Netflix Hidden Gem: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Ok, let me stop you right now. If you don't care for anime, you might want to stop here and check out any previous posts you might have missed or come back next week. I am not saying that I don't want you here, because you know how I feel about you, but the truth is that anime and manga can kinda be a tough topic for the the Ladies of Comicazi (some of us are more for it than others), so I will understand if you would rather look at these cute pictures instead. No really, I get it. Anime isn't for everyone. And this can be particularly true when we are talking about anime that involve underage girls running around in very short skirts.
So, everyone who wants to be here is still here? Wonderful, let's do this thing.
As I get older, I have been finding it more and more difficult to enjoy anime. This might be something natural in that we all get more discerning in our old age, but I think a lot of it for me is that so so so many animes are pretty much the same. Allow me to give you some examples:
- Teens attend magical school to learn magical battle techniques
- Teen discovers he/she has magical powers and must fight ghost/demon/vampire/alien to save humanity
- Teen dreams of being the best boxer/skater/musician/pokemon master in the world, learns that obtaining dreams can be hard
I think you get what I'm getting at, right?
So when I tell you that I have found an anime that manages to put an interesting spin on the arguably over-done "magical girl" genre, I am being sincere when I say that watching these 12 episodes might very well be worth your time.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Magical Girl Madoka Magica) starts off very much like a lot of other "magical girl" animes - a group of middle school girls choose to become magical girls in order to protect their city and loved ones from witches. Add an adorable bunny/cat thing that gives them their powers and identifies other girls with magical potential, and you have a show that on the surface looks a lot like Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, or even the super cutesy Princess TuTu. That is, until you see the girls go off to battle their first witch. Here is where you can see the darker tones begin to surface.
In a lot of anime, the battles can feel very much the same. We get our transformation of the character into their magical persona and so it begins. In Madoka Magica, the witch and her domain are the real interest here. Sure, the girls are still pulling swords and guns out of their chests and skirts, but each witch hunt is a feast for the eyes as the girls are transported to unique realms that stretch the boundaries of logic. Animation buffs will love the mixed styles and techniques, while those of us with a taste for the weird will also find our appetites sated.
Another aspect that sets Madoka Magica apart from other "magical girl" stories is how it deals with the act of living as a someone who has essentially given up their own dreams in order to fill the needs of others. This is handled in a few ways, but the most intriguing is the exploration of what being a magical warrior really means. Yes, you get the neat powers, the sassy lines, and fancy outfits, but leading this life can be both fatal and dehumanizing. The girls must face the real consequences of their actions and decisions, regardless of what their initial intentions were. There are a lot of cruel lessons to learn, and it can come off as especially harsh when we are dealing with characters who are so young and naive. But this is all the more reason to think before you act.
If I still haven't managed to pique your curiosity, I suggest letting Madoka Magica's fan-base speak for itself. There are numerous reviews out there as well as fans who have watched the series multiple times, picking out every Faust reference and coming up with theories behind everything from the complicated timeline to the true motivations of the characters.
So fellow anime fans, if there is an off chance you haven't watched this one, add it to your queue and give it a shot. Your familiarity with the genre and other anime tropes will add to the payoff even more. And for those non-anime fans who took the time to read this post anyway, I'd like to thank you for sticking with me and if you are curious enough to watch this anime anyway, perhaps you will prove me wrong and this is just the gateway into anime that you have been waiting for.
And so I'd like to wrap things up with our usual invite to start up a conversation with us in the comments section. Let us know if you plan to watch, don't plan to watch, love or hate anime...heck, you can even share other Netflix Hidden gems with the rest of us. We would love to hear from you.