First Impressions: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

(Based on three episodes)

Summary: Beloved family, good friends, laughter and tears – these things make up the ordinary life of Kaname Madoka, a second grade student of Mitakihara City Middle School. One night, Madoka dreams of a mysterious dark haired girl struggling against a terrible evil; the next morning she discovers that the girl, Akemi Homura, has transferred into her class. This encounter will lead to an incident which will alter Madoka’s fate forever.


Magical Modoka is attempting to turn the tropes of Magical Girl on their head while using them to create a Magical Girl show. It is a subtle, difficult accomplishment because the Magical Girl elements need to feel both genuine and slightly off at the same time. It is easy to dismiss the first episode of Modoka as a generic Magical Girl anime with some pretty animation but after the first episode the show begins to ground things in reality in a way I’ve never seen in a Magical Girl show. The twisted element comes from Akiyuki Shinbo, who is quickly becoming my favorite animation director, crafts a visual style which juggles the normal world of school life alongside a world where everyday images are twisted by the witches, enemies of the Magical Girls.

The two styles, normal animation and the cut out pencil drawn style of the Witches world, are balanced wonderfully by the narrative and tone of the show. It succeeds in never going too light or two dark but by having an oppressive feeling throughout. There is something sinister in the world and while the Magical Girls should be the opposite of the sinister feeling there is also a darker element to their existence. It is unsettling the way Kyubey, the familiar grants Magical power, is attempting to coarse Modoka and her friend into becoming Magical Girls. There are few elements to the world that seem sincere, even the goal of defeating the Witches feels like there is a secret bit of information the audience isn’t getting. The only benefit the Magical Girls get from defeating the witches is the ability to recharge their powers, so does that mean if their powers are completely drained they’ll die? Why does something a witch leave behind recharge a Magical Girl? The underlying mysteries of the world add a compelling aspect to the series that keeps me desperately waiting for the next episode in the dark as to where they plan to take the series next.

The characters have a special touch to them, notably Madoka’s mother Junko. Early in the series they establish a female empowerment vibe through the character. In Madoka’s family her Mother is the “salary man” and her Father is domestic, her Mother is obviously confident, intelligent, motivated, and responsible all positive qualities to inspire in young women. Early in the first episode Junko is preparing to leave for work and kisses both her Husband and her son goodbye, but delivers a strong high five to her daughter. Seeing such masculine elements in the Mother-daughter relationship is odd but certainly welcome in a medium that normally features female characters as thin as tissue paper.

Verdict: Madoka Magica is a beautiful, well written show that both users the familiar elements of Magical Girl effectively and turns them slightly to create elements that feel new and original. There is a sinister plot running just below the surface that compels the audience to keep watching. The characters are strong and work within the genre and themes of the narrative. Madoka Magica is definitely the winner, so far, in the Winter season.

(Summary from

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