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“Deception: beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth” There have been very few instances in anime where something like this has happened. the 1st time was after watching the anime, Magical Pokahn, which had a very deceptive OP. It happened again with this completely shocking show that was released in the Winter season of 2010-2011. This…is Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Genres: drama, psychological, magic, supernatural
Themes: Magical Girl, Faustian, Dark, suicide, tragedy
Number of episodes: 12
Plot Summary: After experiencing a bizarre dream, Madoka Kaname, a kind 14-year old girl, encounters a magical creature named Kyube. Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki are offered the opportunity of gaining magical powers if they agree to make a contract with the strange little being. He will also grant them one wish, but in exchange they shall risk their lives by accepting the responsibility of fighting witches. Invisible to human eyes, witches are catalysts of despair in the areas they inhabit. An ally of Kyube, a magical girl named Mami Tomoe befriends and encourages the two girls to accept the contract. For an unknown reason, another magical girl named Homura Akemi is determined to prevent Madoka from accepting the deal.
The preview trailer above gives you an idea of what you can expect from this show. Unlike other magical girl shows before it, this wasn’t a pretty and fluffy show, though it was grim and colorful. Expect a psychologically insane thrill ride.
If I were to describe this show in one sentence, or rather one word it would be: Revolution!
Shaft has done it again. Their genius knows no bounds. I mean, the combination animation styles of both Hidamari Sketch and Bakemonogatari is something I considered glorious. When you have a show that has many people (who bothered checking it out) talking like crazy, making hypotheses on the many topics, theories, ideals, discussions, interactions and events that took place in just ONE episode, then you know you did something right. Now then, the show starts off with a pretty intense intro and then calms down for a bit. Trust me when I say that the instances where you can relax and have a fun laugh are VERY few here. I found myself laughing a little in the 1st two episodes but that laughter quickly went away and turned into silence because I wanted to pay attention to everything being said, everything that was going on. This show has been the talk of the internet for a while now and with good reason, it is THAT…DARN…GOOD!
(Replace magical girl with superhero)
This show throws a lot of themes at the viewer. I’ll discuss as many as I can. The superhero factor. This involves the childlike desire of becoming a superhero and excitement experienced when the opportunity knocks on your door. This goes even further exploring the responsibilities and price one has to pay in order to become a hero. The sacrifices that must be made in order to get what you want, the daily struggles as you continue to battle the forces of evil, putting your life on the line every single time fighting for many different reasons ranging from excitement to simply protecting the ones you care for the most.
I also mentioned that this show deals with dark and psychological themes. I wasn’t kidding. This show has a very dark atmosphere hidden behind the adorable poster. This magical girl show contains none of the classic cutesy wootsy mushy wushy loopy woopy doopy choopie “love conquers all” shtick these shows follow. This show deals with classical dark themes such as suicidal desires, questioning the will to live, making life changing sacrifices, territorial warfare, battle for supremacy and maintaining one’s own power, survival of the fittest, Faustian similarities, cultism, soul gathering, life changing decisions, death and bloodshed (not the action or comedy kind, but blood that was shed for either painful reasons). Heck, even religion plays a role on the show. It feels like this show includes a portion of almost every single genre in the known to man.
Now on with the Faustian element. For those who have read this fascinating work of German literature called “Faust”, you will discover that Madoka has great similarities to the book’s story. Let’s just say that the “Devil’s Advocate” is quite busy in this show. We do not know whether this being is truly evil or merely doing its job, but it clearly uses temptation to “sweeten the deal” with full knowledge of all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are included in this…”business venture”. Despite its appearance and the legacy of its kind, this creature has certainly made a huge impact in the first set of episodes that very few of its kind have successfully accomplished in the history of this genre…being interesting and talked about. In short, this thing is not a waste of flesh to be ignored for it has an influence that affects lives just as much as the person’s own will towards “making THE wish” that will change their life forever.
This being can be described as a smaller version of famous DC villains Brainiac and The Joker combined into one. a deadly force that uses one of the deadliest weapons ever used on post puberty human beings…demented logic. What I mean by this is that even though its actions are evil, it is similar to Mephistopheles after all. Basically no matter how much hate this being gets, there’s no denying that some of the things it says make a LOT of sense, no matter how you perceive what it says.
The best part is: all this after only 4 episodes. Can you imagine what else can happen in 8 more if the show continues with this pace? After watching the other episodes, my prediction was correct. this show continued to impress episode after episode continuously outdoing itself going deeper and deeper into areas that few other Mahou shoujo shows ever went.
As the show continues onward, relationships are torn apart, reality is affected, lives are changed even further than when they met a certain white cabbage, revelations shock the very fabric of all known logic and a certain Bill Murray movie is once again brought forth in my mind…along with a certain PS2 RPG starring the couple of Lillet Blan and Amoretta Virgine.
Animation: Like I said earlier, it’s a combination of both Hidamari Sketch and Bakemonogatari. The HS side can be clearly seen from the way the characters are drawn. The normal world is pretty straightforward with some simple, yet effective locale animation. The character art looks very similar to HS, except no Charlie Brown-esque skits. The real highlight of the show’s animation is the otherworld scenes where our heroes enter immense labyrinths as they venture deeper into the heart off chaos to combat powerful foes, “Witches”,or as I like to call them, “Killer doodles”. The labyrinths always change in size, setting and theme, giving an undeniable sense of dread and urgency as you follow the heroes into the depths of madness. They give a sense of wonder and woe which culminate into total mindf”’. As for the doodles…phew, they are funny looking yet extremely lethal. The old school cinematic approach is also much appreciated as the show kinda feels like a movie, a very long movie.
The Music: Oh yeah, the OP and ED are cool, but it’s the show’s soundtrack that really got me pumped up and ready for some real no nonsense events. It’s that awesome. Every tune played, every beat heard is nothing short of epic and fitting.
I can;t talk about the main characters without spoiling anything because everything I’ve said above pretty much gives you a minor explanation of what you can expect. I will say this though, the character interactions and development on this show have proven to go beyond my expectations and greatly impressed me for how deep it went in terms of this genre. Following the lives of these 5 unfortunate, distraught young ladies, their friends and close ones has been nothing short from exhilarating.
This is another one of those excellent shows where even the supporting characters have important or noteworthy roles. For example, a teacher who goes off topic and talks about romantic issues, signifying the obvious problems she has with her own personal love love life. I won’t spoil anymore because you just have to notice them.
Did I make the right decision? Was it worth it? Am I strong enough to become a hero? Am I willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of putting my life on the line every single day? What does it actually mean being a hero? Why couldn’t have it been me instead of the person I care for? What is my purpose for living? Do I even have a purpose in this life? These are questions that aren’t literally asked by the characters but the actual questions being asked on the show can be connected to the ones written here. The emotions swirling around this show is unlike any show that has preceded it. It’s that deep in terms of both story and character development. Even though those who did their research quickly discovered the truth (Or claimed to), they can’t deny the show’s greatness.
Sure, you’ve seen this kind of stuff before in other shows, but there’s just something about this one that either someone with weak constitutions or too ignorant to explore something different would ignore. If you end up disliking this show, denying it’s uniqueness from other magical girl shows is the ultimate understatement.
One additional thing and this is my own personal opinion, the person whose name is on the title is NOT that true main protagonist. That honor goes to another. This other brought the house down every time she appeared on stage. A calm, level headed, badass warrior who held a secret deep inside her heart and soul. She carried such a heavy burden that it caused her much pain and suffering all for the sake of saving the one she loved more than anything. I salute this person.
In conclusion: This show was without a doubt, one of the most impact making anime this year. For all the anti-mahou shoujos out there, for the sake of superb entertainment, put your pride aside just this once and bare witness to a show that pretty much revolutionizes the way Magical Girl shows have been portrayed over the decades. For everyone who enjoys an anime that strays away from a genre’s classic formula, you need not look any further than Madoka.