Genre: Supernatural, Magical Girl, Drama, Action, Tragedy
Length: 12 Episodes
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a difficult anime to review without spoiling
some of the major plot twists. This is mainly due to the show purposely
positioning itself as a typical magical girl anime but is in fact a
deconstruction of the genre. So while I try not to give away any of the more
interesting plot developments I may need to do so for the sake of clarity.
The story begins with completely ordinary schoolgirl Madoka Kaname
having a dream about her city being destroyed by some vague enemy and a
girl she had never met fighting against it. As the girl begins to to lose her
battle a white cat-like creature asks Madoka if she would like help avert this
fate by making a contract with it and becoming a magical girl. Madoka
accepts. Madoka is then awakened from her weird dream by her alarm
clock. She dismisses the dream as unimportant and forgets all about it.
Later, at school, Madoka is surprised to find that the new student is the
same girl as in her dream. Identifying herself as Homura Akemi she warns
Madoka that if she values the life she has now not to try and change it.
After school Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki head to the mall on an errand. While there Madoka begins hearing a
voice in her head calling for help. The voice directs her to an abandoned section of the mall where she meets the white
cat-like creature from her dream. It has been badly injured and cannot move. All of a sudden Homura arrives and
demands Madoka hand over the creature. Madoka refuses and with the timely intervention of Sayaka and another girl,
who is a friend of Kyubei, Homura retreats. The girl identifies herself as Mami Tomoe and that she is what is called a
magical girl. Kyubei explains that in exchange for making a contract with him to fight eldritch abominations called
witches he will grant each of the girls one wish.
Will Madoka and Sayaka make a contract with Kyubei?
What is the meaning of Madoka's dream?
Why did Homura attack Kyubei?
The setting is present day Japan but slightly futuristic. However, the futuristic feel may come from the art style (discussed
below). The anime does a lot with just 12 half-hour-long episodes both making you care what happens to the characters
and detailing some fairly weighty themes without feeling rushed.
The main character artwork is not overly detailed. With the exception of one or two spots this is not noticeable however.
The background artwork has an 'ornate but sterile' look to it which is repeated in other works by Studio Shaft. The
artwork for the witches and various magical effects use a variety of techniques including film noir, collage, and cell-
shading to give an unearthly effect. At one point one of the main characters while depressed over her general lack of
ability starts walking on a surface that looks like the painting Guernica.
Faustian bargains- Kyubei's contracts often appear this way. There are actually a number of other implied religious
themes (either intentional or not) but you'll have to find those yourself.
No one knows what they truly want- Almost without exception magical girls come to regret their wishes due to it not
being what they really wanted.
Hope- Played with in a variety of ways. Magical girl anime tend to play up hope as being a universal good. Madoka shares
this view. However, as a deconstruction of the genre this anime tends to take a more negative view and it is questionable
in the end whether Madoka's belief that one should always have hope is rewarded or punished. This plays out with other themes such as friendship, love, dedication, and bravery which makes the overall feel of the anime very dark.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica has been a favorite of mine for a number of years. Likable characters, interesting themes, and re-watchability all make it an anime I bring out every six months or so.
Similar anime that I have watched: I don't actually have an anime to compare it to.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica can be watched on the Crunchyroll website.