Anime Review: “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Part 1- The Price of Magic

Written by Emily Stewart April 04, 2013

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Although I read more manga than watch the anime adaptations, the majority of text I engage with surrounds the magical girl narratives, such as “Sailor Moon”, “Tokyo Mew Mew” (aka “Mew Mew Power” by now bankrupt 4Kids), and “Cardcaptor Sakura”. Often, the storyline for the anime focuses on the magical abilities of the female protagonists (obviously), and the strong relationships between her group of teammates.

While Akiyuki Shinbo’s 2011 work “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” certainly incorporates these aspects, it also looks into a darker side of becoming a magical girl. With a chilling narrative “Madoka Magica” is a truly standout anime that turns from your typically cute and somewhat lighthearted bishojo hiro story into a complex emotional film. Since there is a lot to cover, this particular review will look at episodes 1-8 of the anime.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CTHwEZK2JA

Dark Magic

Like its predecessors “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” focuses on five young heroines, referred to as Puella Magi, with fairly distinct personalities, ranging from the soft spoken protagonist Madoka Kaname to foodie Kyōko Sakura to the seemingly distant Homura Akemi.However, the distinct personality traits of the characters are diminished as the story moves closer towards tragedy, beginning with veteran magical girl Mami Tomoe’s head being consumed by a witch. The deaths of the characters alter the personalities of those left behind throughout because of their grief. Along with the dynamic personalities of the characters, the Puella Magi introduce weapons not usually seen from magical girls such as a gun used by Mami.

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The misfortunes of these girls are caused by the most deceiving character in “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, a cat-like creature named Kyubei (aka Incubator), who promises the girls will become magical for an exchange of what appears to be just a simple wish. Here’s the catch: along with their innermost desires, the girls must essentially sell their souls and overall existence, and have to suffer in order to balance out the world between evil and justice. If the sorrow consumes the magic of the girls too much, they become grief seeds as budding witches.

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In fact, Madoka’s best friend Sayaka Miki wishes for her crush and childhood friend, musician Kyosuke Kamijo, to recover from his injuries so he can play the violin again. However, she has to face the consequence of losing him as a potential boyfriend to their friend Hitomi, because she no longer exists. While the loss of a middle school crush might not seem like the biggest consequence, it eats Sayaka up and she eventually becomes a witch. More emphasis on her transformation will be in the second edition of the review, but overall her experience as a magical girl influences the depressing tone in the rest of the anime.

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Animation and Soundtrack

Along with the distinct colour-coding of each protagonist in “Madoka Magica”, the artwork in the anime is incredible. The settings and characters all contain great detail, but it’s not just limited to standards of anime. There are different types of experimental cartooning in the anime during the battle sequences against the witches, such as stop motion. The soundtrack is also very dynamic and incorporates many genres from classical to pop-rock, but all of the tracks suit the mood of the story.

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Other than Kyubei’s manipulation, the only bothersome aspect of the first bit of “Madoka Magica” is the fact that Madoka herself does not use any magic, let alone form a contact, despite the fact that her name is in the title of the show. However, the next review will explain why her name is present in a show where she appears to be a passive character, and given the fact other characters, especially Homura, frequently discourage her from becoming one, its understandable. For now, “Madoka Magica” is definitely recommended for fans of any anime genre, especially for those who like darker stories, but it’s probably best to not expect the anime to be a cute and lighthearted tale.

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My Rating: 8.5/10

 

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About Emily Stewart

Emily is a Media, Information and Technoculture student at Western University who likes to put her critical thinking skills and passion for writing to good use, including reviewing TV shows for We Eat Films.

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