the old one did? I guess. Do the girls still experience despair? I'm not sure. Maybe Madoka makes all of the sacrifices now. Whatever exactly happened, the conclusion was clearly cathartic; the problem is solved, though perhaps at a high, tragic cost. This was a show which held my attention throughout and greatly expanded the envelope of what Mahou Shoujo anime can deal with. Perhaps the trick was that it is mainly about the still quite human and therefore intriguing characters themselves, not about magic. I'm glad I gave it a second try.
Last updated Thursday, March 10 2022. Created Monday, January 10 2011.
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