Is it weird that – as a twenty year old male that grew up watching things like “Dragon Ball Z” – I never had an interest in “Magical Girl-type” Anime series’? I never used to think I was the odd one out, that is, until “Madoka Magica” came along. The first time I ever laid eyes upon this series was, of course, on Tumblr. As a younger man, I was scrolling through my feed and noticed an abundance of screenshots and gifs of this strange “Magical Girl” series accompanied by ridiculous explanations about just how “deep” and “intelligent” the series is. I immediately disregarded the entire series even though it was apparent that many other young males fell for it hook, line and sinker. It just wasn’t for me: It had cute girls wearing complex-looking dresses who hung around with a fox-like creature playing host to a perpetual smile. It was not my speed at all and now, a little older, I have to say…I still had no interest in watching this series but the lovely people over at Madman Entertainment provided us with the limited edition boxset of the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” movies and I just so happened to be the one to take it on. Thankfully, I’ve watched a lot of Anime series I thought were going to be bad but were actually very good between when I first saw images of this series and now which meant I mentally prepared myself for something possibly good. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Madoka Kaname is an eighth-grader who leads a peaceful, fun-filled life as a student, surrounded by her beloved family and her best friends. One day, a transfer student named Homura Akemi arrives in Madoka’s class. She is a dark-haired beauty with a somewhat mysterious disposition. Soon after meeting Madoka for the first time, Homura goes on to issue Madoka a strange warning. Madoka also meets Kyubey, a mysterious looking white creature. He says, “Make a contract with me and become a magical girl!” To make any wish come true – Madoka didn’t know the meaning of this miracle nor what its cost may prove to be. An impending loss triggers a drastic change in her destiny…– Madman Entertainment
The “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” movies have an interesting but ultimately detrimental story progression. At first, it seems like a very intelligent series that broke the mold upon conception. Thoughts like that stick with you for most of the film duo but, by the end, you’re left doubting yourself as both an Anime-watcher and a critic. The story starts off in a very basic fashion, in fact, it even seems overly generic. If you can be “overly” generic. It then evolves into something more than just the average. You’re introduced to more characters, deeper plot points, a little explanation regarding just what it is that’s going on and you’re presented with a look into the psyche of these young girls having to deal with such burden. Then the second movie comes along and it totally blew me out of the water. With talks of higher science fiction elements like time travel, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by what the movie has to offer and, for the most part, I was very much intrigued. I was also enjoying myself. The writing got a great deal better and it practically forced me to become more invested in the plight of these characters…which unfortunately worked against the movie when they went just a little too far with story explanation. The second movie ends in quite a convoluted way which actually rocks the overall integrity of a set of films that were, up until that point, on the borderline of perfection. What shook the foundation of the story was the lack of care the creators of the series had in regards to the world in which they created. Explanations began to not make sense, plot points began to seem as though they’ve been stretched too thin and it ends with a bombshell that didn’t leave me in shock nor awe, it instead left me in disappointment.
What didn’t leave me disheartened was that of the movies’ visuals. Developed by one of my very favorite Japanese animation studios, Shaft, the films featured an amazing artistic style and direction. Each and every single one of the characters were fundamentally designed to appeal to a younger girl audience. This much I can say without hesitation but I feel confident that it was also done for a very important reason. Most, if not all, characters have exaggerated features, pumpkin-like heads, colourful hair and cute clothing. This, essentially, are the elements that make up the formula for old-school “Magical Girl” designs and they word brilliantly to force you into a state of pseudo-comfort. The way these characters are animated also resemble that of older series’ but they’re backed up by some of the most beautiful environmental designs I’ve ever seen! The “Madoka Magica” films give off a great sense of “place” and use dynamic colour to do so much more than simply fill what would be a blank image. Shaft being Shaft, there are scenes of utter chaos! Sequences made up of everything BUT traditional animation styles seem to rule the movies which works out wonderfully thanks to Shaft having mastered that style of Anime-making. There’s never a dull visual moment in the films and even when there are actually dull moments, it’s because that’s what you’re meant to be seeing. Everything has its place and you almost instantly know that as soon as you begin watching.
The most amazing thing to me auditorally about these two movies were just how good the voice cast was. Never have I ever been impressed with the voice talents in movies like this but, then again, there really aren’t movies like this are there? I felt as though each and every actor perfectly portrayed the meandering attitudes of these young girls which can’t be an easy task at all seeing as they’re constantly in an out of heavy depression and anxiety. Apart from the characters who only have materialistic words to speak, most of them were quite likable and I think it was due to their voice actors because I couldn’t imagine myself liking the types of characters I did in other movies or series’. Also bringing me quite a high level of joy was the soundtrack to the movies. The soundtrack was made up of all different genres; light rock, orchestral, more contemporary styles, it was all there and it all fit perfectly. The placement of tracks during critical times and, in fact, the lack of music during similar scenes both worked to elevate the already grand emotion of the movies.
The limited edition boxset release itself is an absolutely fantastic package because it simply brings both movies together, there’s nothing better. It comes with a small artbook that shows a lot fo the promotional images used for the series during pre-release, each of which have been illustrated by the official team members of the series. What’s a little bit upsetting as that the on-disc extras are actually pretty bare bones and don’t actually feature much outside of trailers for other Madman Entertainment series’ and the textless song sequences. I imagined there would be a great deal more but it looks as though I was wrong. The release comes with a very nice looking box for the two movies that depicts the character Madoka holding the world. It’s not only nice imagery that perfectly outlines the series but it’s also a great looking illustration.
Thing is, at the end of it all, I still really enjoyed the movies. Gen Urobuchi is one of my favorite Japanese writers of all times and I can’t exactly say he entirely misses the mark with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” it is just that, for some reason, elements of the story were chosen to be explained over others that I found would have been more of an asset to it than anything else. The movies both features some of the greatest visuals I’ve ever seen, a brilliant voice cast who all hit their marks perfectly, and a set characters that are actually quite likable and somewhat relatable. It’s a sad story with – depending on how you look at it – a happy ending that goes so far over the top you almost lose sight of just what it is that you are watching. Fact is; it still tells one hell of an interesting story, plot holes or otherwise. A fan of tragedy will absolutely be a fan of the “Madoka Magica” movies because it has that in spades. If you enjoy seeing the mental deterioration of young girls trying to live a life of heroism…you’re in for one hell of a good time.
Become a “Magical Girl” by heading to Madman Entertainment’s online store and purchasing the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” movies by Clicking Here.