Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)
I want you to form a contract with me and become magical girls!
With the much-anticipated October release of the Madoka Magica Rebellion film, it seemed a fitting time to review the popular 12-part anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Being a huge fan of the magical girl anime, I was naturally drawn to Madoka Magica with its bight colorful characters and beautiful animation design; but don’t be fooled by the smiley happy girls on the artwork, what you get in this anime is certainly not what one would expect.
An original series, not based on any pre-existing works, the story centers around a sweet 14-year-old girl, Madoka Kaname, who encounters a mysterious magical cat-like being named Kyubey. This strange little creature offers Madoka, and her blue-haired friend Sayaka Miki, the opportunity to become magical girls if they agree to make a contract with him. When becoming magical girls, each girl is granted any one wish they desire, but in exchange must risk their lives by accepting the responsibility of fighting ominous beings called ‘witches,’ creatures that are invisible to the human eye and are catalysts of despair in the areas in which they inhabit. A magical girl named Mami Tomoe soon befriends Madoka and Sayaka and encourages the two to accept the contract from Kyubey, while another magical girl named Homura Akemi also appears and, for reasons unknown, is determined to prevent Madoka from accepting the deal.
What begins as a simple story about schoolgirls with teenage troubles soon transforms into a tragic adventure beyond our universe, exploring themes that Hollywood films have so desperately tried to delve into but have only failed in the process.
Looking at the lead characters, the five magical girls are so distinguishably unique in design and disposition, each with their own oddity or multifaceted back-story, all adding to the complexity of the overall narrative. Firstly there is Madoka Kaname, a kind, pink-haired heroine who is destined to become the most powerful magical girl ever to exist. Then there’s my favorite character, the lively and energetic Sayaka Miki who becomes a magical girl to help and protect others. Next up, we have the smart and graceful Homura Akemi, a mysterious transfer student who is constantly warning Madoka not to trust Kyubey. Following on, there’s 9th Grader Mami Tomoe, a yellow-haired magical girl with incredible powers who acts as somewhat of a ‘guide’ to the audience, explaining the magical girl ‘world’ as it unfolds. And lastly there is out-of-towner Kyoko Sakura, another magical girl who appears toward the middle of the story and causes some complications for our heroines. Strangely, Kyoko is almost always seen having a snack whenever she appears on screen; it’s kind of exciting wondering what food she’s going to be seen gobbling up next.
As the characters develop and become imbedded in one another’s lives, the story itself begins to deepen and takes us to places that are unpredictable, dark and moving. At the end of each episode the audience is literally left wanting more, with each new story revelation adding an extra layer to the already tangled web of despair our characters find themselves caught up in; the writers should really be commended on the outstanding job they’ve done at presenting such a complex narrative. When the series concludes at episode 12, viewers should be left very satisfied but still keen to know more as the concepts explored in this anime are so involved and thought provoking that a 12-episode arc can only begin to scratch the surface of the possibilities presented. So the release of an additional movie, which will explore the ramifications of Madoka’s ‘choice’ in episode 12, should excite viewers and fans alike.
With remarkably intricate characters and a beautifully tragic storyline, the animation of Madoka Magica, mostly traditional hand-drawn, is near flawless. From the vibrant designs of the girls themselves to the sinister archaic, often abstract, world of the witches; Madoka Magica dazzles with each new frame. Series director Yukihiro Miyamoto throws everything into the look and design of the anime. You can find yourself immersed in the besieged mind of one of our heroines, in the ultramodern streets of Mitakihara Town or in the quasi-conventional bedroom of a 14 year-old girl and each new set piece is gorgeously crafted, lit and fashioned. The series soundtrack is also incredible; the haunting tune ‘Sis Puella Magica’ will have viewers quivering each time it is heard.
Having only seen the English-speaking version and hearing some online skepticism about the dub before its release, all the performances were quite credible and convincing. Compassion and care was felt towards the girls and this was due to the great voice work done by the team at Bang Zoom! Entertainment. English dubs are sometimes frowned upon but what Bang Zoom! have done here with Madoka Magica is truly commendable!
Ultimately, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a massive must see for any fan of the magical girl anime or anime in general for that matter; what we have here is a true animation masterpiece that will certainly stand the test of time. Madoka Magica is something one really needs to see to believe, nothing can rightly prepare you for the wildly moving rollercoaster you’ll embark on if you give this anime a chance. If you’re not a fan of anime just give Madoka Magica time; once you reach episode 10 … you’ll be forever grateful for taking the ride!
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by S-Littner
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is released through Madman Entertainment Australia