herongale: (hitagi- thoughtful)
herongale ([personal profile] herongale) wrote2011-03-07 12:44 am
Entry tags:

Puella Magi Madoka Magica [review]

"If you feel like dying for this universe, just call us. We'll be waiting!"

I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that this series has not only become my favourite anime series for this season, it will probably go on my top twenty list of anime series of all time. It's just that good, and that much of a head trip.

The overall premise is shockingly misleading, for one thing, and the happy magical girls OP is a total lie. But the premise is this: a cute magical cat-like creature contracts with young girls, granting them one wish in exchange for recruiting them to become magical girls, who will spend the rest of their life battling witches in their free time. You know, as one does.

I'm loving this because the animation is utterly gorgeous, the story is shocking and amazing, and the music (by Yuki Kajiura) is top notch. Just listen to the haunting ending song: Magia. Easily as good if not better than any of her previous work, including that for my precious .hack//SIGN.

Animation is by SHAFT, who also did Bakemonogatari, another recent favorite series of mine. What's great about it that the characters are shaded so simply, and are cute but normal seeming for anime, but their motions are so fluid, and the background locations and battles in the witch worlds go into amazingly innovative territory. See Sayaka's witch battle:

It's like something out of a fairy tale! I think of this show as the spiritual successor to Revolutionary Girl Utena, in a way that the (relatively lighthearted and straightforward) Star Driver isn't: it's about girls making hard choices, and paying a terrible price. This is not a show about how good triumphs over evil, or how beautiful it is to see one's wishes come true, but rather about entrophy in the universe, and how all good things are balanced with bad, and how hope can still survive in the face of suffering.

I always pay attention to how color and composition are used in anime:

And the colors in Madoka Magica are especially vivid and fresh.

Everything I'm showing you are actual frames from the show, not concept art for the series.

But of course, no matter how beautiful something is, if it can't capture your heart it might as well be worthless. Madoka, the protagonist, is a little bit bland as a protagonist, but her sheer normalness serves well in this kind of story, since I feel that there are two major ways to tell a great story: follow extraordinary, vivid characters through ordinary events (see: Oofuri, Genshiken), OR you can have ordinary (but interesting) people undergo extraordinary events (see: Mushishi, Spirited Away). Occasionally someone truly brilliant can pull off a series where you've got extraordinary people doing extraordinary things (eg, Princess Tutu, Baccano), but successful stories of that sort are rarer than one might think. And sometimes a slice-of-life series of ordinary people doing ordinary things can succeed, but more often than not such stories end up as tedious and boring.

Madoka's journey through this show is interesting; from the first episode, she is offered the chance to become a madical girl, but so far in this 12-episode series, she has yet to succumb to temptation. And in the last few episodes we've really seen what a devil's bargain this is, as the true nature of the magical girl contract becomes clear: magical girls INEVITABLY become the witches that new magical girls fight, and spend their last days alone and in torment until they are mercifully destroyed by someone who will eventually end up just like them. It's a cycle of misery, and the purpose behind it turns out to be to serve the dispassionate goals of an alien species who wish to preserve the energy of the universe at the expense of human souls.

The major point of this show seems to be one that cannot be heard enough: sure, there's value in living a life of adventure and danger, but a peaceful life under the sun, spending time with your friends and family?

That's good too.

I love this series. I am fascinated by it. You all should give it a try.
ext_115098: made by me (got your back)

[identity profile] ramen-rules.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 06:46 am (UTC)(link)
WOW. I will have to check this out... especially after learning that Kajiura does the music! Guuuuh!
sparklespiff: (yachiru)

[personal profile] sparklespiff 2011-03-07 07:53 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, wow. This looks pretty awesome. *____*

sparklespiff: (Default)

[personal profile] sparklespiff 2011-03-07 08:59 am (UTC)(link)
Ah, which fansubber do you like best for this?
sparklespiff: (wilson.be not afraid)

[personal profile] sparklespiff 2011-03-07 09:25 am (UTC)(link)
Awesome, shall go with them, then! ALSO. Rereading your bit before I get into the writing. LET US SEE IF I CAN GET THROUGH THIS WITHOUT SOBBING. :|
aflyingteapot: (:O)

[personal profile] aflyingteapot 2011-03-07 11:08 am (UTC)(link)
I gave a try to the first episode as soon as it got out, but I just...Couldn't... Get over the character design... And I didn't like the dark haired girl
But I keep reading it's an awesome series everywhere... But... ;A;
aflyingteapot: (sakaeWHU)

[personal profile] aflyingteapot 2011-03-08 11:36 am (UTC)(link)
Yep, I figured that much, but I wasn't up for waiting to see what it was all about. If the chara desing was different... >.< !

[identity profile] youkofujima.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 11:23 am (UTC)(link)
Love this review! This anime is stunningly beautiful (that's how I roped a girl I know into watching it), and despite the...somewhat predictable storyline once it gets kicking, I think the writers do a very good job of taking a lot of key elements that should be but aren't addressed in your usual magical girls anime, and runs with it. Wildly. Like a bat out of hell. It's very interesting to see how far these people are willing to push the envelop and make a magical girl anime seem...well, harshly realistic (by way of choice of the characters).

That being said, I love this series.

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 11:28 am (UTC)(link)
Okay, I'm sold. I've been consuming a lot of shounen/seinen stuff lately (aside from Star Driver and Hourou Musuko, that is) so a dose of serious and/or devastating shoujo/josei sounds good to me.

And some of those caps remind me of the use of color and texture in Gankutsuou and Mononoke, which makes me excited.

And you know, reading this made me realize that stories where ordinary people do ordinary things are often shaken up by tension that they don't know about but that the reader/viewer is aware of (the graphic novel I'm writing my MA thesis about begins very much as an ordinary story about ordinary people living relatively ordinary lives, but because it's set in the Weimar republic, it generates a lot of tension because the reader knows that the only possible end to the story is that Hitler will rise to power and the characters' lives will be thrown off-track [or back on track, ouch] because of the beginning of WWII).

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 09:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, so I just finished episode two. Can I say that the animation on the witch in that episode is gorgeous? Because it is. With her hair covering her face and full of roses, and the butterfly as the bow on her obi, and that kimono that at first made her look like a slug-creature... that was awesome.

Homura-chan is already pulling my heartstrings, though.

... Also, this show is full of lesbians. And that's awesome. But seriously, will there be any male presence other than Madoka's brother and father? Normally in shows like this, even when the girls are the focus, boys are a major influence on the characters. There are plenty of shounen shows where there is no female presence or influence at all (Akagi, for example, where a woman is mentioned in passing in the first episode but none are ever seen or heard). I'm finding the gender balance in Madoka so far pretty interesting because of that - especially since Madoka's dad appears to be a housewife (and therefore functions to shift gender-balance paradigms) and her little brother is so young that his gender is irrelevant.

If the show continues on at current quality, it may top Cardcaptor Sakura as my favorite magical girl show. CCS, you so crazy. I love you so.

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Also I am getting the feeling that Mami is secretly devious and Not To Be Trusted. This may be crazy of me, but I can't shake it. :x

tl;dr - I am a dweeb. Also a pervert.

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 03:32 am (UTC)(link)
Just finished episode 7! Man, I love Homura-chan SO MUCH. I'm also digging how obviously their names get switched around once they become mahoushoujo, it is ADORABLE. Also, I am getting totally into this. It's great. I am NOT AT ALL SURPRISED by the ~soul reveal~. You know, if Kuroshitsuji was like this, I would probably like it more (Well, I like the second season, but that is because ALOIS MOTHERFUCKING TRANCY WINS EVERYTHING, LOL)

Kyubey seems to read as male only because he uses 'boku' and because Mami used the line "girls hate boys who rush them into things" in talking to him, but I think his gender is sort of irrelevant, too. And Kamijo-kun is influencing some of the characters, but because everyone doesn't have a male counterpart or interest (and the love rivalry isn't with another magical girl, but a classmate), it seems to serve as more of a contrast, right now.

Also, I am beginning to get a sneaking suspicion that Madoka's wish will be for all other magical girls to be freed from their contracts, or to get their souls/lives back, or something. I could see her doing that. Homura-chan will be MOAST DISPLEASED.

I really love Sakura! I think my favorite thing about it when it was new was that they explained the costume changes via Tomoyo-chan, which was always something that bugged me when I was watching other mahou shoujo shows. And it was like, every plot arc it had was solid. It is by far my favorite CLAMP work, anyway. The fact that its music is always fun helps, too, and also I remember feeling like it had all of the "requisite components" without feeling cliche. I think some of that was because of when it was made, but also because of when it was made, but some of it is the pacing and the quality of execution. I remember dying for the fansubs to come out each week, orz.

Speaking of magical girls, there are two other magical girl shows that I really enjoyed. One is Mahou Shoujo Pretty Sammy: Magical Project S (the Tenchi spinoff - don't fear, even though Tenchi was a painfully sexist harem show, Pretty Sammy is awesome), which I loved pretty because it's basically a parody and MOST ESPECIALLY because the main villain, Pixy Misa, was amazing and had the most awesome insert-song EVER. It went Atashi wa sutekina mahou shoujo, nandemo dekichau, mahou shoujo! and that was a hilarious line. The other is Magical Canan, which is based off of a series of eroge and is basically hentai. BUT IT IS AWESOME HENTAI because it follows an otherwise typical mahoushoujo plot and also the bad guys don't wait for transformation sequences and speeches to end, and there are lots of sailor moon gags (GIVE ME YOUR ENERGY and whatnot), but... it's also hentai, so most of the attacks are dirty. Watching it was a head trip because I was like WHAAAA this is exactly like watching a show for little girls... UNTIL THE TENTACLES HAPPEN, ANYWAY, LOL.

But I'm really enjoying Madoka so far. I'm glad you recced it! I... will probably finish watching it today, actually. It's been good for me, since my cold was bad today and I was generally useless. xD I like it. Oh, Homura-chan, since Sayaka is obvs in love with Kojima, clearly you can make Madoka your waifu.

Gah! This is awesome.

Also, not a magical girl but awesome in the way that it is sort of heartwrenching and interesting without being a complete angstfest downer, are you reading or watching Hourou Musuko? Because some of the character interaction here weirdly reminds me of it... even though the shows are not similar at all. It's got great music, too, and is animated in this sort of watercolor style that is really whimsical and atmospheric.

Re: tl;dr - I am a dweeb. Also a pervert.

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 04:07 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, yes, YES. Also I love that idea for her wish, because I like the catch you've thought up, and I think it'd fit well with the themes... but since she's got so much potential, she could be a truly devastating witch, too, which I bet she isn't thinking about. HEH.

I loved the cards in CCS, too - their abilities were really creative, and the way they were strong and weak against one another. I think they even released an official deck of them a while back, with a fancy book-like case and everything, but I never got my paws on it. This also reminds me that one of the best cosplays I ever saw ever was a guy as Clow, and he had his two tiny babies (like, 2 year olds, probably) dressed as Syaoran and Sakura. It was the cutest thing in the universe. I think I saw it at AX2004, but I dont' even remember. I just remember loving it.

ALSO THAT DESCRIPTION MAKES ME WANT TO WATCH KORE WA ZOMBIE DESU KA. It reminds me of a tabletop RPG campaign I was in (LOL) that was Big Eyes Small Mouth D20. We were running a sentai/mahoushoujo campaign. They were looking for the moon princess. My character was a dude with no past-life memories named Himeda Yo. Y-yeah, I made that joke. xD Anyway, I rolled die to determine whether or not he would 1.) remember that he was the moon princess (no), 2.) transform into the moon princess' clothes or get a new outfit (dress!), and 3.) have to say ridiculously girly catch-phrases in order to make his magic work (yes), and 4.) in order to transform, what he would have to use (I rolled what I assigned 'put on make-up'. So his transformation sequence was him having to put on lip gloss, eyeshadow, and mascara. IT WAS RIDICULOUS). xD I will probably enjoy this.

ALSO NOW I AM IMAGINING MAGICAL GIRL HARUNA AND IT IS AMAZING. He would totally sing the Pixy Misa song. "I'm an awesome mahou-shoujo, I can do anything 'cause I'm a mahou-shoujo!" LOLZ FOREVER. Mihashi could be the shy one ("Strike!"), Akimaru is the smart one (his catchphrase would be silently making his glasses reflect the light, LOL), Takaya could be the hot-headed angry one ("Follow my lead, dammit!" while Haruna runs of to start fighting before the rest of them are finished transforming).... I might have to draw this. xD;;; ROKA IS TOTALLY THE EVIL MAGICIAN THEY ARE FIGHTING AGAINST. JUST SAYIN'.

Another one that I remember enjoying, but didn't watch much of was Super Doll Licca-Chan. It was one of the only ones with a magical boy at the time, though. One of the super-dolls is a green-haired dude. xD And the opening themesong animation is awesome - if you can just find the OP, you should watch it and be amazed.

If you don't have time to watch the anime, the manga is *excellent*. My favorite character gets intro'd in the next ep of the anime (he is a bully, LOL - but so is my second favorite character, Chiba, who I ship with Takatsuki [the transman]). It's a really wonderful show, though. The voice acting, too, is really good. :D Watch iiit so I have someone to squee about it with.

... yeah, I'm totally drawing Mahoukiku Furikabutte. It's on my list of projects!
aflyingteapot: (hama-chan)

*butts in without any shame*

[personal profile] aflyingteapot 2011-03-08 11:45 am (UTC)(link)

lol butts

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 01:09 pm (UTC)(link)
aflyingteapot: (Default)

Re: lol butts

[personal profile] aflyingteapot 2011-03-08 01:27 pm (UTC)(link)

Re: lol butts

[identity profile] comixologist.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 01:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I WILL BE A COCKTEASE: The theme I have chosen for both teams is kinky.
aflyingteapot: (Default)

Re: lol butts

[personal profile] aflyingteapot 2011-03-08 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
*stares at you with burning eyes of anticipation*

[identity profile] midnightbanshee.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 01:46 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm so happy you like this!!!!!!!! ^o^

I didn't really find any of the characters particularly likeable except for Mami. Still hoping she'll come back!

[identity profile] symetric.livejournal.com 2011-03-07 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
this has my interest well and truly piqued. lol, there goes my evening.

[identity profile] wiccat.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 08:49 am (UTC)(link)
I've been following this series too! The animation's so gorgeous and the story is freakin' awesome!

[identity profile] setosnicegirl.livejournal.com 2011-03-08 11:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I love this show and the art and story so much.

I really don't know how this show will end.

[identity profile] seafoamturtle.livejournal.com 2011-03-09 02:55 am (UTC)(link)
I absolutely adores this show, and am so happy to hear that you like it too! I love the art direction and the way this series is going, and can't wait for each new episode. (/=A=)/ I haven't liked a magical girl show like this since... Sailor Moon or something, I dunno.