Puella Magi Madoka Magica is currently available on Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll in both subtitled and dubbed format. The 24 minute episodes are free on Crunchyroll but may require subscriptions on Netflix and Hulu.
Okay, fair warning. This post will contain all kinds of spoilers. If you do not want to be spoiled, turn away now. This is your only warning, and trust me when I say this, I am spoiling this series for your own good.
That's not actually a joke. Let me explain.
So once upon a time, I had been out of the loop with magical girl anime for a good while, watching plenty of shounen titles while waiting for the entity that is now Sailor Moon Crystal. My "friend" (And for the sake of the article, we are going to call her Ayeka, because just like the Tenchi Muyo character, she was an elitist snot.) was caught on the Moon Sisters Facebook page, trolling. As admin and site owner, I needed to yoink Ayeka off immediately and see what her damage was.
Ayeka went on a tangent about how she used to love Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, but she was outgrowing that and Cardcaptor Sakura, and how if you don't like Madoka, then there is something wrong with you. Grow up or die was her sentiment. Real shoujo fans should be worshiping Madoka.
So innocently I asked her. "What is a Madoka Magica?" I must have been living under a rock, because I had never heard of the popular series, which boasts two theatrical films that played a few years ago at only the most posh and expensive of theaters here in America.
So she sends me a few clips from YouTube, but all I see are these flouncy little transformations similar to Sailor Moon, only very moe with washed out pastels. There is one fighting segment that looks dramatic, but the camera is more focused onto the girls rather than what's actually going on in front of them.
So I see that Crunchyroll has the entire series, and I decide to give it a shot.
At first, I see Madoka, an underdeveloped 14 year old girl who looks like a nine year old. Much like Sailor Moon's Chibiusa, she has short but thick bubbles of sugar pink hair, reddish pink eyes and the smile of a newborn baby. D'awwwwww!! She has a mom, dad and a little brother and lives in a really enormous house.
As she is on her way to school, we see checkered tile, and bright, not really well defined structure all around her home. It's a little creepy, but nothing too serious. The rest of the scenery between home and school is normal, nothing that really stands out. We see her chatting with friends just like any other girl series ever, and you can tell who is going to matter based off of hair color alone.
The episode goes along fairly boring to be honest. We see the girls at school, we see a moody little brat (Homura) with long, black hair and obvious trust issues, and then the girls go shopping. Everything seems normal and fine, until a little white Digimon wannabe starts screaming into Madoka's head for help.
And then everything goes to Hell in a hand-basket.
Suddenly, the animation gets CREEPY. There are poorly photo-shopped images all around the little girls and it just looks like a giant, paper doll nightmare. Inconsistent coloring is blended with generic animation to create a terrifying image as Madoka and her Sailor Mercury lookalike friend Sayaka are cradling a bloodied and beaten stuffed animal. But just when it looks like the floor shavings from an aborted Monty Python cartoon are about to eat the little girls, in comes yet another little girl with eyes as blond as her pigtails (Mami) to do a brief Sailor Venus like transformation into a Gothic Lolita costume and blast away the enemies while riding a tidal wave made up of pistols.
What.... the... fuck???
And so begins Puella Magi Madoka Magica, an incoherent and nightmarish take on the magical girl genre that could have been somewhat of a parody if the animation team weren't taking copious amounts of acid during production.
To fully understand what's going on, you do need to sit through the entire series, as the Digimon reject Kyubey decides to withhold important chunks of information from the girls until it is far too late for them to do anything about it. But the basic gist is this.
Kyubey is a long lived alien from a race of creatures that have been molding mankind into what it is now since we were cave dwellers. Throughout the ages, various little girls ages 10 to 14 have made contracts with creatures like Kyubey to honor their greatest wishes. Most of the wishes have been used to better mankind. The catch? You have to become a magical girl and fight witches and other horrific creatures to not only aid Kyubey, but also to save humanity, as these things will not only kill humans outright, they can also get inside a person's head and make them suicidal. Horrible enemies, right? Just right for any anime, really. So naturally you would want the little girls to kill these creatures.
AH BUT WAIT!! THERE'S MORE!!
Being a magical girl means your other job is to bring hope to the world. But the longer you do this, bringing joy to people and killing the bad guys, guess what? YOU BECOME THE WITCHES YOU ARE TRYING TO KILL!!! And there is no go back to this either! The minute you start to feel remorse or sadness or anger, it jacks with your soul gem (aka the thing you transform with) and once you are just negative enough, it turns into a grief seed, permanently turning you evil. And the only way out is for another magical girl to slaughter you.
Figure it out. These are little girls, being trained to kill other little girls.
Oh, and Kyubey's race do not have emotions by the way. Emotions are considered to be a mental disorder on their planet, so he feels like NOTHING in terms of sympathy.
Homura is actually the only one to figure this whole thing out, because she's a time traveler. She has been reliving the month this show takes place in over and over, because she keeps trying to find a way to save Madoka. This is actually why she acts like a trust issues laden brat for a while, because she is getting pretty damn tired of Kyubey leading these girls to their deaths and of watching her friend die in new and fascinating ways.
And I mean it with the whole death thing here, folks. Unlike Sailor Moon, which does kill off their underage girls but allows them to come back through one magical circumstance after another, once you die, you just stay that way. Your parents have to be notified and everything. It's a hot mess.
And they do not mince words on this either. Mami gets beheaded and partially eaten. There is nothing left to the imagination at all. Sayaka dies after she uses her wish to restore the arm of the boy she has a crush on, only for the jackass to end up dating her friend instead.
As if watching a little girl get beheaded isn't damaging enough, the ending shows that Madoka - OH YEAH did I mention?? We don't actually see her transform until almost the end of the fucking series, so the poster is one giant LIE - does eventually make her wish with Kyubey. And what is that wish?
For all witches to die before they are born.
So we see a montage of Madoka becoming magical girl God and Grim Reaper all at once.
She ceases to exist in the human form, meaning that her mother and father now only have one child, though her little brother and Homura end up being the only two humans to remember her, but she now exists throughout time at every second and at the same time, always.
She now spends all of eternity visiting little girls right before they turn into witches. She cleanses their energy, and then they die, as she absorbs their souls.
And remember Sayaka? The Sailor Mercury wannabe who gave her life to save a boy who ended up dating someone else? Well we get to see that while Mami got to live a little longer, Sayaka didn't, but Madoka made sure she got to watch her crush have his first concert after getting his arm back to 100% and enjoy life with his new girlfriend. Because fuck you too.
Oh, and we also watch Madoka get naked with Homura in a highly creepy and not needed to be drawn for any reason way, as her human form both dies and fades into nonexistence at the same time, while she tries to convince Homura that she is still alive, just you know, as a God-Grim Reaper type for all eternity, promising to be the one to come for Homura when it is her time to die.
WHO DID THIS???
Anybody who tells you that this series is better than say Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura is not your friend. Ever. The animation is rushed and inconsistent, the plot only reveals itself when it feels like it, the story is terrifying, the visuals are cringe worthy, the girls have generic personalities and Kyubey is the scum of the universe. Posters to this series are misleading and I can only recommend this show to someone who enjoys being depressed.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a fantastic reminder to stay away from drugs.