Magical girl animes. Other than Pokémon, the first anime series that I was exposed to were magical girl animes. There were the first three seasons of Sailor Moon being shown on repeat on Fox Kids and then there was Cardcaptor Sakura which was on Nickelodeon in the same Saturday morning block as Invader Zim. Despite loving both of these as a kid, I don’t think I’ve actually watched a new magical series (not counting the Cardcaptor Sakura sequel) for over 15 years.
Truth is, I’ve been slightly put off of them as magical girl series tend to have a certain kind of fan and most of the review sites I look at describe them as not being any good. That’s why I was so interested when I saw Puella Magi Madoka Magica pop up on Netflix – especially since 12 episodes makes it the perfect show to binge in a day and a half when your husband is not around.
Now that I have watched this… oh my god this might be one of the best anime series I have seen for a very long time. It takes a lot for an anime series to completely whip the carpet from under me (the last time this happened was in the first episode of School-Live!) and Madoka Magica managed to do that a number of times in its limited run.
This is not your typical magical girl show. Oh no, this this something a whole lot darker, twisted and cerebral than what the first episode would have you expect. You start off thinking that this is going to be a standard girls gaining powers to save the world by battling witches and you end with a science-fiction time travel anime dealing with mental health issues. It kept me guessing so much that I just devoured the whole thing in less than 24 hours. I haven’t done that with an anime since Erased.
Other than the storytelling – a thing that really makes this a series to recommend is the animation itself. This show comes from Shaft – the studio that brought us the adaptation of the Monogatari series and March Come In Like A Lion. When watching the battle and labyrinth sequences, I saw so much of Bakemonogatari in this – which is brilliant. Parts even made me think of some of the Cuphead boss battles if they had collaborated with Terry Gilliam.
Madoka Magica is one of those rare shows out there that not only smashes cliches, but does an amazing job at doing so. It was worth taking a break from my movie marathon in order to watch this and this has re-charged my anime batteries to the point that I feel able to tackle one of the older and longer series for my next entry.