Reviews: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
'Kindess has no reward...'
Puella Magi is, hands down, one of my favourite anime series of all time. But we should probably rewind a second. Puella Magi comes with the need for some 'required reading' - most obviously, a preconceived notion of what goes in to a magical girl anime. For fans who've seen Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura as a child, the series hits twice as hard. But even if you haven't seen these, Puella Magi can still deliver a nasty shock to the gut or two. Looking at the cover is enough - the colours are nearly all pastel, the artwork is very moe and cute. So the series opens with Madoka Kaname, a girl with no obvious talents who saves a mysterious creature known as 'Kyuubey' from a transfer student who appears to have magical powers. Kyuubey tries to persuade Madoka to form a contract to become a magical girl, and the cosmic dance begins... Where Puella Magi succeeds is in its weight as a 'deconstruction' - it takes a magical concept and gives it real world consequences. It asks the question of how right it is for young girls to be conscripted to commit violence against other magical beings, and proposes a system for a universe in which this would be necessary. But worst of all, it shows us that all the aesops we were taught as children cannot be relied on. The kind act does not lead to happiness unless we can be honest about our intent. Hard work does not guarantee a happy ending. And all this is achieved in a miniscule package. To me, the pace of the show was never off - it knows when to scale back and present the consequences, but it never feels as though the events playing out on screen aren't significant. And better yet, all the characters have such different views that talking about the series with friends can often lead to the feeling of having watched an entirely different show to them. Madoka also shines in its production values. The music is all great and suited for purpose, and the graphics and fight scenes verge on breathtaking. Not only that, but the series just becomes better on a second watching, as little details can be uncovered that the casual viewer would miss. All in all, a must see, especially for fans of the genre. It's recommended to start with the anime and not the recap movies, since the movies cut some important scenes. If you can take the tragedy, then rewatch it. Multiple times.
An Excellent Tragedy
Really more of a miniseries (clocking in at only 12 episodes from start to finale) this show is often promoted as a dark subversion and deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre. This, however, sells the show short; it stands up just fine on its own due to a strong cast of characters and a tight, well-written plot. The show is divided into 4 arcs (3 episodes per arc), each of them focusing on a different character and her motivations. The characters are very well developed, each one having believable (if not immediately apparent) motivations for everything they do, as well as an appropriate Fatal Flaw. These flaws never seem forced, and come across naturally as the character in question acts in the weeks leading up to the appearance of an enormously powerful abomination in Mitakihara. The animation is great, providing very interesting, surreal settings and very natural movements by the characters. Of special note are the witches (which the magical girls are sworn to fight) which are all animated in a completely different, jumpy style of animation. Some level that as a criticism, but it really helps communicate the whole "Eldritch abomination" feel very well. If I had a criticism, it's that the characters faces can be somewhat simplistic, but they fit well enough with the archetype that character embodies that it isn't distracting. The soundtrack is quite notable and helps set the tone rather well. Each character has their own theme, appropriate to them, and the battle themes are impressive as well. The music is very orchestral, and usually uses a choir and strings which fits the surreal tone of the show. So far as warnings to newcomers go, it should be noted that the series starts a little slow. The first 2 episodes can be diabetes-inducing, but it picks up to a faster pace and darker tone after about 3 episodes, and really takes off in the second half leading up to a bombastic finale and satisfying conclusion. It should also be noted that the series has a substantial re-watch bonus due to the meticulous attention to detail in the reactions of certain characters early on.
Not ground breaking but still a great show
First things first I watched the movies I don't think this really matters though since from what I hear the first two movies are literally the show (even down to the animation) put into movie form. The show as a whole is great it's short, sweet, and to the point. Plot and Characters: The shows best aspect by far, At first it seems like your typical Magical Girl show then the depression hits you about as subtly as a truck going 90 in a 20 MPH zone. As for the characters let me run down the list Madoka: She is technically being the main heroine doesn't really do much though this makes a lot of sense since she's seeing how everyone else is faring with being a magical girl she now has a very tough choice Become a magical girl and go through the inevitable cycle of hope and despair for the sake of helping her friends or stay normal and watch her friends get hurt or worse. Mami: Well she had a good head on her shoulders and was the best damn head of command I've ever seen in an anime. Also her power of infinite guns is awesome. Sayaka: I liked her character, her idealism is a nice contrast from the next 2 characters I'll be talking about, and her infinite sword power is also awesome but her fall from grace as it were seemed a lot more teen angsty compared to the problems the other characters have to deal with. Kyoko: A hot tempered red head, yeah she's by far the most generic...at first anyway. Her lance power is pretty cool. Homura: The true main character of the story, Cool, collected, stoic, and so emotionless at points that not even she considers herself human. What is her purpose and why does she want the very thing that gave her her powers dead? I can't tell you guys what her power is because of spoilers...still pretty cool though. Kyubee: The cute little animal thing that gives the girls their powers, too cute or unbearably creepy you decide. What is his purpose and why is he giving the powers to prepubescent girls of all people? Animation: The character designs can either enhance or take away from the tone of story, the backrounds are great, and the witch fights are well...I won't spoil the wierdness. Music: To be honest not too many peices grabbed my attention while watching the show but going back and listening to them it's a great soundtrack. So overall I really like this show though I can see why others wouldn't.
An unusual and brilliant juggernaut of a love story
An unusual and brilliant juggernaut of a love story which avoids overcomplication without patronising the viewer; Madoka Magica is a 12 episode Japanese arthouse science fiction series based loosely in the magical girl warrior genre. That sound offputting? Maybe you should at least read the rest of this review before you say you're so certain about that. Open mindedness is important going into Madoka, as some people may find aspects of its style threatening to their own personal insecurities. Clear mindedness is also necessary, as one who knows nothing about what they are getting into may well enjoy the show far more. Praise is due for Studio Shaft's experimental use of animation, although it may prove too intense for casual viewers to keep up at times. Different animation styles are shifted, blended, and juxtaposed against each other in a manner which compliments the story perfectly, and few other works have exploited animation as fully as a medium. However, the way in which the characters are animated can prove distracting in later episodes unless one watches the series through in one sitting. Madoka stands out as being more accessible than comparable anime to non fans; it is almost devoid of the industry's self referentialism which has plagued so many recent anime, instead referencing classical literature and mythology. However, some of the earlier episodes, especially the first one, are not particularly entertaining on initial viewing, and may put off some viewers from watching further. Indeed, Madoka's story is like an avalanche, with a pebble of a first episode sliding down the slope and picking up other debris until eventually the entire mountainside collapses from the force of the final three. The quality of character development varies from character to character, but generally the calls as to which characters get more or less development are perfectly made, with only Kyoko feeling slightly underdeveloped. Also, Homura is badass. Really, really, absurdly badass. The attention to detail in the writing and direction is utterly exquisite, with great care paid towards seemingly insignificant parts of the show, which can often reveal more about the larger plot than might at first meet the eye. All in all, this series is thoroughly worth watching, even for non-anime fans. A masterpiece.
Madoka: The TV Series
Before I begin to review The Movies, let me briefly describe how I feel about the TV series. You see, before I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica, my undisputed favorite TV show was The Sopranos, a show about which I still can gush for hours. This kind of down-to-earth style fiction still dominates the majority of my favorites list. The narrative of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, however, is in many ways an antithesis to that of The Sopranos:
- Rather than realistic human beings, the characters start out as complete archetypes; Intentionally so, so as to explore them in fascinating detail.
- Instead of a real setting, the story takes place in an ambiguously futuristic fictional city in which everything is an allegory and every scene is crammed with symbolism.
- Rather than taking a lot of time to tell a dramatic story, the fast pacing allows for very dense twelve episodes of 25 minutes run time each.
Love it and hate it
Before I started watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica (I'll just call it "Madoka", okay?) I heard a lot that it is a deconstruction. And yes, it is, but it goes beyond that, into the territory where it almost be considered trolling of the viewer. After all, what would you expect from a deconstruction of a "Magical Girl" genre? Angst, tears, breaking of cuties and character deaths. And "Madoka" has all that, but it is delivered in such unsatisfying and anticlimactic ways it causes tears of rage and a burning desire to smash the monitor. The art style is... weird. Clean, washed-out backgrounds, sketchy and simplified faces contrasted with meticulous clothing design. And battles that look like shit. Symbolic, artsy, well thought-out, beautiful and immaculate shit. Seriously. In terms of plot, "Madoka" is not a logical show. It is fueled and governed by emotions, the emotions of fourteen year old girls to be specific. It is like watching a documentary about aliens written and directed by aliens. And speaking of characters, they are all completely unlikable and flawed beyond reason, to the point when I considered writing a "100 deaths of Kaname Madoka" hatefic. These were my exact thoughts at the end of episode 9. And then I watched the last three episodes and everything turned upside down. You see, "Madoka" is not just a deconstruction of one genre. It also rejects a common story structure and narrative. It redefines what it means to be "the main character". It teases, promising easy solutions and clichés, then slaps you in the face with a giant toothed worm made of pastries and candy. It defies standards and does absolutely everything wrong. Except there is no "right" or "wrong" in art, just as there are no good or bad tropes. There are traditional stories, and then there are subversions, and then there are deconstructions. And then there is "Madoka". Love it and hate it. In reverse order.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Review
To start, I would like to say I have watched and read several reviews of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Most of them were the same saying good things bout this show but I can differ on that. I have watched the entire series after spoiling Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica for myself and I must say that I was unmoved by all of it. There is nothing special about this show. Other magical girls have died and sacrificed for what they believe. It really isn't even that dark, it's just compiled information that there is no need for. I like the show only for the fact that it was a magical girl show. It relied heavily on several things: 1.) Surreal Imagery- the cut out witches and monsters are only meant to scare the audience and reinforce how "dark" this show is. The animation of them could have been better. 2.)Yuki Kajiura's Music- While she is supposedly a well-known composer, I believe they only used her to get attention because she's famous for soundtracks such as Noir, Mai-Hime, and Sword Art Online. 3.)Visuals/Art Style- The characters are "cute" and moe who are supposed to attract the audience and shock everyone with the things they go through. They tried too hard with visuals, combining famous structures and post-modern buildings to make this show different. To simply put it, I do not dislike Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. I dislike the lack of effort and thought placed in this his show. They only reversed the outcome of what most consider a normal magical show and applied "different" aspects to it. Madoka Magica does nothing new or special. There are other magical girls shows who have done this before such as Princess Tutu and Daybreak Illusion. Personally, I am tired of it being called a deconstruction and the equal to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Nothing new, nothing special.
What is it about?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is 3 different stories at once, and your opinion on the work and the characters will depend on which story you see as the main one. Most people seem to take the deconstruction of the magical girl genre as the main story. In this story Madoka is the main character in the Usagi role, with Sayaka being the best friend, Sailor Mercury, Kyoko, with her short temper and tendency to fight, is Sailor Jupiter, Mami, the experienced veteran, is Sailor Venus, and Homura, the mysterious one, is Sailor Mars. As a deconstruction, there are huge differences between these characters and the roles I have mentioned, for instance, Madoka's seeming passivity for the majority of the series. As the series progresses, another story is revealed, this time one that centers on Homura and Kyubey. They are engaged in a chess match for Madoka's soul. As an analogy I would say that Kyubey takes on the role of Kira and Homura that of L, given Kyubey's explanations that his actions and the harm he inflicts are for the 'greater good.' In this story the other characters, besides for Madoka, are reduced to chess pieces that either player is willing to sacrifice for their own goals. They have their own arcs that are well done, but those are side-plots and vehicles for the grand chess masters. At the tail end of the series, what I consider to be the true story of the series is revealed. A love story that crosses time and space. I don't necessarily mean romantic love, but it is definitely a pure form of love, and it is one of the best love stories I have had the pleasure of reading or seeing in any medium. Unfortunately there simply isn't room in these 400 words to give justice to this love story that develops across multiple timelines until it is stronger than fate itself. The first 2 stories are good, and by the standards of the magical genre they are excellent. The character work is strong, the concepts thought provoking, and the art is visually interesting. But it is the story of Homura and Madoka's friendship and the lengths they will go for each other that elevate Puella Magi Madoka Magica above being just another good anime and into the status of the elites that will be remembered long after their runs are finished.
Not groundbreaking, but still pretty good.
-Spoilers ahead- My major complaint is that it's too short. Mami was likeable and cool enough, so seeing her get her head chomped off was pretty shocking. But she just had too little screentime for me to seriously care about her. Maybe I wasn't supposed to care, and it was solely to warn the viewers that this series wouldn't be a cakewalk. And it isn't. Darkness Induced Audience Apathy might even kick in at some point. I will say that the art looks pretty nice and the witch sequences are genuinely cool and artistic. I'd like to talk more about the characters though. At first I thought Sayaka was pretty decent, but then her downfall became increasingly frustrating to watch. I liked her at first, since she was actively doing something. That quickly turned into dislike when I saw how she handled her "idealism", and everything about her and those two plot-device characters in their not-Love Triangle. Sayaka's suicidal tendencies and Honor Before Reason attitude before her death cemented her role as my least favorite character of the show. There was also Kyoko I guess. She was decent enough, but her sudden change in personality, although it did make sense, felt awkward, rushed and like an excuse for Homura to face Walpurgis alone. Speaking of Homura, Madoka Magica is mostly her story. Her icy behavior was irritating at first, but after it got some cracks she interested me more. The Time-Travel business was a nice twist, though the downside was that we got to see Moemura. Maybe I was supposed to feel sad to see Moemura change into icy and cool Homura, but I was just relieved that a decent character came out of this moe mess. Homura herself is nothing special. She acts stoic, cool and is obsessed with Madoka because she was nice to her. Whee. Then there's Madoka, the protagonist who doesn't do anything. While Madoka's lack of... doing anything gets justified, it's just no real fun to see a protagonist who does nothing but angst and stand there helplessly. At least there were those other timelines. I could say quite a lot about Kyubey, but I'll just settle for: "He's interesting and entertaining." All in all it's a good watch, provided you don't get annoyed over the poor communication and idiocy. While both are justified to an extent, it still doesn't exactly make it more pleasant to watch.
A miraculous work.
My full review here: http://cloakedman1.tumblr.com/post/51396642526/puella-magi-madoka-magica-a-personal-review Short version: The series can be tough to sit through and a bit overbearing in terms of exposition, but the writing, voice acting and art style are more than worth the time. (Feedback is most appreciated).
Down is up, thats how deep
Even knowing what Madoka Magica is, is a spoiler. All you need to know is, it's incredible and deep and I recognised that despite knowing nothing about anime or even really that 'magical girls' is a genre. I'm not going to mention details, but the more you know about this series, the more you're missing out on. Because there is something darkly desirable about falling into the rabbit black hole. Each revelation and event pulling you further in, till you pass the event horizon and time and space become distorted. There is no going back, no light, no hope escapes it's clutches and no choice but to go further and further in until the singularity is reached. There were signs from the beginning that this time was going to be different. The opening shot in the credits is of a girl crying alone on a white plain, in a frilly pink princess dress that doesn't seem to fit what's going on. And the bosses are drawn in a strange abstract slightly creepy artstyle like almost nothing else. But this story does what it does for a reason, not subversion for subversions sake, it says important things about hope and stories and life. People trying to do the right thing, sacrificing themselves for others and taking on their pain is something we do and it's hard and can break people. Even in small ways, like when someone doesn't want to do the dishes but does, without complaining, to save a friend the effort. But the friend was willing to help and doesn't know the first is sacrificing anything. The first secretly resents not being acknowledged and it flares into an argument where both feel wronged. Madoka Magica can be looked at on almost any level and work as a perfect self-contained entity, (spoilers!) it is itself. The experience of watching Madoka Magica, follows the same arc the characters in it experience, at first things appear normal, like any other magic girl anime, and then everything is shaken up and it's wonderful, it's entertaining to see children's dreams and wishfulfillment twisted and destroyed. But slowly the illusions are stripped away and it becomes real and the threat becomes real and hope begins to seep away as it all seems too much. Everything takes on different meanings, normal, magical, sinister, sad... as we learn things and look at them with new eyes and a new perspective. And that's a lot like life.
Well-Realized Concept? Yes. Deep? Ehhhhhh...
Normally, I don't find the Magical Girl genre appealing. Seeing so much unwarranted attention to easily tearable frilly dresses makes me want to stop the video and pace a bit. But, seeing the crazy hype this gets, I broke down and watched it. ART: I know the character models were made for the Bait And Switch midseason, but they may be the worst part of the art direction. However, I will give the background artist credit...when he's taking from real life. The surreal squiggles were hard to get used to, though. CHARACTER: Most of the lot was interesting...except Madoka. Why she had a Bile Fascination with this occult drek, and pretend nothing happened and go on with life (like actual adults) is beyond me. Anybody who can have a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum is not somebody you'd think is pure. As for the rest - Sayaka wasn't the bitch everybody claims she is, but in this world of Melodrama, she can get on nerves; Kyouko was the most interesting of the bunch because she seems to be the Only Sane Woman, although that's not saying much. Homura? Just too much subtext, please. THEMES: Having sacrifice and Wish Fulfillment being the main themes does not make it profound/deep. Although the extent it is milked is an achievement, mining a concept that has no real place in the world is stretching some people's nerves. ESPECIALLY the ending. Having such miracle that ties every bow neatly reminds me of the shounen spirit this has. Well, I guess the writers couldn't dare to kill Kyubey, whom appears to be the real villain of the series. Or take a page from The Butterfly Effect, and teach an applicable moral that you can't save everyone (I must become Godlike and save everybody from their facebook woes!) for the intended audience. Intended audience...oh who am I kidding? This is a series for people who grew up with Magical Girls, and teasing with Sour Grapes. Woe be to the new generation of children who take this depressing series seriously.
Madoka: The Movies
In this review of The Movies, I use episode numbers for those who have seen the TV series as reference points, so as to avoid spoiling the franchise to everybody else. If you're expecting the animation to look like that of a movie budget anime, you'll be a bit disappointed, as, unlike in higher-end productions, the animators still use tricks like Motionless Chin and even Cheeky Mouth. Once you come to accept that, you'll see that the art direction is stunningly gorgeous with backgrounds and brilliant color choices that allow for a wide spectrum of moods. The art designs of everything within the labyrinths are jaw-droppingly impressive to see on the big screen; including the animation. There are also loads of new music to be heard, many of which are arrangements of what we got to hear on TV. Especially the new Magia leaves a lasting impression. However, I certainly wouldn't recommend to see the first movie instead of the first eight episodes for following reasons:
- The new opening has some betraying spoiler visuals; that's not a good start.
- Naturally, as there are eight perfectly paced TV episodes crammed into two ours of run-time, some very important details that are discussed in the series are missing.
- The ending of ep. 8 makes for an excellent cliffhanger, but ep. 9 is not a good point to begin a movie if you take the narrative flow of later episodes into account. After the first quarter of the movie, we get to see what was shown in ep. 10, which is already a bit off. It then is followed by the TV opening Connect, which, yes, makes sense if you know the lyrics, but it's still a bit weird to see the opening halfway into the movie.
- I personally think that there were scenes in the TV show where the lack of music worked very well for drama. Some of them have music added in The Movie, which comes off as a bit overdone.
I will admit, I adored this series, and it did make me cry in the last episode. Therefore, when I went on the Internet for reviews and found so many fairly negative ones, I sort of wondered why. And yes, what many of them had to say was quite valid. One of the very frequent complaints is that the characters were unbelievable, or one-dimensional. I found this to be somewhat true; the characters sort of have two facets: their personality and their driving force. For example, Sayaka is a very justice-oriented person who is a bit of a tomboy. Her driving force is making sure that everyone is treated right, and possibly Kyousuke. Everything she does stems from those things. The other characters are very similar, and it can make them seem one-sided. However, this anime is so short, there's not really enough time to add more - if they spent more time on discussing the characters, the impact would be lost. The second frequent complaint is about the animation style of the non-witch spaces, which I think is limited because of what the anime is trying to do. The style is very common in the Magical Girl genre, which Puella Magi is ultimately trying to remind the viewer of. It does contrast quite significantly with the tone of the work, but depending on your point of view, this can either enhance the drama or detract from the seriousness. My opinion? I understand completely why this series can be bashed, and being deconstructive or reconstructive doesn't make it the God of All Series Ever, being a genuinely good show makes it great to watch. Some of the problems could have been avoided if it were longer, but I think if it were longer, it would have slowed the pace, and this is a show that relies so much on its pace for its drama that a longer run would have made the series less enjoyable. In short, I loved it. Even though the characters could have been fleshed out more, they always acted true to their personalities, which made it feel inevitable rather than stupid. The story itself was amazing and excellently paced, and don't start me on the music. I certainly enjoyed it more than any other Magical Girl anime I've ever given up watching.
Greatest anime I have ever seen.
Hail Mary, Where do I even start? I've watched a lot of anime which are world renowned and critically acclaimed and which I myself enjoy a lot. Clannad, Higurashi no naku koro ni, Haruhi Suzumiya and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Elfen Lied and Rurouni Kenshin. I'm a fan of dark and heartwarming stories and all of these anime are like in my top favorites, especially the latter 3.However, after watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I concluded that it has to be the greatest anime I have ever seen in my entire life. Everything is perfect: the characters are perfect, the pacing is perfect, the narrative is perfect, the animation, atmosphere and impact it leaves all give out a great experience. It may not have done something new as a deconstruction but a deconstruction doesn't necessarily need to have such an instant impact like Watchmen did to comic books. In fact, if Madoka was aired in 1995 instead of Evangelion, it'd have had the same impact on Japanese culture and have become a great cash cow like Evangelion is today. What Evangelion is to the super robot genre, Madoka is to the magical girl genre and I saw many similarities between the shows. Both have well fleshed out characters (even though Evangelion had the advantage of having more episodes, I still cared and cried for the characters), both contain healthy levels of mind screw (although Madoka DOESN'T need additional material to understand the PLOT) and both contain a lot of sad moments although in Madoka's case, the ending is more bittersweet than Evangelions downright depressing downer ending and you don't feel like the efforts of our characters were all for nothing. I was seriously scared not out of the freaky imagery but because I genuinely scared for what was going to happen to the characters next. Either way, even though Evangelion is still my favorite anime, Madoka is in my opinion the most well written and impactful one and is a DEFINITE must watch for any anime fan. It is sad on the level of Elfen Lied, nightmarish on Evangelion levels, heartwarming on Clannad levels and all around as well written as all of them combined.
<3 <3 <3
I don't get it. Why is Puella Magi Madoka Magica considered a deconstruction? It deconstructs the idea of generosity and childish idealism, but it's more like putting a darker twist on the given aspects of the Magical Girl genre. If someone would give me an example of more deconstructions, then that would be great. But besides that confusion, I found this anime to be cool. It wasn't too groundbreaking. It was just cool, with its beautiful visuals, awesome action scenes, and haunting soundtracks. What I looked forward to most were the witch battles and the costumes. And dayuuuuuum, the weapons- completely, utterly badass looking. And then the character designs- ADORBS. The characters were okay. The characters who I found to be the most recognizable and developed were Homu Homu and Kyouko. Their backstories were just wonderful and heartbreaking. Madoka had a pleasant personality, but it seemed so...boring. Generic. Sayaka's character had the huge potential to be explored and more developed, but...well, um...yeah. Mami's character was the same. I liked it when she died because it showcased a flaw of hers, yet...I also cried because it meant that her character would never be explored again- besides in Homu Homu's flashbacks. Actually, Mami was fleshed out more in the memories. It showed more of her flaws and her tendency to easily break apart. Kyuubey is one of the best villains ever. He actually has a good reason for his evilness, and he induces genuine FEAR in me. He also has the added bonus of not having the Evil is Deep trope played on him. the audio dissonance made him even CREEPIER. I find the premise to be one of the show's stronger assets. The Magical Girl transformation is pretty logical, and the entropy background made it have all the more sense. I just loved the justification of why the Incubators chose to torment middle-schooled girls. Puberty = WIIIITCH. There's some hitches to the plot- like, what exactly was Mami's power if she wished to be saved? Who made witches in the first place, if it wasn't Magical Girls? And why can't you just ignore the Call and avoid fighting witches? Also, in the original timeline,if Madoka was a Magical Girl one week prior to when Homura first showed up, then why wasn't she already a Magical Girl when Homura reset the timelines? But forget it. This anime's awesome.
Good, but nothing special
When I came across Madoka Magica, I figured I liked the idea enough to give it a go. So I did, and I enjoyed it. Well, let's get into the good things: The plot, although I'm not exactly sure what the plot is. Still, the Deconstruction thing is a good idea. The art is cute and all, but THE FACES. I am sorry, but they look gross. The rest is perfectly fine, but THOSE FACES... Well, with that aside, let us delve into the bad things. First of all, Homura is the only really developed character. Sayaka is often described as a tomboy, even though there was almost nothing to her, and she was just energetic. That does not make a girl a tomboy, otherwise almost every girl out there was a tomboy at one point. Heck, that means that even the girliest girl might qualify as a tomboy. After the second episode, what little personality she had was completely thrown out the window. Mami was only there for three episodes, so of course she wasn't developed much. I honestly can't see her as the maternal and kind figure she's supposed to be. She was a good character, sure, but looking back on it, I can't really describe her personality. Kyoko, on the other hand, seemed to have a fully fleshed-out personality, but then before even that could get properly developed, she suddenly became nicer. Out of nowhere. It's... jarring, really. And Madoka herself? Ten straight episodes of her crying. Nothing else. Another thing: "Oh, it's basically Neon Genesis Evangelion, but for the Magical Girl genre!" I see people claiming this on almost every website I go on that has anything Madoka-related. Let me tell you something: Mai Hime is even darker than Madoka. Madoka is not the only dark magical girl anime, like how Neon Genesis Evangelion isn't even the darkest mecha anime out there. I don't understand how it can be likened to Neon Genesis Evangelion, as this very wiki likes to claim. I mean, it isn't even that dark. It's mostly just cute. Hell, the ending was HAPPY! The one thing I have to admit is that I couldn't see where the deconstruction thing came in. People say it's because the girls die, but then, they die in Sailor Moon, and no one's labeling that a deconstruction. In short: Madoka was an enjoyable series, but not nearly as good as others claim.
... and that's pretty much it. It's a good series. It's entertaining, had good characters and an interesting premise. It will not make you cry blood for its epicness but it also wouldn't make you barf in hate. Its simply a good anime that happen's to be in the Magical Girl Genre. Nothing more, nothing less. The only problem I would have would be by the Fans of Tvtropes, who constantly use the term "Deconstruction" as if it was some meaningful, otherwordly label, but that is a normal problem with the community after all. In reality, is mostly a semi-deconstruction with a semi-reconstruction. Beside being darker and edgier (which doesn't make it a deconstruction per se) it take several tropes of the Magical Girl (price of power, the use on violence in prepubescent girls, Aliens being aliens) and what could happen if something was off. The other parts (the use of grief, the Entropy reason, the form of the witches and their origin) are in no way Deconstructions of the Genre (since this aren't an universal work within the genre) but born from the Creator Breakdown and his Nihilistic view in life. That' just sad, not meaningful or awe inspiring. I call it the "Evangelion syndrome" but that's another enchilada. Which is funny, for why I would say its the best of the work are the Fans. Seriously, just like Evangelion, it's a meh work that its made awesome for the sheer effort of its Fandom... well, to be honest, not so much like Evangelion, which are kind of confusing and a little scary in their views, not to mention more than a little preachy to other Fandoms. ... ... Mylittle Pony Friendship Is Magic Fandom. That's the one (snapping fingers). Honestly, I found more entertaining by reading the speculations, fanfic works, fan art and the insane jokes from the Wikis and Internet lore than for the work per se and that's just fantastic. I would not say its a revolutionary work, because that's only asking to be brought down a peg by serious researches and be snarked by Nerd communities around the world (Evangelion again) for pretentiousness but its a well though, hard work, amusing/scary anime that you should see to broad your view in the Magical Girl Genre. Watch it, it would be 6 hours you won't regret.
A series that leaves me divided
I went into Madoka with no expectations. A friend told me to watch it, and I knew nothing more than the meme of QB and that there were girls that could do magic. So I watched the first episode, and I was... well, confused by the shifts of tone, but interested enough to watch more. So I went through the entire series, and liked it a decent bit, though the end left a bitter taste. The animation was certainly interesting in this series. All characters are fairly simply drawn with what seems like two outlines at points. They were pretty flatly colored, with backgrounds fairly detailed by comparison. When they transform into magical girls there is anime anatomy, which annoyed me. They could have found something to cover the stuff for broadcast, but they went the lazy route. Overall it was decent, but the witch fights were artistic barf. It was as though they took Andy Warhol, told him to make any thing he wanted, and then animated that into the witch mazes. It became more artistic than bizarre about halfway through the series. Comparing the fight with the concert hall setting to the first you can see the improvement. Characters were all well given distinct personalities by the end, though it could take some time to really get them there. The girl who seems to be based off the common Rei archetype seemed very human by the end, though for a while she seemed quite generic. Other girls were similar cases. Now onto the plot *spoiler warning*. It started off with the girls observing witch fights, and took a while to find it's feet. Then another magical girl is introduced, and more is discovered about QB and the characters' interactions. It seemed organic and enjoyable enough until the end, which simply went out of control. I think someone watched End of Evangellion before writing it up. Madoka wishes for all witches to not exist in any time, she bares the despair of would-be-witches (which no longer exist?), the world is recreated, she no longer has physical form but is ok with just observing for all eternity, and though there aren't witches the magical girls still have to fight other bad guys. There is still despair resulting of wishes, and you see a main character still dies... Not much changed, she just doesn't exist. It was an enjoyable series for much of it, though the witchfights were out hard to swallow, and the ending was quite unsatisfying.
An entertaining new take on magical girls
Puella Magi Madoka Magica initially appears to be a standard Magical Girl anime, in which in exchange for a wish, the girls are able to fight against witches. However, nothing is quite how it seems, and the price of their wishes and the power to save innocent lives is far steeper than the girls imagine. The concept is quite well-executed, and presents an intriguing twist on Magical Girl anime. It defies many of the tropes associated with the genre, but on occasion, seems to be insulting said tropes (one character is killed off immediately after- and implied to be as a result of- learning that she is no longer fighting alone). Some of the deconstruction is partly due to how being a magical girl is set up in this series' universe. The characters are quite likable and human. They are capable of kindness, but also of making mistakes or decisions for the wrong reasons, which tends to have a considerable cost to themselves and those around them. While they are less rational than many of the similarly-aged protagonists of other anime, and some of their decisions can be quite frustrating to watch when simpler and more reasonable alternatives exist, this arguably makes them more realistic. In that sense, the main character herself, while driving the plot, is ineffectual for most of the series, so people hoping for a more successful or proactive heroine may be disappointed. The witches have interesting designs, albeit somewhat jarring at first compared to the animation style of the rest of the series. Unfortunately, the battles are often fairly one-sided, mostly for the girls and, in a few rare cases, for the witches, which limits the suspense. It might have been nice to see more variety in the magical girls' powers, although Homura put her ability to stop time to effective and creative use, making her fights fun to watch. The plot of the show is initially fairly innocuous, but quickly becomes very dark and people die. Things frequently get worse for long stretches of time without any positive developments. Some of those developments could have been averted by some characters making better decisions, including being more open (although one character is trying to cover a hidden agenda), though, which can draw the ire of viewers. In general, Madoka Magica is well worth viewing for those willing to go for a darker and less conventional approach to magical girls.
Aw...what a cute slice of OH GOD HOLD ME
I am not gonna lie; this is a favorite series of mine. Hell, I have watched it repeatedly, and not just because I'm writing MMVP. First thing's first is the plot. It's brilliantly crafted, and it surprises with every episode. It keeps some of its secrets under wraps, revealing them slowly. There are a whole bunch of hints dropped along the way, but they're so well-hidden that you don't notice them until you rewatch the series. You see those little hints of Homura's past self in her every movement. You can tell that she's crying inside with each expression. You can see Mami's fear of loneliness, and there are numerous hints as to the fate of a magical girl. That is not to say that Fridge Brilliance is all that there is to this series. Studio SHAFT has granted a deranged touch to this series that most studios cannot give; insanity. The witches seemed to clash with the sterile environments. The stark, futuristic streets, when compared to the chaotic clutter of a witch's barrier, seem to enforce an additional misery, an additional amount of stark despair onto the premise. It was a brilliant move on Shinbo's part, and it enhances Urobuchi's storytelling. Finally, there are the characters. Now, a series that has a good plot yet unlikeable characters is not worth watching. Thankfully, that's not the case. This series will make you cry. I don't give a shit who you are. It will make you cry. You will care about this group of well-thought-out, three-dimensional characters. Even my least favorite, Madoka, is an interesting character in her own right, and she's only my least favorite because everyone else is so damn good. Especially Homura. Poor, poor Sayaka...and poor, poor Kyouko... That isn't to say that the series is perfect. Kyouko's characterization seemed to be a little off by the end; she suddenly wanted to save Sayaka. Granted, there was a reason for it, and she was given several weeks to change, but it seemed rather odd. Not to mention the fact that Kyubey would very quickly fail physics, and that Mami lost her head a little oddly in T3, though the former may have been QB dumbing things down for Madoka, and Mami being a lot less stable than we realize, but I digress. It's still damn good. Watch it.
Let me start off by saying that the title character "Madoka" could have been a Mary Sue in the wrong hands. However, she avoided this by having flaws, and by acting like your average middle school girl. The other characters also felt "real" to me, from Madoka's mother to her best friend. The series is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, where the magical girls fight monsters known as witches. It (almost) comes across as trolling at times. However, I found it to be an enjoyable ride, and I loved knowing that the tables could turn at any second, and that no one really knew what was going to happen. We guessed and made theories, but the series itself wasn't too predictable, and was full of surprises. The series takes a step outside of the norm and the "comfort zone" that most anime seem stuck in. This anime takes risks by surprising viewers and destroying cuties left and right. Unlike most anime, there is not really a "main villain" that is the cause of all the destruction. The main conflict is with the "contract"; though it isn't entirely malevolent, it is still unfortunate. This anime is about change. The ending might be a cliche step back into the comfort zone, but that didn't stop tears from being shed. It also doesn't come out of nowhere; the cliche ending is perhaps the only thing the girls could have done to save their world. There are also stories outside (or inside) the main story. The symbolism and bilingual bonuses found within various scenes give clues as to the back stories of the witches. You do not need to look up the meanings of these bonuses to enjoy the story, but they do add depth to it, almost making the series seem longer than it really is. The animation is mostly impressive, and the art style switches found within the witch's barriers give off a beautifully surreal feeling. There are plenty of off-model shots to be found, however. TL;DR version: I highly recommend this anime for the characters, depth and the thoughts it provokes. This anime is about change, and growing up to accept responsibility, with Madoka especially. It's short and sweet.
Enthralling Magical Girl/Horror series
I came into this series after reading a lot of dramatic reviews for it, and while I was more or less on the fence, I stuck with it and by the fourth episode, I was hooked. The series is extremely dark and dreary, not because it's a deconstruction(I could make a case for it being just as much of a reconstruction), but because it's a horror story. You could write an entire book on the symbolism, the deconstructive aspects, the reconstructive ones, the parallels to Faust, and all that fun stuff, but even without any of that, at its heart, what we have is a legitimately enthralling horror story about girls being lured into a dark, deadly game from which death is the most merciful escape. It doesn't deconstruct the genre, but rather takes the defining points and creates an entirely new premise out of them. The characters are all as likable as they are distinct, the monsters are horrifying, and the art and action are breathtakingly beautiful. Even knowing beforehand what was going to happen, the story never let go of me, and I followed it eagerly, actually becoming depressed that it was over. The series did a great job of making me care for these characters and I desperately wanted to know what would become of them. It paints the game as hopeless, but always keeps a window open, letting us wonder, hope, that there might be a way out. Rather than succumb to Darkness Induced Audience Apathy, it made all the characters sympathetic, and wrenched my heart as they met their various fates, both good and bad. I can attest that nothing I have ever read or viewed has ever, by its own merits, made me cry as hard as I did when I finished this series. While this series might take a certain taste to truly appreciate, it remains enthralling and heartwrenching even beneath the layers upon layers of symbolism, speculation and narrative analysis.