If you had the ability to have any wish you want granted, but you had to give up your future freedom and enter a war against evil, would you take it? If so, what would you wish for? That’s the overarching theme of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Madoka Magica for short). Madoka, the main character, has the opportunity to become a magical girl and have one wish granted. If she does so, she’ll be forced to risk her life fighting witches. Is it worth the risk? Is this anime worth watching? Let’s take a look!
Where can I watch Madoka Magica?
I’ve heard about Madoka Magica before but never looked into it. It was brought to my mind again after listening to an anime podcast so I decided to give it a shot. My wife had taken the kids to visit her parents in Florida so I had the weekend to binge watch anime. Where did I go first to find this anime? Crunchyroll, of course!
Crunchyroll has all 12 episodes of this anime available to stream. That’s not too bad. You can binge watch it in a day if you really want. Or, you can do what I did and spread out watching over a couple of days. We’ll get into the reason for that in a bit but Crunchyroll is a great place to watch a never-ending stream of anime.
If you’re not typically an anime watcher and you don’t have a Crunchyroll subscription, you can also watch Madoka Magica on Netflix. They, too, carry all 12 episodes. It’d be silly for them not to carry the whole season. I can’t think of a better place to watch a full season of dubbed anime than Netflix. That is as long as they carry a decent version of the dub.
Finally, at least the last option I’ll mention, you can find this anime at Funimation. At this point it’s really just up to you to decide a platform to watch from. If you’ve wandered onto this review then I assume that you’re already a fan of anime. If you’re a fan of anime then you probably have access to a subscription to one of these streaming services. It’s nice to have so many options!
How was the story in Madoka Magica?
When I ask you what you think about when I say the phrase “magical girl” what comes to your mind? The first thing that pops into my head is Sailor Moon. That, and sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and unicorns. “Magical girl” brings images of young girls with magical powers fighting against evil but never really being in danger. There might be hint of danger from time to time, but there’s no way that the heroes would actually be harmed. You’re probably thinking something along the same lines.
Before I go too much further, I have to admit to not watching that many “magical girl” anime. It’s not really my preferred type of anime. Basically, my knowledge of the genre is limited to what little I know about Sailor Moon. Right, now back to the review.
The central premise of Madoka Magica’s story revolved around Madoka Kaname’s decision whether or not to accept Kyubey’s offer to become a magical girl. Kyubey is a cat-looking creature that obviously doesn’t come from Earth. He has the ability to grant one wish in exchange for transforming girls into magical girls. From the beginning, there seems to be something off with his offer.
What do you mean by “off”?
Madoka meets Kyubey when she is telepathically summoned by the cat-like creature when he’s under attack from a magical girl by the name of Homura Akemi. Homura also happens to be a transfer student recently assigned to Madoka’s class. Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki try to escape from Homura with Kyubey in hand and are assisted by another magical girl, Mami Tomoe. From there the questions start to get raised.
Why is Homura trying to kill Kyubey? Homura obviously knows a lot more about Madoka and the others, what’s she hiding? Kyubey’s offer seems innocent enough, why would girls not accept it? Madoka Magica tries to offer answers to all of this over the rest of the series.
What happens is a stream of episodes that explores what the real consequences might be if you decide to make a wish. Mami’s wish was to not die after a horrible car crash. She was dying in the wreckage when Kyubey showed up. That’s pretty straightforward. Homura is closed lip on her wish, but we get to see Sayaka’s wish play out with our own eyes.
What was Sayaka’s wish?
She ended up wishing that her love interest, a boy named Kyousuke, would regain the usage of his hand. It was permanently damaged after an accident. In a bout of depression, Kyousuke lashed out at both Sayaka and the music he loved so much. Kyousuke was broken that he would not be able to play the violin anymore. It was enough to push Sayaka to make a contract with Kyubey.
I think this was a great way to get Sayaka past her hesitation to make a wish. The boy Sayaka loves is in a dark moment. He’s cursing the world that took his passion from him. All Sayaka wants to do is to make Kyousuke happy. Her decision in the moment to become a magical girl is a real and relatable reaction to the emotion of the moment.
Why was it so hard to decide to become a magical girl?
I forgot to mention that the decision to become a magical girl was made a lot more difficult with the events in episode three. Up until that point, Madoka Magica was content to hint that not everything was quite right. Yes, magical girls fought witches, but how could they lose? Well, that’s exactly what happens. Mami ends up losing to a witch and loses her head because of it.
That one act shifts Madoka Magica from the slightly ominous but mostly cheerful anime it is to a full blown dark psychological drama. It finally dawns on everyone that Kyubey is recruiting young girls to fight to the death against witches and there’s a real chance that they’ll be the ones who end up on the losing end. That’s a big decision to make and one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It’s actually not even the most shocking revelation about magical girls in this anime either! There are two more big revelations that come later that are even more impactful.
What are these reveals?
Ok, before you go on just know that there will be some spoilers. You’ve been warned. If you’re wondering if this is an anime worth watching and you don’t want the story ruined, just go watch it. At the end I’m going to say Madoka Magica is worth your time. Go ahead, I won’t complain.
Now that that’s out of the way, the two big reveals that shake the magical girl world in Madoka Magica are the discovery that magical girls’ human bodies are just puppets they inhabit and that witches are just disillusioned magical girls. That’s quite a twist isn’t it! It’s a good thing that Madoka took her time in making her decision don’t you think! Leaving these two big points out of the conversation is kind of a big deal but it’s easy to understand Kyubey’s motivation.
You see, the universe is dying of entropy. Kyubey’s species has searched far and wide for a solution to stop this entropy and the best way that they found was to start a war between magical girls and witches on Earth. The power behind the emotional transformation that happens fuels the universe. In Kyubey’s mind, sacrificing a few girls on Earth is no problem when compared to the well being of the entire universe.
Finally! I’ve watched an anime with some major consequences to characters’ actions! That a refreshing change. Madoka Magica actually shows us that the obvious choice may not actually be the thing that the main characters need to be doing. In doing so, this anime makes its characters a lot more relatable. Despite being an anime about magic, witches and other kind of unbelievable phenomena, Madoka Magica has a story that’s a lot more related to real life than most anime.
What did Madoka Magica get right?
Obviously the story is a high point. I’m not going to go through all of what I just said. Besides that, I did enjoy the art style of the witches and their alternate reality. It was unique and totally different from what I’ve seen before. The witches themselves were unlike anything you think of when you picture a witch. Instead of a pointy hat and a wart filled face, the witches were ambiguous mass that slightly resembled whatever main thing their lives focused on. I’m just going to put a picture here because I really can’t do it justice.
With that out of the way now, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed both the OP and the ending credits. I really liked the ending credits after the events in episode 3. Normally I skip past both OP and credits as fast as possible. There aren’t many out there that catch my ear and make me want to consume more. It’s just wasted time in my opinion.
That’s not true with Madoka Magica. I’m specifically thinking about the end credits. The credits helped set the tone for the dark nature of the series. I could feel goosebumps start to come up every time the credits started to roll. I kept thinking “what’s going to come next? Is Madoka going to die before making a decision?” It kept me wondering and wanting to see more.
What did Madoka Magica get wrong?
There were some things that I did not like. The biggest annoyance was the quick cuts that filled conversations between characters. It physically made me start to get nauseated. I’m prone to get motion sick and the quick cuts were pushing that button. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of their usage.
Another thing that I found to be a negative was the tendency of Homura to run her hand through her hair in a dismissive way when talking to the other characters. I started to view it as a character tick. It was unnecessary and it got old very quickly.
Is Madoka Magica worth watching?
Yes. Madoka Magica is worth watching. Considering all of the violence and drama, I wouldn’t recommend it for kids. Anyone mature enough to handle what’s going on will most likely enjoy watching this anime. That goes for those who don’t typically watch magical girl anime as well. The focus of Madoka Magica is less on the fight between magical girls and witches and more on the cost to join the fight.
This anime does a good job of building up it’s characters and story. By the end of the final episode you feel like you’ve been given a complete anime. There’s no glaring plot holes or inconsistent circumstances. The ending may be a little cheesy, but that’s just fine considering the trip Madoka Magica takes us on. I wholly recommend this anime to anyone who’s a fan.
Now go watch some anime!