Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ryan Reviews: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika (Polished)

The girls of Madoka Magica
Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica is a 12-episode anime series produced by Shaft and Aniplex which aired on January 6th, 2011 and finished its run on April 22nd, 2011. It is directed by famed Akiyuki Shinbo and the script is spearheaded by Gen Urobuchi . Because of their presence, the show had gained a bit of hype before its airing. Akiyuki Shinbo is well known for his use of surreal images and unique storytelling style. Character designs are done by Ume Aoki, who was also the character designer for Hidamari Sketch.

This review is SPOILER FREE. Hit the jump to read the review.

Madoka Kaname is a shy and gentle 8th grader who loves her family and friends. Madoka Kaname wakes up from a strange dream in which a young girl was fighting a large, black monster. The young girl fought with strange powers as she flew through the sky. The monster had the upper hand, and Madoka felt unable to help the magical girl fighting in the sky. She saw a smaller creature, named Kyubey, next to her and asked Madoka if she would like to help the girl by becoming a magical girl herself. Madoka, however, did not get the chance to answer before waking up.

Madoka heads to school the following day, and finds that the magical girl is Akemi Homura, a new transfer student at her school. In a continuance of events related to her dreams, she reencounters the small creature, Kyubey, being attacked by Homura much later that day. Madoka and her friend Sayaka try to save Kyubey but find themselves transported to a place filled with strange, fuzzy ball creatures with mustaches and chains. They are almost attacked by an unknown force but saved by another mysterious girl named Mami Tomoe donning an odd outfit and using magical powers. Tomoe explains that she saved them from a “witch” . Magical girls in this universe form contracts with Kyubey and battle the witches who are responsible for misery and despair. In exchange for making a contract with Kyubey, you magical girls are also granted one wish of your their choosing.

It seems not all magical girls would prefer to work together to take down their common foe. Homura remains cold and distant to Mami, wants to kill Kyubey, and prevent Madoka from forming a magical contract with him. In the mean time, Madoka and Sayaka contemplate Kyubey’s offer. Will they choose to fight with Mami and sign over their souls for one wish, or will they try to go back to their normal lives?

Madoka Magica took a fresh turn with the world of magical girls, challenging the traditional tropes and tones of its genre. A normal magical girl show has lighthearted, simple plots with some comedy and bits of melodrama. The viewers are pulled in, asking themselves the same questions Madoka and her friends are asked. “What is the value of your life? What purpose does it serve? Would you throw it all away for one wish?” Madoka Magica conveys a darker world, where characters are faced with serious consequences for their actions, like death and betrayal.

The pacing is excellent, with every development hitting at just the right moment. A great use of foreshadowing puts the viewer in anticipation for the coming action. Part of the fun comes in guessing the twists and turns before they happen. These spice up key moments, whether you saw them coming or not. The pieces were all there right from the beginning. This also makes Madoka Magica re-watchable in the way that on your second viewing, you may understand and see things you did not the first time.

The soundtrack is another fine addition. It supplies and adds an ominous mood and atmosphere, going well with the theme of the scenes where applied.The backdrops and scenery also give a unique flair to the visuals, a la shinbo style.These elements make for a dark, suspenseful, and exciting environment.

Madoka Magica does have its weakpoints. At times, certain characters are hard to get into when they’re either being too whiny or irksome. During the TV run, there were also a number of animation errors that detract from the viewing experience, but these are set to be cleaned up during the DVD/BD release.

Overall, Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica is a well-planned out, suspenseful, and thrilling show. It is a must watch for any and all fans of anime. Sadly, Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica has not been licensed yet as of this post. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

No comments: