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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.


Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (last thoughts)

Final impression – often underrated 7/10

Winter 2011 (title literal translation – Is This a Zombie?)

Eucliwood Hellscythe, the quiet necromancer.  Haruna, the genius magic girl.  Seraphim, the vampire ninja.  Ayumu, the high school zombie.  Combine them together and there’s no end to the problems they can cause for each other.  When Ayumu accidentally absorbs Haruna’s magic girl powers, it becomes her responsibility to instruct her new cross-dressing apprentice.  And when Seraphim challenges Ayumu to a duel to the death, it’s more of a war of attrition when they realize that neither can kill the other.  But underlying all of this is Eucliwood’s secret powers and troubled past.  If her three friends can’t team up to protect her from the mistakes she has made, she might have to leave forever.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka? falls into that class of wild and strange anime that a lot of love and hate relationships develop around.  While it’s understandable why many would want to steer clear of it, the cast of random oddities fits with the anime’s overall tone to create a nice cohesion that feels acceptable.  I hear a lot of people complain about Ayumu’s cross-dressing.  But is that really something to complain about when the rest of this anime is oftentimes just off-kilter, goofy and fun?  Yes, occasionally Kore wa Zombie gets a little too serious for its own good given its cast of oddball archetypes, but overall it’s very entertaining.

Twin Angel: Twinkle Paradise Ep 1

Initial impression – boring and formulaic

Haruka and Aoi are the magic girl heroine duo Twin Angel.  During the day they’re just normal jr. high school students, but at night when evildoers come out, they transform into Twin Angel and save the day.  Tomorrow, their school is hosting the presentation of a mystical tiara at the campus museum.  But thief and mecha designer Salome has been given the mission to steal the ancient relic.  While battling Salome’s robot the following night, she transforms the magic girls into cat girls using a noxious gas.  But when all hope seems lost, Misty Knight arrives to free them from a cat girl life because the gas only works on females.  After defeating Salome’s robot, she flies off in a hot air balloon and the tiara is safe.

There’s really just no contest against other magic girl shows when Twin Angel gets measured up against the recent genre-breaker Madoka Magica or hit classic My-HiME.  So yeah, Twin Angel has taken the magic girl genre and followed the formula to the letter.  With moe, loli characters, transformation sequences, a secret identity, questionably explained superpowers, a backup support network, and an evil organization to be the fall guys who manage to avoid capture after every conflict, there’s nothing original here to speak of.  They even brought in Yukari Tamura of Magic Girl Lyrical Nanoha fame to do the voice for Haruka.  Aoi gets graced with another voice talent Mamiko Noto, whose fabulous career is too long to include here.  So Twin Angel not only fails to deviate the slightest bit from the established magic girl formula, it also leaves a bad taste in the mouth hearing such voice actress’s talents being wasted on what’s possibly the worst show of summer 2011.