A girl is presented with a choice: become a magical girl and in exchange….
The light of love you lit in your eyes one day
and surely destroy one dream
of this world and hurries to its ruin.
Swallow down your hesitation.
What is it that you wish for?
On the path of yearning as greedy as this,
will there be a good future?
Like ancient magic
that I dreamed of when I was young,
with the power to slash the darkness,
I want to meet the smiling you.
In these frightened hands of mine,
I have the courage of hand-picked flowers.
My feelings alone are all that I rely upon,
a wish that awakens… the light.
~ ED Theme Magia by Kalafina
“This unavoidable destruciton, this sorrow… you can change it all.”
“Can someone like me really do something to stop this?”
“Of course you can! Form a contract with me and become a magical girl!”
So I have in front of me an anime that has this feel good flow going. The seriousness of the matters at hand are told to me numerous times by various characters, but I’m going along with that feel good vibe anyway. I mean how serious can a mahou shoujo (magical girl) type anime get? This anime is deceptive. Besides the epic beginning scene, the anime starts off in a lighthearted vein. I’m carried along with that, but there is this feeling underneath that has me thinking somethings up.
The setting itself isnt’ very important–some city in Japan. This story could have taken place anywhere. As the story picks up so too does the action and fascination. The scenes within the witch barriers certainly grab your attention. The action scenes are also of good praise.
The serious aspect of things hit hard. I can’t remember the last time I was shocked like that. The unexpected quality of it was done so well, so purposefully. Even the first ending! I can almost hear your subliminal words… “No worries. Friendship. Happiness. Upbeat!” Messes with my mind. Of course all along the viewer is warned of the severity of the world of a magical girl, as Tomoe Mami says, “That’s right. I put my life on the line.” But still….
There’s Kaname Madoka, a carefree school girl who has had a strange dream. The next day she meets a new transfer student, Akemi Homura, who seems to have a strange interest in Madoka. After school, while hanging out with her friends, Madoka hears a voice, “Save me.” Following the voice, she comes upon a strange injured creature. Homura appears and seems to be after this creature’s life. A tense meeting, a quick escape, and then… trapped. What follows… find out yourself.
Magical girls represent the good, while witches represent the bad. Witches are said to be behind various instances like suicides, natural disasters, and other events, and it is the job of the magical girls to defeat those witches. For compensation, when a witch is defeated, sometimes a Grief seed or Witches Egg is found. These grief seeds are used to restore a magical girl’s soul gem (the symbol of her power) after depleting its magic. There seems to be more to this system and how the soul gem works, but this is the general explanation given to new magical girls.
At the crux of battling witches are the eggs. Soul eggs represent the power of the magical girl. It’s use allows a magical girl to transform herself to weild incredible powers of magic. Soul eggs are also useful in finding witches. Apparently the closer one is to a witch, the more the soul egg resonates with a kind of pulse. Witch eggs are found upon destroying a witch, but not familiars, which are kind of like weak witches.
Apparently only some girls are compatible to become magical girls and it is Kyubey, a mysterious creature, who forms contract with with these girls in order for them to become magical girls. This contract entails the girl being able to have a single wish fulfilled and in return that girl gives her life over to battle against the witches of the world.
“What’s a witch? Are they different from magical girls?”
“If magical girls are said to be born from positive desires like wishes, then witches are born from negative desires like curses. Magical girls spread hope, where witches spread despair. And to make matters worse, they can’t be seen by normal humans. Doubt and suspicion; extreme anger and hate. They bring seeds of catastrophe to this world.”
Madoka isn’t very sure of herself, but she is cared deeply for by her friends. The first problem that faces her is what to wish for. Becoming a magical girl is a solemn sort of act, but really Madoka is simply fascinated by the courage and strength shown to help others. As I said before, lighthearted attitudes abound. Madoka and her friend realize the importance of this choice, so they bide their time to make the best judgment as to what they want. As things become a bit darker, the weight of this choice becomes greater still.
“You just need to stay Kaname Madoka, like you have so far.”
These are the words of the new tranfer student, Akemi Homura. She’s strong, smart, and pretty much amazing, but very cold. What exactly is her interest in Madoka? Her warning seems very premoniscent. As the severity of world pushes down on her, Madoka stays by her friends and continues to search her heart for an answer. Truths beget sorrow and the path becomes harder for her to follow. Hidden motives guide her from two sides, but who will she follow them?
The majority of the action takes place in a witch’s barrier, a kind of illusionary world that hides and protects a witch from others. The fights are spectacular and nearly make the anime worth watching alone. A witch must be tracked down by the magical girl and defeated within the barrier. Unable to decide upon her fate, but also unable to leave her friends, Madoka finds herself in a witches barrier many times.
Stunning visuals, epic music, and a story to rend your petty conception of Mahou Shoujo. The animation, especially the scenes dealing with witch barriers, was great beyond expectation. The uniqueness of it appeals to me. Along with that, the music carried my heart along and I felt that it had all control of me. I will never think of the Mahou Shoujo genre the same again. I’m going to have to rethink what anime I consider to be in my top ten, because this may take the top.
SPOILER ALERT – Disection/Ranting/Analyzing
Some unedited thoughts I wrote while trying to analyze this series.
Why is it that Homura does not age? How is it that she is so much more physically powerful if she simply reverts back to that time. Seemingly she would only retain her memories if it were the case that she were given the chance to relive her meeting Madoka. Despite this theory, Homura does not seem to just retain her memory, but her strength as well. If this is the case, shouldn’t she also age? Exactly how many times has she relived those months? During her battle against the dreadnought, Homura seems to have played out this battle countless times. Everything was precisely choreographed. She should indeed be older… oh, I see. I had forgotten that she was “no longer human.” In that case the possibilities transcend. Her soul continues to age, her container does not. What I may assume is that her soul matured during the many trials that have met her in her path to find a solution. This maturity gives her the strength necessary. Homura is thus allowed to retain her memory and growth each time she travels back in time. Homura is the one in control. My question is: how is it that Homura is capable of traveling this span of time under her own power? I would assume that such a passage of time would require quite a bit of magical power on her part, perhaps enough to deplete her soul egg? This part has me thinking. During the flash backs we see nothing of Homura restoring her power after these trips. Hmmm. Of course, it may be that Homura’s wish is the counter balance to this possibility. If it required all of her power to return to that moment in time, then she wouldn’t be able to relive her meeting Madoka. Therefore, she atleast has been given enough power to not only return to the past, but also “protect” Madoka. In that regard, I see Homura’s wish as something slowly being granted. Obviously she was not immediately given the power to protect Madoka. When she returns for the first time to the past, Homura is still very much immature. She’s the weakest character. I find the progression very interesting. When we first meet Homura, she is the strongest, coolest, and coldest of characters. Seeing Homura in such a light was enough to take me aback. Is this really her? I seem to be answering some of my own questions, but I’m not entirely convinced of some of the mechanics involved here. I would like to know more about the limits of the various characters’ powers, especially Homura’s, since she is the pivotal character.
Kyubey = Mephistopheles
Is it me or does this contract business remind one of Faust? Let’s make a deal with the price of your soul. In exchange a single gift: a wish. What is your desire? I’m not particularly familiar with the story, but I’m sure that deals of this sort never turn out well.
What are witches and familiars? I assume that a familiar is a kind of offspring from a witch. That is, a witch has taken enough lives to divide itself and spawn a familiar. These familiars carry a small portion of power and do not at first have a grief seed. By taking lives the familiar grows in power and eventually becomes a witch. It may be then that this is the reason why not all witches have grief seeds. Mami mentions this fact while explaining to Madoka and Sayaka about the eggs. While the familiar has indeed grown powerful enough to be considered a witch, it did not originate from a magical girl. Thus, the so called witch does not have a grief seed or witches egg.