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“Beginning with a wish and ending with a curse…” Kuybay

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the anime review today! That’s right, I’m tackling this precious awesome anime that is still watched for it’s themes of magical girls and how even something that is usually considered for little girls can be turned into a twisted, well-thought out story with good exposition and deep thinking.

This show was produced by a union of Shaft and Aniplex respectively, directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, written by Gen Urobuchi, who apparently is well known for his writing in Psycho-Pass and Fate Zero for nihilistic and tragic themes.

The intriguing character designs are drawn by Ume Aoki and music from the marvelous and well known singer that every anime fan knows, Yuki Kajiura. Her accolades go from singing in .Hack/Sign, Tsubasa Reservoir, Ghost In the Shell (series) and other anime’s as well.

Plot

Madoka Magica is about a normal girl named Madoka Kaname, a 14 year old who is gentle and offers out a helping hand to her parents and peers. She realtivetly lives a normal life but like normal girls her age, holds onto the ideal of childish values (keeping stuffed animals as a foothold of innocence for one).

She has some very good friends one in particular named Sayaka Miki, who is also heavily involved in this story along with mutual friend Hitomi, to which she is a secondary player and core aspect with Sayaka’s plot.

One day a new transfer student comes to their school by the name of Homura Akemi; she gives the impression of being emotionally aloof and cold to some. On that same day after school Madoka comes across a four legged creature by the name of Kyubey, that is being chased down by the new student.

It’s a surprise for the gentle-hearted girl that Homura would be chasing a defenseless animal. After escaping thanks to quick thinking from Sayaka the duo are soon entranced in a kind of illusion world where they almost wound up killed if not for the intervention of Mami Tomoe; a magical girl! After showing off impressive skills of vanquishing the [Familiars] she allows Homura to escape, due to the latter being another magical girl and seeing the disadvantage of pressing the  issue.

Kyubey soon reveals he can speak to Madoka and Sayaka and begins his spiel of convincing them to become magical girls at the cost of giving them one wish that defies logic. Mami also offers to give them a crash course as being a mentor to them and showing what it takes to fight familiars and [Witches]. She also explains what the witches do and how magical girls use magic to defeat them to obtain a [Grief Seed] that is used for anyone that is a magical girl to cleanse their [Soul Gem], the source of their wondrous powers.

You feeling a kind of [Full Metal Alchemist] kind of vibe from this aren’t ya?

After the initial introduction Madoka and Sayaka begin thinking about wanting to have magic and help out Mami but their sempai explains that they shouldn’t take it lightly, as it would be something they couldn’t take back. She explains that due to her own situation of losing her parents in an accident and having Kyubey grant her wish to live she is contracted to continue this but if they have something that isn’t solitude (a normal life) then they should not do this.

This theme is expressed heavily in the series of changing your own boring circumstances at the cause of something “out of the ordinary” occurring in your normal day life.

After some development it is soon revealed to Madoka and Sayaka that being a magical girl  is not what one would expect and that after the initial plot revolving around Mami and introduction of Kyoko Sakura,the true story can be told…the true despair, apathy and emotional tale of the magical girl facade in this play of nihilism, altruism, hope, love and loss.

Characters

This series offer a good amount of main characters, supporting and ones that stand out for particular episodes along with a steady pace of exposition and characterization.

We begin with Madoka Kaname, the main heroine in this tale.

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Surprisingly enough, as much of scenes she’s in the story does not revolve around her per say. She is a beacon for the plot and story as everything is revolved around her despite not becoming a magical girl at first (from our perspective).

She’s not the most confident nor is she dumb but a regular average Jane that needs to offer out help to the other characters. Her viewpoint is one of innocent idealism based off “wanting to help” but can’t get it across due to her own indecisiveness.

Madoka thinks that being a magical girl could help the ones around her at the cost of herself due to her own lack of self-worth which is explored in the course of the series, which is bad sign there all together. Even though her intentions are good there is a great deal of sacrifice she does not think about which offers out hints about her even though not stated at first.

She makes mistakes which is really not seen in a majority of anime that give out that all MC’s are perfect. Though I will offer out that despite her flaws she sees through the heart of the matter when it comes to the core of what it means to be a magical girl but more importantly, what it means to sacrifice your very soul for a wish that generally shouldn’t have happened due to the nature of the world.

Her relationships in this series are relatively positive despite ones like Homura being cold and offering out hints of advice, Sayaka’s eventual dismissive attitude, not getting to know Mami well except for only knowing of her “gentle” persona and Kyoko’s brashness. Which putting down in writing, how in the world do we say half of them are “friends”?

Her mom seems to be a strong influence in her life with offering well told advice in the series which gets  disastrous results but brings truth in the matter of Kyubey’s machinations. Though her father is a stable parent with loving her along with her baby brother Tatsuya, her mom is the key one in her normal life.

Madoka at her core can be described as the personification of childlike innocence, hope and altruism to give herself to others but not feel regret for her choice.

Her character is, once again saying, the focal point and even though she doesn’t get much in the ways of fighting like the other characters, she is the viewers gateway to understanding what’s going on, despite me getting annoyed with her wishy-washy exterior.

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*Always hope*

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Sayaka Miki is Madoka’s best friend and is the one where the story places focuses on after Mami in the beginning of the series. She is a kind of a tomboy and offers out a cheery response but beneath that is a girl with a strong sense of justice and her own ideal what it means for what a magical girl should do.

Her plot and why she becomes a magical girl to fight witches comes in the form of a boy she has known since childhood, Kyosuke. He is a prodigy in the violin but due winding up in an accident his hands end up damaged and leaving him in a depressive stupor. She always visits him on the daily basis letting him listen to classical music but soon that turns south when he shows his aggression and anger at her for “torturing” him with such things as kindness and showing that he can’t have faith in stuff regarding childish “magic” and the like.

It is revealed that she loves him and this sets Sayaka’s character to the point of no return where she wishes to Kyubey for Kyousuke’s hand to be repaired at the exchange of being a magical girl which non-shockingly works.

Sayaka’s will while being a sword wielding magical girl is strong at first; she won’t use her magic except for the benefit of helping others from witches threatening to hurt anyone along with stand by the ideals when she is met up by another magical girl in the name of Kyoko Sakura.

The two don’t hit it off which leads to various run-ins which sets the tone for the series that just because they are magical girls does not make them a team. They each have different ideal that doesn’t set well with others which shows the viewer that not everything is happiness and puppies when you add these kinds of circumstances.

Sayaka soon learns that wishing for the benefit of another is a thankless job as it is soon revealed that Kyosuke has always taken her for granted; he didn’t tell her when he left home to go back to school, hang with others and soon wind up dating Hitomi, Madoka and Sayaka’s friend.

But we can’t just offer out blame to a secondary character as Hitomi, who actually in a twist, offers out an olive branch that she asked Sayaka what her feelings were for Kyosuke due to wanting to make this as straight laced as possible before she reveals her own feelings. This shows Hitomi that she respects Sayaka as a friend that she takes their friendship seriously but Sayaka, not wanting to rock the boat and deny her own feelings, just casually says it’s okay.

Sadly enough after that nail Sayaka as a character,from my view, becomes less sympathetic in that aspect. This shows that she does not do well when it comes to being honest with her feelings and her own hypocrisy with her own ideal.

This too winds up a shield destroyed in the middle of the series as it all starts breaking down of what she thought was right vs. the actual reality when the harsh truth comes to bear when she is separated from the soul gem.

Her one true fate will remain secret for anyone curious. I will say her rivalry with Kyoko is a strong asset to the series which also has fans pairing them up. It has never been official that it’s nothing more than friendship (from what I see) but interpret how you will.

If I had to put this into words then Sayaka is represented as an ideal that is betrayed in the end along with her own immaturity on matters of the heart. Happiness, sorrow and despair can describe her in a general sense.

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*Sorrow of an ideal*

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Kyoko Sakura makes an official appearance after Mami’s untimely fate and she is portrayed as a brash, aggressive, give no fucks magical girl. Pretty much you can go on a homegirl.

She has a hostile attitude towards Sayaka and the two clash upon the former making her presence known. Kyoko is of the belief of “the food chain” when it comes to not going after familiars and letting them kill innocence to eventually become a witch, defeat them and gain a grief seed.

Her actions are the opposite of Sayaka’s which causes the friction and belief that magical girls can’t work together,despite pictures saying other wise and the story.

Kyoko doesn’t care about the truth which is revealed about magical girls and what happens when they are seperated from their soul gem nor. She states that what happened to her is of her own volition and that her power is to do with what she will.

Her backstory is explored and you find out she also had the same views as Sayaka but met with the grim reality that wishes should not be used for someone else’s sake, which she took to heart.

A quirk of Kyoko’s is she always is seen eating food, which is somewhat revealed in her backstory as well. Surprisingly enough though what she thought she given up on (heroes of justice we’ll say) comes back to due to being involved with Sayaka’s immediate despair.

I’d say more but I don’t have much to say on the matter. Kyoko’s representation could be sloth, rage, arrogance and acceptance from my perspective.

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*Accepting the outcome*

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Elegance, eloquence with a dash of tea to warm up your frozen heart, that’s Mami Tomoe’s motif.

Being the first magical girl introduced in the series, you’d think it would be some big epic battles with her right? Well I’ll say there was one but sadly enough, and one of the few occurrences in anime history, a main character is killed off and this happens to her on episode 4.

Yeah I know, it shocked me too and this here is the catalyst to bring the true terror of Magica Madoka as a whole; not everything is happiness, sparkles and rainbows with magic and friendship is magic.

Her death sets the state of Sayaka making her choice and an the alleged “she was the best” persona she gave off for Madoka. Even though this aspect was true it showed little of the kind of person she really was or at least how she took in everything when discovering the truth of what magical girls become.

How that is possible goes into Homura Akemi’s character arc and I’ll leave it at that.

Mami could be described as elegant, fragile and broken.

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*In the end…*

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One of the heavy duties of the story; misconception. Homura gave the impression she was cold, ruthless and apathetic and bad guy of the series due to what she did to Kyubey but we have to ask ourselves…is that there is all to it?

Homura is the unsung hero of this series. Being the major mystery in this series, why does she have a vendetta against Kyubey, why does she interact with Madoka the way she does and what is her goal?

The fact of the matter is a mystery of the overall story of the series as Homura is the only one that knows the true intricacies of the magical girl dynamic, witches and Kyubey’s machinations behind the scenes.

She is a lead in this series next to Madoka because what drives her is the deep friendship she felt for our pink-haired magical girl which borderlines on love (be it romantic or not is up to interpretation) but friendship and love are two qualities when it comes to bonding with someone and when you reach a level of mutual trust then that becomes something you hold precious.

Homura’s goal is to prevent Madoka from becoming a magical girl due to what she experienced in her own timeline. That is the only clue I will say on the matter.

Homura holds Madoka in a high deal and would do anything to make sure she can break free of her untimely fate when it comes to battling the powerful witch [Walpurgisnacht] that seems to be the big bad of the series.

She also knows that Kyubey is a being called an [Incubator] and has called him such after the reveal in a cold way.

Homura also explains to the naive Madoka about the circumstances surrounding ones like Sayaka when it comes to the latter asking if she could help the blue-haired girl to which she put it as (one of her many bittersweet quotes) “kindness sometimes leads to even greater tragedy”.

Homura also gives off the impression she is concerned for the other characters but her main goal is Madoka and either tolerates them or even can fight them on the drop of a dime if push comes to shove.

There is other things but that would give away so I’ll leave with that.

Our black-haired goddess is represented as solitude, mistrust and love, from my view.

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*Fights alone*

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The Incubator’s are closely linked to the establishment of the the world due to their own influence in history. They are a race of higher beings with technology that can grant girls in the state of puberty, their hearts desire to become magical girls.

Being ones of intellect alone they lack empathy, compassion or any emotion regarding care or kindness like humans, which makes them dangerous. Kyubey is a key for the hardships that befall the cast by offering them an unattainable wish.

He/she is a being of cold logic that is aloof with human suffering and has stated it is of no fault of itself whether the bearer of the wish turns tragic.

Incubators who actually experience emotion are known as being defective, they seem to be a race that feeds on one another if a body is destroyed or has a copy. If one way to understand Kyubey is that the creature lacks morals.

It’s viewpoint stands as long as it gets it’s job done, fuck everything else. Kyubey’s job is one to fulfill the quota of entropy through the use of magical girls to keep the universe going (more or less).

Being an emotionless being and cold, Kyubey being “evil” is subjective and it’s up to the person who see’s the events unfold. If he/she/it truly has any feelings for the magical girls is suspect and it’s out of necessity.

Putting into words that describe Kyubey would be curiosity, amusement and cold.

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*Lacks emotion*

Overview

Madoka Magica as a whole stands out for putting the genre of magical girl on blast. It holds many themes of religious undertones mixed with science. It’s mostly dived in Christian symbolism with the pictures that can be seen at times or even ones of sex in subtle ways.

I added faustian as well due to the way the girls make a contract with the “devil” aka Kyubey in this respect due to it binds them to something they have to do or risk paying the consequences. Though being said faustian contract there are loopholes and critical information it leaves out to the despair of the girls.

The philosophical difference for each of the characters is also something to behold given you wouldn’t think a teenger that is 14 would be that meangful in anything that happens to them.

Mostly it is an exposition series that moves the plot at a steady if not rushed pace due to it only being 12 episodes with some plots being left unsaid or at least open.

The opening theme songs is completely misleading as it makes you think it will be the typical girl gets magical powers but by the end of episode 4 and over, you start suspecting and see how truly dark this series is. Ending themes also change after the change of episode four with Kalafina (a group Yuki made and they sing her songs) and adds to the haunting atmosphere. The OST is a good listen too as well.

Nothing is what it seems; all the characters get decent development and you start feeling for some of the hardships that befall them. For my personal viewpoint I see Homura Akemi being (as I mentioned) the lone unsung hero. She put up with a LOT of shit that befell her and she continues going on to fulfill her heart’s desire of wanting Madoka to live.

This series has hints of Steins;Gate with it’s time travel aspect, which is nice to see handled decently. Full Metal Alchemist for “equivalent exchange” notion when it comes to making a contract for magical powers and fighting witches. Magical girl aspect plays heavy as well with a little bit of Sailor Moon; 5 quintet group, though they aren’t officially a team.

The animation quality I had no trouble with, it captured what it was trying to go for and it also reminded me of the animation that was used in xxxHolic. Voice over work is also a strong point. I’ve only watched this strictly in English and can honestly say the VA’s did a stupendous job!

Christine Marie Cabanos, Cristina Vee, Sarah Williams, Carrie Keranen, Lauren Landa and  Cassandra Morris voice the main cast mentioned. They are on their game with this due to Aniplex being in the west coast where all big VA’s go too which is a bonus because I could’ imagine this series being under Sentai Filmworks.

It had plenty of decent action that didn’t seem repetitive or use stock footage which is always a bonus.

Score

Plot – 9 out of 10

Characters/characterization – 9 out of 10

Music – 10 out 10

Animation – 8 out of 10

Symbolism/themes – 8 out of 10

Overall score is a 9 out 10. Grading wise I’d give it an A.

Last thoughts

This series is worth getting and owning to put in your anime collection. Once you realize how deep it is you’ll want to rewatch it to make sure to grasp what you saw was real.

Sadly this series does not have a box set and still sold seperately via dvd/bluray and it’s only 3 volumes.

There is a movie that goes into what happens when Madoka transcended and it’s called Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion, which focuses on her and Homura.

That concludes this review.  I’m trying to improve how I structure these to find my own rhythm so I hope it’s coming across well?

Any this is Jeff signing off!

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*Later days*

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