ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:22 - 4th December 2015, by NEO Staff

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 1: Beginnings & Part 2: Eternal

Become a magical girl, fighting evil witches in a spectral labyrinth every day after school, and in return, a pink cat-thing will grant any wish you desire – sounds like the perfect deal, right? Well, if you’re living in the world of the tongue-twistingly-titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica, you’d be dead wrong, and quite possibly just plain dead soon after.

When Madoka Kaname encounters the eerily-smirking, vaguely feline creature known as Kyubey, she finds out first-hand how dark the world of magical girls can be.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica was originally a 12-episode series which has now been transformed into two movies, the first summarising the events of the first eight episodes, and the second containing the series’ tumultuous final chapters. The movies don’t just rehash the original episodes, however, as fresh voice acting and new footage has been added for the theatrical releases.

Whereas so many series’ plots stick to a rigid formula of seasoned tropes, Madoka seems to contain a dark glee in taking those tropes and smashing them to pieces. These magical girls might have all the extravagant weaponry, snazzy outfits and transformation sequences that you’re used to seeing in the genre, but that’s where the similarities end. Brutal death is always on the table when fighting witches, and even if you manage to survive, the life of a magical girl is filled with dark tragedy from day one. These movies definitely aren’t for those wanting a quick fix of plucky girls saving the day – these ladies are often more interested in fighting with each other, and in fact, they might just decide that the day isn’t worth saving after all.

Though this pair of films is depressing – often very depressing – there’s definitely nothing else like them out there. Their dark tone is countered somewhat by the knowledge that you’re watching something very original, that respects its source materials and predecessors, but goes in a wholly new direction with its story. It just so happens that that direction takes the viewer down a very dark path. The plotline, too, breaks away from the norm, and manages to keep the viewer aware from the outset that this isn’t the average kind of story for the genre – you’ll know straight away that awful twists are going to occur, but have no way of predicting what they’ll be, and that on its own will be enough to keep any viewer hooked for both movies.

Like a lot of anime movies that have been translated from a set of episodes, there are times when the pacing suffers from the transition. The first movie of the two, especially, seems to take its time getting to the crux of the premise – which in some ways just adds to the story’s eerie suspense – but it does make for a strange viewing experience compared to standard film storytelling. The first movie, Beginnings, also has an odd ending with an understated cliffhanger – which on one hand, will certainly leave you wondering what will happen next, but on the other, might be a little frustrating if you were expecting a dramatic climax before the second movie resumed the story. This means it might be worth making sure you pick this pair up together.

Lastly, it would be impossible not to mention the movies’ incredibly stylish art. Madoka has a phenomenal art direction which is just as unpredictable as the storytelling. The art plays with a range of mediums and styles, particularly in flashbacks, and the backgrounds of the aforementioned witches’ labyrinths are a sight to behold, especially on the Blu-ray releases. The characters themselves are illustrated with soft, pencil-like lines, a style which in lesser hands could leave them looking flat and impactless, but in this case they always pop from the intricately crafted background art. Between the amazing art and the gripping, original story, you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this pair of movies.

Whether you’re a magical girl fan who wants a new take on your favourite genre, or a newcomer who’s looking for the best the genre has to offer, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than this.
SCORE: 4.5/5
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