SPOILER ALERT: THIS RAMBLE WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FROM THE ANIME MADOKA MAGICA. IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, STOP READING NOW
Bear with me guys. I decided to do this off the cuff, without referencing any other review, analysis, TVTropes, anything so that my ramble is as ‘me’ as possible. And I am not a collected individual.
Okay, let’s get started. So first, what is Madoka Magica? Madoka Magica is a show about Magical Girls, much like you’d see in Sailor Moon or… I can’t believe I can only think of Sailor Moon. What happened to me, did I never watch another magical girl anime? That can’t be true. Christ, hold on a second. Let me check MyAnimeList.
Okay I’ve got Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka on that list so that’s definitely a magical girl show. So Madoka Magica is a magical girl show. And of course magical girls fight monstrosities day to day because… progression? They’ve got cute little outfits, cute little powers, and the cute friendships. That’s magical girl anime. In Madoka Magica, magical girls fight witches using their powers which they are granted in exchange for a wish. Like they make a wish and they get a power. It’s great. The anime follows the story of Madoka as she defies becoming a magical girl for the longest time and her experiences as she tags along with her magical girl friends as they fight witches. Party! Though we may have to lightly weigh my magical girl anime analysis because holy smokes, only two magical girl anime seem to be on my list. But based on my experience with magical girl anime, Madoka seems to be more of an artistic perspective on magical girl anime, rather than a magical girl anime in it of itself. It isn’t, however, a horror anime as some anime sites may list it. Not even close. Dark fantasy would probably be more appropriate.
First episode, not even five minutes in and the funky art suggests to me that Akiyuki Shinbo has his mitts on this somewhere. Studio Shaft is definitely involved. So I wikipedia it and I’m not surprised. Damn you Shinbo!
Magical girls get their powers in a contract with this little rabbit thing called Kyubey. Kyubey is often referred to as the antagonist in this show because of his role. When the wish is made, the contract is formed, Kyubey removes the girl’s soul from her body and this soul gem is formed. It looks like an egg and it has some color related to the girl in some way. Which is really amusing because Kyubey is referred to as an incubator so it is through Kyubey’s influence that these soul gems, these ‘eggs’ hatch. And actually let’s talk about this contract a moment. So when magical girls get their powers, usually everything is flashy and pretty and happy. But the first time you see Kyubey grant a girl their powers, it looks more like what you’d expect from a death scene. This was my first tip-off that something wasn’t quite right in the way of magical-girl-ness of this anime. Because Kyubey effectively ‘kills’ the girl (placing her entirety inside this soul gem) the girls become angry at Kyubey. They don’t like how they are no longer truly human. But, I mean, the girls never asked what this contract entailed. And doesn’t it sound odd at the outset? You get a wish granted, and you get magical powers. Where’s the downside? Okay, so you have to fight witches, but that’s it? That’s nothing. I fully believe Kyubey would have laid out all of the details had any girl asked but because of the wish you get granted, there may be an element of distraction there.
Your powers are related to the wish you have though I still have no idea what one of the wishes was and in another case how the wish relates to the power. One girl asks for… actually it’s never explicitly stated… but as a consequence of her wish, a boy that was unable to use his hands could use them again. And this was no small feat, like this guy’s hands were toast. And her power seems to be that she can heal from injuries quickly, just like her wish healed a boy’s hands. I like this way of getting your powers. Your powers become linked to you in a way by choice. You chose your powers. It’s not like you wake up and you’re just destined to have the powers that you have. And it is after discovering this, I realize that the mentor character Mami may have been a little disingenuous with Madoka. She tried to push Madoka to spend her wish on cake to celebrate becoming a magical girl. But the impact of the wish, as noted before, is so much more vast than that. Why would Mami try to get Madoka to spend her wish on such a weak desire? Did she fear that Madoka would become more powerful than her?
And as it’s discovered that witches are what happen to magical girls as time goes on, I don’t think I can place the blame on Kyubey at all. I understand the frustration with Kyubey, but I’m more inclined to think that the girls themselves are the antagonists. And not because they become witches. Very few witch fighting scenes are shown. Most of the action seems to be following the interaction of the girls with each other. The evil is what the girls will eventually become. They become this due to their desires. It’s almost like your emotions are the antagonist. Is Kyubey, an emotionless creation, something that we should aspire to be? Or are we being taught that life is precious, and that we should cherish it, the good and the bad?
In general, I give the anime props for character rationale. The character interactions seem mostly reasonable, with few exceptions of friendships developing too quickly or distrust developing too quickly. There’s an episode in which a Sayaka (the girl who wished to fix the boy’s hands) tells Sayaka that she’d like to ask the boy out. But she wanted to give Sayaka a chance to confess her feelings first (because the boy has no choice in the matter, right?) out of… respect? I don’t understand feelings. Anyway, Sayaka dies shortly after this, so this girl has an excuse to not approach Sayaka’s home after Sayaka ‘goes missing’. It’s a subtle trick but it’s not something that I don’t notice. I had a hard time finding character actions with limited motivation.
After Sayaka goes nuts and becomes a witch, one of her magical girl friends sacrifices herself to keep Sayaka from killing more people. And this is like half of the main cast so holy smokes, we may have to start wrapping things up. But before that, let’s dedicate an episode to explaining the backstory to that mysterious magical girl that always seems to know everything but never really does much of anything.
… Oh. It was great to see Homura and Madoka’s roles reversed from the beginning of the anime but as the episode went on, god damn. Someone must’ve cut open a whole crate of onions or something because the tears began to flow. And this happened consistently for the last 3 episodes! Like what the hell man. How do you make me cry three times in three episodes? The feels were realz. I won’t spoil the end but… have some tissues ready.
Okay, time for some episode by episode general comments.
- Episode 5:
- Sayaka is a little bitch for only fixing the dude’s hands when his legs were fucked up too. She could’ve totally wished for people in general to never get sick (seems like only Madoka knows how to use her wish) but no, Sayaka has no concept of scale
- Episode 7:
- The director said, “Kyouko, take a bite of this apple so you look like even more of an asshole”
- Episode 8:
- Understand that I was a physics major in undergrad. So when Kyubey’s explanation of entropy wasn’t egregiously incorrect, I was actually quite pleased.
- Episode 12 (final):
- Christ, Ave Maria would be the song that gets played after everything that just happened. Can someone just give me a towel? This tissue ain’t cutting it.
I apologize that I am unable to truly give this anime a true ‘review’ but I do recommend it. It seems to be a deconstruction of magical girl anime tropes but still maintains the obligatory happy ending. Of course since I’ve spoiled everything for you already, maybe watch it in a few months or so after you’ve forgotten everything I just told you.