Puella Magi Madoka Magica ReviewJenny Wagner
Make a contract, and become a Puella Magi!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a magical girl anime produced by Shaft and Aniplex. It was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo who also directed Dance of the Vampire Bud, Pani Poni Dash! and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack was done by Yuki Kajiura. She's also done the soundtracks to .hack//Sign, Tsubasa Chronicle and Noir.
Madoka Kaname is a normal 14 year old who comes from a loving family, and has wonderful friends. She is generaly happy, but does not see herself as someone with any talents or speical qualities. Her world starts to change when one night she dreams of a girl with black hair fighting an unknown enemy being watched by a white rabbit-cat like creature. Madoka is shocked the next day at school, the girl in her dream appears as a new student named Homura Akemi.
Madoka soon finds herself tangled up in the world of the magical girls. Adolescent girls are able to be transformed into powerful fighters with the help of the white rabbit-cat, Kyuube. Girls are granted one wish by Kyuube and in exchange must fight creatures who come from despair, the witchs. Not all magical girls are the same, they each have diffrent powers and weapons. They are transformed from their normal state with a soul egg, which they must keep "clean" by defeating witchs.
At first the series seems like the normal magic girl formula, but around episode three it starts down a twisted, darker path. Many anime fans grew up with shows such as Card Captor Sakura, which were happy and upbeat. At the end of the episode everything was ok. That is not the case with Madoka Magica. Take the cute critter that normally helps the main girl in most magic girls series. In shows like Sailor Moon, useful cats follow the heroines, endangering their own lives to support the girls. In Madoka, Kyuube seems helpful at first, but we soon realize he's in this for his own personal gain. Arguments still debate if he is an evil creature, or just chaotic neutral.
The art style is very different at times from normal Japanese animation. The witches, their domain and the minons' art is done with a cut-out style of animation. It creates an unsettling tone, making the enemies feel like they were never meant to be a part of this world. The normal animation was updated for the DVD release since the original TV release had some pretty disappointing artwork.
Overall, this series has a lot to offer. It may be a little slow to get in to, but by episode three it becomes very engrossing. The soundtrack highlights the feelings of happiness, hope and later despair very well. The cut out animation intertwined with normal anime-style art is creepy and gives the sense of dread. The Japanese voice cast does an exceptional job. The series has also been dubbed into English and currently being released by Aniplex of America in 3 sets on DVD, Blu-ray and limited edition combo of the two.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.