24 January 2015

#2LR Too Late Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I suppose if anything was going to get me to write Too Late Reviews again, it would be a show that I obtained a couple years ago and didn’t bother attempting to watch for thirty months.  Better yet, I finished watching this show about two months ago and didn’t bother writing anything about it until now.

The anime series that I will review today is the show “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”.  Yeah, it’s not the best title for an anime.  I’m going to be quite hampered in writing this review by the fact that this show is one of the best misdirection shows that I’ve run across.  I suppose that the best thing to do in order to review the show is to write a paragraph describing the things that the show does generally and then to put up a “spoiler space” sign below so that I can discuss the plot on more depth.
The back-of-the-envelope summary of this show is that it is a magical-girl anime. Middle-school girls are tasked with the protection of the world against creatures that would do havoc to the people around them.  While the animation in the “real world” segments of the show is conventional, when the magical girls are fighting their foes, the animation changes to a hybrid of CGI and the previous 2D, and the segments are very interesting as a fan of design. 

The other point to make about this show is that it is very short, only twelve episodes.  This is an anime that can be consumed in a very short time, over a single Saturday if you so choose.  The shortness does help, it’s a complex show and the viewer may very well want to rewatch the show, I know that I really wanted to see it again when I finished the first time.  If I may though, I think that the best method is to watch one episode every day or perhaps two at the most, because it’s also a show that needs to be digested.  Its short length means that the plot goes by pretty quick and if you run it through too quick, you may miss a couple of rather important points. 

It’s hard to come up with a good analogy with this show, because it is legitimately one of the first shows of its kind that I watched.  This show is like watching a building come together.  The show builds a solid foundation, gets to work on its first floor, builds out a fascinating plot, and then next thing you know you realize that the foundation is completely different than you realized at first, but that the building is that much more fascinating as a result. As previous warning, about the only complaint that I had about this show would be its ending… but the complaint is minor, and the show itself is worth watching just for the imagination put into the plot and the design work.


As before, this IS a magical girl anime.  Madoka is the sweet little girl of a rich family in Japan, whoise mother is a kick-butt VP and her father is a stay-at-home dad to her baby brother.  She goes to school at a rich private academy with all the latest in school gadgets.  A new student comes in, who has been “sick” for the last couple semesters, and she (Akemi) takes an immediate interest in Madoka.  While Akemi needs medicine at the nurses station (and knows where it is, oddly) she also manages to be the best athlete.  Akemi also manages to drop cryptic warnings to Madoka about only being who she should be.

Madoka ends up getting into trouble later and runs into the ‘cute anime mascot’, Kyube (think Q-Bay), who was hunted by someone.  It turns out that the hunter is a huntress – Akemi.  Akemi lets Kyube go, but not without more warnings to Madoka. In the meantime, one of the evil beings in this anime – witches – shows up and causes havoc. Madoka and Kyube watch as Mami, a magical girl, takes care of the problem. Mami and Kyube know each other, and Mami serves as the first backstory guide.

In essence, Kyube helps these girls to become magical girls, and also gives the girl a wish in exchange for her services.  The girl then starts to fight these witches, who when defeated drop “grief seeds” that allow the Puella Magi to recharge their magic. 

Mami is rather clear-headed about the whole process, talking to Madoka and her friend about the choices that they have to make about becoming Puella Magi.  Madoka is content to listen mostly to Akemi’s warning, but her friend does decide that she’s going to become a Puella Magi, and uses her wish to wish that a classmate she has a crush on is healed from his injuries in an accident, allowing him to play the violin again.  With that, Madoka is pulled ever more deeper into the story… even though she’s not defeating any witches, or having any of the story elements affecting her… … yet…


The plot starts running fast and furious at this point, and I really can’t do this show justice if I keep reviewing the action.  Suffice it to say that this is one of the few shows that display actual consequences to characters’ actions and that this is also one of the few shows that I have seen that really raises the stakes and ends up being somewhat of a roller-coaster through the end of these twelve episodes, including the redemption of characters that come straight out of left-field.  Practically everything in this show is explainable and logical, and for someone who reads thin plots as a matter of fandom, I was floored.

There is no sequel planned for this show. In a way, that is actually somewhat satisfying, because if ever there was a self-contained story with few loose ends, this is it.  If you are a person that wants to find out what happens to the characters “after” though, you might be slightly disappointed.

This review might not be as humorous as past reviews, but I definitely want to show how much I regard this show. It receives a 4.0 on my four-point scale.  This is because if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to watch this show again to see all of the little clues that added up to the ending that was written for the show and realize the subtlety that the writers and director used… and if you’re a writer or similar, you might find some awesome hints for good writing in the future.  This show is highly recommended.