Hey guys. I know I haven’t posted in ages, but here I am again. I won’t explain why I haven’t posted, and unfortunately, I can’t promise how much I’ll post after this. Though it would be nice if I could post every day. Would be really nice if, while I’m in India, I could drag myself to the keyboard every day. Sooo, stay tuned?
Well, lately I’ve been reading a lot of random anime and watching a lot of random manga. Oh wait…. Either way, I suppose all of them are worth writing about, but one of them really caught my interest. As in, after I was done, I was so impressed that I had to go and post about this immediately. Yes indeed, in the wasteland of high-adventure shounen and stupid school-romance shoujo series, one stands out as a gem of otaku culture.
Alright, let’s do this.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica. After I saw/read this series, my head was spinning, in a whirlpool of grimdark, emotion, awesome, and epic. Thus, I had to go and look this up online, searching for second opinions. A lot of people seem to relate this series to other anime series notable for being dark and deep. Namely, it deconstructs the magical girl genre like Bokurano does for the mecha genre, puts a dark spin on it like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Princess Tutu (the latter of which I am currently halfway through, and may write about later,) and ends like Serial Experiments Lain and Neon Genesis Evangelion (the latter of which I have watched a few episodes of, and thanks to mega online spoilers about the ending, am hesitant about picking up again.)
But enough about other series, for this thing is in a class of its own. The story features a girl named Kaname Madoka. 14 years old and in the most emotional period of a girl’s life. The perfect time to become a mahou shoujo- a magical girl. These super-powered female beings are first revealed when she and her best friend Sayaka Miki encounter two, Tomoe Mami and Homura Akemi, both of whom risk their lives every day to fight witches- twisted arcane beings born from despair and existing to spread curses and suffering. Soon after they are rescued by Mami from one such witch, which like all of its kind, dwells in a labyrinth made up of surreal papercut images, she and Kyubey, the small, furry creature that gave her her powers, invite the two to form a contract. In this contract, Kyubey will grant each of them one wish. In return, however, they must take the path of the mahou shoujo, and fight evil by moonlight and daylight alike. A small price to pay, right? After all, getting one wish of any kind and becoming a magical girl? What japanese schoolgirl (racist moment) wouldn’t jump on that opportunity? At first glance, Madoka Magica truly seems like the most typical magical girl series out there. After all, a girl and her friends learning about an evil force in the world, meeting a cute furry animal who invites them to become superheroines to fight it… haven’t we seen this before, somewhere….? Yeah, I really hated Sailor Moon. Thankfully, this isn’t it. Not even close.
As it turns out, there is are some big catches in becoming a mahou shoujo, ones great enough to bring Homura to attempt heavily discourage Madoka and Sayaka from making the contract throughout the series. First off, one must always be careful what one wishes for. In fact, one should probably refrain from messing with reality in the first place, since it may not always bring one happiness, but quite often the exact opposite. And being a mahou shoujo isn’t as glamorous of a job as one might expect. Each mahou shoujo is given a “soul gem,” a faberge egg-like object that represents the contract. As time passes, it constantly grows darker, and mahou shoujo must repeatedly purify it with “grief seeds,” the essences of witches, lest they meet a gruesome fate. This leads to much competition between mahou shoujo as they struggle to “harvest” witches for their seeds, overall living a self-admitted selfish life, rather than being the bringers of justice they appear to be. And are witches really the only sinister force out there?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is basically Sailor Moon or Tokyo Mew Mew with a generous touch of Faust. It takes the general tropes of these moe superhero anime and manga series and gives it a sinister edge. Granted, it’s not the first to do something like that, but fortunately, the series itself is pretty good too. The art and aesthetics are superb, using bright, flashy, surreal visuals to put off a tense, dramatic atmosphere, though this is obviously better in the anime, which also includes an excellent soundtrack to seal the deal. And the story… ohh, the story. The number of plot twists and turns, which increases quadratically as the story progresses, is maddening, and the ending was one that, ignoring the plot holes here and there, was very well crafted and encouraged viewers to think hard about it and interpret it themselves, not to mention may have been the epitome of all that is epic. Some, however, may be disappointed that it isn’t character driven enough, instead focusing on universal issues and the backstories of the characters instead of their actions. But what really makes Madoka Magica truly shine is how emotional it is. Feelings themselves are actually a key element of this series, since the level of them felt by teenage girls makes them perfect candidates to becoming these magical beings. But what I felt while viewing this… it started out with plenty of heroically defiant actions and sacrifices, fit for an anime of any demographic. But after episode/chapter 3, it seemed to descend into a vortex of intense despair and anguish, an emotional turn that also proves to be a key story element eventually. By the time I was done, I was completely shaken. Few animes are able to do this. Naruto most certainly failed repeatedly.
Don’t let the cover fool you. You will almost never see Madoka in the displayed costume in the entire series. But more importantly, THIS IS NOT A SERIES FOR CHILDREN! Sailor Moon definitely had its dark, atmospheric moments, but at its heart, it was a children’s show/comic, with bad guys appearing one by one, and one by one getting vaporized by the good guys, with no room for thinking or interpretation. This one, however, should be avoided by children who are easily scared, and don’t have the mental capability to process the concepts. Nevertheless, Madoka Magica is a superb series that I would reccomend to any older anime or manga enthusiast, especially those who are already familiar with the magical girl genre. Of course, some may not enjoy the dark aspects of this series, and may instead prefer more upbeat Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat kinds of comics. Nevertheless, why not give it a try? And as I may have said before, watch the anime if you can, instead of reading the manga.
There you have it. My first post in countless months. Like I said, I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can do tomorrow. The next anime I might seriously watch might be Clannad After Story. It’s a nice slice-of-life drama with plenty of emotional and surreal content. I’ve already watched several episodes, but thanks to the web have gotten access to a couple of major spoilers. Still, I think it’s worth watching just for the atmosphere. Then again, maybe I should try something a bit lighter, after this little emotional bombshell of a series. Either way, stay tuned!