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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Anime Review: A Dark and Innovative Spin on Magical Girls

Read up on why you don’t want to miss the enchanting and thought-provoking world of Puella Magi Madoka Magica in our comprehensive anime review.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica is an anime that defies all expectations, especially if you enjoy anime that hides a dark message beneath its seemingly innocent surface. The 12 episodes and three films brought to life by Studio SHAFT, also known for their work on the Monogatari series, are unforgettable. The first two films serve as a recap of the original series, while the third, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, continues the story of the main series and serves as its sequel.

Visually, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a masterpiece. Studio SHAFT, in collaboration with Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero) and Akiyuki Shinbou (Bakemonogatari), created a world that seamlessly shifts from serene to utterly terrifying and it’s one of the most unique in terms of style that I’ve seen to date. On top of being animated beautifully, the series is a rollercoaster ride that blurs the lines between the innocent and horrifying, and its message will stick with you long after its final episode. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of those rare anime that make you question everything but also keep you invested deeply in its story thanks to its emotional depth and striking animation.

I highly recommend watching the series. But before I dive into more about why it’s one of the best anime I’ve ever watched and give my in-depth review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I want to kick things off by introducing and providing some background on the origins of this game-changing series.

A Brief Background on Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica was released in 2011 with animation by SHAFT (known for Monogatari), and it was one of the best anime to air in the Winter 2011 season, alongside other standouts like Gosick. Since its release, it has won many awards, most notably thanks to its stellar animation and unique take on a theme commonly seen in anime: magical girls. In addition to its dark tone and the topics it explores, Madoka Magica‘s unique blend of various genres, including drama, fantasy, and even a touch of horror, sets it apart from any other magical girl anime released to date.

Gen Urobuchi (known for Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass 2) wrote the script for the series with direction by Akiyuki Shinbou (known for Bakemonogatari and Nisekoi), and music by Yuki Kajiura (known for Sword Art Online and Demon Slayer). The staff behind the series, as well as the cast, did an amazing job bringing this original anime to life. Aniplex of America would later release the series in a Complete Blu-ray Box Set that collects all 12 episodes.

Two compilation/recap movies titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 1: Beginnings and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal were released in 2012 as well. Later in 2013, they released a third movie, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, that serves as a sequel not only to the two recap films but also continues the story of the original anime. Aniplex also released a box set that collects all three films.

Due to its popularity, several spin-offs for the series, including Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story, were released, as well as some manga adaptations and spin-offs. So, if you enjoy the original series and are looking for more, definitely look into these more.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

What is Puella Magi Madoka Magica about?

In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, our protagonist Madoka Kaname’s ordinary world is transformed and takes a dark turn when she meets Homura Akemi, a cryptic transfer student, and Kyubey, a creature that offers her a chance to become a magical girl, promising any wish in exchange. Kyubey’s offer to grant any wish in exchange for becoming a magical girl lures Madoka into an enthralling universe of magic and mystery.

However, as the allure and curtain behind this offer gradually unravel, Madoka discovers the startling truth: these powers bear an ominous price. Madoka Magica, at first glance, looks like a cute story about magical girls, and while the main characters are magical girls, it is told in a unique and unsettling way that will make you look at this genre in a whole new light.

Exploring What Makes Puella Magi Madoka Magica Good

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review Striking Animation and Style

Striking animation and art style

The animation in Puella Magi Madoka Magica by SHAFT is nothing short of incredible. As you transition from the ordinary world into the mysterious realm of witches within Madoka Magica, SHAFT employs various art styles that seamlessly transport you from everyday reality into an entirely new world, one shrouded in darkness and despair, and filled with eccentric creatures and visions. SHAFT’s effective use of shadows and highlights further enhances the overall atmosphere of the series and helps to convey the symbolic nature of hope and despair that this series commonly explores.

The animation in Puella Magi Madoka Magica can get pretty trippy, in the absolute best way possible. Madoka Magica is a story about the main characters, who are searching for light in the darkness. This stark contrast is further exemplified by the cute character designs of our magical girls and the detailed backdrops of the dark world in which they fight.

Of course, in any magical girl anime, you expect exciting transformation sequences and power-ups, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica delivers both. Each transformation is uniquely crafted, and these animations add significantly to the series’ charm.

The battles in the anime are animated beautifully and they allow you to truly grasp the gravity of the situation these girls face and pull you further into their stories. You’ll witness intense clashes between them and the witches they battle against, but it’s the thoughtful way in which the emotional scenes are framed that truly sets it apart.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a masterclass in visual storytelling. Often, you aren’t told what a character is feeling; instead, you are shown. For this reason alone, it is one of the most exciting anime you can watch, especially if you are in search of an anime with a truly unique art style.

Original storytelling

The story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is deceptively complex. Initially, it may seem straightforward, as a simple tale of magical girls. However, as you delve deeper into the narrative, it unfolds in ways, that I cannot spoil, that are genuinely surprising and unexpected. Madoka Magica‘s story is profoundly original, delving deep into the essence of magical girls and the sacrifices they must make. What may appear as an innocent and heartwarming story at first glance takes a much darker turn throughout the series. This becomes fairly evident early on in the storyline, but the stakes as well as the consequences are constantly being raised.

Many of the reasons why Madoka Magica‘s storytelling is so good is a spoiler in itself, so while I can’t go into too much depth as to why it’s so original and compelling, please know that it will surprise you, particularly in the second half of the episodes. From start to finish, the storytelling in Madoka Magica is nothing short of exceptional.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Characters

Well-written characters

Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s story revolves around five girls, each with their unique personalities and quirks. Madoka Kaname, our main protagonist, is full of optimism and hope. Homura Akemi, on the other hand, may seem reserved and analytical, but there’s an intriguing mystery behind her cool exterior. Kyouko Sakura brings fiery impulsiveness to the group, while Mami Tomoe, with her charming presence, is like the big sister we all wish for. And then there’s Sayaka Miki, Madoka’s best friend, whose determination knows no bounds. This ensemble, of course, isn’t complete without Kyubey, the mysterious entity that looks like a cat.

The contrast between Kyubey’s emotionless nature and the girls, who are full of emotions, leads to a lot of profound and thought-provoking conversations. Their interactions with Kyubey are some of the most unforgettable in all of the anime, but it’s their interactions with one another that you will never forget. While the girls’ differences sometimes lead to clashes, it’s these very conflicts that give the story weight and give them growth opportunities, especially as they learn from one another and appreciate each other’s unique strengths. They balance each other out, and this is a big part of what makes such an interesting cast of characters.

In addition to our main cast, Puella Magi Madoka Magica introduces us to noteworthy side characters who exist outside the magical girl fold. These characters serve as a grounding force, highlighting the stark contrast between the lives of magical girls and everyone else. They also play a pivotal role in motivating our protagonists and revealing different facets of their personalities. It’s easy to forget that magical girls are human, but these side characters and their interactions consistently remind us of this harrowing truth.

Each character in Puella Magi Madoka Magica faces unique challenges, which allows us to connect with them in different ways. Their experiences, bonds, and conflicts within the group add substantial depth to the world of Madoka Magica. What makes it truly exceptional, though, is how well-written each character is, from their distinctive personalities to their rich backstories and the intricacies of their relationships, Madoka Magica‘s characters are amongst the best in anime.

Amazing music and soundtrack

In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the music and audio are nothing short of remarkable. Sounds and music play a pivotal role in shaping the tone as well as the emotion of each scene, whether it’s an intense battle that keeps you on the edge of your seat or a quiet slice-of-life moment that tugs at your heartstrings. The soundtrack, from the opening theme to the closing theme, and everything in between perfectly encapsulates every moment and further immerses you in this world.

Even more so than that, though, the music captures the tone and atmosphere of the story, which makes this already striking viewing experience, even more amazing than it already is. But it’s not just the music that shines in this series; the sound effects and voice acting are equally incredible.

The sound effects are meticulously crafted, adding depth and realism to the magical battles and everyday interactions of our main characters, and the voices perfectly match each character, conveying their emotions, from the highs of joy to the depths of despair that they all experience along the way. With its enchanting music, impeccable animation, and captivating storytelling, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a must-watch.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Messages and Themes

Interesting themes and messages

Thanks to the themes and messages it explores, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the most profound anime you can watch. As mentioned previously, this series takes a unique approach by shedding light on the darker aspects of what it means to be a magical girl, unveiling the often overlooked and unforeseen consequences of their choices.

It intricately dives into the themes of hope and despair, presenting them not as distinct entities but as opposite faces of the same coin. Most notably, the series explores how hope can emerge from despair and vice versa. This duality is a constant presence throughout the series, affecting the characters’ decisions and shaping their journeys throughout the episodes.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica also makes you think about fate and free will. The series asks us all to ponder whether or not we are bound by destiny or whether we have the power to shape our paths. This theme is refreshingly explored through the characters’ struggles, along with their triumphs, and their interactions with Kyubey, whose emotionless nature brings about some interesting conversations about what it means to be human. Puella Magi Madoka Magica thoughtfully examines many of life’s most profound questions, which makes it an interesting but also thought-provoking watch.

At its heart, though, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a story about friendship and human resilience. The way these characters find strength in one another, even when the odds are stacked against them, always reminds me that there’s true power in connection. Their relationships don’t just bolster the plot; they are a testament to the idea that no one has to face their battles alone.

The series also dives deep into psychological and moral themes. The exchanges between Kyubey and Madoka, for instance, are windows into the complexities that are the human soul and the human condition. On top of showcasing the challenges that come with being a source of light in the darkness, it highlights the resilience needed to face such insurmountable odds. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a stunning anime all around, but its exploration of human emotions and the enduring spirit within us all is what makes it such a memorable series.

Final Thoughts

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a profound exploration of the magical girl genre with a twist that still has me reeling. This series shattered my expectations, weaving dark themes and emotional depth into a visually mesmerizing story. Each episode, every character, felt like a piece of a puzzle that beautifully fit together, creating a story that’s as haunting as it is captivating.

It’s not just the stunning animation or the soundtrack that makes this series so memorable, but also how it daringly dives into the complexities of hope and despair and dives deep into the psyches of its characters, much like one of my top sci-fi anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. It also makes you question and feel everything along its characters, much like another favorite of mine, Steins;Gate.

All in all, if you’re looking for an anime that defies norms and sticks with you long after you watch it, you’ll want to check out Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Where to Watch Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is available to stream now on Crunchyroll, but if physical media is more your thing, you can collect the series via the Complete Box Set released from Aniplex of America. Aniplex also released a box set for the three films if you are looking to pick those up as well. If you have yet to sign up for a Crunchyroll account, they have a trial, which allows you to try out their platform for free for 14 days.

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