Gabe Finally Watches: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a series that focuses on the consequences of becoming a magical girl, picking apart at a term that’s been thrown around for years without much thought to its meaning outside of Sailor Moon and similar shows. Its premise alone is enough to grab anyone’s attention, and the story it leads viewers through does not fail to deliver come its finale. The series has received praise left and right, and for good reason.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica logoBut since an overall consensus has been reached on the quality of the show itself throughout the entirety of the internets, I figured I’d take the time to instead write about one of the show’s more downplayed genres—horror.

Upon first glance, you probably wouldn’t think much of Madoka Magica other than it’s another series starring anime girls with unnaturally colored hair that wear skirts regardless of the situation. Within the first couple minutes of the first episode, though, you get a certain sense of foreboding—of something much grander in the works, but you don’t even have the slightest clue as to what it may be. It’s this type of approach to the series that further sets it apart from other run-of-the-mill shows, better establishing the world and overall mood in a way that can’t be done outside of animation.

Checking the series’ staff, I’m not surprised to find Akiyuki Shinbo credited as the series’ director. Similar to his previous work in Bakemonogatari, Shinbo does an excellent job of forming a distinct ambiance with Madoka, limiting the number of characters on screen to a mere handful, with occasional cuts to seemingly out-of-place objects to drive home a real feeling of solitude. And this is before the story itself delves into anything even remotely resembling something you’d identify as “scary.”

dmncap00002The villains to magical girls in this series come in the form of witches, though to leave their description at that wouldn’t do them justice. Each witch in the series not only looks incredibly different from what you would associate with a typical witch (if anything, you’d expect witches to be a good source of fanservice), but they are animated differently from the rest of the series as well. Witch encounters in general don’t just feel like a mere clash between good and evil, but an event all its own, with the entire room being filled with imagery up the wazoo, and the witch serving as the centerpiece to the surrounding madness.

The haunting imagery only becomes even more disturbing as the plot unfolds and viewers learn more about the history behind magical girls and witches. It’s the kind of unnerving feeling I’d assume people that have recently been robbed have—you’re initially under the impression that it will never happen to you, but once you do get robbed, you’re just filled with a paranoia that it will happen again. In a similar sense, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has an innocent enough façade, but creeps up on you with its combination of plot and imagery. And that’s just scratching the surface of what the series has to offer.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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