Puella Magi Madoka Magica or simply know as Madoka Magica is a 2011 show created by Gen Urobuchi who is famous for other works such as Fate/Zero and Psycho Pass. This show was produced by studio Shaft and directed by Akiyuki Shinbo who’s partnership has created works like their 2010 smash hit Bakemonogatari. Madoka Magica is a magical girl show with a twist, on the surface it presents itself as just another magical girl show akin to shows like Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura but as you watch it you see that this show is far from these two. This review is not a standard review because to be fully able to talk about this show, knowledge on the show is needed; unlike other shows a review for Madoka Magica is more of a discussion then a recommendation to someone. So if you have not seen the show yet and are wondering whether to watch it or not: go see the tl;dr at the bottom and score I’ve given it as those don’t contain any spoilers from the show. So this is a review for people who have already seen the show and are either wondering what someone else thinks about it or I themselves are conflicted about it.
Madoka Magica’s story is far from generic, it present a typical premise of a normal world where their are witches that need to be killed as they are evil, and to kill these witches requires the help of high school girls who have magically gained the power to fend them off. This is a simple storyline that would make more viewer stray away from the show because the genre it falls under doesn’t resonate with them, but this is all done in the first 3 episodes so that the story can unravel into what it originally sent out to be: a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. After episode 3 the show presents itself in a more dark and mature tone looking at aspects of morality and exploring how being and not becoming magical girls changes the characters involved. Calling the show a deconstruction frankly does not mean much, deconstruction is merely and adjective used to describe the show, and does not tell you the worth. Madoka is a relatively “dark” show with a slow start that picks up exponentially as it continues.
This show is not full with that many characters. The main character Madoka is who we see this world through and for the most part a dull character, I don’t dislike Madoka because her character is completely necessary to the plot of the show. Madoka like Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion represents the audience and what they would do if they were also thrusted into this world. Madoka does not have a wish that she really wants to make to become a magical girl, at the same time her friends are magical girls so she starts feeling isolated from them because she isn’t risking her life like them, she also has seen death fall upon one of her friends that was a magical girl so she is a bit hesitant to become one, at the same time she does have curiosity to find out how it feels to become one. So by her dealing with all these contributing factors she stays undecided for the majority of the show.
The other characters are all well developed, all of them have values and developed backstories to not only tell the audience what lead them into became magical girls, but to also show us how they are dealing with the constant challenges of being one. Mami and Kyoto have sufficient development, but the ones that have the most and change the most throughout the show are definitely Sayaka and Homura. Sayaka goes through major development during her arc during the middle section of the anime and she makes her deal with Kyubey and how her relationship with Madoka changes because of this. As she seeks more power to not only protect the ones she loves but also to justify her sacrificing her life to becoming a magical girl, she slowly starts to unravel and eventually shuts of her ability to feel pain to seek more power which becomes her downfall. Homura personality change is the complete opposite of Sayaka’s, Homura’s arc towards the latter half of the story was some of the best writing in anime I’ve witness.
The parallel worlds sub plot sharing all the complexities and story telling to other anime such as Steins; Gate while still holding it’s own as it being a magical girl show. It shows what lead Homura to be the character she is at the beginning of the show and how much suffering she has already gone through without no pleasant result ever being obtained. She has tried over and over again and met with the same result, and Gen Urobuchi being prolific in writing about dark themes brought out the whole cast as not being your a-typical magical girls but rather people dealing with issues that most would crack under.
The animation for this show being done by studio Shaft is the weakest part of the show. I’m personally not a big fan of Shaft’s works as they have a very unique art style that is only native to them and it is not that appealing to me. The art style is very similar to the Monogatari series, but I feel as if it works with that show and not so much with Madoka. The witch battles are especially horrible to look at since the art style completely takes over and overall the aesthetics of the show start to fail. The monogatari series works with the art style and direction to it’s fullest, whilst I feel that Shaft didn’t fully commit to that sort of animation with Madoka, and thus were caught in the middle by it being average most of the time and horrible some of the time.
The sound for the anime is amazing, being done by Yuki Kajiura having worked on other shows like Sword Art Online, Fate/Zero and .Hack series a certain level of polish and excellence is expected from her and she doesn’t fail to deliver with this one. Yes it isn’t her best work by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still amazing to listen to and definitely competes with her other great soundtracks on anime’s such as the Kara no Kyoukai series. It’s grand and bold and really capitalises on the situation elevating the scene, the most notable song is the one most commonly used during the witch battle it’s very atmospheric and really draws you into the situation presented to these girls.
The negatives of the show aren’t that prominent; the show does start of really slow and seems really generic which wold put a lot of people off the show. Another would be the main character Madoka, as I’ve explained earlier about what type of character she is and how necessary she is to telling the story, it still doesn’t change the fact that most people would rather have a different character leading. And of course the art style.
The show is amazing, sound and characters are it’s highlights while the story is great but hard to get into at the beginning as it feels generic. The animation is bad it’s just not for me as I’m not a big fan of studio Shafts work. Watch it, you might like it just be patient with it. I would like to add that for full enjoyment of this show, the viewer should have seen at least one magical girl show before; whether it’s Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura or really anything else in this genre to get the full effect of the show.
[see end of review for weighing]
For alternative anime to check out that: try Neon Genesis Evangelion (the tv series, not the rebuild films) as it also does something similar with the mecha genre and is pretty much a must see if you consider yourself an anime fan, even if you don’t fully understand or like it.
Another would be Princess Tutu as it is a full deconstruction and reconstruction of the magical girl genre. It does certain aspects better than Madoka being that it is a 39 episode long show.
[story+characters+animation+sound] + [enjoyment]