The World Ain't So Small After All.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: First Impressions

Rule of thumb: to make a classic anime tactic look completely original and bad@$$, add explosions and vintage weaponry. (FYI, I totally went and made this poster, just for you.)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the famed magical girl anime I will be blogging has aired. And, well, considering the fact that this is a magical girl anime…

Color me mindf*cked!

Yes, ladies and gents. This is a magical girl anime, and it managed to be mindf*cky in the sense that it didn’t look like a magical girl anime. I could probably sum up this whole review with the word “epic,” but I need to get these thoughts out…that is, I need to tell you why I thought it was epic, or there’s no point in my blogging it.

PLOT

The episode opens with Madoka Kaname, a fourteen-year-old middle school student, having some sort of nightmare. In it, she’s running through a wonderfully mindf*cky futuristic building that looks like a cross between the Ministry of Magic, a chessboard, and a spaceship. (Is that the right way to describe it? o_O) After running up beautifully-animated staircases and beautifully-animated hallways, she comes out on the roof of the building and finds herself standing in an intimidating, grim, post-apocalyptic-ish city, also beautifully-animated. She is horrified to see a…well, technically she’s sort of a magical girl (I guess…the episode doesn’t specifically say, but we can make the assumption that she at least falls into that category)…anyway, it’s a magical-girl-like girl, her own age, fighting some sort of…um…giant space ship? It’s some sort of evil, and she’s losing the mindf*ckingly [from now on, “mindfreakily”] animated fight. She voices her opinion on how horrible it is that she can’t help her, and she is answered by a magical creature that I can only describe by comparing to Mokona from Tsubasa RC: an unknown creature that resembles a…cat? Fox? I dunno. Either way, it’s REALLY FREAKING CUTE. And it tells her that this sort of horror is unavoidable, unless she decides to use her own strengths to stop it. To do that, she needs to become a Puella Magi.

**NOTE FROM GOOGLE TRANSLATE: Remember that rumor I heard that “Puella Magi” was Latin? Well, according to Translate, “magic girl” translates to “puellae magicae.” Pretty close.**

Oh — while all this is happening, we get this awesome dark Kalafina song playing in the background, which is actually the ED for the show.

So then Madoka wakes up, in her plushie-filled bed on a normal school day. Gone is the creepy city, and here comes real life. However, the innovation doesn’t cease to exist. Oooh, no. Instead, they continue with the mindfreaky visuals and show us around Madoka’s home and morning routine. Her house is a luxury, funky, futuristic cube thing straight out of the IKEA of the next decade. As it turns out, her dad is the domestic stay-at-home parent, while her mom is a cool working woman that Madoka and her little brother have to pounce on (and throw open the curtains for) to wake up. She brushes her teeth in their bathroom-the-size-of-a-dance-studio, talks with her mom about all the stuff going on in her life that most girls don’t talk to their parents about, gets into her uniform, then goes downstairs. And there, Dad makes breakfast in his pwetty blue apron while Mom reads the newspaper in a business suit and reads the paper. (I’m such a feminist…gomen ne!) All the while, we keep getting shots of her uberly awesome, high-tech house.

Then she heads off to school with her quiet best friend and her loud n’ proud best friend, who is actually going to become a magical girl herself later in the show, as the website tells us (and she’ll have a sword. SICK!). They laugh and talk and gossip and playfully attack each other, then get to their mindfreaky school, which almost has the feel of a really awesome, contemporary prison. (Symbolism? Foreshadowing?) Seriously, the classrooms are GLASS BOXES. Wth?

And then, wouldn’t cha know it, they get a new student. Surprise, surprise, Madoka-chan  — it’s the same girl from her dream. She introduces herself as Homura Akemi, and she also seems to recognize Madoka. She makes it very clear, too, by staring her down during her introduction. During a break, she excuses herself from the girls questioning her endlessly about where she came from, what she likes, etc., because she’s Queen Kuudere, by faking a headache and asking Madoka to take her to the nurse’s office. Madoka, unsure of what to make of this and painfully intimidated by Homura’s kuudereness, starts nervously/”subtly” questioning her how she knew that she was the one to ask to take her to the nurse, while Homura is pretty much leading Madoka to the nurse’s office. She is mostly unresponsive, except to tell Madoka to just call her Homura, not “Akemi-san.” As Madoka keeps nervously chattering on, Homura seems to grow angrier and angrier, until she finally whirls on her and gives her a speech about how she can’t be what she’s not and should stay the way she is, lest she “lose everything.” Madoka is a bit perturbed, but the day goes on anyway.

Afterward, Madoka goes to the mall with her two friends from before (Sakaya and Hitomi), and explains what happened, including the dreams. Of course, they don’t believe her, and laugh it off, saying she must have met her before and remembered her. Then Hitomi leaves, and Sakaya asks Madoka if they can go to the CD store before going home.

As they browse, we see the poor cat-fox-creature running through the bowels of the mall, being chased and shot at by none other than the mysterious Homura. In his poor wittle kitty distress, he calls out to Madoka for help; however, all she hears is a disembodied voice, and is frightened at first. She follows it into the said bowels and is shocked when its poor, bloody little form falls down from a ceiling tile and lands in front of her in a panting heap. (NUUU, DON’T KILL TEH KYUUTNESS!) Madoka picks it up, but in drops Homura, in all her battle-clothing glory. She threateningly instructs Madoka to put him down and leave them alone, but Madoka’s better nature keeps her there, defending the poor little…thing. After a long, fearful rant by Madoka, most likely induced by Homura’s outrageously-intimidating, suspenseful stare (seriously…that was damn creepy!), Homura genuinely looks like she’s going to put the hurt on — no, she looks like she’s about to freaking KILL this innocent pink-haired girl if she doesn’t get the heck up and skidaddle. But she’s quickly interrupted by a fire extinguisher blast from the side, and — whoosh! — in comes Sakaya to save the day. And so Madoka and Sakaya run off with the sad critter. Just as Homura is about to give chase, though…in comes the mindf*ck. (Back to censoring, because that’s all I can really say.)

Wow. Just…wow. It’s like some sort of other, crazy dimension suddenly overlaps with the world of the characters, and now we’re looking at stunning, creepy animation of random…stuff. An intense, pounding-beat background music completes the beautiful chaos, and we’re brought into a strange world where carnivorous dandelions with mustaches WILL try to eat you. Just as that’s about to happen to our beloved heroes, it’s all silenced by the entrance of Mami Tomoe, who calmly tells the girls that they’re safe. Before introducing herself, however, we get the first magical girl transformation scene and attack…and, well, that’s how we got the poster above.

Lemme put it this way: they did it right. I can’t really explain it otherwise.

She defeats the dandelion creatures, and everything returns to the real-world norm. Homura shows up, and Mami confronts her, getting a wee bit sassy and threatening her in the “until next time” bit. Homura stalks off the scene, and Mami heals the critter, whose name is revealed to be Kyubey. (GACK — CUTE!!!) He thanks them in his adorable little voice (Emiri Kato FTW), then offers for both Sakaya and Madoka to become Puella Magi.

End of episode!

×××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××××

HA. Wao. If I’m doing episodic blogging, I NEED to find a better way to summarize the plot and then get to the [brief] review. This is not going to work. I have no time for this. I’m just lucky I got a snow day to watch moar anime. (Eight inches! Yay!) As it is, I don’t have time to put in my precious screenshots…

*ahem* This was just awesome. Pretty much every review I’ve read said the same thing, commenting on its innovation and visuals. Madoka just isn’t the stereotypical mahou shojo trope; some speculation I’ve seen has even predicted it to be the possible (and I quote) “Second Coming of the magical girl genre.” If it keeps this up, then yes, it could very well be just that.

Mai eyes!!!
Sailor Moon fans dare not enter here.

It’s dark, it’s bright, it’s got an amazing staff, studio, and cast on its side, all of which made it an anticipated one in the first place. And it lived up to expectations. I only read one less-than-enthusiastic review, and even it agreed that the visuals were stunning. The opening theme is ClariS, again — I really wish they had a Wikipedia page or something, because these girls are starting to grow on me. “Irony” was great, and “Connect,” the opening for Madoka, sounds amazing. I honestly can’t believe that it’s two middle schoolers doing this…I wish I did this in middle school. And, of course, for the ending we’ve got the epic Kalafina song that plays during the scene where the above screenshot occurs. The background music is great, and very fitting; it’s never too bouncy-happy-cheerful, but it’s  not like it’s grim in places where it shouldn’t be, either.

All in all, it was just amazing. Heck, a series like this…you’d think it was too good to be true, right?

Haha. Funny…you thought correctly.

The episode was great, the visuals were nice, the action was all there. And there was zero fanservice in it. The opening song was even nice. I’ve been raving about it forever, people!

But…it’s the opening sequence that I’m worried about. To put it lightly…er…

Great. Just great. After a stunning opening scene, you give us shameless nude shots and creepy huggling. Way to go, amazing staff! Way to throw in random yuri-service that didn’t even apply to this episode. You scared me out of my skin when I saw this. I almost stopped watching.

Yes, the opening animation is just odd. At first, it’s Madoka sighing in school and wallowing in bed with her plushies and whatnot, which…well, I would have probably preferred some magical girl action over it, but it’s okay. Then we get some sort of other, longer-haired version of Madoka (is it Madoka?), butt naked, hugging the present version of Madoka, also naked. And oh, they’re overjoyed to be floating in some sort of glowy realm in the nude with each other, and they’re hugging and Madoka’s transforming and…we get that. It’s all wrong! The episode had NO fanservice or sigh-y school hours and depression and whatnot. The only hint of yuri came from Sakaya, but that was for comic relief, and all it was was her tickling Madoka and yelling “I’ll make you my bride!” and screaming about moe in the food court…ugh.

If this has ANYTHING to do with the rest of the series, I will be EXTREMELY disappointed. Madoka has all the potential in the world and it’d BETTER not let me down, or I swear I’ll go all Homura on everyone at Shaft’s butts. The other reason behind this could be to garner more views from people who don’t want to come for pure magical girl action, so they hook them with fanservice in the opening to make them stay for the story. I dunno. It had better be that way, though, for all their sakes.

For now, Madoka is great. It had better stay that way if it wants to become as revolutionary as it’s hyped up to be.

Stay tuned for episode 2!

–チタニア (Titania)

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