By T.K. Wilson (Rated G)
What would you do for a wish? That’s the question posed by the popular Anime “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. When a strange little creature called Kyubey approaches Madoka Kaname one day offering to grant the greatest wish of her heart in exchange for becoming a magical girl, Madoka is sorely tempted. Madoka travels around with fellow magical girl candidate Sayaka and valiant senior magical girl Mami, watching how she hunts witches that spread chaos and despair, making “nobody” Madoka long even more for the chance to help others. However, a fellow magical girl, Homura, tries to stop her from such a decision. And you thought the Hobbit was confusing.
What the idealistic magical girls don’t know is that the emotionless Kyubey is tricking them into selling their literal souls for this power, and will allow them to turn into the very creatures they fight. Kyubey is NOT to be trusted, and it has been Homura’s obsession to save Madoka from the horrid fate of death by despair. Homura will allow nothing and no one to come between her and Madoka… nothing.
Madoka’s love for her friends and family eventually brings her to choose to become a magical girl, granting her so much power that she becomes a being of almost godlike power with the ability to take magical girls on the brink of becoming witches away to a paradise. The only one unhappy with this is Homura, whose sisterly love for Madoka has warped into a desire to keep Madoka’s love all to herself, even if it means dooming her fellow magical girls to despair.
Let’s put it this way: “Madoka” is not “Glitter Force”. Do not let the animation style fool you, this magical girl show is not for children. It is clearly meant for adult audiences with an abundance of deep themes, graphic violence, nightmarish creatures, and some uncomfortable sexual content.
The plot of “Madoka” is based on the legend of Faust and some ideals of Christianity (particularly the Suffering Servant motif. A cross shows up once or twice.). Between the main anime and the “Rebellion” movie, there’s plenty of fodder for feeling like throwing yourself from a cliff. But all is not lost. The main theme of “Madoka” is that love and hope are more powerful than any amount of evil and suffering. It is the love of friends that keeps the plot together. Madoka can no longer bear for her friends to suffer and takes it all on herself, Homura’s desire to save Madoka is born from love, and so on. Kyubey’s kind cannot understand human emotions, particularly Love, so they are constantly confused by the motives of the girls.
These positives are additional to flawless animation, great music, and great writing (I think… I had to watch it subtitled. But the characters are great, so…) Also, all five girls together are called the “holy quintet”. A better way to put that idea in the context of Japan, where holy doesn’t mean the same thing as it does here, would be “righteous quintet”.
Negatives include the level of violence, which while no worse than a PG-13 action movie, are rather shocking considering these are middle and high school age girls. The Witches are horrible to look at, and sometimes cause people to do violence to themselves and others. The girls are in serious peril of their lives every time they suit up, and it can be seen pretty quickly. One of the magical girls, Kyoto, has a bit of a potty mouth on her and a bitter streak a mile wide, due to growing up desperately poor and her pastor father killing her mother and sister before committing suicide.
Other matters include some shots of nudity, (you can’t see anything, it’s like a naked Barbie, but still) some references to homosexuality (but none of the girls are gay), and the way they drew Mami. Mami… looks like she belongs on the Vegas strip. She’s sixteen, maximum. The animators need to get their heads out of the gutter! As a character, she deserves so much better.
Anyway, all this being said, “Madoka” is different from all other anime. It gives you a lot to chew on intellectually, and is quite good story wise, but it’s really something you do not want to binge watch. It’s a real mind bender and so hard to see little girls suffer and yes, die, because they were tricked through their own innocent desires. But love conquers all. Perhaps that reminds you of something… “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is recommended for ages 16 and up.
Image from amazon.com