Anime Review: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

madoka

 

Genre: Fantasy

Studio: Shaft

DistributorAniplex, also streams on Hulu.
No of Episodes: 12

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: A group of girls are met by a strange cat-like being called Kyubey.  It tells them that it can grant them their hearts’ desires and transforms them into magical girls in order to hunt witches.  But something sinister is afoot. What are Kyubey’s true intentions?

Review: When I decide to review an anime, I do not look up info on it because I prefer not to be spoiled.  So I had no knowledge of what to expect for this title.

When I heard the premise from a former friend of mine, I expected something along the line of Cardcaptors or Sailor Moon. Boy, was I wrong!  This is really what you call a deconstruction. It takes what is usually established and destroys it.

The art style is chaotic. The enemies the girls fight create their own environments, almost looking like an animated Salvador Dali painting.

The characters are interesting.  Our heroine, Madoka, is actually the weakest of the heroines. But in the end, she proves to be the one who is underestimated by Kyubey.

Kyubey operates similarly to Mephistophilis, a demon in Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus. In the play, a man named Faust meets a demon who offers divine knowledge, in exchange for his soul.  The same premise is made here.  Each girl is offered a contract that eventually transforms the girls.  They then become dependent on the “soul gems” that are created when they defeat a witch. If they do not allow Kyubey to “purify” the soul gems so that they can use them to heal from battles, they receive the full brunt of the injuries they received.

Kyubey is a great adversary. Because it is demonic, it does not understand the value humanity places on life and compassion.  This is a classic model: dark cannot comprehend light.

The overall story had very interesting twists I didn’t see coming.  The ending alone is quite the payoff.

I highly recommend this program.  If you can handle dark stories, the payoff will be worth it.

Sub/Dub: I was only able to watch the sub.

Music/Score: Beautiful and epic.  I like the closing theme best.

Violence: (5/10) The girls magic and there are a few death scenes. We also see what happens when someone tries to back out on a contract, and it’s pretty painful.

Nudity: (3/10) There is silhouetted nudity in the final episode.

Language: (1/10)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Religion: (5/10) OK, time for the spoilers for the ending.  Kyubey is a demon and it is harvesting the girls’ souls to create entropy.  As I stated in the review, they are essentially contracting with the devil.  In the final episode, Madoka outsmarts Kyubey by taking all the suffering of those who made deals with it upon herself, somewhat like Jesus did for us.  This not only thwarts Kyubey’s plans, but it also remakes the whole universe.

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  1. #1 by CoobieGirl on February 6, 2013 - 7:11 am

    Could you tell me when backed out of a contract? I can’t seem to remember that happening.

    I noted a few inaccuracies in your review
    1. Witches don’t create soul gems upon being defeated, they actually create grief seeds. Only Kyubey is capable of producing a soul gem.
    2. Kyubey also doesn’t purify soul gems, that again is up to the grief seeds produced. Kyubey’s purpose is to create contracts and then harvest the energy created by said contracts, it’s up to the girls to collect seeds so that their gems may be purified.
    3. When purifying their gems the girls are not directly healing their physical bodies. While the true nature of their soul gems does greatly reduce the pain felt by the girls and allows their bodies to survive much greater damage than a normal human body would be able, it does not directly heal them. The girls must use their magic to heal themselves, which uses up a bit of their magic, which in turn taints their soul gems until they are able to purify their gems with grief seeds.
    The following points contain SPOILERS:
    4. Kyubey is not collecting souls exactly, he is actually converting their souls into soul gems, allowing the girls to fight witches. Kyubey is really collecting the energy released by the soul gems transforming into grief seeds.
    5. Kyubey is in no way creating entropy, entropy is actually the true enemy of the universe. The incubators sole purpose is to fight off entropy. If they allow entropy to run wild, according to the Madoka universe, all civilizations throughout the universe will be destroyed. In science, entropy is the energy that cannot be used, so in the Madoka universe eventually entropy will make it so that there will be no more energy.The universe is just like a car, if there were no more ways to make gasoline, the car would not be able to run, so in the Madoka universe, when entropy destroys every last bit of energy, the universe will be unable to run, annihilating all that lives in it.
    END SPOILER ALERT

    I also feel that it’s also somewhat overly simplistic to call Kyubey evil. That’s like calling an eagle evil because it killed a rabbit for food, it’s only trying to survive, just as Kyubey and his kind are trying to keep the universe working.
    SPOILER ALERT: One of the first things Kyubey tells Madoka is that incubators hold no ill will towards humanity, but that we are basically just the most efficient producers of energy incubators can find. As far as Kyubey is concerned, humans are to him what fossil fuels are to us. Because they cannot understand or experience emotion, incubators cannot understand the suffering they are inflicting on individual humans. For them, a few deaths are a small price to pay when you’re saving all the civilizations of the universe. Kyubey can’t understand why humans are not happy to be sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
    When Madoka asks him how it’s ok for Mami and Sayaka to have experienced what they had, Kyubey replies that because they received permission first that act alone should show they have good will towards us. Madoka argues that they were tricked into the contracts, “tricking” being another concept the incubators cannot understand because of their lack of emotions. Kyubey asserts that “When you regret a wrong decision based on a misunderstanding, you humans tend to hate the other party for some reason”. He is basically saying that it isn’t his fault that humans tend to agree to his contract before totally understanding the ramifications of what they are doing. Kyubey’s forthcomingness to Madoka in the 9th episode suggests that the Incubators aren’t actively hiding the “truth”, but that the right questions must be asked of them to fully understand the deal you are making.
    He also explains that the only reason humans arrived where they are today is because of the incubator’s meddling, and that some, if not all, of the most important women of history worked with the Incubators, including Joan of Arc and Anne Frank. SPOILER END.

    I argue that this is a story of Science/Logic Vs Human Emotions/Compassion(tm) rather than Good Vs Evil. Kyubey is science and logic, by themselves science and logic have no morals, not until we humans apply our morals and emotions to them. Science only cares about the facts, and the laws of thermodynamics only care about maintaining a system. Madoka on the other hand embodies human emotions and compassion, she cares about what effects the contracts have on every individual person, she feels that every life is precious and that it is unfair for magical girls to go through so much pain and despair. Just like science, Kyubey is not evil, he just IS. Science in itself is not evil but rather, it is what is done with science that is good or evil. As I mentioned earlier, Kyubey and his kind are just trying to make sure universe will continue. They view a handful of humans giving their lives so that billions, maybe even trillions of beings will be able to continue as an acceptable price to pay.

    SPOILER ALERT
    In the end of the series, Madoka is not really thwarting Kyubey’s plans, as Kyubey is only one of many cogs in the universe, playing his part to keep the universe going. Kyubey is bound by the laws of the universe just as much as the humans and all the other beings Kyubey hints at are bound by the same laws. What Madoka truly thwarts is the laws of the universe. When she makes her wish she is rewriting the laws to adhere to the wish. Because witches can no longer be created, the incubators must find a different way to interact with the magical girls and harvest energy. Unlike when witches existed however, Incubators work along side the girls as they fight the Wraiths. This new relationship is much more symbiotic than the parasitic relationship of the past.
    END OF SPOILER ALERT

    • #2 by rocklobsterjwt on February 6, 2013 - 12:16 pm

      I didn’t have my notes so I was writing based on fuzzy memory. Thanks for clearing things up.

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