Puella Magi Madoka Magica, at first glance it seems like a diabetes-inducing magical girl series with copious amounts of moe animated by Shaft and written by Urobuchi, Gen. Teenage girls make a contract with a cute Pokemon and are granted a wish in return for fighting witches for the rest of their lives. What are witches? Well, they’re evil incarnate causing destruction, death and mass suicide. When these magical girls fight they use up their MP from their “Soul Gem” which is restored by defeating witches and getting an uncommon loot drop called a “Grief Seed.” What happens if their MP reaches zero? You don't want to know. If that’s not enough to get your suspicions up about the tone of the series, then in the first episode we get a hint that there’s a dark future ahead as the opening scene is of a lone magical girl fighting a gear-thing and not doing too well while the Pokemon tries to get Madoka to become a magical girl.
But not to worry because our titular character wakes up and realizes it’s all a dream. Enter Kaname, Madoka she’s our average middle-school “protagonist” and as the series progresses gets annoying whining about all her faults coming off similar to Bella from the Twilight series. Not to worry though, her best friend is the energetic Miki, Sayaka voiced by Kitamura, Eri who seemed to be cast in everything in late 2010 and early 2011 and in this role seems to be combining her role as Yui in Angel Beats and taking her cynical role as Ami in Toradora to the max. In addition to Sayaka she has a much less prominent friend named Shizuki, Hitomi. However, Hitomi plays an important role in a love triangle in the midpoint of the series, and is readily forgotten about. Then we get our mysterious transfer student Akemi, Homura who is also our silent girl keeping a secret. She’s also the magical girl seen fighting the gear thing by herself, but that’s not her only secret. Later we meet the mother figure of the bunch Tomoe, Mami when she saves Sayaka and Madoka from cotton balls and scissors that were trying to kill them by using her magical powers to summon a multitude of flintlock rifles to dispatch of them. Her serious, yet fun attitude really makes her one of my favorite characters in this series. She also is also being watched over by Kyubey, the cute Pokemon who makes contracts for the magical girls. Later on in the series around the fourth episode we are introduced to the fang-tan, badass, and loudmouthed character Sakura, Kyōko, voiced by Nonaka, Ai or for better reference the starfish-loving girl from Clannad. Yeah we’re supposed to take her for a badass. However, she pulls it off
Later in the series we learn that the girl’s wish helps determine their power or ability. However they get weapons more in-line with an RPG: swords, muskets, a spear, and a shield. Of course these being magical weapons they have magical abilities. The muskets used by Mami and swords used by Sayaka can be summoned infinitely, the spear that Kyōko wields extends and at its full potential can shoot a laser. Homura uses the shield, but it’s not actually a shield to explain it would be a spoiler.
Shafts animation of the series is off from time to time. However, the problems in the animation remedied by how they use different types of animation to tell the story. In the beginning the artwork is very bright and shiny shifting only when our characters fight witches to usually a new type of animation that can be jarring but conveys the surrealism of the world they’re fighting, but as the story develops the animation fits the tone the series heads in
The story itself is complex for a magical girl series and pulls no punches when it comes to the dramatic parts of the series. The series incorporates references to Faust. Every scene, dialogue, background image, and even text all play a major role, in one way or another in the series. It also explains why teenage girls are used instead of say well equipped adults something many Magical girl series either brush off or just don’t explain. I would give a rating of 10/10, but that seems kinda pretentious for my first review. However, the series is my favorite for the 2011 winter season and may be my favorite series of 2011, but the year is only half over and I have Mirai Nikki to look forward to (or completely dread) in the fall.
- Kevin Wolfe