Like its series namesake, the greatest strength of the Puella Magi Modoka Magica movies is in its ability to surprise viewers; a sentiment deflated by reading a review beforehand. Any newcomers should tread with caution or, better yet, go and watch the entire 12-episode run.
Despite her shyness, fourteen-year-old Madoka Kaname is left defenceless because of her do-gooder nature - all honesty, optimism and the desire to help others. Tomboyish Sayaka Miki, on the other hand, is by her own admission someone who doesn’t look like they like classical music. Her's is the louder personality, packing strong opinions and bigger ideas. Transfer student Homura Akemi is shrouded in strangeness, conjuring a dreamy sense of déjà vu for Madoka who had met her in a startling dream the night before.
That evening, Madoko and Sayaka save a wounded cat-cum-rabbit critter, named Kyubey, whose unblinking eyes are focussed in a permanent and knowing stare. Kyubey offers to grant them each one wish in return for taking up the mantles of magical girls. But it’s a Faustian pact, with all sorts of secret and despicable terms and conditions. To reveal too much more would only dull the show’s impact and power.
Director Akiyuki Shinbo, who helmed the stylishly enigmatic Monogatari franchise, brings the same spatial awareness, modernist leanings and arty embellishments. The interiors and architecture are every bit as open, stylish and vibrant, but the character models themselves are rendered with soft lines and softer shades and an elegant, pencil sketch aesthetic. The style takes a creepy detour with the scenes inside the witch’s labyrinth - a trippy scattershot of visual spectacle. Think Pink Floyd put to Terry Gilliam’s stop motion sequences.
Gen Urobuchi penned the series, and like his work on Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero, he plumps the depths of darkness, and gives everything a meta twist. By their very nature, the compilation movies are fragmentary. It’s not the ideal way to watch the series, but taken in two sittings without the credits, it’s a great way to experience the beautiful melancholy.
The characters are caught in adolescence, where rage, anxiety and want are par for the course. Take Kyoko Sakura for example, she’s a self-serving, jaded and snack nomming narcissist. Over the course of the two movies, she becomes much more through subtle action and dialogue rather than in-your-face exposition.
It’s a fatalistic story, riffing on the idea in quantum physics that time is immutable and, like a stone in water, will always correct itself. The narrative punctures the bubbly image of the magical girl, to appeal to a wider audience, though it does pay homage to the glitzy transformation, cute outfits and motivational sentiments. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is caught somewhere between satire and indulgence, and is consistently brilliant trying to find the middle ground.
Special Features: Textless opening and closing / Trailers / TV CM collector
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA THE MOVIE: PART 1 AND PART 2 – BEGINNINGS/ETERNAL / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: YUKIHIRO MIYAMOTO, AKIYUKI SHINBO / SCREENPLAY: GEN OROBUCHI / STARRING: AOI Y KI, CHIWA SAITO, AI NONAKA, EMIRI KAT, ERI KITAMURA / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 12TH