At this point, who hasn’t heard of this show right? It became a pretty popular title back in the day and I’m sure that the fanbase is still strong right now. I had heard of the show and knew that it was supposed to have been very different from the average magical girl title because there were some dark twists. This did worry me to an extent especially when I saw one of the big names behind the show, but Madoka Magica actually ended up being a fantastic show and one of the greatest anime of all time. It’s not something that I had expected (To put it mildly) but it just goes to show that any show has the potential to be great if it plays its cards right. The show starts off with a bang and never lets up!
Madoka wakes up one day to witness the end of the world as a magical girl fights against a powerful deity. The girl appears to be losing and a creature asks Madoka if she wants to help change this fate by becoming a magical girl. Madoka thinks long and hard about this and then wakes up from her dream. Was it really a dream though? In the real world, she has had a perfect life. She never lies or does anything wrong and is essentially as good a person as one can be. The girl from her dream appears one day along with the creature and the Witches start appearing. Magical Girls must hunt and destroy the Witches to keep people safe and the creature is really determined for Madoka to become a magical girl although everyone else tries to stop Madoka from making such a decision. What could possibly be wrong with becoming a magical girl?
I’ve mentioned in the past that a few shows have managed to really feel like movie quality titles with a great soundtrack, writing, and animation staff. Unfortunately, the three shows that pulled this off all ended up being pretty bad by the end. (Attack on Titan, Fate/Zero, and Sword Art Online) Aside from those three shows I can’t say that any other title has ever had that big budget movie effect for me. Even shows that I love like Yugioh GX and Digimon Data Squad while they are amazing, still felt like classic anime and not necessarily that mainstream theater effect. Well, now I can finally say that I’ve found a great show which pulled it off. If you can imagine how I enjoyed the overall development of the previously mentioned shows when they didn’t end up turning out well, you can imagine just how great this was for such a good show.
First of all, Madoka Magica has the greatest opening in anime history. Not the opening in terms of music, but the opening scene. Within the first 2 minutes, the world is already on the brink of destruction and we see a big budget fight between a deity and a magical girl. I have to quickly pat myself on the back here as I knew that the magical girl in that scene would be my favorite character in the series immediately. One glance at her and I knew that this was a character who wasn’t going to mess around and who would be a deadly fighter. I’m glad to say that my instincts paid off and she was definitely a shining point of the show although the writing was so good that virtually every single character was great so she did have some steep competition. (Never a doubt though)
When your first scene is that epic, you know that the show is going to go places. Seriously, name a better opening scene to an anime. There is none and I doubt that there will ever be a better one although it is always possible. (Like an opening scene to a new Megaman EXE show where Bass is fighting someone with a high budget. That would be amazing) Immediately you can tell that this isn’t going to be the next Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon’s a fun show, but this one destroys it in an instant. This show is a better Sailor Moon than Sailor Moon, a better Fate/Zero than Fate/Zero and a better Serial Experiments Lain than Serial Experiments Lain.
Why did I pick those three shows in particular? Sailor Moon is self explanatory as they are both magical girl shows where the heroes fight villains with their powers. Fate/Zero tries to be really deep and philosophical with a lot of dark themes like Madoka, but Madoka pulls them all off so much better without going overboard. Finally, Madoka can also be very abstract at times like Lain, but it’s far more interesting. You could make a case for Madoka being the greatest anime of all time, but Yugioh GX still holds that honor. However, it’s impressive in and of itself that Madoka could be so great in only 12 episodes while GX had 180. If GX had ended after the first 12 episodes, it’s safe to say that Madoka would win. No other 12 episode start to a series can match up to this title.
I’ll start to actually discuss the show and the characters in a minute, but let’s cover the rest of the technical information. The soundtrack is incredible and easily a 10/10 for the show. The opening theme song is the only weak part and the actual music is still really good. The images just aren’t that exciting and while that is the point, I could do without the metaphysical Madoka meeting herself as that was a little on the fanservicey side even if it was all meta, which I am slightly more lenient with. It’s still not really needed. Beyond that, look to the ending theme as it is one of the greatest pieces of music in all of anime. It’s a great opera styled theme that is similar to what you would hear in Tsubasa and it really sets the tone for the battles. There are also many more opera themes as well as fight themes, which makes for a very epic soundtrack. It doesn’t get much better than this and the end theme will probably be my favorite theme to listen to for the next year or so until I find another really cool theme. I never keep a favorite theme forever due to a mix of hearing it extremely often so that I am ready for a new theme and the fact that there are always new themes to listen too.
As you would expect, the writing is impeccable and the series wouldn’t have been able to have been as thought provoking or interesting if the writing was not as good. The characters are all typically polite or politely rude (Think of it as being passively aggressive in their manner of speaking) so they don’t resort to swearing. The logical loops and deep thinking will make you think as well and you’ll have to choose a side many times since the characters disagree with each other. It’s all handled very well and you will definitely be engaged at all times.
There is only one moment when the writing falters and it is to make a point about how the Earth may not be worth saving. Several characters come to this conclusion and I’ll go into that more in a moment as some of the points are fairly valid. Still, you should SKIP THE SCENE. It’s really the only bad scene in the entire anime and while it is trying to prove a point, you can still skip it and you won’t miss much. Just have the remote ready when Madoka’s friend Sayaka is on the train and you hear two guys talking. They essentially try to cram in as many swear words as possible in that minute and it’s a pretty terrible scene. They are cut off before they can say that dreaded f word and they presumably don’t live through the experience, but you don’t need to hear their dialogue. They’re just being generally gruesome and skipping the scene will allow you to enjoy the episode a lot more. It’s only about a minute or two so you seriously aren’t missing anything.
The animation can be a little hit or miss depending on what style you prefer While the characters are not in combat, the animation can be a little abstract and the characters always have lines in their eyes. It’s odd and the characters feel like they are in a sketch half the time, but I quickly grew to enjoy the style. It’s not something that will fit with all titles, but this one pulled it off. I wouldn’t call the animation amazing though as it is simply good. However, once the fights starts, the animation quickly rises up to epic levels of awesomeness. I would call the animation amazing during the battle scenes. They are very fast paced and trying to keep up with the action is one of the fun parts about watching the show. The heroes seem to have limitless variations on how they can use their abilities, which fits the abstract style. Their abilities are certainly great and I’ll talk about their powers more later as the series is definitely fairly high tier.
The abstract scenes are always fairly interesting. Usually, it’s just a bunch of unrelated images that hit the screen and if there’s some kind of meaning to them, you likely won’t get it. It does make for a lot of very interesting backgrounds and minions though. Everything just looks so crazy and insane that you’ll feel like it’s all in some kind of acid dream. If handled poorly, this could have been bad, but it’s very interesting to see what the animators can think of. It’s not overdone and it does show how chaotic the Witches are. Between the creepy laughs and the cotton balls with mustaches, there is always something to capture your attention.
Madoka is the main character of the show and she’s certainly the most innocent of the bunch. She’s essentially led a perfect life as she has never lied or really done anything wrong. Not literally of course as she has likely made mistakes, but she has always made sure to do what is right and never lost sight of that. Once she finds out about the other magical girls being hurt, she wants to become one and help out, but everyone gives her a tough time about it. Let’s just say that her becoming a magical girl would present a dangerous situation for everyone. Also, it would mean breaking her ties with family and friends since there are a lot of circumstances that would be tough to explain in her situation and her life would certainly be changed. It would also force Madoka to make a lot of tough choices. She tries to please everyone, but that is impossible due to how everyone wants something different.
She does a lot of crying during the show as a result, but it’s a lot more genuine than the average lead. Madoka does a great job of fulfilling the lead role. She doesn’t actually get her powers for the majority of the show so if you’re waiting for that, it will be quite the wait even though the theme song spoils what her costume looks like as well as all of the posters. Her final decision in the show is great and she really thought it through on all angles, which shows how intelligent she is. Her ending can be seen as sad depending on who looks at it and you need to have strong emotions and believe that what you are doing is right if you don’t want to fall into despair. Madoka had complete confidence in what she did so the ending turned out to be a happy one for her. You don’t come across a main character like this very often. I would mention Madoka’s abilities, but they mostly don’t come until the end. I can say that she fired pink arrows, which are fairly powerful. Her main powers are tougher to describe and while I could give you the general idea, I don’t want to spoil them because it could hint at her overall wish. You’ll need to watch the show if you want to figure it out!
Sayaka is Madoka’s best friend and she gets a fairly large role in this adventure. She ends up getting super speed as her main ability along with unlimited swords at her disposal. She has less raw attack power than the other members, but she makes up for this with her high speed regeneration. She ends up being the weak link on the team for sure, but she means well. Unfortunately, she decides to use her wish to help someone else anonymously. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but she ultimately starts to realize that this may have not necessarily changed her life for the better and that’s when the doubts start to come through. Her ending isn’t quite as happy as the other characters, but she still got closure and she meant well. She was a good friend for Madoka and her strength allowed the lead to make it so far through the adventure. Sayaka was very outgoing and always ready for a fight.
Homura is easily the best character in the show and it’s not even close. As I mentioned earlier, I knew that she would be the best before 2 minutes had even passed by in the show. First impressions are important and Homura started out strongly with her first fight scene. She ended up being one of the strongest characters in the series as the only one who can really hope to challenge her from the heroes is Madoka. Most of the villains are child’s play for her except for the ultimate evil. Homura’s ability isn’t revealed for quite a while so I’m a little hesitant to say exactly what it is like with Madoka’s. Needless to say, she can control one of the elements of reality, which allows her to put up a good fight against anyone. Thanks to the extent to which she can control this, there is literally no other super power in this show that can counter her. Homura could defeat the rest of the magical girls in an instant thanks to this and the whole show is essentially a constant reminder of her strength.
Watching Homura mop the floor with the rest of the cast is always very satisfying and even the ending is fairly accurate. I can safely say that there is no plot hax in the ending as the villain being too powerful makes sense. Homura’s ability is great, but the one thing that she is lacking is offensive power. If something is strong enough to block all forms of conventional weaponry, then there is nothing that Homura can do. That is essentially her limit and while she can still outclass most of the opponents that she fights, there will be some that even she cannot defeat. Homura is very powerful, but she’s not insanely overpowered and that’s always a good mix. (Although I like overpowered characters as well.)
From all of the characters, you could argue that Homura has the toughest road. It’s even sadder than Madoka’s as Homura has a very tragic history. She is always trying to help out a friend through her actions, but the task proves to be nearly impossible. Despite all of this, Homura manages to resist the feeling of despair for quite a while and ends up helping a lot of people along the way although she acts reluctant about it. For her purposes, Homura must put on a mask of coldness so that others will find her to be calculating and unfeeling. In reality, Homura cares a lot about what is happening. Still, she is not Madoka. She does not care about what happens to the world, she simply wants to protect her friend. Homura is a very deep and interesting character. She’s certainly one of the best characters that I have seen in a while.
Mami is my least favorite member of the magical girls. She has the least amount of willpower and she is quick to take drastic measures that never help out the situation. She has mastery over strings and also has unlimited guns. From all of the members, she seemed to have the widest arrange of techniques and it was fun to watch her take down whole armies with a single combo. She was certainly powerful and while she wouldn’t be a match for Homura or Madoka, it’s safe to say that she could beat Sayaka and Kyoko. As a villain, she’s a good character, but I’m not crazy about her as a hero. Her latter scenes really destroyed the character even if Mami meant well. Mami just didn’t know all that much about the contract so she was mostly just leading the other characters astray unintentionally. Mami is not necessarily the kind of friend that you want to have by your side although it was definitely happy for her that Madoka showed up as fighting alone for eternity definitely does not sound like a fun thing to do.
Kyoko is the tough member of the group and she uses a spear. Her abilities were probably the most limited as she was mainly just good at slashing at high speeds. She’s quick and still proved to be more than a match for Sayaka, but she never looked overly impressive. It’s safe to say that Homura would have crushed her had the battle kept going. Kyoko’s personality shifts the most from the members as she goes from being a cold blooded killer to remembering what it means to truly be a magical girl. Her character got a lot of development and by the end it’s safe to say that she even passed the main character for me. She was really likable at the end and she was certainly willing to risk her life to save Sayaka. Things may not have turned out so well, but Kyoko never backed down and stood by her beliefs. I also like her policy about not wasting food and her wish was pretty selfless. Unfortunately, the people affected by the wish did not respond very well to it.
As for the Witches, a lot of them have names, but you won’t remember just about any of them since they come up so quickly. It doesn’t matter as it’s not a big deal, but the designs are still fun to watch. Typically, the Witches just get curbstomped as the heroes open up a clinic of combos onto them. The exception is the final boss, Walpurgisnacht. Walpurgisnacht is an incredibly powerful Witch who is immune to all methods of conventional weaponry and her attacks come in very quickly. Given how many minions are available to Walpurgisnacht, it is said that no single magical girl can defeat her. It’s safe to say that this is true for the most part and that’s why the Witch makes for a great final boss. She’s even got a really cool evil laugh that you’ll want to watch out for.
The new villains who replace the Witches aren’t quite exciting. They are the Wraiths and as far as we know, they all look more or less the same. They may appear in the film or maybe they just won’t be a focus anymore. They appear to be very slow, but there are thousands of them so their quantity helps to overshadow their lack of quality. I don’t see any of them being as powerful as Walpurgisnacht, but maybe they’ll surprise me. Either way, their designs aren’t bad as far as minions are concerned.
Even the supporting characters are fairly likable in this show. Hitomi is another friend of Madoka’s, but she is not chosen to be a magical girl. As a result, she is typically only around for the slice of life scenes, but I like to think of her as the Fluttershy of the series. As polite and sincere as Madoka is, Hitomi is even nicer typically. She does end up stealing someone’s potential boyfriend, but she does it in a fairly nice way. Hitomi never lets up with her polite lines and she’s a good friend to the other girls. You would typically expect at least one bad influence as most shows have a classmate who’s terrible, but not this time. Madoka’s mom is also very nice and she was an entertaining side character as she tried to rise to the top of her business. She gave Madoka encouraging words whenever the situation called for it and she opted to trust Madoka up to the very end. Madoka’s father got less of a role, but he seemed to be a nice guy as well. The only supporting character who wasn’t that good was the love interest for Sayaka and he still wasn’t as bad as I expected. He’s the kind of character who overreacts a lot and never seems grateful, but even he apologized for his behavior later on, which is something that you usually wouldn’t expect. A little more gratitude would have been great, but this is better than nothing.
Kyubei is a very deep character and a fun mascot for the series. Upon first glance he seems like a very innocent creature who’s just looking out for the heroines, but you quickly find out that he has some ulterior motives. He needs energy to save the universe and that’s where he starts to come to odds with the humans. He is essentially just using them and he knows that they will ultimately be destroyed and their souls will forever be lost. He knows this, but he doesn’t really care as he is the embodiment of a population which can feel no emotions. As a result, if each life that is lost can save another thousand, it is certainly worth it in his book and the final death will save an entire universe. Looking at it that way, his motives make sense. Many of the characters dislike him by the end and they feel hurt by his choices, but I never actually disliked him.
See, most of his points actually made a lot of sense. Now, I’m not justifying his decisions and saying that he is a hero because he is not. Kyubei still did not tell the main characters all of the details, but I do agree with him about the fact that he told them enough. Kyubei did warn that making a contract with him means that your life will be at an end, but you could gain whatever wish you desire. In a sense, he is asking if any wish is worth losing your soul and living the rest of your life in nonstop battles against Witches. This is a deal that is naturally not worth taking no matter how you look at it. Trading your life for a wish is an interesting matter and one that could work. If you knew that you could save your family or a friend in exchange for your life, a lot of people would be willing to do it.
Your soul is another matter. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that in the real world as no one can snatch your soul away from God provided that you have given your life to him. Only you can choose to take your soul back and ultimately lose your right to Heaven. Still, you can redirect the example. Would you be willing to go to a dark path in order to keep a friend or relationship? Hopefully you won’t make the wrong choice there and the characters are forced to make some tough choices. Luckily, there are themes of redemption and second chances here and Madoka helps the other characters to have a happy ending although they all go through some tough battles with despair. In short, one’s soul is infinitely worth more than their life and you should be wary of making any sort of deal with it here.
Still, Kyubei did make sure that the terms of the deal were clear and he always gets the character’s permission before undergoing the contract. Kyubei is quite fair in this matter and he always talks very eloquently. He also got me when he brought up the classic animal debate. The sad part is that he is not wrong. He explains that he gives humans much more respect than they give their animals. This was the only part of the show where I was legitimately worried. For a moment there, I thought that the show was going to jump the shark with animal violence, but luckily the show narrowly avoided this as we got some abstract images and then some peaceful ones with animals. That being said, the point was valid.
Many animals are slaughtered each and every day in order for us to keep consuming meat. It’s why I’ve always had great respect for the vegan lifestyle as it does save many animals. If everyone were to live like that, many more animals would be alive. Unfortunately, it’s not something that will ever realistically happen and I do eat meat myself. I love animals so it may be a little hypocritical to eat meat and it’s a tough debate. Perhaps it seems futile to not eat it or I just like to hope in the back of my mind that the animals were at least ended in a humane way. I don’t think that I will ever stop eating meat, but I do feel bad about the consequences of such an act and recognize that it does hurt the animal race. Hopefully some day, there will be no need for animal violence in this world with technology. At least in Heaven I won’t have to worry about animals being hurt anymore. This argument nullified most of the points that the main characters brought up about them being tricked with the contract completely so I give Kyubei a lot of credit here.
I also thought that the main characters overreacted with some of the twists. What happens when their soul gems turn completely black felt a little obvious given that it is literally their souls. The plot twist about their bodies also wasn’t that major if you ask me. It was a twist all right, but it doesn’t actually change anything about what status their body is in. So, I understood Kyubei’s confusion at their reaction even if he doesn’t completely understand the concept of emotion.
Another concept that the show deals with is whether or not the human world deserves to be saved. Naturally, the heroines are magical girls who fight to save the humans and thus the world from the Witches. Many of them begin to wonder if the mission is something that they are interested in and most of them come up with different answers. Homura doesn’t care what happens to the world and she just wants to help her friend. It’s a bit of a natural response and one that makes a lot of sense. When you turn on the news each day, something terrible is constantly happening and you can easily understand the argument of how humans are plaguing the world. Acts of unspeakable cruelty are likely happening this instant and you wonder if we would all be better off if the world just blew up.
Kyoko just fights to help herself and it’s another attitude that many take. As long as you help yourself and get the best of life, your life will have been satisfying right? Of course, many people figure out the hard way that it just isn’t that simple and end up being unfulfilled. Others will end their lives thinking that is was great until they see what is in store for them next. Sayaka wants to help others, but when you fight your whole life just for the sake of helping someone once, you risk being depressed on the outcome. For example, if you work overtime for many hours to help the boss finish a project, but then get no recognition in the end, you may feel like the whole thing was just a waste of time. Helping others is always great, but you do have to think of yourself a little as well.
Naturally, Madoka does the best job with this. She essentially represents the purity of someone who just wants to help everyone have a better life and she is satisfied with doing so. She essentially gives everyone a second chance and they can hopefully find redemption. You can draw many similarities to the Cross and the death of Jesus. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would honestly just agree with Homura’s view. The world really can seem like a bad place at face value with terrorists everywhere and you are essentially living in a corrupt world. When you look at how our world is turning away from God and how so many people just believe that there is no God, it’s easy to wonder what the point is as many people will not be saved. Luckily, with the Bible and its teachings, we know that there is always a chance for redemption and you can never give up.
Redemption is one of my favorite themes in media. No matter what your past is, you can always turn things around as Jesus always gives you another chance. It’s not to say that you can abuse this by constantly sinning and going back since Jesus can sense what is in your heart, but if you generally want to turn your life around you can do so. You’re not saved by acts, but through submission and trust in the Lord. Madoka saw the world and instead of focusing on the bad, she saw the good parts of life and tried hard to help everyone. She definitely experienced a lot of sadness as you certainly will when you care about everyone so much, but she never lost faith in the fact that she could help everyone. Nobody is every beyond hope and so long as you believe that, you will be willing to keep on trying to help people. There are many people who will never be saved and who will keep on committing vicious acts, but you need to focus on the fact that you will be able to save others. Even if you only save one person during your journey, that is one person whose future has been rewritten and it will have made your life worth the journey.
Hope and Despair naturally play big roles in the show as well. Once you feel despair, it is all over and your soul is lost in the show. Homura was my favorite character and she tried to cling onto hope right until the end. She went through unimaginable hardships trying to help her friend as she relived the same month over and over again watching helplessly as the future kept on happening. Still, she tried and tried to save her and this showing of friendship and loyalty was very well done. Having a friend like that is certainly an amazing privilege. Even Homura began to feel despair towards the end and we’ve all gone through similar times of doubt and hopelessness, but so long as you remember the positive points of life you’ll be okay. Even at the very end of the show, a message plays stating that someone is always fighting for you so don’t give up hope. For us Christians, we know that God is standing by our side through tribulation and strife so we must never give up hope even when things look bleak.
It’s one of the reasons why the show probably has the best ending in anime history as well. While I can’t say that I am 100% positive of this like I am with the opening scene, I can’t think of an end scene that beats this one. That inspirational message at the end was great and the ending turned out to be happier than I would have guessed. Homura has not quite bought into the redemption message and still believes that the world is not worth saving, but she continues to fight for her friend. She is truly a loyal individual and I hope that she can see the world as Madoka sees it someday. After all, the second chance opportunity applies to her as well and she is such a great character that I’m hoping she will see the light. She is still fighting the villains so there is always a chance and we know that she will never give up.
One of the good things about the show is the fact that it manages to avoid the fanservice trap for the most part. There is a scene which you can describe as fanservice in the opening that I thought wasn’t needed even if it is trying to be meta as the main character meets herself. It then takes a break until the final episode (Unless you count transformation scenes like in Sailor Moon, but even then, most of them are simply skipped or pass by very quickly) where two characters meets each other on the astral planes. There bodies don’t have any defining features so it’s fairly safe, but it can still definitely be called fanservice. I’m slightly more lenient on the meta stuff, but it’s also a scene that didn’t really need to be handled like that. Still, it could have been much worse and was still not that bad. Actual fanservice would have forced me to have taken away a star from the show so I’m glad that it didn’t come to that.
I mentioned earlier that the series is pretty high tier so let’s talk about where it stacks up. Madoka vs Sailor Moon is certainly a classic debate and I’d say that the overall consensus is that Madoka has the slight edge. I would agree with this although I don’t think that it’s too slight. Most of the magical girls in this show could easily crush the whole team of Sailor Scouts and I can’t think of many magical girls who can oppose them. All of the heroes are incredibly fast and very durable. While they wouldn’t be able to overpower the opponents in titles like Naruto and Bleach, they are still skilled and stronger than I had been expecting. Homura and Madoka in particular were much more impressive than I could have thought. There’s also one character in the show who grows so powerful that she makes the One Above All from Marvel look like chump change by the end. She was basically able to alter the universe itself and perform time paradoxes with ease. This is power on a multiversal level and it’s safe to say that I hadn’t been expecting anything like that. It was a pleasant surprise and her meta feats were much better than the usual ones.
While Madoka Magica does deal with some dark themes, I would ultimately call it an inspirational story full of hope. While things look bleak many times, it also shows us how hope can always make a difference and we see many characters who have strong bonds with each other. The ending is a little on the uplifting side even if the memory plot is always a little sad. I prefer when everyone knows everything that has transpired. At least one character remains in the know which is more than I would have usually expected and that’s definitely a good thing. The character even gets a power up out of the deal, which is always a fair trade.
The show is also very mature with its themes, but it’s handled appropriately. We don’t get any gritty moments or overly violent scenes just for the lolz. It’s mature in the sense that the characters are dealing with serious problems, but the show is rather tame. In terms of violence, it’s less violent than the average shonen show and there are only some moments that have blood. None of it is excessive and it never gets bad. The romance plot that is around is also handled delicately and is nothing like what you would see in current films. The rival in the romance plot is even polite about the whole thing, which is fairly rare to see nowadays. This is just another check mark for Madoka Magica.
Overall, Puella Magi Madoka Magica was an incredible anime. Of course, you could probably tell that from how positive this review was. The show was very moving and every part of the anime was fantastic. From the soundtrack to the writing to the fights, Madoka Magica can hold its own against any show. All of the characters were very well developed and it’s amazing how the show could accomplish so much in 12 episodes. It accomplished quite a few things like having the best opening scene of all time, the best ending theme of all time, one of the best final scenes of all time, and just being one of the overall greatest anime of all time. I have a feeling that the movie won’t be able to match up to this show, but few things can. This is definitely one of the most unique anime titles out there and I highly recommend checking it out. Whether you are a fan of action, slice of life, or you just want to watch something thought provoking, this will fit the bill. You won’t have seen a show quite like this one.