Man I sure wish I could just get out of here and do something exciting…
Hey, I can make that come true! Make contract with me!
Fair enough, anything to escape this boring lifestyle, I wish to be a magical girl!
Made by Shaft and Directed by Akiyuki Shinbou(新房昭之) and Yukihiro Miyamoto(宮本幸裕), where it’s main premise is about cute little girls in a futuristic world, are trying to stop evil monsters from ruining other people’s lives!
*Note: In Japanese you usually address people by their surname or family name (this is also true when it comes to in which order you’re supposed to write the full name of someone) as to in the western world we do the opposite.
The one we get to follow the most is:
Madoka Kaname (鹿目 まどか)
Who’s 14 years old who is uncertain about life, this uncertainty makes her rather naïve usually follows the rules without much thought or take action before thinking.
But no one can be a magical girl without having a side kick, which is:
It’s the one responsible for the girls ability to transform into magical girls to find the evil monsters out there, it’s a very cute and cuddle little fox cat like creature who just loves being there to help people!
But no magical girl can fight all those scary monsters alone! Uh uh, she of course needs the help of her friends!
Homura Akemi (暁美 ほむら)
14 year old transfer girl, that is the the closest you will get to a tsundere (in this series at least) when it comes to her personality, beyond that she’s very cunning, shy/quiet and very calculating, a bit too calculating in fact and also seems to know quite a bit about this strange life as a magical girl.
Then we got Madoka‘s best friend:
Sayaka Miki (美樹 さやか)
Is a girl with some characteristics of a bold tomboy girl, who is very concern about her friends well being, so much so it’s one of the reasons why she chooses to become a magical girl!
But she is still like any other girl who falls victim of being in love, in love with Kyosuke (上条 恭介).
There’s also the very fond and caring:
Mami Tomoe (巴 マミ)
Mami or Mami-san as Madoka and Sayaka calls her since she is their senior in school if Sayaka is the tomboyish but inexperienced girl Mami is the opposite, she’s more calm and mature for her age, acting solely on experience.
But they both have the sense of caring for others, Mami is usually the one that is the host of their tea parties.
Although she can lose her head over the most simple things in life.
Lastly we got:
Kyoko Sakura (佐倉 杏子)
The most rebellious and tomboyish girl of all the girls, she also very much of a lone wolf, who usually do things for herself and herself only and tries to stay out of other people’s problem, but she still do have a more caring side, she loves to eat food and snacks and hear stories with happy endings.
There’s also Madoka‘s other friend:
Hitomi Shizuki (志筑 仁美)
So just what happens in Puella Magi Madoka Magica?
It’s easy silly, it all starts with Madoka running through a very weirdly shaped house and see her friend Homura fighting this mean monster, before seeing Kyubee telling her that if she wanna help her friend she has to make a wish and become a magical girl to fight this monster.
And suddenly we cut to Madoka waking up in bed, where it turned out to be a dream after getting up, she wakes up her mother where she chitchat about how her teachers are having their 3 month anniversary soon, after a good breakfast made by his father she heads to school, where she meets her two friends Hitomi and Sayaka.
When they arrive, we get to see how future schools look, in particular how they’ve solved the issue with students feeling that the school’s environment feels too cramp and too isolated.
The students shouldn’t worry about being seen when they change clothes, there’s a white layer cover some of it! I’m sure there’s no tall people in the future.
After the teacher teaches the class the importance of how relationships and eggs (men, you should stop complaining about how the egg is cooked, women shouldn’t date men who can’t take their egg if it isn’t fully cooked), there’s an announcement of a transfer student arriving today.
With everyone in class excited they wonder just who it might be, with their speculations been made, the transfer student finally arrives…
The teacher must have had the same dream as Madoka!
Homura! Aside from her firm confidence given that she’s a transfer student, she instantly looks towards Madoka, who is quite rightfully shocked.
Woah! Senpai noticed me, now how do I get her in my sheets?
After this the girls take interest in Homura, they as her about things which she promptly asks in a rather cold manner, she interrupts them however by saying that she feels nervous and needs to visit the school nurse.
Homura then promptly stands up and walks towards where Madoka is sitting and asks if she can come along and show her, since she is the health officer of the class, without given much a choice Madoka agrees, while walking it seems that Homura knows exactly where to go even though she’s suppose to be a transfer student, sounds fishy, I will give her the benefit of doubt, maybe she talked to a teacher before.
However, Homura seems to talk rather strange asking Madoka if she values her friends and family and then just walks away from Madoka towards the nurse’s office.
But Homura isn’t just good at orienting and asking weird questions, she excel at everything, from sport to math, she more than just a prodigy, she’s a genius!
This being a very confusing day for Madoka talks about this with her friends (Sayaka and Hitomi) about the new transfer student being in her dream without even knowing her, which they proceed to think is hilarious,
Madoka feeling a bit ashamed for saying this, but Hitomi comes to the rescue and says that maybe she knows Homura in her own subconscious mind and with that Hitomi leaves, Sayaka and Madoka heads to the city malls music store to listen to the latest hits.
But in the middle of this, we also get to see Homura and what seems to be Kyubee and Kyubee seems to be a bit hurt, hmm maybe Kyubee got hurt in their tag play?
Regardless, Kyubee can also communicate telepathically, which he does to Madoka, who calls in her to join the fun, with saying “Save me”.
And it works! After repeated call outs to Madoka, she decides to investigate where this voice is coming from, which apparently is in the abandon/closed down part of the city mall they are in.
Madoka manage to find an exhausted Kyubee and also Homura meets with Madoka in her magical girl outfit, Homura then tells Madoka to step away from Kyubee which Madoka refuses to do since Kyubee is hurt, but just as Homura is about to walk towards Madoka, but suddenly…
Sayaka the magical girl of fire extinguisher!
Sayaka saves the day and manage to buy enough time for Madoka and Kyubee to escape, but it isn’t just fire extinguishers that can halt Homura, there’s also this!
Remember to smoke your hashish outdoors so the hashish smoke don’t make others get a bad trip!
Whatever this is, it sure looks like a mixture of being cool and scary.
Well actually, it’s the “monster’s” aura or something like that, it isn’t actually explained what these effects are, however the monster in question are witches and are the sole reason why people commit suicide and other harmful acts, this is due to them being the ultimate despair of any living creature, thus they draw others who are weak enough to commit anything to end their despair of life.
And it’s also explained why then no one knows about witches (at least people who aren’t with Kyubee) the witches puts up barriers.
Due to us knowing this, poor Madoka and Sayaka are also trapped in this barrier, unable to get out, that is unless someone saves them…
It certain seems hopeless for them, there’s even chains falling towards them!
Oh, it was just Mami coming to the rescue!
She shoots the minions back to whatever hel- I mean where the witch is hiding.
Afterwards Mami heals Kyubee and invites Sayaka and Madoka to her home, where she explains among other things how to become a magical girl, which is that you are granted a power depending on the wish you wish upon, although it does not affect the weapon that is never explained, but would be most likely due to personality, all of this of course is done under a “contract” with Kyubee.
Mami also volunteer to show these girls how it is being on the “battlefield”, where they finally get to meet the first witch!
This will be like a dance on roses!
Who is a witch who uses the human souls she’s collected to feed her roses, which is rather ironic since she despise human interaction (thus the maze), kind of counterproductive for a witch.
After Mami defeats her we’re on to the next episode and to meet the next witch!
Isn’t that adorable, greeting her enemies so upfront?
Charlotte likes sweets, but there’s one of she likes even more or well she craves it and that is cheese!
Well that isn’t the only two things this with likes, she also likes humans!
I hope she doesn’t get a sweet tooth!
Oh.. Umm, I think Mami will be just fine, right?
And now that I think about it I now know my wish, never ever be involved with this!
Or did she?
Haha, it was my wish all along to have a retractable head!
Phew, glad not have to deal with the responsibility of being a magical girl, I would’ve been food for the witches!
Anyhow, that was Puella Magi Madoka Magica and I will get straight to my what I thought about it, it’s good, but it’s riddled with problems, so let’s now delve into the finer details.
There are some interesting themes for sure, one of them being relying on western folklore (German specifically) and language and of course taking magical girls in a different direction.
First up is the music, which I have to say, is one of the few OST I loved fully, it really feels like they put a lot of effort in making sure that it doesn’t get stale and have a very diverse arrange of tunes while still having a common theme of having a rather upbeat soundtrack.
The same applies to the voice actors, they’ve done a good job selecting voice actors that really fits with the appearance and personality of the girls (although maybe if they had Kyubee be even more similar to a “cutsie” familiar while going overboard with Kyubee lacking any empathy).
The animation is rather fluid and long but cut into little pieces, it doesn’t just use the minimum amount of angles and frames when shooting a scene, instead they use very short framed scenes that shift angles multiple times, I do also respect their usage of basic stop animation during scenes with witches, but it’s not something I feel anyone has manage to pull of to have any other effect than to look rather amateurish.
The artwork is a variation of different styles, everything from a more “expressive” early 70s surreal art form or how the characters looks is modeled a bit like in Hidamari Sketch (the style of certain facial expressions are very much the same for both series and the facial structure, albeit Puella Magi Madoka Magica is much more drawn to have a more serious tone):
I like the artwork in general, there are some typical “Shaft” quirks, like how visible the outlines are, the square like shape, half detailed, half “sloppy” comedy style artwork, however I do think that the stop animation and the real imagines ruins the distortion and madness you’re suppose to feel during the scenes with the witches.
Essentially it’s because it becomes too distracting, because suddenly you need to keep track on two different styles in your head, the problem becomes that it becomes very hard to focus on the actual scene since these two very distinctive type of imagery keeps on clashing with each other, and while this is it’s main purpose, this surreal world being shown with realistic images, as to highlight the basic message of distortion, madness and quite literally a whole other world, unfortunately it does this a little bit too well.
The atmosphere I feel is very spot on, they aren’t afraid to experiment, from the seemingly randomly placed industrial complexes blocking part the sunlight make a rather typical “smooth” scene feel just a bit more stern and dreadful, to the chaotic atmospheres the witches have which describe their whole personality.
Only bad thing beyond the realistic images is the rather lack-lusting atmosphere being present during the finale, I understand that it’s suppose to show absolute desolation, however I feel that they could’ve turned the monochrome even higher to highlight more clearly the only few creatures still clinging to their inner will to live and hope.
Which brings us to the characters and to start of, let’s then talk about Madoka, she’s quite hard to pin down whenever or not she’s a good character, she’s a mixture of both, where it all boils down to personal taste.
Her personality is similar to the dandere type but with naïvety mixed into it, which is where people would be split to whenever or not they like that particular personality, the bad part about her personality and her character development is that it makes her look quite dumb when making decisions and how she reacts to what’s happening around her, however I think this is mostly due to the fact that this series is only 12 episodes, but beside that her overall character development I feel was perfectly fine, mostly thanks to the different timelines that show her being different in each one, while still having the same core principles (such as caring for others).
The rest suffer from the same issue, they are very one-dimensional and doesn’t have much character development (except for Homura), large this is due to it being restricted to 12 episodes and the directors spending more time on the surrounding story and quite literally the only purpose of them is to further the story of Madoka and Homura.
With that it’s finally time for the story, it isn’t as original as many claim it to be, at least on the whole “dark twisted magical girl series where the heroine has to sacrifice herself for the benefit of others”, that goes to Princess Tutu, Sailor Moon and Uta Kata.
However it’s interesting how they portray going to the “dark” side, it is a choice but at the same time it’s fate, since unless you manage to become a messiah, you won’t be able to sustain your heart not growing full of negative emotions, this is especially true with girls who are still in their early teens (which I really liked they put that tiny little detail, since it fits perfect).
There are however lots of holes with the story, the biggest being how little we really know about the witches and Kyubee, if we really got to understand the witches and Kyubee and even the universe’s logic, I think it would be hailed as one of the best anime of all time, in fact this seems to be a common problem with Shaft later work, in that they focus way too much on the art aspect (which is good, but it really makes the story pale in comparison) the constant experimentation of different art technique isn’t as present here as some of their other works, but it still suffers from being catered too much to having nice visuals and then backtracking with the “it’s open for interpretation” or “there are hidden meanings in the visuals” argument for lack of depth in the story, since Neon Genesis Evangelion does this just fine, largely because it spanned out beyond 12 episodes.
Another problem is the fact that the ending is a very “Deus ex machina” like ending, where while it isn’t some unknown entity saving the girls, the amplified Madoka explanation is barely touched, it’s execute and boom, done and how she can defy the laws of the universe and make the main story contradict itself, since if there were no witches in any timeline, then that would mean that Madoka would never had chosen to become a witch by the end which would trigger Homura wishing for her timewalk ability.
And of course that she just “solves” the witch problem, as a unknown deity would, with magic.
While you could argue for that the universe would stabilize itself and the sudden imbalance, balanced is a very risky argument, since we don’t know what happens in this new universe, except that they are still fighting, just not for the same cause, which is rather odd since the threat of entropy still should apply, since Madoka wished away the witches, not for the universe’s entropy’s delta to be higher than 0, to that is then that either the universe got solved or the new enemy is the new energy source (which we don’t know anything about and thus seems overly complicated to explain to fit logically).
Since the biggest issue with you having a deity like solution, is that anything goes in this new universe, suddenly you open a whole new universe of possibility, where even the most absurd kind of fan fiction is 100% valid.
Speaking of entropy, it isn’t something I would say is highly illogical in the anime, it makes sense to a degree, until you realize you can’t add more energy (which would mean human’s soul are converted into a different energy source).
This is tied with Kyubee, since we know essentially nothing about Kyubee, which makes the theory that Kyubee is actually just harvesting souls for the benefit of the alien race that Kyubee is part of (we don’t know if Kyubee is just a organism built with similar robot characteristics like we do with our metal robots), the problem is we don’t know it’s motives, there seems to be a very liberal approach to how the story is structured, due to this there is no intellectual debate over anything, it’s just go with the flow, heck one of the main points of the story build up was for Madoka NOT to become a magical girl,which she did anyway because… She knew what she wanted to wish for.
And if Madoka could become a god, how does that relate to Kyubee? Is he a fifth dimensional being capable of creating four dimensional creatures if the creatures raw power source supports it? There are too few answers for even theories to have any solid ground, since there is for example the theory that Kyubee is just harvesting souls for their own benefit and not the galaxy (which would make sense and would make the story all the more darker), but this is quickly shutdown by the sequel and the fact that Kyubee seems to allow any wish if you just have enough power, which would then confirm Kyubee is trying to harness the souls energy to make sure the universe survives, but then that is also canceled out by how Madoka overrides the only source they can use to convert one form of energy to another.
Then there’s the Faust similarities people like to point out and while that is true that it does indeed follow the “wish for a lifetime of agony”, it isn’t exactly like that in Puella Magi Madoka Magica instead, what I noticed and what I liked much more is the fact that is that Puella Magi Madoka Magica plays with the concept of purity, which is a rather common characteristic of every magical girl, they are pure at heart, since after all they are designed to be a role model to children, this is something that I feel is what makes up for some faults the anime has, the fact that is brave enough to have a rather tongue-in-cheek plot about how we human’s are imperfect beings since we can never uphold a promise that promises a constant state, in other words we human’s are too arbitrary and are essentially designed to react and evolve, much like the universe.
That is different from the similarity of the original “The Little Mermaid” which is not so obscure reference, since that is the whole out of Sayaka, her whole story centers around the story of The Little Mermaid, everything from how she grants a wish with her crush in mind to the rejection and the inevitable death.
I couldn’t really find something similar to any other character, there might be one for Kyoko and Mami (could be the story called the Velvet Ribbon, but it’s a very vague resemblance and more of a coincidence), but the rest I could not find anything.
On a more positive note, there is heavily implied yuri in this anime, something that is rather common in magical girl themed anime/manga.
That’s right, that’s why it the best kind of love!
There’s also problems with it’s atmosphere blending with the story, to me the story isn’t particularly “dark” and that it barely expand the characters or their relationships, it’s always assumed and put into place at the last minute, thus the tragic aspects of the characters are essentially explained in 5 minutes at worst (or not hinted or mentioned at all until the last minute) and at best we get maybe 10 minutes of footage dedicated to explain the relationship, which completely numbs any feelings you may have for the characters, it just doesn’t feel organic.
This is especially the case with all the characters, Mami we know very little about, her interests, her school life, what have you, Kyoko and Sayaka‘s relationship is never actually developed, oh sure they have a talk which ends worse than before the talk and that’s it, before Kyoko can have any bonding with Sayaka, she’s already long gone.
The same applies to Homura and Madoka, oh sure technically Homura is deeply in love (friendship wise or as in love), with Madoka, it isn’t until episode 10 we get some brief history of Homura‘s relation with Madoka, but I don’t get how you can really think that would be enough to make it feel genuine or at least we have a sense of understanding of why Homura likes Madoka, none of it.
Because just like being sadden over a person you meet, whom you liked will probably not cause you any great deal of sadness, the same is true when it comes to characters in the fictional world, the more experience you have with that person the more likely the sadness you will feel is amplified.
And there are countless of these problems, it’s all connected to two things: The story is written for the writer (in other words, only the writer could have very strong feelings since he knows more than we would ever do), this in turn makes the tragedy never blooms because relationships never grow mature enough and too few episodes.
Lastly there is a big concern I have about Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which is that it’s eerily similar to Kamen Rider Ryuki, from it’s main premise about being contracted and being forced to fight, to time travel and people going insane.
So what would the verdict be then?
However if you want a more fulfilling experience, then I suggest reading the manga adaptation and the spin-off “The Different Story” to get a much better insight into Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
In other words, it’s good, give it a watch, maybe you will like it, maybe you will hate it, regardless it might give you some insight into something interesting.
There is another topic I wanted to briefly go through since I found it kind of amusing, that is the praise people has given this show, for it’s “empowering message”, this is heavily drawn from two posts I found:
Which has a very, very westernized look on feminism and very judgemental attitude in general, with such claims as:
“Go online and even suggest something remotely like this, however, and a virulent few will inevitably rise to shut such thoughts down”
” The merchandise its creators license also objectifies the teenage cast horribly”
“He is not the only one who does. In the United States and Canada, a man rapes a woman every minute; another man hits a woman every nine seconds; men murder 1,000 women via domestic violence a year.”
In a nutshell trying to make sense of Puella Magi Madoka Magica by telling it, it’s a call for feminism by showing what a patriarchal society looks like.
And the last one is:
Which is trying to be a more academic take on Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
“Indeed Sayaka’s and Kyoko’s arcs we have an exploration of and challenge to another misogynistic idea. There are considerable social forces that suggest women and girls should subjugate their own desires to males in their lives. However the girls are repeatedly told that making a selfless wish will not lead to anything good. Then we are shown how these selfless efforts to help the men in their life leads to nothing but tragedy.”
“There is within the patriarchal aspects of society an effort to permanently infantilizes women. To treat them as perpetual girls. Never allowing them to mature into a true adult that one must respect as a peer. She must never be allowed to become a threat. The magical girls in Madoka are trapped physically in the form of a girl, womanhood forever synonymous with being a threat to mankind.”
The first article I feel is very disconnected from the anime/manga culture or Japanese culture in general, they apply their own culture unto Puella Magi Madoka Magica and twist and turn it into it having a “deeper” meaning, well feminist meaning.
The first error is to call Kyubee a ‘he’, it’s an alien, we don’t know what gender aliens have, thus at best it’s a ‘it’.
Second is the very awkward of insert the “raped every minute” quote, it doesn’t have anything to do with the show, there is no one arguing for “raping people will benefit society”, the scheme Kyubee has constructed is based on making girls develop more and more energy to harvest later.
Third is to get the goal of the incubators absurdly wrong, I don’t even get how you can think entropy has anything to do with immortality.
Fourth is the characters, never have I seen someone describe someone in such detail without actually having a shred of proof.
The list goes on, I choose this time only to include people with the ideology feminism since it seems to be the most recent one to snake its way into media.
And as I’ve stated before in my ME!ME!ME! and Girl post, I am so sick and tired of “ordinary” people thinking they understand something because they can make sense of it, that is not understanding it, that’s called having a hypothesis.
So is Puella Magi Madoka Magica a good feminist anime?
It’s subjective at best, as we’ve seen with these two posts, there are indeed people who think so, but who is twisting it to fit their agenda and not the other way around.
In my opinion it takes some interesting positions, that it’s the woman who is providing for the family (as opposed to the man, as it the case with many men in Japan) and the man is the caretaker of the house and children, so I really like they are inserting a reverse role switch and I would’ve liked to see a lot more of it.
Unfortunately the characters aren’t fleshed out, thus it’s very hard to pinpoint whenever or not they are actually a good representation of feminism.
So in conclusion I would say no, instead it’s more centered around egalitarianism and egalitarianism in Japanese traditions.
With that I think we can all take break and tend to our lovely PVC figures, wouldn’t you agree Mami?
Aww, she’s trembling with joy, just like I was after watch this show!