It’s a magical girl adventure but with a bit of darkness and maturity to it
Magical girl anime, where little girls with big eyes, out of proportion bodies (big heads folks) gain magical powers and fight evil all while looking cute with fantastical transformations and some kind of cute mascot character. That’s the formula for magical girl anime and its front and center in Puella Magi Madoka Magica vol. 1 on Blu-ray and DVD combo from Aniplex yet there’s something a bit different about this tale. Is it the crisp animation or haunting music … maybe the darker tone … let’s take a look.
Story – Madoka Kaname, typical 8th grader with an extraordinary future. While her life is nothing special things soon change when a girl seen in her dreams seems to appear in real life. Homura looks just like the girls from Kaname’s dream and it seems there are ties much larger than just looks. Soon both Kaname and friend Sayaka are wrapped into a new world of magical girls; they are recruited but will be called upon to pay a price. Will the two accept entry into this new world or do the dangers presented make it impossible?
While there is a larger cast Kaname is front and center. She’s a likeable character and keeps herself grounded without being an annoying magical girl, and that’s the real kicker, she does not want to be one. There is real danger, death even, and it’s here that Madoka Magica separates itself form other anime of this type. The story centers around young magical girls but has a maturing and darkness not seen in the genre very often, if at all. This maturity makes volume 1 a very intriguing watch and one that’s not made for kids that’s for sure.
Animation and Art Style – Love the art style. The characters are not revolutionary or groundbreaking and they do sport the magical girl look but without all the mega happiness and sweetness. The characters remind of When They Cry or Pandora Hearts and anime that portray a more realistic looking group of young ladies. Yes, big eyes are front and center but the overall look and feel is solid, ground in reality with the magical looks sporting the right amount of … magic and colored themes. The settings are fairly solid also but it’s the other world that is freaking sweet. It’s like watching an anime come to life on top of a living painting, just incredible to see in HD. The pacing and flow of animation is solid and well done and the jumps from light and friendly to dark and scary are quite good.
Voice Work and Music – The girls sound like many a magical girl cast with the super peppy and happy member to the dark and brooding, all well done with proper emotion coming across but the music … oh the music! It feels so very much like .hack// with haunting tunes and melodies that paint the picture of a twisted world, of evil and all things bad. Combine the solid other world animations and style with this musical track and anime fans get served a visual and audio feast.
Miscellaneous – Loving some bonus content here. The soundtrack CD, composed by Yuki Kajiura, is phenomenal. The haunting and moving tracks are unique and set a sometimes creepy mood, very nice! The postcard set, poster and stickers in the limited edition only enhance the package and allow fans to show they happiness with the franchise. No special collection would be complete without an art book detailing character design and episodes … included also.
Overall Madoka Magica re-invents the magical girl anime with a dash of maturity and darkness. It shares similarities with anime such as .hack//Sign, Pandora Hearts and When They Cry from design to tone and setting. This viewers was pleasantly surprised at the non-super-sugar-all-is-good magical girl anime was watchable and quite well done. Looking for something new then give this one a try, but for magical girl fans know this; it’s darker and a bit more mature than other magical girl shows.