Original Run: January 7, 201 - April 21, 2011 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Magical Girl
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Reader discretion is advised.***
Two friends, Madoka Kaname (voiced by Aoi Yuki) and Sayaka Miki (voiced by Eri Kitamura), blissfully live their lives as average junior high school students. Then one day, a ghostly voice rings through their heads.
The pair comes across a white cat-like creature. The strange animal is being pursued by Madoka’s silent classmate Homura Akemi (voiced by Chiwa Saito). Even more bewildering, though, Homura appears to wield some form of magic.
The cat manages to lose Homura and introduces itself as Kyubey (voiced by Emiri Kato). The mysterious being explained that it called to Madoka and Sayaka so that it could offer them a deal. In exchange for one wish, the two must agree to become magical girls and hunt horrifying entities known as Witches.
Unsure of what to do, Madoka and Sayaka hesitate to accept. At first glance, it seems the role would mean becoming a champion of justice. However, that could not be any further from the truth. The life of a magical girl is nothing except danger, loneliness, and despair.
What do you think of when you hear the term magical girl?
For me, I imagine bright colors, over-the-top transformations, and a pleasant, can-do kind of atmosphere. Everyone is happy and everything is going to work out in the end. Did Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica fall in line with that expectation? No, not even in the slightest.
This series was dark, unsettling, depressing, and tragic. If you go into this series expecting sunshine and rainbows, good luck to you.
But beneath the doom and gloom, what of Madoka Magica overall?
I’ll be frank. This was pretty damn good, and by that, I mean this show was absolutely fantastic.
A twelve episode anime doesn’t have much time to tell a story intertwined with heavy themes and undertones. It’s possible, but not easy. Many series simply can’t pull it off. These types of shows can often feel rushed with sloppy pacing and unsatisfying results.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica was one of those special instances that succeeded.
This story was near perfectly paced; only having one or two relatively slow moments. There was focus and everything went towards a single goal. This series’ buildup offered the right amount of excitement, and the payoff was well worth it.
The main thing I loved about this story was its willingness to go all the way. Due to spoilers, I won’t say more minus this. The ending, although not tragic, was by no means happy.
Madoka Magica could have gone down the easy road. This show could have given us a resolution where everything turned out okay. However, it didn’t, and it would argue it was for the best. This story’s conclusion was a great mixture of heartbreak and hope.
This ending, to put it another way, was the right one.
The Art Style and Visuals
Where do I even start?
Madoka Magica isn’t that old, but the character designs and “base art style” had a noticeably retro feel to it. I hate to use the word “comforting”, but in a series that was filled with such volatility, the visuals kept you grounded.
At that was the case in the beginning few episodes. Once this show took its turn, the stark contrast between themes and visuals was harmoniously brilliant.
I used the phrase “base art style” because there were two distinct designs in this series.
First, you had the world Madoka lived in. It was familiar and expected.
Second, there were the realms of the Witches.
These were weird, but the word “weird” can even begin to describe them. Perhaps I should say, the Witches realms were a nightmare-fueled LSD trip. Yeah, that’s probably closer.
This series entered these locations many times, and each occurence was intense, unnerving, terrifying, and completely awesome.
Out of all the things Madoka Magica did that went against the usual magical girl formula, this was the most severe.
It hurts to say this, but there were some things Madoka Magica could have done better. Granted, there were only a few. But sadly, there were enough.
When Did This Take Place
I’m going to get this one out of the way quickly because I feel this is more of a personal nitpick.
While I praise and adore this show’s art style, it didn’t do a great job of setting when, or for that matter, where this story took place. This determining where this story existed may have added a bit more perspective to things.
The world of Madoka Magica seemed a little too futuristic. The homes, the school, everything had a Tomorrowland vibe. That wasn’t a problem, per se, but why not go full future? At best, this story could be set within the next few years. If that was the case, why not have locations feel a little more contemporary. At the very least, I wouldn’t have emphasized how advanced everything was.
Final Boss and Defining Moments
This series told a rich and engaging story in only twelve episodes, and its ending was completely satisfying. That said, it was also a little rushed.
Throughout this show, the coming climactic final battle was played up through subtle hints and speculation. By the end, you really wanted to see this battle go down. Unfortunately, Madoka Magica never really explained what or why things were going to happen. Therefore, when the conclusion started unfolding, certain character’s motivations and reasoning weren’t quite developed in a way that seemed to fit.
For instance, the logic behind Madoka’s ultimate decision was told to us rather than shown to us; and in a show that rocked its visuals, this was a tad disappointing.
Another example: The purpose behind Homura’s actions were seemingly glanced over, which was horribly frustrating because this was a character we need to understand.
To be fair, this show and its story were in a tough situation. While the length Madoka Magica had was a smidge too short, a thirteenth episode would have made this series too long.
I really, really, really like this show. I’m not sure what I expected, but I guarantee, it wasn’t what I got.
A dark fantasy, magical girl series was not something I ever thought I would run into. However, I did, and I am grateful for it.
If you ever decide to watch this show (and you should), be ready for some intense moments. Then once it’s over, really think about what it was you saw. This is the kind of anime that gets better the longer you ponder over it.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.