Sometimes we review things here that likely make you think to yourself “Why in the name of Sappho do they feel a need to do this?” or “Has someone not made their mind up about this yet?” Famously, our most recent review was about Pokemon X and Y. But we’re a year old now, and it’s time to take our big-girl swing at something pretty much all of our followers asked us to review and not a single one of them actually needed us to. Why? Because we love you guys shamelessly. So, it’s time to saddle up, make a contract and talk about Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
So, for those of you who have spent two years under a rock, the premise of the series is this: life is horrible and you should be crying right now. Bright, happy colors and the context of all of Magical Girldom dictates that you should enjoy your life and live happy and love will solve all of life’s problems. The reality of Madoka Magica is your life is bad and you should feel bad. Love is the source of pain and pain is the source of power and power is the source of more pain and love is the source of the nihilistic horror that is having lived through Madoka Magica. Buddha tells us life is suffering. We already knew. We’re Madoka fans. Seriously, assuming as I must as a reviewer that someone in the world is going to read this and say ‘Gee, I’ve never heard of this show, should I watch it?’ I’ll be as evasive on main points as possible and just say this: you’re watching Faust on crack.
Any time someone offers to grant a wish, be suspicious. If it has two different sets of ears, be doubly suspicious. If it’s lips don’t move, it speaks LIES! But seriously, in the story of Faust, the Devil (hereafter referred to as Kyubey) offers to make the life of the titular character interesting, granting his wish in exchange for, you know, torment and misery and souls and whatnot. Katze actually does an entire thing on this comparison alone at conventions, but suffice it to say that your wish is a deal struck with the Devil, and that usually ends badly. Every character takes her own turn in Madoka’s story being the tragic hero of her own tale – be it a tale of idealism shattered, the perils of wish fulfillment, love turned to obsession, how distrust and loneliness create a sad spiral or the tragic reality of what it means to really be a martyr. Everyone loses.
In fact, this tragic nature is part of the appeal of the series. Far from the idea that the young and inexperienced magical girls can take on the universe, Madoka explores the psychological strain of what that life entails, the actual tangible consequences of both action and inaction, of both stark realism and unfettered idealism, and of a world where the straight chick steals the bi chick’s man and everyone else is gay. It isn’t just that the future has amazing architecture – which it does, Madoka’s bathroom is the size of my first apartment – its that the future isn’t either too rosy or too dystopian, the pains and sufferings of magical girls, in a larger context, are both observed and in many ways a necessary component for the world to function as it does. If no one in this series mae a contract, some other girl would’ve had to. This is a necessary price for life to continue, and a rather compelling, if scientifically dumb, argument is made for a system that torments the few for the wellbeing of the many, and you and your magical girls just have to wrestle with that ethical quandary.
But, if at the end of the day, you just wanna say ‘screw ethical quandaries, I want cute lesbians’, which I surmise you probably would, then Madoka also delivers. Infamously, someone attempted to argue to me that the cast of this series is straight. I invite you to react to this discussion in the comments, since seeing the fandom’s heads explode trying to understand how someone could believe that is pretty amusing. If the symbolism of theis actual image from the series is any indication, though, I think we know where most people are going to stand on that particular question.
So, it’s been literally years since Madoka became the biggest thing not to air on Toonami in the history of American Otakudom, why in the name of Our Lord and Savior Madoka am I writing about it now? Well, my beloved under-rock-dwellers, in a matter of weeks a new installment of Madoka, PMMM: Rebellion, releases in US theaters. I’m sure that a lot of our devoted readers have already seen it (or attempted to and got what they so richly deserved), for those of you, the Lilies Who Waited, we’ll be reviewing the movie shortly after it’s Statesdie release. I’m thinking, spoiler alert, that it’ll be an experience both traumatizing and painful. Shocking I know.
Get tissues, this one’s going to be a tough one, guys.