I have been watching anime for a few years so far, and I have learned to become incredibly critical about the shows that I view. Certain criteria and requirements have been put into place for me personally that truly define a perfect series that I would watch over and over again; Puella Magi Madoka Magica has completely redefined these boundaries.
At first glance, this show appears to be a fun, colorful cast of cute anime girls that go on adventures to defeat the bad guys and save the world (basically the plot of Sailor Moon). Once I got past episode three, I discovered that I was mistaken, and as I entered into episode eight, I knew that I was horribly wrong. This show has the amazing power to market itself to its audience as an innocent show when in reality the anime is more synonymous to Death Note, which took me by surprise. I feel that this is Madoka Magica’s strongest asset, and they use this skill of misleading manipulation in other areas of the show as well.
This anime was released in January 2011, and it’s animation style still holds strong in comparison to other popular shows that are produced today. Bright colors, incredible detail, and great character design all allow this anime to flourish. Most notably, anime fans who have seen this series know about the unique drawing style that was given to the witches in Madoka Magica, which also gives it an edge above other shows. No other enemies, bosses, or grunts of any anime series that I have ever seen has a deviation from the normal like this show displays, and it is nice to get a refreshing touch from Aniplex and Shaft.
I cannot give an accurate review about the soundtrack of Madoka Magica, as I do not have a practiced ear for musical masterpieces, but I do know that the composer for the majority of songs used in this show were by Yuki Kajiura, a very famous musician in the otaku community. To name a few, here are some of the other series that she has been a part of:
- Sword Art Online
- Sword Art Online II
- Pandora Hearts
If you have seen any of these anime, you understand that even without an ear for music, you know that Yuki Kajiura is extremely talented. Her music style ranges from quiet, emotional orchestral tracks when the heart-wrenching moments of the show occur to fast-paced, powerful songs at other times. She knows when to make her music certain ways, and does so splendidly, adding much to the already amazing Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
From the perspective of the plot, everything from the large events to the minor details all worked together in flawless harmony. Like I mentioned before, Madoka Magica uses their power of deceptive reality and turns them like switches during certain points of the show, allowing the story to advance in ways that it could not have otherwise. For example, the first few episodes of this show introduce the characters, setting, and conflicts, like every good anime should.
We learn about a girl named Madoka from a city in Japan who doesn’t see anything really special about herself, and her normal everyday interactions with her friends in their middle school. Suddenly, a mysterious creature called Kyumey appears before them, promising a free wish of anything imaginable if they gain special powers and become “Magical Girls”, a force that fights against evil witches that terrorize the world.
Obviously viewers automatically assume where the plot is headed, as many are spoon-fed sappy, one-dimensional storylines without any true variation or change. I personally jumped to some serious conclusions right at the beginning, and boy did this leave me utterly shocked when Puella Magi Madoka Magica decided to flip their tone switch at episode four. Some of the dark secrets of becoming a Magical Girl were soon realized; the price of your deepest desire was actually in fact a trade, exchanging your own life for the thing that you wanted so desperately. Later on, the motivations and origins of many characters that you thought were your friends forced you to believe they were enemies, and other times you just don’t know what to think. This kind of intriguing plot is what I deem as flawless: a story that you cannot truly decipher what it is trying to convey.
Most importantly, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has so many Biblical themes present within its complicated story that you can pull dozens of meanings from it. The courage Madoka had when she knew that she was going to be slaughtered by the witch Walpurgisnacht, the trust that Junko had in her daughter when she did not fully understand what was she was going through, and the heavy symbol of Jesus Christ through the sacrifice of Madoka all point directly towards the Bible and the message of the cross.
The biggest overarching theme that I felt was present in this anime was holding tightly onto a faith that you yourself are not sure of. Many Christians walk through life being challenged by non-believers who demand proof that an infinite God even exists, and they do not have the ability to answer with concrete evidence. Personal experience, science, logic, philosophy, and historic discoveries are all tools that Christians use to persuade a person to believe in Jesus Christ, yet these do not truly prove that God is even there. I feel that Madoka Magica defines the definition of faith, and teaches Christians that we know the spiritual revelations that we receive from the Bible are true because of faith.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. 2 For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3, NET)
I don’t want to get into spoiler territory by explaining how this anime dives into this topic, but if you have any interest in finding out more, I would suggest to watch the series yourself or read an article from Beneath The Tangles. It is written by another Christian anime blogger named Kaze, and the link to his piece of writing can be accessed here.
Overall, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has been a roller coaster ride that I am glad that I rode, and desperately want to ride again. Containing many unique elements, a powerful soundtrack, a cleverly written story, and Biblical themes, I believe that this anime has immediately become one of my favorites. I would highly recommend to buy this anime in Blueray once you have streamed it, and take a gander at the three movies that follow the series.