Ahhh…the Magical Girl anime. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
Remembering such classics like Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, Revolutionary Girl Utena and any other show that slipped out of my radar.
I also remember that I really didn’t care for this type of anime…I mean, I watched Sailor Moon when it came on Cartoon Network a long time ago, possibly in the late 90s’-early 2000s and that was it. I didn’t bother to work up any more magical girl anime…..until 2012, when I keep hearing about Madoka Magica even though at that time, the show got an English dub (it aired in 2011 in Japan) and I heard a lot of praise for it, even doing the impossible of getting people not into the magical girl genre to watch it. Plus, knowing that Urobuchi and Akiyuki Shinbo, famed anime director of Negima!?, The SoulTaker, The Monogatari series and……(eep!) Dance in the Vampire Bund is helming this, it could go into a different direction that no one would ever suspect.
After experiencing a bizarre dream, Madoka Kaname, a kind 14-year-old girl, encounters a magical creature named Kyubey. Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki are offered the opportunity of gaining magical powers if they agree to make a contract with the strange little being. He will also grant them one wish, but in exchange they shall risk their lives by accepting the responsibility of fighting witches. Invisible to human eyes, witches are catalysts of despair in the areas they inhabit. An ally of Kyube, a magical girl named Mami Tomoe, befriends and encourages the two girls to accept the contract. For an unknown reason, another magical girl named Homura Akemi is determined to prevent Madoka from accepting the deal.
Well, after watching all 12 episodes of the series and possibly once again upon doing the review and this needed to be said, this show absolutely, utterly, unknowingly……impressed the hell out of me. No, really. I think this show actually does a great job deconstructing the magical girl genre and while this can be a mindfuck of a show, it isn’t like Evangelion where it does deconstructs, it also self-construct with what they were going for and well….you’ve seen the final 2 episodes of that or End of Evangelion (which I haven’t….well, not yet)? Anyway, for the first few episodes, everything is basically like a magical girl anime and just when you least suspect it, the twists and turns come hitting at you. Also, in the show, it shows the basic tropes of what you see in any magical girl anime and shows that while it may seemed all good in the end, but really, it isn’t all sugar and rainbows and all that hunky-dory stuff, as in many moral implications and consequences that happen when you know eventually things will turn for the worse. So, in layman’s terms, I really dig the writing of the show and as a matter of fact, this show actually got me looking more into Urobuchi’s other material.
For characters, I really don’t have a favorite character per se, as I enjoy all the characters of the show even Kyōko, who actually was annoying when I first saw her but I actually got used to her. Also, despite Madoka being the title character of the show, it showcases every main character of the show just about right from Madoka to Mami to Sayaka to Homura, who is the interesting character of the show in my eyes as while the first impression of her may be underwhelming, she gets her chance to shine later in the show. Kyubey is practically the most infamous character on the show as that magical pet who grant the girls’ whatever wish they ask for and you think it would be helpful but……you know what, I said too much about the characters as it would cross into spoiler territory and I don’t do spoilers.
The animation team responsible for this production is SHAFT, which I did mention time-to-time that they did this show and the fact Shinbo does work with them on his shows and the art style of it was very unique and a bit weird (actually a whole lot of weird but SHAFT is definitely known for that kind of art) The city settings is futuristic, thinking that the time is further into the future than today and the main character designs are very moe style but then again, that is what they were going for; “breaking the cutie” and they certainly broke them a lot in here.
Yuki Kaijura may be one of my favorite anime composers (next to Yoko Kanno herself and few others) because the music in here is fantastic and befitting to what the show is. “Connect” by ClariS is the track that I listened to multiple times without even watching the show and it held up well, but possibly the most talked-about song is “Magia” by Kalafina as the song represent how dark and twisted the magical girl world can be and the show does use the song either as background music or the ending theme. There were two other ending songs used in the either first two episodes (“See You Tomorrow” by Aoi Yūki) and later in Episode 9 (“And I’m Home” by Eri Kitamura & Ai Nonaka) and while they were good (mostly the latter) but nothing that stand out.
For those who wonder what I think about the English dub, the one that Bang Zoom Entertainment did for Aniplex of America, and it is that this is actually a good dub. It’s not the Holy Grail of dubs, but its great enough for those who likes English dubs. I heard too many people saying the dub wasn’t that good or underwhelming to the Japanese but here’s the thing about that; if this would have been FUNi doing the dub, people would have praise it but I would find that highly predictable. I like that Bang Zoom got the dub because they make some interesting casting choices in their shows. For one thing, the standouts for me are Cassandra Lee as Kyubey and Cristina Vee as Homura as she brought out her emotional range during the last few episodes. I did like Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka, although her range is limited here but I believe she can go farther with her role. Sarah Williams did fine as Sayaka, Lauren Landa as Kyōko was good, Carrie Keranen as Mami did sound a little too adult for her character but nothing too major and I would have never suspect Carrie Savage to play the mom as she is more calm and resolved in here than most of the dubs she’s been in (whether BZ, Funi, or any other).
FINAL VERDICT: I would definitely recommend this show to anyone, at least, anyone who’s already into anime but not into magical girl anime. Watching this show got me hooked on to the characters, the story, and does what no other show of that genre (that I already watched and know of). It made me give a damn about it and it helps that it has no filler for being 12 episodes. Madoka is definitely a must-see for anyone into the medium.
So does Madoka Magica fulfill her contract?
Why, yes, it does!
10/10 – HALL OF FAME!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is available on DVD and Blu-ray via Aniplex of America as are the compilation movies, Part 1: Beginnings and Part 2: Eternal. As of the date of this review, the third movie, “Part 3: Rebellion” is in theaters in Japan and scheduled to release in select theaters in the U.S. in Q4 2013/Q1 2014. Streaming options are available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Crackle, Daisuki & Aniplex Channel. For the dub stream, it is currently airing on Viz Media’s English dub streaming service, NEON ALLEY.
And until then, this is MAK2.0 aka Blue Hybrid, bringing all the magical elements in one contract. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA – animation by SHAFT / distributed by ANIPLEX OF AMERICA
THE MIND OF THE HYBRID ONE – my Tumblr Page