Posted on 22 April 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica




Ah, the deconstruction: taking a genre or trope, and examine it, put it in a real life situatio, or take a look at it from a completely different angle. I personally love these kinds of series (heck, some of my favourite series are deconstructions). Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica finally shows us another deconstruction of the Mahou shoujo genre, and it is glorious.

This series takes the well known formula: a cute animal comes to a girl, gives her superpowers, and they fight evil. It then examins what it means to be a magical girl. It actually uses its setting quite cleverly in order to really give the life of a magical girl a set of huge advantages and disadvantages. Really, the graphics may be simple, but underneath is a very, very dark storyline.

Teh thing that’s especially amazing about this series is how well everything fits together. It’s twelve episodes long, but it makes excellent use of its time, the characters all fit the story perfectly and everyone serves his own purpose to the points that this series is trying to make. The show really makes sure that it doesn’t waste its time and just about every episode adds something to the overall story and characters. This creates quite a bit of nice development for such a short series.

The graphics are also gorgeous in this series. Unlike a lot of other Shaft series, the animation knows exactly when to be normal, and when to be experimental. The action scenes in this series look really great thanks to all kind of strange and artistic images that are inserted in the surreal battle scenes. Yuki Kajiura is also behind the music, and while this may not be amongst her best work, she still delivers an excellent soundtrack.

It’s definitely a well written and thought-provoking series that continues to evolve. It deserves to be watched, and I see no way for this series to not show up in the top 10 of best eries of 2011. I don’t think that I’ll end up ranking this amongst my favourites, but that entirely because I just consider a lot of other series to be better, not for this show to have major flaws or anything. If I had to nitpick and mention a flaw of this series, then I’d point at the characterization: if the characters here were put in any random slice of life or a more conventional action series, they wouldn’t be interesting to watch at all. It’s entirely the story and the setting that makes something memorable out of them. Again though: this is just nitpicking.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Really well balanced and evolves really well for a 12 episode series. Maks excellent use of the ingredients handed to it.
Characters: 8/10 – Nice development, interesting backstories.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Successfully experiments with its graphics, resulting in some gorgeous action scenes that form a stark contrast with the quiet scenes.
Setting: 9/10 – A terrific deconstruction of a genre that really needed some nudge again.

Suggestions:
Fancy Lala (Very, very different and slow-paced, but shows a completely different yet just as brilliant take on how to deconstruct the Mahou Shoujo Genre)
Mahou Shoujotai
Figure 17 – Tsubasa & Hikaru

Posted on with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



A Jesus Ending? It’s been a while since we had one of those.

Yeah, the loophole that the creators used was simply the fact that they never explicitly stated that there was any limit to the wish you could make. Madoka just wishes for a world without witches and Kyuubei… grants it. He doesn’t even seem to have the power to reject such a wish. And so, Madoka dies for our sins and completely changes the world. It neither was the best nor the worst ending of this season, but it didn’t hurt this series either: Madoka Magica remains a wonderful show to watch.

Now obviously the first question that came to my mind when Madoka made her wish was “why the heck didn’t people do this before?” I mean, we all asked this question before: instead of just wishing for simple wishes like resurrecting someone, why couldn’t you wish for an unlimited amount of wishes? Because this series refused to explain that, we all just assumed that Kyuubei would obviously refuse any wishes disadvantageous to him. And here, this episode showed that those wishes could have been possible.

My guess is that nobody made such a wish yet, because Kyuubei keeps targeting emotionally distraught teenaged girls who have just been hit by a major trauma. Yes, in a regular situation in which you’re just sitting in your comfy chair you can indeed try to bend these rules all you’d like, but I can imagine that Kyuubei always presents himself to girls who are desperate for one single wish, offering exactly what they need the most. I could be wrong here, but when you’re about to die in a car accident, you wouldn’t really try to be cheeky and think of a loop-holing wish from out of nowhere.

Madoka was the exception, because at the start of this series, she had no reason to be in despair: she didn’t know anything about Homura, and Kyuubei instead got greedy for her powers, and tried to convince her by tempting her.

And yet, I do fault Madoka for not thinking of this obvious solution any sooner. It’s probably the biggest flaw of this series: she pretty much spends 10,5 episodes angsting, only to snap out of things, go Jesus and wish all the witches away. In the end, the only way in which she really set herself apart is the way in which she refused to change into a mahou shoujo, even though this is a mahou shoujo series. At least the other characters in this series had really interesting backstories.

Oh, but that aftermath was really good. It showed that even though witches are gone, there are still other things that demand a mahou shoujo, and Kyuubei also isn’t gone, albeit completely different. It’s definitely interesting to see the different characters here in a world without Madoka or witches. Especially the latter lead to some interesting character development, but also the lack of Madoka in her family was really interesting.

Overall, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica definitely belongs in the top 3 series that premiered in the past Autumn and Winter Season, along with Hourou Musuko and Level E. Whether or not it was the best out of all of them though is very hard to say because they’re amazing at completely different things. Hourou Musuko also had an amazing second half, Level E had an absolutely fantastic beginning. Either way though, this was the best series that Shaft has made since Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei 1, and I really hope that future Shaft series will follow this series in its tracks: not just blindly copy Shinbo’s style, but also letting the writers really do what they want to do.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



Dear Shaft: thank you for actually finishing this episode in time and not pulling another Bakemonogatari. Having to wait a month for the final two episodes still is pretty doable. Episode 11 was a rock-solid build-up that was quite worth the wait.

With just about every other character out of the picture now, this episode indeed focused on Madoka, Homura and Kyuubei, but also surprisingly Madoka’s mother also played a large role here. It was really building up to the inevitable: Madoka becoming a mahou shoujo. Or at least, that was very heavily implied at the end of this episode. Overall, while it would have been nice for Madoka to actually refuse Kyuubei throughout the entire series, I can see why she did it: as long as that Walpurgis night can only be defeated by Madoka in her Mahou Shoujo-form, this time-loop will continue on endlessly.

Just, what was the point of that one monologue of Kyuubei? The one where he started talking about the past of the mahou shoujo, where he started talking how many famous girls in history were actually mahou shoujo who were plunged into despair, and how without them we’d still live in caves? That just makes no sense and is completely out of context here.

Now, as for the ending: right now things are heading in exactly the way that has been built up by the previous episodes. At the moment, we’ve reached the inescapable situation where Madoka will destroy the world once she defeats the Walpurgis Night (after all: superpowered Madoka will make for a very exciting final battle). It really seems to be heading towards a loophole ending: the creators try to bend around their own rules in order to find a loophole out of its chaos. It probably will be with casualties, but at least the world will be saved. These kinds of endings really depend on a) how good that loophole is, and b) how exciting the final battle is. Madoka definitely deserves a good closure.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 March 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



Holy crap, what an episode. We’ve finally gotten to Homura’s past and BY GOD is is awesome.

This may be because I really like the kinds of series that deal with alternative dimensions, but the reason I love the stories like this is because they really allow creators to show different ways for characters to develop when done right (do note that it can be done poorly just as easily, though. Yes, I’m looking at you Yosuga no Amagami). The creators really put a ton of meaning in this episode

With this, I also understand why the creators said, prior to this series, that it would be the type of show that you need to watch two times in order to fully get it. I remember that first episode and how at first it seemed very much like Nanoha. The biggest reason for that was that scene in which Madoka saves Kyuubei from being attacked. Yeah, that suddenly gets put into a completely different perspective, doesn’t it?

One thing that was amusing during the past few weeks was seeing all of the crazy theories from everyone, ranging from speculating that Homura was Madoka to Homura being Madoka’s cat. In the end though, she just turned out to be a normal girl who just matured much more mentally due to the way that she always kept travelling back in time. Plot twists like “character x is secretly related to character Y in some bizarre way” are good, but they shouldn’t be used for the sake of just using them, otherwise they’ll just become forced.

This episode only left one major question: why wasn’t Madoka this awesome mahou shoujo when Homura first met her? This episode strongly hinted at Madoka getting more talent as Homura kept travelling back in time.

Oh, and the release dates for the final episodes are finally out: Madoka will only have 12 episodes. We’re actually ending this thing in two weeks!
Rating: *** (Awesome)

EDIT: holy crap, I knew by now that I needed to avoid that shoutbox before watching this week’s episode, but this is getting a bit out of hand here. Unfortunately due to my schedule I’m unfortunately not able to watch this series as fast as usual (combined with the fact that four of the shows I’m blogging air on thursday evening).

Next week, I’ll create a topic for discussions before the episode airs.

Posted on 4 March 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



A very, very macabre build-up here. On one side, the deaths in this series don’t have as much of a shock value compared to what happened to Mami. On the other hand though, the creators just did decimate the cast here. At this point there are only five named characters alive, and two of those have stopped being relevant to the plot.

In about a week the definitive lengths of the series of the current season should get announced, but it looks like there are three episodes left at this point. These should be enough for this series to change its direction, now that it lost some very important side-characters, and use these changes for its ending. The pieces are now all correctly set: Walpurgis Night is coming, and Madoka pretty much is going to have to choose between either becoming a mahou shoujo or having this Walpurgis thingy feasting on the city they’re in.

A lot of the finale is going to depend on Madoka’s development. I mean, she’s probably the most typical character of the entire cast, and spends a lot of time angsting, but a character was really needed for this show to be able to do what it wanted to do. As a deconstruction, this series would not have worked as well if Madoka was more mature. A part of the charm of this series is seeing Madoka nearly giving into Incubator again and again, continually building the tension between them. Because Madoka is indecisive it allows this series to flesh out all possible options for her to a great detail. Sure, weak characters like her can get very annoying when used poorly, but this show shows how to do them right, by having the entire plot revolve around this weakness of hers.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 24 February 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



And here this show comes with an episode that to be honest… I only expected to arrive around the penultimate episode or something. Now, that means that if this show knows what it’s doing, it can get an amazing climax out of that, when awesome episodes like this are used as build-up episodes.

The creators really didn’t try to drag out Sayaka’s descend into madness. It’s just been an episode and a half, and she already exhausted her soul gem. So yeah, she’s probably going to remain as a witch starting from the next episode. My guess would be that that’s the point where the creators are really going to go all out on Madoka and Homura. The part in which Madoka nearly gave in to QB (or should I say InQBtor) was really powerful. Now it’s up to the creators to build further upon that.

One point of criticism: here we have the childhood friends that you forgot about cliche again. Very weird place to show such a cliche, but it should be fine if it is indeed central to Homura’s character and her motivation.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 18 February 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



Ah, the wonderful character development! This episode added a ton of new things to the characters, especially Sayaka and Kyouko. This is really what these short 13 episoded series need to do: instead of wasting time like what Fractale is currently doing, they constantly need to focus and build up their characters and if character development fits in the story, then all the better.

Kyouko revealed her past and became a completely different character from who she was at her introduction. She’s still the experienced Mahou Shoujo, but the way she became a mahou shoujo is a really tragic one (which looked awesome, by the way). Sayaka meanwhile takes an entire episode to let the revelation of the previous episode sink in, to the point where she believes that she can’t even have a proper romance anymore. I wonder why, because even though she’s a bit of a zombie, she still can feel emotions like any other. Her fears here are entirely irrational, but this episode really hinted at her getting screwed over by those feelings at the end.

Overall, Shaft. I have to congratulate you. This has by far been my favourite Shaft series in years. For once, they did everything right again, and their decision to bring in Urobuchi Gen was an excellent one.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 February 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



That was a great subversion of one of the most overused mahou shoujo tropes: the magical object that somehow allows the girls to transform themselves. Now that this show mentions it, I’ve seen very few series that actually put in a deeper meaning to these items. The only other I can think of right now is Fancy Lala.

The idea that your soul gets separated from your body when you become a mahou shoujo is a great one. It offers a very interesting explanation to all the healing and invincibility powers that you often see in these series. What’s even more interesting is that most of the mahou shoujo don’t know about that, and maintaining your soul gem suddenly gets a whole new meaning here.

Aah, and Kyuubei. Seriously, that animal was being evil in this episode: it specifically called Madoka when Sayaka was about to be attacked and it just keeps referring to Madoka’s latent powers. In this episode we also learn that it eats grief seeds. That really can’t be a good thing.

That mysterious “Walpurgis Night” will probably the climax of this series. With this episode we pretty much learn what Homura’s goal is, though it’s still unclear what she was planning to do while fighting Sayaka in this episode. She obviously was trying to do something to her without killing her, but that as all I could gather.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 4 February 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



That new girl made her proper entrance in this episode. She at this point is a bit too stereotypically evil, and I would like to see her character in a bit more detail than someone who just wants to kill people. Other than that though, this again was an excellent episode.

She did have a good point in this episode, though: becoming a mahou shoujo, just to protect others is a very shallow reason: in order to remain strong enough to protect innocent people, you need to collect the grief seeds, which can only be collected after a witch had a meal on some innocent people. It’s a vicious cycle, and Sayaka doesn’t really seem to understand this. Sayaka really is a ticking time bomb at this point.

Also, the more this show goes on, the more trollish the OP appears. The tone is obviously misleading here, but also the transformation scene which felt completely out of place could be just a subtle jab to other mahou shoujo and some of the tropes that they just continue to overuse. Especially considering how at this point Madoka still hasn’t become one. I have seen Phantom, Gen’s other work. I know that this guy has pretended the death of characters, only to bring them back later. At the same time though, it’s not like he’s afraid to kill of characters either. My guess is that Mami will return eventually when Madoka chooses her wish. At the same time though, I’m expecting quite a number of actual deaths with the rest of the cast here.
Rating: ** (Excellent)a

Posted on 28 January 2011 with categories: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica



My impression of this season, now that we’re four weeks in: it’s small, full of teenagers and there are quite a few series that I really don’t want to waste my time on. But holy crap! I’m really amazed at how many really good series have appeared. Madoka Magica’s fourth episode was again a really good one. At this point, Madoka Magica is already my favourite Shaft series since ef – a Tale of Memories.

Where Heartcatch Precure was exactly what the shoujo-targeted mahou shoujo needed, Madoka Magica was exactly what the seinen-targeted mahou shoujo genre needed. This is looking out to be an excellent deconstruction at this pace. To just take an example here: just about every mahou shoujo accepts her fate in the first or second episode. After a few minutes of doubt, she’s willing to change her entire life in order to fight crime because she happens to be some chosen one. In Madoka Magica, Madoka still hasn’t become a mahou shoujo after four episodes. The past four episodes have shown that the downsides to becoming one have some real significance.

This episode also showed that just about everyone has her own agenda, which especially became clear when Sayaka suddenly decided on a whim to become a mahou shoujo, for the sake of her boyfriend at the point where Madoka herself had decided not to become one. This also shows what a bastard Kyubei can be: he says goodbye, but instantly appears whenever he feels that someone is ready to make a contract.

Regarding a bit of a small detail: I wonder what Homura meant when she said that it would take a long time for people to file her as missing? I mean, wouldn’t the people at her school find it strange that she’s gone? I mean, I of course do not know how schools in Japan are supposed to act when students start skipping classes, but in the Netherlands it’s a pretty serious offense for kids of Madoka’s age to be absent unannounced for more than a couple of days.

Which brings me to the next question that may be thinking a bit too much into the setting here, but how many people know about the existence of these mahou shoujo? Do the police know about them, for example? I mean, what happens when one of these seeds explodes without either a mahou shoujo nearby, or one that pretty much kills everyone around it? That’s bound to raise some suspicion sooner or later, isn’t it?
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Mar 4. 2015 12:44 AM)
    @Ebod: while it would definitely be ideal if a Japanese actress like Yukie Nakama or Keiko Kitagawa played the role of major Kusanagi, Hollywood practices make it very improbable. So the options left are either Asian actresses that are known in Hollywood such as Rinko Kikuchi, or American actresses of Asain decent like Natalie Mendoza or Grace Huang.
  • Ebod
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 08:22 PM)
    V for Vendetta for me has always been a more “literary” work than Watchmen, but Watchmen is spectacular because it’s a story that can only be told in full scope in the comic format. While I feel like many major themes and events from V for Vendetta could easily be adapted into, say, novel format, the same could not be said of Watchmen. Also, the racist whitewashing Hollywood does of Asian characters really has to stop.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:30 AM)
    Watchmen was deemed ‘unadaptable’ for about thirty years, so just getting what Snyder got out of the material is a huge success; it is said that what he did was to write a book version of Ingmar’s Holy Mountain. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to ever win a Hugo award and is easily the most intricate and multilayered Alan Moore comic, so it’s no surprise that it continues to top ‘best comics of all time’ charts to this day.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:20 AM)
    I beg to differ. Doctor Manhatten is the most intriguing character of Watchmen and the comic is a giant in ,not only in the comic world, but the history of literature itself. It is a deconstruction of superheros and Dr. M shows how afraid the world would really be when faced with a ‘superman’ and how a creature in such a higher realm of time and perception would show apathy toward humans and their foolish struggles.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:15 AM)
    GitS just won’t work. Maybe in a world before the Matrix, but not now with so many elements of it borrowed liberally by so many franchises in various mediums. Scarlet Johansson is decent in roles that fit her. She was enjoyable in Lost In Translation, but race aside she has nothing in common with Kusanagi. This is a travesty and the franchise is dear to me so it especially burns my ass.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:10 AM)
    While I am no fan of man of steel, Nolan and Snyder, just about anyone would have a hard time taking a difficult character like superman and making him work on screen.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:08 AM)
    Apart from Veidt and Rorshach I could never get into the characters all that much in watchmen. I also found the film overly long and mediocre acted for the larger part. But to each there own. For Alan moores works I always preferred his Miracleman, swamp thing, V for Vendetta stories.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:06 AM)
    Nolan can produce the action plus personal and dark story that Alita would need, and he also brings talent such as composer Hans Zimmer and Cinematographer Sally Pfister to the table. Him and Snyder have too much combined integrity to make a mockery out of Alita like Spielberg did with the GitS license.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:03 AM)
    Well Snyder has respect for his source materials and that is key in anime-to-film adaptations. Hell I’m a big Watchmen fan and I thought his version was (almost painfully) close to the comic. You’re not going to get that anywhere else in Hollywood. Also the combination of Nolan/Snyder is quite different than them individually.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:34 AM)
    And directed it as a co-production with America, using a Japanese cast.
    Yeah…this is impossible…

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