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Puella Magi Madoka Magica (last thoughts)

Final impression – a rare masterpiece 10/10

Winter 2011 (Alternate titles – Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – Magic Girl Madoka Magica)

Warm and engaging junior high student Madoka Kaname welcomes the cold and aloof transfer student Homura Akemi into her class.  Soon after, Madoka hears a voice speaking to her; telepathically begging for her help.  When she seeks out the source of call, she finds the cat-like alien, Kyubey being pursued by a dressed-to-kill Homura.  With help from her friend Sayaka, they escape their frightening classmate, but blunder into the nest of a dangerous witch that was Homura’s real quarry.  Just as things are about to end very badly, they are rescued from the witch by their upperclassman, Mami Tomoe.  After the whirlwind of confusion abates, Kyubey reveals to Madoka and Sayaka that he has the power to grant any wish they desire, and in return they will have to become magic girls in order to fight the witches that endanger innocent lives.  But Homura is intent on ensuring they do not accept his offer because despite his innocent face, there’s something dangerous Kyubey has not warned them about.

If you’re one of those people who runs away from magic girl anime like the plague, it’s time to have your prejudices blown away by the marvel that is Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  The first noteworthy point I’d like to make is that Madoka Magica deviates widely from the established tropes of the magic girl genre.  You won’t see any nudity or even panty-shots during transformation sequences (which are pretty much absent, anyways).  Additionally, the girls get cool weapons to fight with like swords, guns, and bows instead of the more traditional magic girl fare of boring staves and wands (I’m talking about you Nanoha!).  With the curious exception of Mami, the girls also don’t call out the names of their signature attacks in battle like you’re watching an episode of Naruto or Bleach.  It’s all natural, mature and feels like a world that’s just around the next corner; waiting for us to stumble in and immerse ourselves in an adventure.

There’s a level of seriousness and darkness in Madoka Magica that I’ve not seen in a magic girl anime since watching Mai-HiME back in 2004.  Even before it finished, I could clearly see that this was going to be an anime that deeply moves the viewer.  With a fresh art style, well-developed characters, terrific writing, pleasing music and a beautiful conclusion, I cannot recommend Madoka Magica strongly enough.  I consider myself to be articulate, but I’m finding it difficult to write just how good this anime is.  Easily one of the best anime I’ve ever watched.