It’s an understatement to say that Puella Magi Madoka Magica changed the magical girl genre forever. Other anime such as Magical Girl Raising Project have tried to emulate the success and shock factor that came with the anime. Since the release of the anime adaptation of Magia Record has recently started airing, I thought I’d delve back into the rabbit hole that is the franchise as a whole, and see what made Puella Magi Madoka Magica my all-time favourite anime series.
There will be some despair-inducing spoilers in this review.
Where shall I start?
The Beginning (always a good option to begin at)
Let’s start with the outlook for the first three episodes and what the universe tells us: Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki are chosen to become Magical Girls by Kyubey, the token cutesy mascot for the series (think along the lines of Luna from Sailor Moon – but only at first glance). Magical Girls are tasked to make a wish to become a Magical Girl and are then tasked to fight Witches, of which the battles take place in differently-artistic labyrinths. However, the new girl, Homura Akemi, is trying to prevent Madoka from becoming a Magical Girl. Meanwhile, Madoka and Sayaka are mentored by Mami Tomoe.
It’s the perfect set-up for any magical girl anime and sets up the premise that everything will be alright.
As perhaps highlighted with the Danganronpa series, I have become intrigued when an anime or TV show has a lot of mystery behind it, waiting to be solved. The show will oftentimes throw a random piece of information, just waiting for you to solve it, or you will find out anyway just by persisting with the episodes (episode 10 is an example of this, where you’re suddenly thrust into Homura’s past without any forewarning). Such examples of questions are ‘Who is Homura?’, ‘Why is Homura preventing Madoka to become a Magical Girl?’, ‘What are Witches?’.
Even going into the Rebellion movie and Magia Record, there’s that mystery around that something’s not quite right. You don’t realise that this is much deeper than any magical girl anime has gone previously.
The Plot Twists
The plot twists are done in pivotal moments within the show. For example, Homura’s back-story being the focal point of episode 10 was done just after Sayaka’s arc, also after Kyubey discovers who Homura is.
Also going into the anime with an impression that gets completely shut down by episode 3 is really fun. Just the fact that these Magical Girls are dispensible the way they are is shocking, especially with Mami’s death – a lot of us were probably expecting her to be revived at some point, although Madoka’s wish in episode 12 doesn’t count, as it near-retcons the last 11 episodes (barring Homura’s memories).
Sayaka’s arc as a Magical Girl is the platform for which the entire function of a Magical Girl in the universe rests on. After all, the discovery of Soul Gems actually playing the hosts to these girls’ souls, as well as the discovery that Magical Girls can turn into Witches plays on Sayaka’s arc as a whole and was really well-done to bring what could have been a sidekick character to the forefront.
With Magia Record, I already have an inkling as to what the main plot twist will be, but I’m holding out to see if my theory is true (I mean I could just look up spoilers for the game but am I really going to do that?).
And I don’t normally swear on blog posts, but Madoka’s ‘fuck you’ to Kyubey at the end was pure bliss. I mean, yes, Homura got friendzoned hard by a god, but that’s nothing compared to Rebellion.
The cast is a pretty small one, and rightly so. We have minor characters such as Junko Kaname, Hitomi Shizuki and Kyousuke Kamijo among others, but they still play a pivotal role in the way our central characters function – no character that is shown by name is ever wasted, and are utilised in their own way, even if for comic relief. We’ve already discussed the main five Magical Girls, but they all have their own distinct personalities and ideals. My personal favourites have to be Sayaka and Kyoko, though, for their chemistry and clashing personalities. I mean, I ship it.
I enjoyed the Japanese voice acting for the cast more than I did the English, but I do have a bias towards watching anime with English subtitles. Each character has their distinct personality that you can pick up just from hearing them speak.
Fun fact: the Japanese VA for Madoka also provided the voice Eevee in the Let’s Go games.
The art style goes for the kawaii aspect for the initial front of the show, but also when encountering the Witches in their labyrinths, the art style changes to differentiate it from the real world that they live in. But omitting a labyrinth for the Walpurgisnacht battle really emphasises the actual danger that the world is in, and drives it home that being a Magical Girl isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be. Everything about the witches is stylised, which is perfect for when they start appearing – they give you the sense of uncanny valley (shudder).
The runes that are used in the Witches’ labyrinths can be translated into German, and it mostly shows the names of the Witches – Charlotte, Gertrud, Oktavia von Seckendorff to give examples of such.
The soundtrack, as always, sets the tone for any form of visual media. The opening for the anime fits a very light-hearted theme, as does the ending theme for the first two episodes. After episode 3, like I mentioned, it takes a more sinister sound and theme(episode 9 aside, which has its own ending theme performed by the VAs for Kyoko and Sayaka – I still ship it).
The main soundtrack itself is done by Yuki Kajiura, who has done a fantastic job in helping set the scene for the anime in terms of its music quality. I recommend pieces such as Sis Puella Magica, Credens Justitiam and Decretum for some top-tier music.
That’s how I feel that Puella Magi Madoka Magica went completely in the right direction. I want to be able to finish Magia Record and then I might talk about that, as well as Rebellion! The series had me gripped from the start, and it is still my all-time favourite anime series!