This is one of the worst anime I have ever seen.
Usually it's hyperbole you're not supposed to say because of its subjectivity and the likelihood of pissing someone off. Other times politically correct optimists want to quell your feelings so they are more pleasant and digestible for everyone. I'm not someone who uses the word "retard" frequently in my vocabulary, but I do find some aspects of the censorship annoying. I completely understand not to call a mentally disabled person retarded. I know some families with such individuals are sensitive if you mention the word around them. But on the worse end of the spectrum, I could be a serial killer, terrorist, or corrupt tyrant enslaving humanity. There are far worse things than saying a word or phrase that will piss off a select number of people. "Retard" is not a word that kills or maims a person of their dignity, rights, freedoms, and wishes.
So no one should care if I say that Puella Magi Madoka Magica was one of the most aggravatingly stupid shows I ever suffered through. This makes Persona 4 Golden look like romantic stroll through a field of glowing crystalline flowers. ...Remember how angry that convoluted mess made me?
Let's rewind and actually talk about the show rather than political correctness, making nice, and not offending people.
Madoka Magica is a story about magical girls created by Gen "The Butcher" Urobuchi. He wanted to create a more realistic telling of the cliches behind the anime genre. One way involves killing off characters in twisted, brutal ways, hence Urobutcher's nickname. As a result, he unintentionally crafted a subversion/deconstruction of the magical girl genre, one of the most common praises in favor of the show. Kyubey is a mysterious creature whose race seeks out human girls and grants them the power to become magical girls and fight witches. To protect the world from the disasters witches bring, a girl must make any wish of her desire to form a contract and obtain her powers. The more she fights the weaker she becomes, unless a witch is defeated and leaves behind an egg that will restore the magical girl.
At the core of the narrative is a theme of the dichotomy of hope and despair. Magical girls are alone in their fight and they must rely on their inner strength to survive and fight the witches. If a girl is to lose her way, mentally or emotionally, she is at risk of falling to pieces - and thus becoming a witch for the next magical girl to defeat. It's a cycle that never ends, which is the greatest strength of the show. Madoka comes across as a subversion/deconstruction because it's playing with a theme that isn't often explored in some genres of fiction. So many stories emphasize "the power of friendship" that they often miss out on the big question: what happens if a friend is too burnt out to believe anymore? Villains and antiheroes often get this kind of arc for their backstory, but this hardly ever happens for the heroes. If it is, the issue appears once, comes out of nowhere, and is resolved quickly. Madoka is smart enough to make hope vs despair the backbone of the story and goes with it consistently for the most part. It's done so well, this show helped me write some elements of my fanfiction.
So why do I hate this show?
With the exception of Homura and Madoka, all the characters are boring. Many of the "tragedies" aren't very moving either. The plot is incomprehensibly backwards. Kyubey is Hitler. Sayaka is the antichrist. The animation is experimental and pretty, but lopsided and unsteady. The soundtrack is gorgeously phenomenal, but, if you know me by now, technicals never make the overall project a masterpiece. The pacing is dreadful once Mami gets killed off. The reason for the cycle of hope and despair is so retarded, the original Mass Effect 3 ending made more sense. AND YET ANOTHER GODDAMNMOTHERF$%#KING RESET BUTTON ENDING.
I'm a person who likes stories having good writing and good characters. I can always appreciate new directions to take themes and tales, and I like being invested in characters and their issues. More likely than not, I can forgive an unimpressively written story so long the characters are still compelling. Somehow, Madoka Magica manages to botch both. This made me a very unhappy camper.
Mami didn't live long enough for me to have an opinion of her. She seemed alright in performing her tiny role in the narrative: introduce the world comfortably before getting the axe. (Think October 4th but with less foreshadowing and less development and buildup for the characters involved.) Kyoko is quirky and fun, combating the increasingly depressed cast, but her relationship with Sayaka never sat well with me. I didn't buy their bonding for a millisecond. Kyoko had a sad backstory that was fine and all, seemingly adding her existence to being nothing but a tagalong kid with no relevance aside from her tragic sacrifice to stop the consumed Sayaka. Again, didn't buy it. I was pissed when she left the story and made no impact whatsoever.
|CRAAAAAWLING IN MY SKIIIIIIIIIINNNN!!!!|
As a woman who experienced unrequited feelings of all kinds all my life, I do not sympathize or empathize with her selfish narrow-minded delusions. I don't care if she's a hormonally-crazed teenage girl. I was one years ago, and I'm not saying this just because I overcame that awkward period. I don't buy it because her issues - no matter how huge it feels for her - is NOWHERE NEAR as bad as everyone else's suffering objectively or reasonably. Unless the point of her arc is to exploit her self-centeredness and whiny nature, then Urobutcher crafted one of the stupidest female characters I have ever seen. She completely missed the mark in every way, and I don't even like her as a person (unfunny, cranky, and short-sighted to name a few wonderful descriptions).
So, yes. I apologize to Yosuke and Rise for bitching them out so much. Sayaka is way, way worse than them both COMBINED. Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey are still solid in my books.
Next is Madoka. She's frequently hated for being passive and uninvolved in her own story. I'd argue that is true, but she ends up becoming the smartest and most sensible character overall. She observes events, asks questions, ponders ideas, and waits patiently despite everyone she knows fighting and dying horribly. This does not make the best protagonist in the traditional sense, but she is the only one who doesn't behave and react irrationally in the moment. She pushes back becoming a magical girl because she is aware of the consequences. Becoming one is unavoidable, but Madoka bites her time until her potential is truly, utterly needed. As a result, she breaks the universe with a reset button wish to save the day. This part was frequently claimed as an asspull, which it is for good reason.
The plot of this show could have angered me more than the characters, but the purpose of the mechanics of the magical girl system and the ending are the pit of the storytelling here. I admit that entropy is a scientific concept I struggled with all throughout high school, but death of the universe to justify manipulating teenage girls' minds for as far back as the days of Cleopatra is mind-blowing. I don't buy it for a millisecond for numerous reasons.
|DESTROY. KILL. ANNIHILATE. TERMINATE. NOW.|
Why does it have to be human girls? How is the self-descrution of females contained so entropy can be fought back? Can any other resource in the universe stop entropy from destroying everything? Why not pursue a resource that will be easier to obtain in a shorter period of time? Are human girls the only viable candidates? Why haven't teenage boys been experimented on? Are you saying teenage boys don't undergo emotional turmoil at all and thus cannot self destruct? Hasn't Kyubey's race noticed that, statistically speaking in recent centuries at least, men are more likely to commit crimes and kill themselves, both acts generally done due to a lack of emotional and mental control of the self? If Kyubey's kind has been using human girls for years, why haven't they realized that this investment could go sour at any time? Why wasn't a safety measure put in place to prevent universe-changing reset button wishes from being allowed? Is the "stopping entropy" plot point needed to justify a seemingly reasonable and natural dichotomy of hope and despair?
How does Homura's time travel grant Madoka more potential to stop final evil witch at the end? What led to the arrival of Walpurgisnacht and thus the apocalypse? What is significance of the gratuitous German names for the witches and absolutely nothing else? Why use German when the magical girl vs witch phenomenon greatly predated Germanic and European language and culture? What exactly started and triggered the magical girl-to-witch cycle? Have there been points in history when someone with Homura's powers appeared to manipulate events? Has there been a revolution of magical girls to fight Kyubey's race?
These are twenty eight of the millions of questions I came up with the first time I saw that scene. If entropy isn't a humongous plot hole, I don't know what the hell is. It's ludicrous, unnecessary, and outright embarrassing, especially with how much praise this "masterpiece" gets.
And reset endings can fall in a pit and bleed to death.
0.7 out of 5
Feel free to watch this if you want. Just understand that this show violated my very essence and I want no more involvement with it or any media associated with it. A damn shame too. Hope and despair is hardly explored seriously as a narrative theme...