Mahou Shoujo Madoka is one of those great anime hiding in plain sight. I’m so glad I gave it a try, this viewing turned out to be unimaginably good.
Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki save a cat-like creature from Homura Akemi, a mysterious transfer student. The creature, Kyuubey, says he will grant one of the girls wishes in exchange that they become a magical girl but all is not what it seems…….What does becoming a magical girl mean?
Reading up to now, you might think that this is just another magical girl series where they wave a wand and every witch goes K’Boom. It’s not.
Fans of the series will without a doubt tell you that it’s surprisingly dark, psychological and twisted. I agree with them on that, after watching the whole thing, I felt empty inside. The writer isn’t afraid to make the characters suffer and it certainly is cruel sometimes.
The show is more than just a dark twist on the magical girl genre, There’s a very heavy psychological and decrepit atmosphere hanging over everything. The first few episode are to an extent, deceiving. The set-up is definitely that of a magical girl anime but you’ll probably notice that something far darker is at work behind the scenes. The enticing choice of becoming a magical girl anyone?
Mahou Shoujo Madoka has a strikingly similar art style to the monogatari series, it’s also animated by the same studio, Shaft. Only the backgrounds look the same, the characters don’t. I like the angular kind of approach that they took with the characters, that way they don’t look too cute or too rough. Where the show differentiates itself is how they animate the witches.
The witch encounters are visually a bit confusing to look at on the first episode but you’ll quickly get used to it, unless your eyes can’t handle that sort of thing. I know, it looks like the guys at Shaft just slapped in whatever was in their mind but it has a weirdly mesmerizing artistic appeal to it.
I just love the absolutely strange (and creepy) way each witch is animated, with the weird background in those scenes and all. There is no set defined style that a witch should look like, that’s one of the awesome things about it, you’ll never guess what Shaft will come up with next.
The series isn’t forgiving to the slightest , one mistake and you’re dead and no one will come and help you. Every magical girl is on her own. The characters face intense psychological tramas throughout the show. And they are middle schoolers mind you. There are dramatic consequences to all the possible outcomes and being a magical girl is not an easy job.
The story manages to be dark, mysterious and convoluted all through the 12 episodes and it didn’t feel rushed. The scenes and character interactions go tense as the plot progresses and the viewers are left to see how the characters deal with such serious issues.
The soundtrack was emotionally riveting. The violin and piano make a perfect combination. The instruments expose the characters sorrow and regret. The music fits the mood and helps the battles feel unique and engaging. Out of the opening and ending themes, I like the ED “Magia” by Kalafina the most because its sounds epic, looks dark (obviously) and is more fitting to the true nature of the show.
This next part is going in depth about my impressions of the characters so skip to The Conclusion if you don’t want minor spoilers.
Madoka is probably the weakest link in the character development. She practically does nothing in the early episodes to make me interested. She seems pretty naive and childish compared to all the other characters. Just seeing her reactions to the stuff happening around her was at most boring. Though I’m surprised she doesn’t go insane like some characters *cough* and she seems to know the gravity of the situation very well so I’ll let her off the hook. Madoka does redeem herself in the last two episodes, showing that she does have the courage and will to stand up against the odds, then again, to me it feels expected and a bit out of character.
I just love cold, heartless and straight to the point characters like Homura (I’m not even sure why myself). Come on, she’s got guns, grenades, High-energy explosives and best of all she looks cool while doing it too.
I wasn’t such a fan from the beginning but she gets better and more crucial every episode and by episode 10, I was totally committed. She goes from being this kind of anti-hero of the show to being one of the most relatable characters. Notice me senpa…….wait I’m actually wayyyy older than her.
I’m not saying that most of the characters are not understandable, the side characters have a few exceptions like Madoka’s mom but for the most part they’re not featured enough and relatively unimportant here considering the narrative of the show.
Kyouko looked like trouble when she first appeared. She was a refreshing breath of air and injected some much needed energy into the show. Later on, we do see that she also has a soft side to her. She’s a kind and caring person at heart. I don’t think there’s anything more to add her personality. It’s wrapped up pretty nicely.
If you want a dark and engaging anime to watch, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is an obvious choice. It might be too much of what you asked for cause the plot is convoluted and the characters get pretty messed up mentally. The despair is very in-your-face and resonating. The cast is interesting and have their special moments (when they’re not bashing your head with all the negative emotions of course). They might seem generic but the story more than makes up for this. In the end, you’ll pick up your jaw and say “Please sir, may I have some more?”
Let me know your thoughts if you’ve finished this and if you’d like, you can tell me your favorite characters and why they’re your favorite or you can brag with me about how AWESOME Homura is on twitter. See ya!