It’s no secret that I love Magical girl anime. I love the upbeat atmosphere they tend to have. I love the characters. I love the tendency to include yuri. I love the way they’re just fun to watch.
That being said sometimes an anime comes along that decides to do something different with the genre. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika is one of those anime. It’s going to be difficult to discuss it without spoilers, but I can manage.
The story surrounds a girl named Madoka. She lives a normal life until she encounters a transfer student named Akemi Homura who gives her a vague warning about not accepting offers that seem too good to be true. She also encounters a small and very creepy looking creature named Kyubey who offers her and her friend Sayaka a simple contract, they can have any wish in exchange for becoming Magical girls and fighting against witches, supernatural beings who spread despair. He especially wants Madoka due to her vast potential. Unbeknownst to either of them they’re about to embark on an adventure in which they’ll learn several terrible secrets about Magical girls and the power they wield.
This anime deals with several complex themes that you normally wouldn’t find in Magical Girl anime like corruption, temptation, sacrifice and duality. Okay, maybe you’ll find the last two, but you probably won’t find them this well handled. Urobuchi Gen is a very talented writer. Almost everything that comes up in this anime becomes important eventually and all the questions get answered by the end. The characters are well developed and have realistic personalities. Some of them are kind of annoying but they’re annoying in a realistic way rather than an exaggerated cartoony way. I also like the way that the Magical girls get actual weapons as opposed to sparkly wands, microphones, castanets or anything like that. Yes, those are all real examples. My only complaint about the story is that, though they do eventually explain why Madoka has such vast potential, the explanation they give could just as easily apply to Homura. So why is there such a difference? This is never really explained. Well, it isn’t explained very well. This is a relatively minor problem though, and it’s easily canceled out by the ending. Mahou Shoujo Madoka has an amazing ending. It’s easily a contender for the best ending I’ve ever seen, in anything. Problems are resolved, through logic, and that’s all I’ll say about it because I really want you all to watch this anime.
The art is mostly well done, but the way they do the faces for characters is kind of bland and the characters look virtually identical except for the hair and eyes. One thing that is really good about the art is the stylistic and surreal images they use for the areas surrounding witches and for the witches themselves.
The voice acting is really good. Yuki Aoi, Saito Chiwa, and Kitamura Eri all demonstrate a lot of range and Katou Emiri does a perfect job of sounding emotionless and artificial. The music is excellent too whether it’s setting the mood or being used in a scene involving one of the minor characters playing the violin.
I’m going to give it a yuri factor of 7/10. Since Homura’s motivation is really homoerotic and there are some really subtext laden scenes. To be honest, this disappointed me a little since most Magical girl anime have canonical yuri and this one with a more mature target audience kept it as subtext. I realise that it isn’t a traditional Magical girl anime, but they come so close to having canonical yuri between Homura and Madoka by the end that a slightly changed line or scene would have made it official and it bothers me that they didn’t take that minor step.
In the end there are a few problems with this anime, but there’s nothing too significant. The story is well thought out and amazingly written. The characters are rich and interesting. The voice acting and music are both excellent and the graphics are decent. I give Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica a 9.3/10. I’m honestly tempted to give it a higher rating just for the amazing thematic content and ending, but its few problems are just enough to stop me from doing so. The bottom line is that you should watch this anime. Even if you normally hate magical girl anime you should check it out since it isn’t at all typical of the genre and it’s only twelve episodes. You know, since my review of Di Gi Charat every review has been slightly more positive. I wonder what’s next?
King of Fighters: Another Day… Well, that’s a combo breaker. I’d watched it once before re-watching it for review purposes and I knew it wasn’t nearly as good as Madoka.