Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica has been hailed as this generation’s Evangelion when it comes to “pivotal genre-changing” anime.  The 2011 anime, produced by the animation studio SHAFT, has since then still continued to impress reviewers, including myself, with even feature films of the series releasing in theaters (Japan and select US) this year.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica follows 14 year-old Kaname Madoka, along with her friend, Miki Sayaka, as they uncover a secret world that’s been around them since ages past when they meet an adorable cat-rabbit-looking creature, named “Kyuubey.”  He offers the girls any wish they please in exchange that they become a magical girl to fight supernatural beings known as “Witches.”  Kyuubey is adamant about making a contract with Madoka, as he can sense a strong amount of dormant power within her.  The girls are hesitant to become magical girls, until they meet Tomoe Mami, a very kind-hearted magical girl who seeks to advise and mentor Madoka and Sayaka before they make such a big choice.  Now, this sounds just about right for a Magical Girl series.

Meanwhile, a transfer student, by the name of Akemi Homura,  continuously interferes with Kyuubey’s efforts to make Madoka a magical girl.  She claims falsehood behind Kyuubey’s words.  For what reason does she not want Madoka to become a magical girl?  Drama ensues.

For the sake of spoilers, I’d rather not enter more into the story.

Story: 9/10

The story overall, without giving away too much, is a really interesting take on the Magical Girl genre.  Rarely do we ever see the heroine question that she become a hero without being forced into the role.  Within 12 episodes, you are taken along an adventure that questions right and wrong, even if given unimaginable power.

Art/Animation: 8/10

Some may recognize the character style by Aoki Ume of Hidamari Sketch fame.  It’s really a distinct style that certainly drew me in.  Additionally, the overall art style that accompany the Witches is very dark and ominous.  It may not be for everyone, but can be easily bypassed when you’re enjoying the events as they transpire.

SHAFT is often known for some lazy animation practices.  While anime is commonly static in many scenes, SHAFT does this in a number of their series, Madoka Magica included.  However, when it came to battle scenes they certainly put their budget in.  Plus, many of the design choices were changed in the release of the DVD/BD release; including decorating an entire room that was earlier empty in the TV broadcast.

Sound: 9/10

The main composer Kajiura Yuki (.hack//SIGN, My-HiME) did a stunning job with compiling a soundtrack to fit this series.  All of the songs utilize a sense of majestic holiness and unholiness with lyrics in latin, including a rendition of Ave Maria.  The OST can be found on Youtube.  The Opening theme, “Connect” by ClariS, is deceivingly upbeat for the series.  Not that it is a bad thing.  Meanwhile, the ending theme, “Magia” by Kalafina, is the complete opposite.  A good choice, considering the series overall balances between the happy and grim.

So, should you check this out?

Verdict:

Pros:

– Very different story direction of series, despite being about magical girls.

– Pacing of storytelling never feels rushed as you take in the information on a “need-to-know” basis.

Cons:

– Cutesy art style of characters may be a turn-off.

– Magical girls  just might not be your thing.

English Trailer:

You can catch subbed episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica on Hulu.  Additionally, the DVD & BD releases from AniplexUSA are available now.

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