Do not let the upbeat opening and cutesy character designs fool you, this is a dark story. It is full of grief, betrayal, and other dark themes. This is anti-war classic All Quiet on the Western Front repackaged as the kind of Magical Girls show usually aimed at preteen girls. The result is stunning. The animation is avant-garde and might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is very well done. However, the star of the show is the story, and that is what makes this show so difficult to review.
Madoka Magica does the best job I have ever seen at examining the Faustian bargain that soldiers make when they choose to fight. Whether done for selfish reasons or out of a desire to help others, there are sacrifices that nobody can truly understand when they decide to take on that mantle. Through the eyes of a kind-hearted 14 year-old girl, we get to see the horrors of combat and the aftermath of all this self-sacrifice. However, this is not a gory tale and is not about jarring imagery. This is about what conflict does to the heart. Emotionally heavy and with a moral complexity rarely seen in any medium, the only thing keeping Madoka Magica from being higher on my list is it’s depressing tone. Still, this is an anime that everyone should watch, not only because of it’s exceptional quality, but because it has something important to say. I feel like I should say more here, but it is hard to do that without spoilers, and you should definitely avoid spoilers while watching the show. Some of the scenes really need their full shock value to be appreciated, so stay off the internet for the time it takes you to watch these 12 episodes. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
9 out of 10