Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Animation Studios: Shaft
Version Watched: Subbed
The Magical Girl genre isn’t one that has ever appealed to me. I guess it’s always seemed a little childish because my first exposure to it, Cardcaptor Sakura, seemed like just another cartoon. Madoka Magica, however, was not at all what I was expecting when I decided to watch it. With innovative and colorful animation, a story that is more than it seems and a focus on character development, this is an anime you probably won’t want to miss.
Magical Girls exist to kill witches, concentrated balls of despair that leave death and destruction in their wake. In exchange for a lifetime spent searching for and destroying witches, protecting the world around them, each girl is granted one wish. Kaname Madoka and her friend Miki Sayaka are approached by Kyubey, a mysterious cat-like being capable of creating Magical Girls, who tells them that Madoka would be the most powerful of all time if she were to accept the contract. Swayed by the mere prospect of becoming Magical Girls, the two need only decide on their wish. There’s an emptiness behind Kyubey’s eyes, though, as he uses every tactic available to convince Madoka to make her wish. Perhaps there’s more to this contract than meets the eye.
Madoka Magica is actually a rather dark anime, following the exploits of five girls that have all been exposed to Kyubey’s contract. Whereas normally character development is just another component of the overall plot, in Madoka Magica it seemed to me that the plot itself was only there to facilitate character development, which was the series’ real focus. There are almost definitely holes in the overarching plot that would become apparent if you looked closely but you probably won’t care because it’s the experiences and actions of the main characters that make the series entertaining. Madoka Magica is definitely a character-centric anime and it’s done well; though there weren’t many cases where I was burning to find out what happened next, it wasn’t long before I was interested in the characters.
The story is a great deal more morbid than you would expect, especially after having seen the opening sequence. This is a great asset, allowing both more interesting concepts to be explored and the inclusion of twists that will probably shock you. Your heart will cry out for the girls as events progress, with the writer seemingly toying with their emotions and even their minds. There’s one major issue that lessened my enjoyment of the series, though. [MINOR SPOILERS]: Relatively early in the story one of the girls’ friends passes away, prompting a great deal of grief and the shedding of numerous tears over the next few episodes. Unfortunately I was unable to sympathise because at that point neither of the main girls had used their wishes. They missed their friend, and the loss had scarred them permanently, but she apparently wasn’t worth saving or even thinking about saving. I’m serious, the thought never crosses their minds. [/MINOR SPOILERS]
While the quality of Madoka Magica’s art isn’t consistent all the way through, and probably won’t wow you in any case, this is one of the categories it scores major points in. The scenes with witches in them are amazingly well done; you couldn’t ask for a more jarring, freakish representation of the despair in people’s hearts. I can’t even begin to explain what it looks like, but you need to know that it is excellent. As usual, the voice acting and accompanying background music are both up to par, though some of the tracks do a really good job of conveying the intended feel of particular scenes.
Summary – I don’t know what most Magical Girl Anime are like, but if they’re anything like Madoka Magica I wouldn’t hesitate to give them a go. The background story isn’t really explored and there are a fair amount of plot holes but that doesn’t matter too much because the characters are the reason you will watch this series. While the base art style is nothing special the portrayal of scenes containing witches is innovative and fresh, and probably a reason you should watch Madoka Magica in and of itself.
Score – 8/10 – Good
P.S – Kyubey is terrifying.