There is Always Hope: 'Puella Magi Madoka Magica' Review

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Magical Girl Madoka Magica)

Studio: Shaft
Producer: AniplexMainichi Broadcasting SystemMovicNitroplus,Madoka PartnersHoubunsha
Genre: Drama, Magic, Psychological, Thriller
Episodes: 12
Episode Length: 24 minutes per episode

Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki are regular middle school girls with regular lives, but all that changes when they encounter Kyuubey, a cat-like magical familiar, and Homura Akemi, the new transfer student.

Kyuubey offers them a proposition: he will grant one of their wishes and in exchange, they will each become a magical girl, gaining enough power to fulfill their dreams. However Homura, a magical girl herself, urges them not to accept the offer since everything is not what it seems.

A story of hope, despair, and friendship, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica deals with the difficulties of being a magical girl and the price one has to pay to make a dream come true.


Magical girls are typically seen as moe characters who flounce around and say things like 'Bippity boppity boo'. 

That's what I expected when I started this anime, but I was completely wrong.

This anime is decidedly dark. There is no hiding it. I was stunned by  how dark it was. From the figures and the hints I had seen, this was a cute show. Here's the truth: it's not. 

Sayaka hates her human body after becoming a magical girl. Mami is lost and alone. Kyoko is greedy. They suffer from pain and loss. When I first saw hints of that darkness, I was shocked. These girls suffer more than most. Additionally, they take on others' suffering. All because they're magical girls.
Despair and hope are common ideas in this anime. Without despair, there is no hope. And vice versa. It's a sad fact of life. When one gains, another loses. It's different to see this played out in an anime. Even more so since this is a 'cute' anime. This yin-yang conflict is played out well, though. You root for their hope and feel defeated when they despair.

Hope and despair clash in the battles against the witches. The barriers the girls and witches fight in are of a completely different art style. 

Think scrapbooking (Cutouts against backgrounds) and you'll be sorta-near what the barriers look like. The witches themselves look garish. They move jerkily. Everything seems so surreal when inside a barrier. It gives you the feeling of wrongness and juxtaposition. It made my skin crawl when we first entered a barrier. I thought we had accidentally entered a person on acid's mind. It's jarring.
But the jarring effect of the barriers works. It shows the magical girls are beacons of hope (And reasonable art designs) in a world of despair (And sketchy-looking characters.) The art style of the barriers conflicts with the conventional idea of 'anime art' and makes for a truly unique experience.

All these girls have hidden depths. They aren't two-dimensional. Madoka even more so. She's one of the most real characters in anime. She didn't immediately say yes to Kyubey. Much like Naho in Orange (Another character I praise for her realism), Madoka is scared. She's downright frightened. And I can't judge her for that. I probably wouldn't say yes. I'd be too scared to lose my life. And that's what makes her and the other magical girls strong. They do risk their lives to protect others. And her decision in the was powerful. She chose to do something that no one else would, that other people might be afraid of. Madoka is strong. Unbelievably so. And I enjoyed watching her actions the entire show. Even if she was a bit weepy.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica surprised me. In every way possible. It's dark but intriguing. The art style is pretty amazing, but it gets better in the barriers. Madoka and Sayaka and Mami and all the girls are real. I'd love to be Madoka's friend.

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