"Sailor Moon". "Cardcaptor Sakura". "Gakuen Alice". While they are great stories falling in the "Magical Girl" genre, the genre itself has been around for a very long time. These anime shows featuring the key point of a girl transforming into a powerful fighter for justice (and in some cases, love) have been around for decades, and we personally feel as though the genre is a very dated one. However, one anime came around in 2011 and changed the magical girl genre, for the good: "Puella Magi Madoka Magica."
"Puella Magi Madoka Magica", also known as "Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica" (Magical Girl Madoka), tells the tale of Kaname Madoka, an average middle school student. It starts with a dream in which the city was being destroyed, and a girl could be seen in the distance fighting a supernatural being. A cute-looking, animalistic creature approaches Madoka, and tell her if she makes a wish she can "become a magical girl".
Of course, this is the end of Madoka's normal life. That morning, the girl in her dream, Akemi Homura, is a transfer student who joins her class, and is very cold to our beloved main character. Later, at the mall after school, Madoka and her friend Sayaka save the creature from her dream from Homura. It isn't long before they then meet Tomoe Mami, who reveals seconds later that she is a magical girl, and thanks Madoka for saving Kyubey, the creature.
It isn't long before things go downhill. At this point, this seems like a cutesy, kid friendly anime. Oh God, are we wrong. Without giving too many spoilers, here's a general idea of how this "magical girl" system works:
- A teenage girl tells Kyubey what they wish for.
- Kyubey grants the wish, in exhange for becoming a magical girl.
- The girls' souls are placed inside gems.
- The Magical Girl must fight Witches, collecting Grief Seeds in order to clear the tainted gem.
- Eventually, the Soul Gem will become far too tainted, due to the girl's suffering.
- The witch-fighting Magical Girl becomes a Witch.
Of course, nobody gets all the information from the start. Hell, it took 9 episodes to get that last point out there - out of 12. That's right, you get 75% through this show before all is revealed.
In some sick, twisted, Lovecraftian methodology, Kyubey is actually short for "Incubator" - creating Magical Girls with the intent of letting them suffer, since the energy released when they become a Witch helps the universe. He even concluded this explanation to Madoka with, "If you ever want to die to help the universe, I'll be waiting."
The show ends with a fight against Walpurgisnacht, whose name I can't take seriously after watching "Bible Black". Madoka makes a wish, and saves the universe. That's all I can give without spoiling everything.
Now, let's get to other key points for this review. Let's start with Character Development:
- Kaname Madoka: Our main character, she starts out as our average middle school student. As the story progresses, she becomes very emotional, and begins to mature. In the end, she saves the universe.
- Miki Sayaka: Madoka's friend, who wishes for a crush to be healed. She leaves us later on, after a display of your typical "be careful what you wish for" moments, and becoming overcome with grief.
- Tomoe Mami: Mami introduces Sayaka and Madoka to the world of Magical Girls. She isn't around for long, but one quote sums up her development: "I'm not afraid of anything anymore."
- Akemi Homura: While she seems very cold at first, we realize in the end that she is not such a bad person - quite the contrary. When all is revealed and we get a glimpse at her past, she becomes the definition of a best friend.
- Sakura Kyoko: Kyoko is around for most of the show, although she isn't a main focus. She is another example of the "Be careful what you wish for" concept, but she does seem much more mature in the end
- Kyubey: He seems like such a good creature at first, but once his intent is revealed we couldn't help calling him "Teddy Bear Lucifer". While his intentions are much darker than expected, he does not feel emotion like humans. His role was executed fairly well.
The next topic is the soundtrack. While it has its moments where it could have performed better, the dramatic and heartbreaking scenes are where the soundtrack excelled. These tracks are packed full of melodies and timbres that will leave you in tears. A job well done.
The story itself (as simplified as the previous explanation was) is absolutely outstanding. You have to watch the show in order to fully experience the story. Hands down.
To conclude this review, this show is just amazing. I can't find the words for it. It is something that, I believe, everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. It's a major success, and you definitely won't regret it.