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ANIME REVIEW | “Madoka” Casts Twisted Spell On Magical Girl Genre

By
Posted on September 2, 2012 AT 12:29pm

One quick look at Shaft’s anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and you might find yourself shrugging at the idea of another magical girl fantasy anime. Those who don’t stick around, however, will be missing out on one of the most original and intriguing anime series to come out in years.

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Puella, at first, appears to have a straightforward plotline. Madoka and her friend Sayaka discover a familiar named Kyubey, who promises the two one wish in exchange to become magical girls. In order to become magical girls a Soul Gem is created, which can be powered up and kept bright using the Grief Seeds found after a Puella Magi defeats a witch. Homura, another magical girl, warns the two to not make a pact with Kyubey, as the the wish made might not be worth the risk of being a Puella Magi. The risks, as it turns out, are way out of the ordinary ones seen in most Mahou Shojo anime.

There are those who might have heard of the controversy surrounding Puella Magi, and at times this infamy is warranted. This anime does something that most Mahou Shojo anime series tend to avoid to showcase: the mortality of protagonists. Some of the heroes of the show wind up dying, and not in the nicest of ways. Madoka Magica also deals with the concept of making choices that are bigger than one’s truest desires. Throughout the series Madoka ponders through whether or not to become a Puella Magi, even as her closest friends start dropping like flies, for Kyubey freely tells her the pros and (horrible) cons of having such power.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica takes a giant page out of the classic tale of Faust, the German folklore of a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for all the world’s knowledges and pleasures. (Quotes from the story can be found throughout the series.) Here Kyubey represents the devil of sorts, only instead of evil the familiar represents indifference. He cares not for the world he’s in, only for the Puella Magi to defeat as many witches as possible. Madoka, of course, is Faust, only here instead of jumping right into battling witches she takes the common sense route and asks the right questions to see what would be in store for her if she became a magical girl. The answers she receives, unfortunately, are not the ones she was hoping for. It gets worse: those Puella Magi who don’t collect enough Grief Seeds to refill their Soul Gems will themselves become witches, creating a vicious circle of events that goes on till the end of time.

When it comes to the visual Puella Magi goes over the usual look seen in Shaft’s anime series. The production company is better known for its comedy series such as Pani Poni Dash! and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which are more known for its humor and not its look. In this series the animation style is awe-inspiring, especially regarding the battle scenes. One cannot describe the overall look of these scenes, other than some of the witches seen are something of a blend of renaissance paintings brought to life and the deepest, darkest nightmares of Hayao Miyazaki. In the more brighter sections of the series the cityscapes, homes and woodsy areas come to life in their own sense. While the character designs somewhat play with Shaft’s looks for such series as Moon Phase and Negima?! Madoka and her friends have their own unique, cutesy looks that contrast drastically with the events of the series. The music, composed by Yuki Kajiura (Noir, MadLax, .hack//Sign), knows how to create the proper mood for each scene, with some of the songs trickling down your spine in the most intense moments of the anime.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica shows that, when it really wants to, the Japanese animation world can make a really dark and twisted anime that doesn’t have to hide behind its gorgeous visuals. On top of that it showcases a very mature look within the realm of the Mahou Shoujo genre, giving a sort of sense of true responsibilities for one’s decisions in life that you don’t usually find in this category. It also teaches a valuable life lesson: sometimes the strongest of wishes may not be worth the tough aftermaths you face. Also if you see an adorable cat-like creature that promises wishes and great power, kindly decline the offer and run away as fast as you can.

Story: 9.5/10
Animation: 10/10
Seiyuu (voice actors/actresses): 10/10
Soundtrack: 10/10
Final Grade: 10/10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is available to buy in the US via Aniplex USA. The original Japanese dub can be watched on Crunchyroll.

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008 where he is a contributing editor and co-host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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