A small animal happens to meet an adolescent or younger female, and they set up a contract, and suddenly, the girl is thrust into a world of magic, battling against creatures with destructive powers, or other girls with similar powers to themselves. I detest the Magical Girl genre, premised on the ones I’ve seen. However, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica takes innocent girls and forces them into a dark world, where death is ready to greet you at any moment. Any anime fan should be familiar, at least in passing, with one of Shaft’s best selling works, Madoka, and the following is going to be my review of it!
When I first watched Madoka, I hated it. I vividly remember forcing myself to watch all of it, so I could add it to my anime list. When I rewatched it in preparation for this review, I was thinking “what the fuck was wrong with me that time?” So, I’m forced to conclude that, back then, I liked One Piece, and therefore had terrible taste. Nowadays, I’m no longer into shounenshit, so I can actually appreciate a good show.
No, actually, I think it’s due to the complexity of the story. I might’ve just been stupid back then, but I feel like the story is extremely convoluted. Once you reach the ending, everything clears up and it all makes sense, but before that, you’re left wondering. Now, that’s not a bad thing if you have the patience for it, and leaving viewers in suspense is fine. I personally didn’t like it too much, but it doesn’t ruin the show. Once you reach the ending, everything works out and makes sense.
I wasn’t expecting Mami to die, but she did. And then a few episodes later, Sayaka died too. Then after that, Kyoko decided to go off and die too! Killing off half the cast isn’t something you’d normally do, and it would seem like a desperate cry for attention at first. However there is more depth to it than just the characters dying. The way Homura doesn’t care about those deaths, since she can just restart the time period and try again, shows how many times she’s seen death: enough times to easily ignore it. Once you look further the superficial happenings and actually start to think about things, you can see the complexity of the story and how everything works to fit with everything else.
Due to the not-oversized cast, we’re able to get a backstory for just about every character where it matters. Kyoko’s story was quite dramatic, but it makes sense, helps sugar coat her previous hostility, and serves as a great expanation of her actions and thought processes. Sayaka’s story gives her a reason to become a magical girl, as well as serving as her motivation for half of the show until she decides to go and kill everything. Homura’s story is the whole premise of the series, and once revealed, it gives a reason to why everything happens, which, believe me, is a question you’d be asking yourself a LOT when watching Madoka.
Unlike in most American cartoons or shounenshits, people actually DO die in Madoka. And the main character is one of them. But this doesn’t mean that the writer decided to leave no resolution and have a happy ending. The main character dying IS a happy ending. The great thing about fiction is that you can say whatever you want, and no one is allowed to disagree.
Another aspect of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica worth mentioning is its animation. There is only one word that comes to mind to explain the character designs, and that word is bland. The unproportionate faces and bodies of the characters can only be differentiated from each other by their colour-coded hair and costumes. However, once we get inside the barriers, the animators show that they’ve experienced being EXTEREMLY high, and decided to inject that into the show.
Rocks with mustaches and real-life objects and people in an anime. I’ve never seen that before, and I didn’t like it when I first saw it either. But when I first saw it, I was watching it in 400p quality, along with the fact that I liked One Piece (the latter is a major contributor to any bad thoughts I had about the show). Shaft’s animation is great, and anyone that says otherwise should be tossed out the Moon Door. The real world and anime world are two separate dimensions that should never interact, but Shaft shoves them both into a blender, and the end result is always spectacular.
When the girls change into their magical girl suits, there’s no sneaky camera angles trying to make you lust for the flat-chested (Mami being dead) heroines, nor any real nudity. This suddenly dropped at the end when Madoka and Homura were floating around naked in space, but before that, they weren’t trying to win points by showing naked chicks. Even in that scene, it added to the overall effect and impact of the importance of Madoka’s wish. And they didn’t really show anything other than the girls’ figure at that point too.
The fight scenes in the show are excellently animated. It was well co-ordinated, and everyone had their turn on stage properly. No one stood around and waited for their turn to get hit, they were only in the scene when they were actually fighting. All of the effects during battles, with camera panning and zooming, greyscale filters or silhouettes on a white background, and the general animating of the girls’ attacks are just brilliant.
Along with the animation, another notable point of Madoka is the sound. I’m not an expert in this field, but Madoka’s soundtracks were excellent. They’re not blasting in your face, and most of them are fairly subtle and minimalist. But they add greatly to the feeling the show gives off, and work awesomely. As well as the ED, which was just glorious. After hearing it once, I had to go and add it to my playlist.
Overall, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is an excellent series. The quality of pretty much every aspect of the show is great, and it’s in my list of “anime that people HAVE to watch”. Even if you hate the magical girl genre like me, you still need to watch Madoka. Period.