Oh, I’m so sorry. You were hoping for something that emphasized more of the glamor than the gloom…
Table of Contents
- What’s in the Title
- Spoiler Commentary
4.1 Character Analysis
4.2 Story Analysis
4.3 That Choice Rigamarole and Kyubey is Impossible
4.4 Soundtrack Analysis
4.5 Art Critique
- Fan Artwork
In case you’re wondering: I manually typed in the sub-category numbers. There’s no button on WordPress for letting you do that.
And now to begin one of the longest WordPress posts I’ve made thus far… (over 3500 words)
What’s in the Title
Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica. If you try to look it up in Japanese it’s 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ (the romaji is “Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica”) meaning “magic girl Madoka magic”. “Puella” is Latin for “girl” and “magi” is like a wise-man or magician. They used Latin for the English title for hype.
Ever heard of Faust? It’s the name of a story by a German, Johann Goethe (“ger-teh”), about a doctor (named Faust) who makes a contract with the devil in exchange for whatever he wants – several years of luck, I believe. Once the time is up, the devil gets to take the guy’s soul. A similar story is the American film “The Devil and Daniel Webster”.
This story is similar to Faust – it focuses on a single girl, named Madoka Kaname, who has been offered the chance to get one wish granted – ANY wish – in exchange for her to go fight evil witches. There’s a catch… actually several… in this peculiar world.
Anime similar to this:
- Shakugan no Shana
- Haruhi Suzumiya (pick one)
- Story – 9/10 – Excellent. Every story has holes (this one has big ones), but if you take it as a whole and for what it’s trying to say, it’s very well thought out.
- Characters – 6/10 – Mild moe. All but one is naive. They fit the story even if they seem horribly undeveloped.
- Sound track – 5/10 – Nothing special (I thought they were good choices, though sometimes they made a funky mix with the show).
- Directing – 5/10 – Average. Nothing that bugged me, but I imagine it could have been better.
- Art – 5/10 – Average professional, but random images make fight scenes look derpy.
This brief review does NOT address specific plot details or characters. It’s better as a story if you discover those things yourself If you want to know about characters, see the wikipedia article.
Okay, so what can I tell you? Quite a bit actually.
The story looks through a particular lens on the state of humanity and not a good one at that. It’s based off of the idea of karma, gently put: the good or bad of your past effects you in the future. Or, more bluntly, the good and evil in life must balance back out to zero, contrary to the optimist (and notably more Christian) idea that things can get better. For every person you bless, things should get better. Not so in this world. When it all comes down to it, either the rules have to be broken or humanity will be stuck in a permanent pit.
If you find yourself to be unsound in your religion, needless to say, watching this show isn’t going to help. It mixes karma, Christian cults, witchcraft, and deification in a kind of unholy blend that the Japanese don’t seem to mind for the sake of entertainment.
Story wise, though, it’s a thriller. If you overlook the religious aspect and put-it-in-its-own-world so-to-speak, as the writer expects, the story has a mostly consistent, entertaining, action-packed plot.
The anime is too dark for kids, though teens and up should be fine. It’s not scary enough to not watch before going to bed.
If you like moe, don’t expect glitter in your eyes, sorry. This show has no intention of drawing fandom of that type, not even with the tiniest flick of fan-service.
Hinted spoilers (to help you know what to expect):
The show is geared towards girls, but it’s not a romance. There is nudity (in the opening and end) and what appears to be a near-homosexual relationship between two characters just based on the opening, but that’s not even touched on much less developed in the show. It makes sense if you believe, as I do, the creators were trying to emphasize the closeness of the friendship of the two characters rather than any sexual intentions, and in the former case, it was developed.
The story has some elements common in sci-fi, particularly Star Trek. How’s that? Alien from outer space (that, of course, despite superior intelligence, doesn’t understand humans), time travel where the past and future get changed and new timelines are created (also called “multiverse theory”), characters you don’t like who turn out to be good, or yes and the person clothed in red inevitably dies. Other than that, this story branches off entirely.
—————– end hinted spoilers
Before you go watching, I recommend getting pumped for it with the AMV that got me to try out the show:
No Niconico Douga account? Pity. You can still listen to the music here:
Where to watch?
Currently, it’s on Crunchyroll.com, free to watch (no premium account needed).
I assume you’ve already watched the show. Thus, this is what it appears to be: observation, commentary, and ranting… or we could call this “analysis” and make me feel qualified. Having watched the entire show twice over the course of only 5 days, I feel quite qualified to talk about it (and at some point in the future, I’ll look back at this and, talking to myself, say, “Now, why the heck did you say all this the way you did?”).
The story is about high school girls (and it appears to be sometime in the future or some world with tech and architecture different from the modern world). Naturally, they are naive, even selfish individuals. There’s guff about some of the characters, especially Madoka, being “underdeveloped”. Problems with this, just from the obvious standpoint: 1) Madoka is a young high school girl, so of course she seems flat – she doesn’t have much of a character; 2) there were only 12 episodes in which tell the story, and Madoka’s not the main character.
That’s right: Madoka Kaname is not the main character. She’s the protagonist, but the main character is Homura Akemi. Why? – The story tells of the last attempt of Homura to change the future. It’s her path, it’s the destiny she’s trying to change. Yes, she’s changing it for Madoka, but it’s her choices and efforts that are shaping the future. Madoka is, in this final path, a bystander watching everyone else’s choices and trying to base her’s off of theirs.
Madoka is said to be lacking confidence. Mm, that’s not necessarily true. She believes she’ll have confidence if she changes. What she wants is to change – to be something valuable to someone else. She fails to see she is valuable to her family and especially to Homura. And that’s what the story concerns – Homura’s love for Madoka – as revealed in the bench scene in episode 8 when Homura saves Madoka from wasting her only wish, states her feelings (indirectly), and then Kyubey discovers Homura’s plan is to change the future.
Homura, being the main character, is the most developed of all of them. Brilliantly planned out – there’s an explanation for everything she does. (Well, almost.) Despite caring about Madoka, she doesn’t seem to care much about Madoka’s friends. Typical teen: pick who you like and don’t care about their friends. Sayaka Miki dies. “Oversight on my part.” No kidding, and yet, she’s deceptively mature: it appears she thinks through her actions (which to some extent is true) but really she’s just trying to figure out how to get out of the mess. She’s trying time and time again, and thus she has practically lived a full year beyond her classmates. Sound like thinking through actions? – No, just failing over and over.
Homura has great determination. She makes that naive statement that she’ll repeat the cycle forever until she finds the right way out, but who doesn’t say that? She’s made it several times through the cycle – *tips hat to that*.
Sayaka Miki. Naive, strong willed, aspiring warrior for justice. There’s a character like that in every book, but this one they get to trash even though she’s the best friend. For being in the story quite awhile and talked about the most, her full personality is established immediately… and is rather straightforward and boring. She’s a teen.
Mami served her purpose and was done. She was the perfect toss-out character. It was understandable why she was likeable to the main characters, she had her own character developed (and it came off strong), and it was understandable why she was disposed of. The death scene was rather… like, she just stood there? Seriously? Had it happened in fast motion, you wouldn’t be able to tell what was going on, but the creature wasn’t moving fast enough at that point to be convincing of such a move. Whatever. Not important.
I noted above that the anime is similar to Shakugan no Shana and those of Haruhi Suzumiya. The later is obvious: god woman. But all three of them have something in common, along with Clannad and a host of other anime: a world connected to our own and yet separate from it. Shana’s is probably the most similar world, since it’s a direct tie to the current world and comes with the presence of villains. Another similarity with Shakugan no Shana is that the “good guys” (or, rather, girls) are fighting each other in the beginning and end up teaming up in the end. Why everyone can’t start on the same side? – Survival of the fittest?
Applause to the writer, Gen Urobuchi, for writing a very self-consistent, story, despite the time loops, mess of physics, and reinvention of the rules of metaphysics.
The writing shines in episode 10. Episode 10 tells the whole story, explains everything that’s going on, and is shown just in time to completely revert whatever negative view of Homura you had and make the finish meaningful. It shows that everything hinges on this time sequence – “alternate timeline” – telling us it’s the final one (or at least indicative of the subsequent repetitions of the cycle).
Now, we can’t end it at that. Homura has to make everything meaningful to Madoka, which she does halfway through episode 11. The presentation of this was excellent as well – it’s easy to see Madoka, a kind-hearted individual, clearly understood what Homura said and took it to heart.
The depressing part is that the ending is bittersweet. Homura is stuck fighting a new enemy (Why can’t Madoka get rid of that and Kyubey?), Madoka is forgotten by everyone except Homura (in a specific universe / alternate timeline), and the other girls are still dead (in the current universe). As history is rewritten, they seem to appear again (Note that this is because they would no longer become Magical Girls to fight witches because witches don’t exist) and Sayaka dies off differently. In the scene revealing that, Homura is on good terms with Mami and Kyōko and carries with her Madoka’s red ribbon.
If you’re REALLY over analytical, you might check out the ideas on Homura’s timeline on the Puella Magi wiki.
And now for more ranting…
That Choice Rigamarole
Kyubey is Impossible
And the ultimate wish is… To become like god. It’s kind of obvious that its allowed once you learn the rules of wishing. It’s the huge hole in the writing: how can Kyubey grant such a wish? But it’s all for that purpose of answering the question: is there any wish worth having in exchange for your soul?
The answer given is “to become like God”. Actually, that’s the intended answer. It’s offered, and even forced at the end. “You want to become a god?” asks Kyubey. Madoka’s response is along the lines of “If that’s what it takes to get my wish / I don’t care”. Madoka’s actual wish is very world-specific: to erase the beginning of all witches, including her own transformation (granted, “with [her] own hands”). For once, a smart wish. Except, as some might note, she didn’t wish to become god (unless it was necessary), in which case, she could have not only rewritten history but prevented herself from becoming a witch without having to wish for an erasing of the beginning of all witches. She could have erased her soul gem and restored her own body. Being god has it’s perks… or does it? I’ll analyze that in a moment, but first, let’s sweep away the magic monkey.
Kyubey, somehow an intelligent being that can grant any wish and yet can’t do it himself. Oh yeah, and he can step outside of time and then forget everything (see episode 12). He know about the rules of wishes but can’t make a wish himself. All this is based off of defying entropy and encapsulating neurons in a shell that can step outside of time and still animate the body in real time. Brilliant! Now, this Kyubey is an alien because it’s rational to think that white cat-like creatures will have telepathic conversations and be far more advanced than humans while still never being able to figure out human emotions for OVER 9000 years. This creature has more holes than Homura shot in him throughout the show. It’s the embodiment of impossible dreams. And it keeps coming back. Forget 9 lives like your traditional cat; it’s got OVER 9000!
Kyubey is also dishonest (we all knew that). “You tricked me/us,” they cried when the girls discovered the truth about what was going on. Kyubey’s response? “You didn’t ask.” Tricking, by nature, can be excluding important facts that may otherwise alter the final decision if they are known. Hence, Kyubey did try to trick Madoka, despite his seemingly innocent lie that he didn’t.
Do you care about about cows? he asks. My response?
Eat mor chikin.
I’m rational, he says. Reason is directed towards something. It’s never unbiased. Pacifism is reasonable in some senses, and war and violence is reasonable in other senses.
I always find his line in episode 10 funny. When Madoka takes out Walpurgisnacht in one shot and dies, Kyubey speaks about his energy collection duty: “We’ve almost fulfilled our quota.” … What? That’s one big energy bill. Makes sense if they needed to spend thousands of years to get there, but still – “almost satisfactory”.
Speaking of impossible dreams, let’s go back and address that god-size issue.
The first time anyone wanted to be like God, they were thrown out of heaven. That was Satan. Then he took advantage of the desire of Adam and Eve (representative of humanity even if not real people) to want to be like God and tricked them into choosing that wish via eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since then, humanity has gone in a downward spiral. Choosing to be like God in that respect – being equal in knowledge with Him – turned out to be a trick. Satan, who wasn’t tricked, but was blinded by his own pride, fell because he didn’t take heed and stay in his place. He tried to elevate himself to the place of god, and he’s tricked numerous humans (notably emperors) into attempting the same stunt.
God said He is God and pretty much crushed or will crush the resistance. Trying to be like God by putting yourself on His plane isn’t such a good idea.
What about in Madoka’s world? There are some differences. First, if there is a god, he isn’t doing diddly squat to protect people from Kyubey and the evil running rampant from that creature. Kyōko prays to god once (when she’s attacking the witch form of Sayaka the final time), but there’s no response. Second, if there is a god, he doesn’t seem to mind another god being present or do anything to prevent it.
And you think it’s bad here and that evil dominates the world? The only evil here is what mankind brings on itself (including what’s called “man’s inhumanity to man”). Aside from that, God doesn’t let the enemy do much more than talk to us (unless we want more). But now I’m on a small religious rant, so let me spare you and move on…
I kind of liked “Connect” by ClariS before I heard of the show, so it’d be unfair to say the soundtrack was good just because of that. In actuality, it was rather peculiar. It made things start on a lighthearted note even though the main ending theme indicated that they obviously ended on a bad note.
The background music was a good selection. It was forgettable, as most background music is. There could have been more. It might have been nicer to have more, but no big deal.
Seems like someone sat on Google for a couple afternoons and downloaded the most random images they could find to use for the witch scenes. I have to applaud them for putting it together professionally – they fits seamlessly with the show – but it looks indescribably stupid.
The character designs are borderline chibi.It almost makes me think I could do something like this… Yeah right.
The overall production, however, is average professional, sometimes alittle above at times, sometimes below. Yes, I said above average (here’s looking at Gundam Wing). By this, I’m commenting on the backgrounds and scenery, which for the most part were decent… or adequate, to use a big word.
Meh. I’ll probably critique myself later and say it was cheap… or say it was excellent (after I reattempt to watch Escaflowne). Can you tell I’m undecided?
- Q: Can a guy become a magical girl in that world?
Yes… I mean no. Guys can’t be girls. They could become magical, as Kyubey says, but Kyubey’s race decided to work with only teenage females because they experience the greatest fluctuation in their emotions.
- Q: Are witches good?
English is a funny language, and often translations to English are funny. In the show, the magical powers came from an alien. How he got them is a mystery (actually, it’s story mechanics, and one of the HUGE holes left by the author). The alien gives them to the girls. He’s not the devil, so technically speaking, the girls wouldn’t be “witches” if we say that witchcraft comes from Satan (though Kyubey is representative of that role in Faust). Hence, real witches are bad. “Witches” in this show means something else.
- Q: Can we defy entropy?
Brownian motion is the closest thing to that. We can’t utilize it (yet).
- If you were put in Madoka’s position, what would you wish for?
… I’d wish to be put back in this universe where God is in control (and He could prevent me from turning into a monster or witch). Seriously, I’d rather be here with God and be who I am than be god.
While I’d like to get a piece of everything, most people are only interested in drawing people. Hence, if it looks like there’s a bias towards people, it’s from the plethora of images available.
Turns out, there’s a ton of cosplay on DeviantArt. Had there been less, it might have made the job of sorting through images less boring. I did find a few things you might find interesting.
Let’s start with the impossible:
Thanks to metalsnakzero for his folder of favorites that made it easy to find the following:
DYUEI has another similar work worth viewing if you like their style.
Once again, those images were favorites of metalsnakezero on DeviantArt. He’s got a ton more to check out.
KyoukoSakuraFC gallery was the most colorful and rich gallary I found. Samples:
Other notably works from that gallery:
- “Madoka Magica” by akome1206
- “Madoka Fanbook cover” by Kenneos
- “Kyoko Sakura” by LisVanPiece
- “Best Friends” by trudyfish
Another work you might check out:
“Sayaka Miki” by pcmaniac88, also called PeaChArt – a Japanese artist posting on DA. And on that note, I transition to Pixiv.
Phew! It took awhile to sort through hundreds of images, but I did manage to find a few things of interest. Oddly enough, I had an easier time finding eye-catching works on DeviantArt than on Pixiv (and spent less time there).
If there appears to be a bias in the images towards Homura, it may – just may – have something to do with the fact that my query for “暁美ほむら” (Akemi Homura) appeared to turn up better results than the one for “魔法少女まどか☆マギカ” (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica), so I browsed it more thoroughly.
Tong PenQ also has another drawing I’m too lazy to post.
(╹ε╹ グレイ) has alot of good works for fans of this anime to check out. It appears they like the relationship between Kyōko Sakura (佐倉 杏子) and Sayaka Miki (美樹 さやか). Beware: as the given image indicates, it’s borderline chibi (but not quite).
みんみ兵 did three worth viewing, including one I’m not going to post.
唯々萌 has a collection of fan art for this anime, although it’s hard to tell if they are the source of any of it because it’s mixed in with things they obviously didn’t do. Example of the artwork:
- 世界を変える力が by hatsuko
- ほむほむ by 木野きの
- めがほむ by サクヤモチ
- アンタもアタシもポッキー by サクヤモチ
- まどほむ by サクヤモチ
- まどマギ by おつゆ/3日目東ヤ-59b
- まどか by ブル
Others you might find somewhat interesting but I’m definitely not spending time to upload and link here:
- 鹿目さんを守り隊 by めたる☆さかな << one of the few that actually resembles (in a simple way) the actual character without being a direct copy
- あんことさやか by うた
- ☆まどか☆ by みきせ
- えがお by シャペソン○太
And an addendum since it’s apparently easier to stumble on these works when you aren’t looking for them.
Update Oct 15, 2013:
A bunch more can be found from 炉夢 at: