Genre: Drama, Magical Girl, Psychological, Thriller
Release: S1 (2011), Movies (2012-2014)
Hearing news that Yuki Kajiura and her Kalafina is behind the music of yet another anime, of course I had to see it. Their masterful songs from Kara No Kyoukai (among many others) still give me the goosebumps, after all. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, also called Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika, definitely screams the Magical Girl genre aimed for young girls- though most people who have seen it say otherwise. After going over some reviews and then actually watching the series myself, I was surprised on how dark, morbid and psychological things could get here. Definitely not for kids.
Not an avid fan of magical girls, I still gave it a shot for being seemingly unique. Watching the first episode already sucked me in, apparently, as it contradicted what I was initially expecting. Instead of a bubbly girly intro with cuddly pets and blooming flowers, there was this eerie setting where a dark-haired girl was fighting a weird object thingy in the sky that kept throwing concrete at her. Kalafina’s ‘Magia’ would be playing all the while in the background- which is totally awesome.
The usual home and school setting would follow to introduce the main character, Madoka Kaname, who dreamt the scene earlier on. It appears that the the dark-haired girl fighting in her dream was about to join her class as an exchange student named Akemi Homura. This baffled her as Akemi kept staring at her in a very strange manner while at class.
The series does have its many teeny girl-talk scenes, as the protagonist is a high-schooler with dreams, after all– and let’s not forget that technically, this is still a magical girl anime. Ironically though, such scenes would serve as a crucial catalyst for the story’s development to its dark, gloomy and obscure state later on.
Spoiler-free synopsis from Wikipedia:
“There exist strange creatures who have the power to grant one wish to a chosen girl. However, in exchange, that girl must then become a Puella Magi, a girl with magical powers, and fight against witches, evil creatures born from darkness and are responsible for murders and suicides.
In the city of Mitakihara, a schoolgirl named Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki are approached by a familiar named Kyubey, who offers to grant them each one wish in return for making them Puella Magi. Another Puella Magi named Homura Akemi tries to prevent Madoka from making such a deal, while Kyubey urges Madoka by telling her she will become the most powerful Puella Magi.
Unlike the glamorous notions of becoming a magical girl, the Puella Magi find themselves dealing with death, isolation, the value of their wishes, and existential crises. Madoka, following her Puella Magi friends, soon sees the darker side of being a Puella Magi, and despite knowing the truth of the existence of the Puella Magi, still questions if she should become a Puella Magi too.”
What’s pretty unique in this anime is when our heroes charge to the Barriers of Witches. After entering a magical door, their surroundings would become abstract-ish and be filled with bizarre images and beings: a maze of the uncanny. They would have to go pass through the maze to meet the life-consuming witches and defeat it.
Honestly, the first time I saw the first witch boss, I was like “What in the friggin’ hell is that!?” A gooey swamp head of roses with a butterfly wing and furniture attached to it? At least that’s what I was able to come up with. It’s quite outlandish! Weirdly enough, the feeling of seeing something as weird as this was somewhat refreshing so it wasn’t weird in an appalling sense. One would also be curious on how a fight with this monster will turn out.
The story would focus on our heroines finding and hunting down the witches (and getting their Grief Seeds), entering their barriers, going through the maze, then battling and defeating them. So other than the boring real world, we will often find ourselves in the mysterious lairs of these ‘witches‘.
It is revealed in the 3rd episode (SPOILER ALERT!) that Mami was suffering from what the Puella Magi life brought her- “she’s just being cool by pushing herself too hard, even when she’s afraid of having a hard time she can’t talk to anyone, and all she can do is cry by herself.” This is when our protagonist Madoka decides to always be by Mami’s side when she became a Puella Magi. This gave Mami hope to get another chance in being happy. But then…
After that cheesy dialogue of love, peace and friendship, Mami’s head gets decapitated by the witch they were trying to hunt. I was like…WOW. This scene pretty much sealed the deal that I was going to see this show to the end. And I’m glad I did. The story would get even darker, depressing and psychological later on. If that’s your kind of thing, then this is definitely a must-watch!