Puella Magi Madoka Magica, dubbed as Madoka Magica by fans, began airing in the year of 2011 drawing in a large audience despite its short one cour run. The series follows the titular character Madoka, a young girl who meets and mysterious and ambiguous cat-like creature called Kyubey.
The show immediately establishes an atmosphere that acts as a hook that keeps you coming back for more. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a series that is easily watched from start to end, not because of the shortness of it but because of the compelling plot and the general feel that one gets from the anime. It is quite easy to get immersed in the unsettling universe of the series and it is even harder to break free of it once you get started.
The main aspect that helps with the atmosphere and immediately sets the tone is the art of the series especially when the girls are in combat fighting off witches. The alternate world that they enter is features an environment that is oddly exaggerated and distorted in a sinister and twisted sort of way. The style that was used to complement the supposed unnatural quality of a witch brought out a quality that is distinct the Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Characteristic of Shaft’s work, the art of the series is truly unique immediately setting it apart from other anime. The general darkness in tone and the purposeful distortion in art were definitely key in establishing the setting of the series and reimagining and redefining the magical girl genre.
Madoka Magica not only veers away from the classic qualities of the genre in art but also in its characters. The characters are all well developed with some showing a dark side to them that is uncharacteristic of the common mahou shoujo. Kyubey and Akemi Homura stand out as being characters that truly break the mold of common mahou shoujo genre roles. Kyubey takes the role of the pet-like figure, serving as the granter of powers to the girls in the series. Exemplified by Keroberus from what is considered by many as the epitome of the mahou shoujo genre, Cardcaptor Sakura, the role of this figure is commonly to serve as the guide to the protagonist who is discovering her connection to magic. In this case however, we see this role similarly distorted as we slowly come to the realization that Kyubey is not as benevolent as his form makes him out to be. With the slow unveiling of Kyubey’s true agenda, the character is left in mystery for most of the series. Alongside the devious character of Kyubey, we see Homura who is equally enigmatic in nature with a hidden agenda of her own. For most of the series, Homura is blatantly shown to be hiding something. Her air of indifference and often expressionless demeanor heighten her sense of detachment from the world leading many to initially believe that she may be an antagonist of sorts. She is shown however to have a seemingly noble intention of her own making her character one of the best in the series. Ironically enough, rather than the titular character Madoka, it is these two characters that serve as the trademark to Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
The plot of the anime follows the other aspects of the show veering from what one would normally expect from a magical girl series. Rather than being bubbly in a sense, the plot becomes increasingly darker as the show moves along. We eventually see situations that evoke hopelessness and despair especially through Homura who struggles to fight for her ideals.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica manages to effectively deconstructs one of the most beloved and most established genres in anime taking an alternative approach that not only steers away from the common character tropes associated with the mahou shoujo or magical girl genre but also shatters preexisting expectations in all the right ways.