February 28, 2011

Make A Contract With Me.

Instead of the vast amounts of entertaining and uplifting television that will make me laugh and smile, I have, instead, been watching Puella Magi Madoka Magicka.

I think about to when I would buy so much manga, and I was so into the animes and the various things that are just like them. I think about now, when I can barely make myself consume any media that isn’t a video game, and have very little interest in most of what comes out of Japan, anime-wise. Still, occasionally I pick up on something that really grabs my interest, and I watch it, and I like it. Lesbian Schoolgirls playing Mahjong was one of those things that, the moment I heard about it, I had to give it a view, and got totally caught up in dramatic Mahjong action. Zetsubou Sensei also caused me to check it out, and I enjoyed it’s sense of humor.
Now, a random twitter message along the lines of “Madoka Magicka is what the Persona anime should have been like” was enough to make me check it out. I’m glad I did.

The show starts out like any other magical girl show. In fact, it leans on the tropes very heavily. Here’s the opening. On first glance, nothing really seems wrong with this opening, and the show begins, and things are very, very stereotypical. You have a vision of the future, much like the beginning of Cardcaptor Sakura, and then into Madoka’s normal life, which is very normal.
Then a mysterious transfer student pulls Madoka aside and lets her know that, if she tries to be more than what she is, she will die, everyone close to her will die in the most painful way possible, everything she loves will be crushed, and everything will be gone.
Then it goes back to normal.
Eventually there is a fight with an interesting art style, and soon we are at the end of the episode, and we are greeted with something like this.
Then you go back, and you re-look at that opening, and you see how often Madoka is crying, running in terror, or completely depressed in it.

This show is incredibly dark. No punches are ever pulled. When things go bad, they fucking go BAD, and there are consequences for actions taken. Life-changing consequences.

I’m a huge fan of the previously mentioned Cardcaptor Sakura. I love it dearly, with no restraint. But this show is such a counterpoint to the constantly optimistic world of Cardcaptor Sakura. It uses your expectations for a magical girl show to its advantage, and even after it’s used up that advantage, it constantly twists the knife when you think it can’t get any worse. Yet, even through all this, none of it seems unfair. In many ways, the characters are being tortured, but in many ways, while they are good people and bad things are happening to them, it is their character flaws which is ultimately the cause of their downfall.

At the same time as all this is going on, the show is constantly using varied and very beautiful art style changes to denote moods and heighten the experience. Battles take place in a sort of alternate dimension, and the show takes advantage of this to throw all sorts of crazy stuff at you to see. It’s awesome.

The show is about 8 episodes in, but I am completely hooked. It’s depressing as fuck, of course, but it’s so well done. Some people are down on it a bit, and say that the overall story arc is not interesting. It is, maybe, slightly weak, as it’s depending on fairly weak magical girl plots as premises. However, the characters are, of course, what is drawing me in. These characters, though perhaps seeming cliche on the surface, constantly surprise with their depth, and I want to see what happens to them, even if they die horrible, gruesome deaths. I’m in this for the long haul. You might want to join in too.

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