Hello to the one other anime fan that hasn’t seen this show! Yes I feel it is time to tackle one of the larger things to hit anime in recent years, well at least magical girl anime before the big deflated balloon of Sailor Moon Crystal. Now I will admit I saw this only recently, as a nostalgia lover of the magical girl genre, under the expectation that this was new, dark and different. While it is certainly those things it also is clichéd and crazy…
Ok so for the one person who doesn’t know what this is I will give a succinct synopsis. Middle school girls having the world line up to kick the shit out of them and their dreams. There we go, review over. Oh right in-depth analysis ¬_¬ So seriously Madoka Magica is actually a satire of the traditional magical girl story. You know the one; the girl is an average high school student with a good heart, has clumsiness no average person would possess, as well as crazy stand out hair. They meet a magical animal one day (aka mascot) and it gives them the magic wand carved from grandmother willow soaked in the blood of unicorns or something similar that for some curious reason also changes her outfit. From here they have to face evil that was previously unheard of, gathering some magical friends along the way and OMG FRIENDSHIP.
Madoka Magica actually follows the same formula but shows the more realistic effects of the story such as the fact that all these magical girls are in fact girls… meaning not adult, having to fight for their lives and others at such a young age is actually quite horrific. But we’ll get back to that 🙂
Our story starts with a girl named Madoka (bright pink hair so we know she’s the lead) she’s cute and sweet, she even has a whole family with her mum being her idol. She attends school with her close friend Sayaka (another bubbly girl who charges head long into things without thinking), one day they meet their cute animal character by the name of Kyubey. He offers the girls a contract to become magical girls to fight what they refer to as witches which trap and kill people. In exchange for this Kyubey will grant them one wish so you better pick a good one ladies!
A new transfer student arrives named Homura, who is shady as hell, tries to stop Madoka specifically from making a contract. It is revealed she is a veteran magical girl so probably knows a lot of what is happening but naturally for the sake of plot explains nothing till critical point. They also meet another magical girl named Mami who is awesome and she provides the friendlier veteran angle, taking both Madoka and Sayaka on witch hunts so they know what they are getting into before making a contract. Of course we need at least 5 magical girls so they meet another one called Kyoko who is the jaded veteran archetype who is now just in it for the kills. Sayaka eventually becomes a magical girl just in time to save Madoka but for a kind and stupid wish which backfires and whoa everything goes spectacularly downhill from there.
The series plot is basically all about Madoka making or not making this contract which eventually leads up to Walpurgis Night (a night where the mother of all witches comes along and invokes the equivalent of a huge natural disaster killing many people). Along the way they discover that being a magical girl is a lot more sinister than they believed and there is no turning back. No pressure girls! Now the rest of this review is gonna be filled with spoilers so if you haven’t seen it and want to I suggest you come back after you watch it xD
Right spoiler time, turns out accepting magical powers from a demonic looking cat may not be the best career opportunity! This is playing on the whole naive middle schooler angle. In this world the magical girls once a contract is made lose their body (not that they know this) and their soul is put inside a soul gem. This is so they can withstand brutal attacks such as a stab to the gut without immediately dying or falling into shock, it also means that as long as they keep this trinket safe they can regenerate and keep fighting.
However this expenditure comes at a cost (again jeez!) which is why magical girls must keep killing witches, once they die they provide a grief seed which is used to cleanse their soul gem, go too long without one or grow too bitter/corrupted and the girl turns into… yes a witch! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUN! Yes they are fighting their own comrades all along! T^T
Now why do they not know this? Well turns out Kyubey is kinda malicious in an alien way xD I actually liked his character a lot, he comes from a highly intelligent species who have no emotion (they even view it as a mental disorder), they along with other higher species discovered the universe is suffering from entropy and without intervention things would go rather shitty. So Kyubey’s species came up with an idea to harvest energy to combat the entropy, too bad it’s us. They harvest the energy from witches, which means they have to create magical girls and wait for them all to eventually succumb to corruption.
Naturally they realised girls may take a rather dim view of this so they left a lot of information on a need to know basis which our heroines discover horrifically throughout the series. What I love the most about Kyubey is his complete detachment, he sees his job as no different to a butcher killing cows to feed people, the magical girls get a good life for as long as they have it, I mean they even give them a wish and everything! Jeez guys this is like such a good deal xD
One of the other shocking revelations of the series is Homura’s character, she seems to already know everything about Kyubey and what witches really are, but how?! (and why didn’t she share? the big info hog) There is no way Kyubey would have told her, unless forced into it. Well first of all you need to realise that each magical girls wish directly affects her powers; Sayaka wished that a boy that she liked would be healed, this gave her much stronger healing abilities and an affinity with water. Homura’s ability is to stop time for a short while… yep she’s a time traveller! *Que Dr Who music*
Turns out Homura met Madoka a long ass time ago in an alternate timeline, she fought alongside her until Walpurgis night where everyone dies, great going… Hearing Madoka’s sad regrets Homura makes her wish, to meet Madoka again but to be the one who protects her. So since then she has repeatedly been going back to the day she met Madoka, fighting by her side until Walpurgis night, failing and then restarting over and over, each time becoming more skilled and dead inside 0_0 eventually Madoka told her she didn’t want to be a magical girl, starting Homura’s obsession with preventing her from being a magical girl. The knock on effect has inadvertently made Madoka the centre of the universe as Homura keeps restarting it each time she fails Madoka.
This means that Kyubey can give Madoka literally any wish she desires as her effect is so great. So of course for the climax of the series Madoka makes the mother of all wishes, she becomes a new law. In the same way the universe follows the law of gravity, she makes it so that she will save each magical girl before they become a witch reducing Madoka herself to only a concept but eliminating witches. This starts an entire new universe, with only Homura remembering her and the last one, they still are able to be magical girls and collect energy from a different creature created from human emotions but they are nowhere near as effective for energy gathering. But oh well they at least don’t mutate into their own nightmares so hooray.
This is the type of anime that you gather people round and have a good long discussion about, it really excels at sitting in the grey area. Kyubey’s species aren’t evil, they even give something to magical girls in the form of a wish but they just see humans (and not even all humans) as a loss to save the whole universe. Sayaka makes a naive wish to heal someone she likes and in the end doesn’t get her affection returned, she now has to live with the consequences. That isn’t her fault or the guys, it’s just a tough life lesson. Homura’s wish starts out as genuine love and affection for Madoka but over the series becomes twisted so in the end it becomes the only thing she lives for regardless of Madoka’s own feelings.
I really enjoyed getting into all the ethic and morality questions this show had to offer, of course it followed the clichés, you could see what was going to happen to Sayaka a long way off but it didn’t stop it being any less tragic as you saw her spiral into despair. Kyoko was obviously going to mellow out and reveal her kindness in the end. What happened to Mami though… I didn’t expect that! But that really set the tone for the rest of the series and how dangerous being a magical girl was.
For the sake of this review I will save you from me diving into deep (although if you guys ever want me to go more in-depth with theme analysis in review let me know and I’ll make a separate post). I should also mention the music is phenomenal, each character theme matches perfectly and I still listen to the sad and battle themes. The art style took me some time to get used to because although it is very sweet and suits, once the magical girls go into a witches lair it changes into a cut out animation style, totally different from any anime I’ve seen. At first I really didn’t like it, but after a few episodes I found it an excellent way to emphasise the corruption the witches have undergone and the prisons they are now trapped in, they are also designed impeccably.
The characters themselves were ok, Homura and Sayaka stick out the most, purely for all the shit they had to go through. They were also the most flawed but still retained good character traits. Mami I really liked even though we tragically don’t see much of her but she represents the person who just gets on with things, accepting harsh fate without burdening others. Kyoko really shone towards the end of Sayaka’s arc. Unfortunately I found Madoka really boring xD seriously she was ok, but suffers from too kind syndrome, making her mostly get in the way and make terrible decisions but oh well the others carried it well enough.
As the internet will have probably already told you, don’t go into this expecting happy times because it mostly certainly isn’t. I wouldn’t even suggest it to magical girl fans unless you like seeing darker aspects of a show. The magical girl is more of a trap than anything else xD the shiny piece of candy used to lure them in rather that following the spirit of most magical girl anime. But this means that people who typically don’t care about magical girl anime would probably enjoy this! At its heart its main themes are Faustian bargains and consequences but it really shines with the addition of a group of early teens seeing the unfairness of life… with shiny outfits of course!