Puella Magi Madoka Magica

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    Review:

    Puella Magi Madoka Magica otherwise known as Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica is a psychological/thriller, dark magical series originally released in the Winter of 2011. Madoka Magica has been followed by four Madoka movies, a Game named Magia Record plus an alternate Magia Records Anime series that spans three seasons.

    Madoka Magica has received critical acclaim and was revolutionary for inverting the normally happy go lucky magical girl series. Its influence was so great I am sure it had a huge influence in other shows such as Magical Girl Raising Project, Magical Girl Site and Yuki Yuna is a Hero which all followed the dark magical narrative that Madoka started. To me it is a classic series that Anime fans should watch as it delivers a fantastic story, good characters and brilliant and original animation sequences not to mention a strong musical score.

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    The beginning of Madoka Magica starts simply enough and its beginning would actually be reminiscent of your usual magical girl show. You see a girl demonstrating her magical powers, there is a cute Kyubei creature following our girls who could easily pass as a mascot character. However, despite this bright and hopeful start, the show manages to cast doubt on whether what we are seeing is the true picture. This sense of unease whilst initially fleeting gives a feeling that not all is what it seems. It is not obvious but it is there and this feeling of doubt and perhaps even foreboding is the initial hook that keeps us interested.

    As the show progresses what seems like a missing detail soon turns into a big rabbit hole that only grows as we delve deeper and deeper into the series. What makes this descent into madness so effective is how it is masterfully executed. Rather than being a sudden change it comes slowly but surely creating a suffocating feeling that is reflected in the psyche of our main characters.

    These dark moments are only amplified by the individual backstories of our cast. You see one of the fundamental principles of becoming a magical girl is that making a wish comes at a cost. All the girls have different wishes and the way those wishes are subverted just feeds into the ongoing Drama and the overall sense of helplessness.

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    This journey into the dark side reaches its zenith when we learn the full truth of what being a magical girl means. Everything in the show has been inverted and much of our early assumptions turn out to be false. However, just like real life, when you think you have reached rock bottom someone asks you to dig deeper! Yep, things get worse as we discover a major revelation. This reveal acts as a turning point in the direction of the series and ties several loose ends hinted earlier on.

    This key disclosure also acts as the foundation for the climatic ending where all the girls must face the final enemy. It is at that point we discover that the inevitable must occur and depending on your viewpoint can create either a sense of dread or hope. I won’t say what the outcome is but it is very dramatic and the ending we get is both good and balanced. On the whole the storyline was fantastic from start to finish and this is definitely the strong point of Madoka Magica.

    This great storyline is supported by a strong cast and it is their traits and personalities that often act as catalyst in creating Drama by elevating all the key emotional moments. All the girls are given individual backstories and their character strengths along with their weaknesses described. It is all done in a convincing fashion and for more than one character the first impression I got was not actually an accurate picture of their true personality emphasising the nuance in the characters.

    Like us, many of the girls are not privy to the secrets of their status and this lack of knowledge often leads to tragic results. Again, the way this is depicted is masterful and there is often a topsy turvy feeling to their actions and thoughts.

    Another strong point in Madoka Magica is the animation. The unique character designs clearly make this show stand out but it is not only the characters that are well done. The scenery to many of the scenes are also excellently crafted. A simple dialogue scene is often projected on a stunning background shot. Most significantly however are the battle scenes which sees the magical girls fight various witches. The animation depicted in those scenes are always memorable and have a strong Alice in Wonderland vibe that works really well.

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    Finally, the musical score in this was great and the music used for the opening and endings are almost all good which is remarkable when you consider Madoka has one opening song and four ending tracks. The opening was “Connect” by ClariS while the first ending was “Mata Ashita” by Aoi Yuuki (episodes 1-2). The second ending is “Magia” by Kalafina (episodes 3-8, 11) while the third was "and I'm home" by Ai Nonaka and Eri Kitamura (episode 9). The final ending is actually the opening sound track. Out of all those songs the only one I did not feel was the first ending track.



    Overall, Madoka Magica is an outstanding series that I would consider a classic and a must watch. The story is good from start to finish and there is no moment it doesn’t leave you entertained. The only point of contention that you could make over the story is the nature of the ending which could be argued relied too much on a negative story mechanic. But this can only be a small criticism for what came before was outstanding plus ending did deliver a good balanced resolution.

    The cast was also strong with the main characters being well developed and their personalities complementing the storyline nicely at the key moments. The characters may not have been quite as strong as the plot however. In this regard I would also say there is one major character I would take issue over their actions. This shortcoming did not detract from the overall experience but was more of a feeling that didn’t quite sit right with me. The final strength of the show is the animation and musical score. On both counts Madoka Magica scores highly the animation especially so for it is not just good but also very unique.

    Story 9.5 – Revolutionary plus I would argue this show largely popularised the dark magical girl genre. It is great from start to finish and the only possible point it falls is the mechanic used for the ending. The ending was still very strong however and was a great climax to an amazing show.

    Characters 8 – Strong cast which often acted to support the overall narrative very well. It is not quite on the same level of the plot. Whilst I could understand where all the girls were coming from, I still did question the actions of Akemi.

    Animation 8.5 – Animation was not just superb but also original. There were some inconsistencies in minor scenes but its strong points more than make up for it. The music in this show was also a selling point to the series.

    Overall 9 – A classic Anime. Should be watched by all fans. If you cannot like Madoka then you will never dark magical girl series but really this series transcends fans of any particular genre. I reckon this Anime could make the top 10 of veteran Anime fans list. Add a point to this score if you are a fan of dark magical girl series.

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    Transformations - This being a magical girl series I am sure some people would be interested in seeing how the transformation sequences pan out. Unlike most magical girl shows these sequences are not long and this was one aspect you could argue was neglected in the show.




    You can also check out the gallery for Madoka but be warned it can contain some spoilers.
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