Friday, April 22, 2016

Anime Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 1: Tea and snacks by the sea with Batman.

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 To think that this franchise has been around for only 5 years and hopefully it's still going. I mean if there's more manga spin offs and video games (that unfortunately aren't getting ported over here! Not bitter just need a wish here or two there and it should be good.) being made to this day and a potential new movie coming out; eh I'm guessing somebody must still be into this little show, including me. Now I'm sure that some of you have a similar story to mine about how you stumbled across this show. You were in your college dorm room when your little brother tells you about this amazing new anime. At first you're put off when you hear it's a magical girl series since the last time you saw a show in that genre was Sailor Moon on Toonami back in the day and maybe catching a glimpse or two of Princess Tutu when there were episodes on Comcast on demand back around 2006 or something and you decided you wouldn't give that genre a second glance since well given the general demographic of those shows.

 But he insists, you say "what the hell got some time to kill" so you catch the dub on a streaming site and three episodes later BAM!!! You've started the journey to discovering one of your all time favorite anime, as well as the only magical girl anime that you can stand, aside from Kill La Kill (but that's more of a parody of the concept as well as a topic for another day). 

 Now I know the show is five years old by this point but this is one of those shows that I feel deserves every spoiler warning I can give it since it is one of those shows you need to come in as cold as Mr Freeze's tombstone to fully enjoy. As for dub or sub, I've always been a dub man myself but hey whatever floats your boat. Now since this review is going to be as spoiler free as I possibly can I'm not going to be talking about the show itself since not only is it 12 episodes long but if you can watch it on Netflix, Crunchyroll, PSN store, iTunes Hulu, the clouds, I don't want to hear any complaints about "I don't have the time" boo-hoo-hoo so I'm just going to give my two cents on the characters and how I feel about them. 

 We'll start off with the character that I feel kinda gets the shaft, Miss drill curls herself Mami Tomoe. 
You know, just looking at her makes one thing pop into my head.

 Anyone else, or is it just me? Anyway Mami first shows up to save Madoka and Sayaka's butts from some of the witch Gertrude's familiars and since Kyubey says the two have the potential to be Magical Girls she offers the two the chance to tag along with her and see what it is exactly that they're getting into. Now in terms of her relevance in the story Mami serves the purpose of showing Madoka and Sayaka and by proxy the audience what it is to be a magical girl, the risks involved with making a contract and some of the sacrifices that come with it. She also demonstrates the true danger that the witches and their familiars present, that these are less like Sentai monsters and more like the Horrors from Garo.
They kill indiscriminately, embody pure uncompromising evil and that even the most skilled warrior can be killed by one
if they don't have their head in the game.
 Brief aside here I love the design of the Witches, these are some of the most interestingly designed monsters I've seen in quite some time. No two looking exactly alike and range in animation styles, from GC to negative space to looking like if Terry Giliam tried to become a Sentai villain. Most of these creatures look like if a Dada art gallery was trying to kill you. Not to mention once you learn the truth abut where these things come from there's a whole new level of symbolism to analyze. Needless to say, I love these things.

 Back to Mami, she seems to be, well the most human, she didn't become a magical girl under traditional circumstances (for these types of MGs anyway), lives with the regret of her wish and tries to mask the loneliness of the death of her parents by focusing her time on her magical girl duties. This is expanded on in her spin off "The different story" but suffice to say she tries to make friends with other magical girls but it doesn't end well since it turns out that she's an oddity among the MGs. Their general attitude seems to be that they only fight witches for the sake of their own wishes above saving people from them or being eaten by familiars. Yet from that standpoint Mami really is no different, she says that she fights to protect people but in reality she fights to drown out the fact that she is completely alone aside from Kyubey. This loneliness also drives her to do some rather unsettling things when it comes to Madoka and Sayaka.
Not like that!
 Knowing full well the dangers of what it means to make a contract she was willing to coax Sayaka and Madoka into wishing just so she wouldn't be lonely anymore. While this is still understandable it still doesn't do much to redeem her from a hard logical standpoint. While she can talk the talk and walk the walk we see that her mental scars run deeper then first thought, in another timeline (yes I'll cover that later) when the final truth of magical girls is revealed to the group Mami goes nuts and tries to kill the others before being put down by Madoka. As horrible as that sounds Mami is ultimately the most compassionate of the five since knowing what lies at the end of the road and having what little stability crumble around her she does what most people would consider to be the best option by trying to kill the others. 
And the fact that death is honestly the best option over the alternative says how messed up and horrible being a magical girl in this world ultimately is. 
 So with Mami's attempted murder spree this leads to her only victim. Her former protege Kyoko Sakura, oh boy Kyoko. 
Behold the most powerful bum you'll ever see aside from Al Simmons.
 Among the core five Kyoko has at best the second most tragic backstory. She enters the story after hearing that Mami was killed and that Sayaka has taken her place with Kyoko's goal initially to kill Sayaka and take over Mitakihara's hunting grounds. Now being far more experienced in combat then the greenhorn Sayaka she nearly does kill her until Homura intervenes. The second encounter between the two reveals yet another truth, that the soul gems that the girls draw their power from, really does live up to the name on the tin. These girls are ultimately zombies and if they move more then 100 meters from their bodies it shuts down and is nothing more then a corpse without the magical girl in close proximity to animate it.

 While Kyoko reacts like someone told her she was having burgers for dinner, Sayaka, yeah not so much so to try and clue her in Kyoto tries to show Sayaka why she is the way she is by telling her backstory. Her father was a priest who drove his family to starvation when he started preaching his own ideas and was excommunicated by the church. Desperate, Kyoko wished to Kyubey for people to listen to her father's preachings. It worked well for a while but when her father learned the truth he started drinking heavily, called Kyoko a demon for brainwashing people to listen to him and killed himself along with Kyoko's mom and sister right in front of her and setting their church on fire. So yeah, after a backstory like that anyone would change their outlook a tad. 

 The details are elaborated on in The Different Story as well but suffice to say Kyoko turned into the one looking out for #1. So why is she trying to help Sayaka you may be asking? Because she reminds her of her when she first contracted, eager to fight for justice and their loved ones and making their wish for the sake of said loved ones. She just wants to stop Sayaka before the wish blows up in her face. Needless to say it didn't work out that way but she still tried.

 Kyoko is the type of character that takes precisely zero crap from anyone. She's a loaner who had the world take a dump on her but she managed to brush the shit off and fling it right back at anyone who pisses her off. Even if said person ceases to be a human and is nothing more then a monster. She then exits the show on her own terms by using all of her power to destroy a witch in a desperate attempt to save someone she cares for, dying as the person she was and not what she became.

 Speaking of Sayaka let's cover her next. 
We see her as your typical teenage girl, happy with friends and has a crush on her childhood friend Kyosuke but doesn't know when to share her feelings with him.
 After Mami died Sayaka decided to finally make her wish after Kyosuke told her to stop seeing him. See he was a talented violinist who was caught in a car crash; while he'll mostly recover the damage done to his hand is far too severe to ever play again.
Sounds familier.
 The doctors flat out told him that unless magic and miracles exist he'd never play again and with Sayaka constantly showing up and bringing him CDs of violin performances it didn't exactly cheer him up so much as pour salt and lemon juice in his wound. So taking that to heart Sayaka made her wish to completely fix Kyosuke's hand. From there one would think that Sayaka would follow the traditional route of a magical girl protagonist, however after her first fight with Kyoko she started to distance herself from Madoka. After Madoka accidentally exposed the soul gem rule Sayaka lamented that she could never be with Kyosuke since she's essentially a zombie and cried her eyes out on Madoka's shoulder. From there things went from bad to worse.

 After Kyubey told her that magical girls can block out any pain they feel she started to follow Guts' fighting style and go into berserker frenzies when fighting witches, even going so far as not using the grief seeds she's collected to prove that she's above Kyoko's methodology. This of course causes her to lash out at Madoka and drive her away when she was only trying to help. But to be fair it isn't exactly helpful since she was saying pretty much the exact wrong things to her. These and several other events all culminate in the reveal of the ultimate truth of Magical girls. First time I saw this scene my jaw dropped, honest as sunshine on this. 

 It was so obvious and yet, just WOW! I mean way to hide something in plain sight! Unfortunately Sayaka, while she claimed the best of intentions was just like Mami, she fought to hide and avoid facing the truth until it blew up in her face.
You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

So come back next time when we discus the last 3 of our main characters.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is owned by Gen Urobutchi, Studio Shaft, and Studio Aniplex.
Archer is owned by Adam Reed, Floyd County Productions, Radical Axis and FX Productions.
Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Dc Comics, Warner Brothers and Paul Dini.
Garo is owned by Keita Amemiya and TV Tokyo.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is propriety of Hirohiko Araki, David Production, Tokyo MX, Warner Bros Entertainment and Viz Media.
Roundabout is owned by Yes, Atlantic Records and Eddie Offord.
Kamen Rider is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai.
One Piece is owned by Eiichiro Oda, Toei Animation, and Viz Media
None Piece is owned by PurpleeyesWTF.