Show: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (often shortened to PMMM or just Madoka)
Studio(s)/years aired: Shaft/Aniplex, 2011
AniB’s thoughts: Well, well, well… some of you have patiently waited for this review for a while (shout-out to S.G.), and frankly, it’s a pleasure to have written it. Simply put, Madoka is a terrific show, defying the cringy stereotypes of the magical girl genre while delivering an highly favorable impact in only 12 episodes.
To be honest, it was hard to know what one should expect given that it was a blind watch and the genre has never been my usual choice to watch in animation, but experience took over and all the aspects that exists in any good to great animated show- gripping characters, stellar animation quality, and a very interesting story with progression- were all in place, along with some very thought-provoking thematic elements that created an unexpected depth in the storytelling.
It’s also worth adding that it was very pleasing to see a dearth of fanservice in this type of show. The genre lends itself to the stereotype, but instead, the show focused its efforts on its core experience that it delivered- and at the heart of it are some terrific characters. Madoka’s a likable, personable main character, but it is Homura- the mysterious magical girl with the power of time manipulation, and the strange creature known as Kyubey that truly steal the show. Both have very interesting motivations that drive them, and Homura in particular received an outstanding character arc.
It’s evident that Madoka Magica is the magical girl show for people who don’t normally watch these types of shows, simply because it is a great piece of work. It’s true the cast is mostly cute girls, but the themes they grapple with and the decisions they find themselves making in this world are all too real, with a gravity and dramatic tension that is nicely balanced. Based on my viewing, it’s safe to say Madoka is definitely one of the better anime from the East this decade and probably the best of its kind out there.
Now, onto grading:
Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, hand drawn but computer-shaded. Madoka pops off the screen, as good anime all tend to do- but its visuals also helps sell the complex and rich narrative it provides as well, along with its intriguing cast and thought-proving themes. Action sequences in particular are unique, using several different styles to indicate the chaos of witches in the show as an example. The animation does a wonderful job drawing the viewer into a compelling world. 5/5 points.
Characterization: The show focuses on the titular lead character, Madoka Kaname, and her role to play in the mysterious dealings of Kyubey, a strange alien being responsible for the creation of magical girls. Appearing as a small white, cat-like creature with red eyes and long ears adorned with hoop rings, Kyubey’s appearance and voice only add to the strangeness of this creature…and whose ulterior motives become more evident with the passage of time.
Madoka herself is a kind young junior-high girl who despite her musings about magical girls and their activities, is reluctant to become one due to the consequences of how Kyubey creates them- namely through a special, eternally binding contract. However, she is thrust inevitably into the middle of a looming crisis involving a super-powerful witch’s arrival, and the cruel consequences for all parties involved in this mysterious world.
Her best friend from school, Sayaka Miki, also finds herself intimately intertwined in the web of intrigue, but is is lured in by the promise of a unbounded wish as part of the magical girl contract with Kyubey. She cares deeply for a friend who suffered a crippling hand injury in an accident, and so Sayaka’s sense of justice is both pure and idealistic.
However, the most mysterious magical girl is Homura Akemi, a seemingly cold individual uninterested in the usual rules of being one, and with the highly unusual ability to manipulate time. What her purpose and goals are are shrouded in mystery through the show, but slowly reveal themselves.
There are other magical girls as well, one of which is a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen this show, but the other is Mami Tomoe- who introduces both Madoka and Sayaka to the duties and responsibilities of the role, should they accept Kyubey’s contract.
Madoka is definitely a show that excels with its small cast and does a terrific job developing them in the concise, tight narrative that exists. It’s a treat to watch the development that takes place, and how well the show ties its cast into the overarching plot seamlessly. 4.75/5 points.
Story quality: Overarching plotline. Madoka’s story is quite difficult to boil down into a few words, let alone without spoilers, but overall, it’s a tale about the choices people make and their implications, just what exactly does it mean when one says “the greater good”, and the sacrifice involved with it, and a tale about true friendship and even love (in a non-romantic sort of way). It’s a terrific character-driven plot that has intrigue, action, and is hardly what you’d think a show featuring “magical girls” would look and feel like, especially given the narrative weight. 4.5/5 points.
Themes: Like the story, there is much to unpack in the thematic elements of this show. The consequences of all choices, and the idea that there is no such thing as a “free wish” is key, as is the idea that “the decisions you make seal your fate.” Also key is the idea of “what is selflessness vs unselfishness?” and “What is the cost of doing something that can be portrayed as altruistic? What does sacrifice truly mean?” Much is asked in this show, and these answers are given in surprisingly thorough detail for a 13 episode anime. 4.5/5 points.
Don’t insult the viewer: In an anime where the temptation is to have loads of fanservice, this really isn’t an issue here at all, and the show gains much for it. Tightly choreographed, briskly paced with action and dramatic tension throughout, it’s a gripping little watch. 5/5 points.
Total Score: 23.75/25 (95%). A case of where expectation pleasantly did not meet reality, Madoka Magica is a heavily thought-provoking watch with a lot more weight to its narrative and cast than one would officially be led to believe. It’s worth a look, even for those not into the magical girl genre as an all-around excellent show.
Like what you see? Enjoy Madoka? Leave a comment!