Well, It Looks Like We Can Stop Thinking So Hard About Madoka Magica Now

At least according to the blogosphere’s biggest SHAFT expert.

Since I haven’t posted on Madoka here, I’ll explain the situation up to now. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is the latest SHAFT offering, which garnered lots of pre-release hype because of the huge combination of cult-favorite creators brought together to develop it. Link’s introduction to the team is very helpful, as is ringOtamegane’s lengthy and detailed history of everyone involved in the production, which gives a great sense of why and how these people were brought together.

Read those posts for juicy details, but the important thing to this post is that this series is directed by Team Shinbo, written by Urobuchi Gen, and scored by Kajiura Yuki. Now, Shinbo has worked on many different kinds of shows, but his work feels most at home when he does big dark gothy nightmares such as The SoulTaker and Petit Cossette (pre-SHAFT) and gets to inflict a dark tone on a series, like in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Tsukuyomi Moonphase. Petit Cossette happens to be my favorite of Shinbo’s directorial efforts, and it was also scored by Kajiura, both of which made it the purest expression of “gothic” (and “lolita”) in anime.

Urobuchi Gen meanwhile is a writer best known for his work on Nitro+ erotic visual novels, all of which are notably dark and violent. His most famous work is Saya no Uta, widely considered one of the greatest visual novels of all time, which is known for its heavy Lovecraft influence, intense scenes of rape and gore, and loli porn. Suffice it to say, Urobuchi has never written something lighthearted.

All of this is why it became confusing when the production team claimed that Madoka Magica was supposed to be a “traditional” magical girl series (see Link’s post), and that Urobuchi was trying to change his image and do something lighthearted. It only got more confusing when the show began and was clearly far darker and more sinister than a casual magical girl anime. Otou-san and I (via comments) speculated on whether the creators might’ve intended for a traditional show but just weren’t capable of it; sdshamshel, a mahou shoujo aficionado, has tried to help viewers who know that Madoka Magica is some kind of subversion, but don’t know what kind because they don’t know the genre well, understand how this show subverts classical mahou shoujo anime.

As one who champions creator’s intent in interpreting anime, I’d been curious about why this show was so blatanly subversive when the creators had so clearly stated that it wouldn’t be. According to ringOtomegane, that question has been answered: SHAFT trolled us all.

The case appears to be that SHAFT wanted to throw a curveball at audiences and purposefully made the show look like normal mahou shoujo on the previews. According to Urobuchi’s twitter, they’d intended to hide his involvement altogether, but since that proved to be impossible, they instead came up with the lie that he was trying to change his image. Urobuchi is apparently happy that he doesn’t have to keep the secret anymore.

So there you have it. Yes, they gathered my “gothic dream team” with the intent of doing something dark, yes it’s a subversion of the genre, and yes, it’s all intentional. (Apparently.)

Meanwhile, I’m planning to episodically blog this show once it’s all over.

Related: If you want to learn more about SHAFT, I highly recommend ringOtomegane’s detailed history and exploration of the studio’s personnel. It’s given me a much better idea of who does what at SHAFT.

11 thoughts on “Well, It Looks Like We Can Stop Thinking So Hard About Madoka Magica Now

  1. Well, that’s an eye-opener.

    But it opens up questions, like: Does the Hidamari-esque character design contribute more to this show than just the initial troll? And of course, where is this all headed? Reaffirmation of love and friendship, or what will be the most heart-breaking dark mahou shoujo end we’ll have ever seen? Or maybe both.

    • I don’t think Aoki Ume’s design was meant to be part of the troll, but it did contribute to it. If that makes sense. And my money is on the possibility of both.

      One thing I’ll say about Shinbo is that I’ve never seen a show by him that didn’t have a happy ending of some sort, even if it was bittersweet (not including his insanely fucked-up porn). I’ve always thought he was the kind of guy who loves his characters too much to go killing them or letting them go without a crowning moment of awesome.

      • [Spoiler warning]
        The thing is though, the character that first got offed DID have her share of awesome moments. It’s the way that she went out, however, that was fast, sudden, and brutal.

        I’m still wondering how people could seriously take Urobuchi’s tweets at face value.

      • Yes, it is meant to be troll. Don’t underestimate Aniplex and production stage of animation. Actually, the entire production of this series was a gigantic troll by Shinbo and Iwakami. Their whole intention was to increase the effectiveness of horror of the story, animation and music as much as possible by using moe (like what Higurashi did) character design in magical girl form. The alienation from these black-and-white coexistence is just disturbing as hell, and that’s why it’s so good.

        It was kind of unsuccessful due to the fact anyone who knew about Urobuchi already acknowledged their scheming (including myself). Honestly, reason for all shock is in the fact that this kind of death has been basically ‘FORBIDDEN’ in any mahou shoujo genre.

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  3. Thanks for the info. I don’t pay attention to anime directors or follow info about new shows before they actually air, so I didn’t know all that about Madoka beforehand (all I knew was that it was an original magical girl show by Shaft, had a well known director, and music by Yuki Kajiura). Besides the horror-ish design of the witch battles, the show didn’t seem all that different from typical magical girl stuff at first. But by ep 3, I’m really seeing the subversion of the genre. Whatever the original intentions behind it were, I for one am finding it increasingly exciting =)

  4. For some weird reasons, I always thought that Akiyuki Shinbo is the Frank Zappa/Miles Davis reincarnation in the anime business, because he knows how to find new talents and how to use them in each project … Don’t know if that makes sence XD All great artists were a bit eccentric and nerdy ^__-

    God, I should continue watching Utena now …..

  5. Pingback: I WAS NOT READY FOR THAT SHIT, MADOKA. | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

  6. I wasn’t even aware that they were planning on selling it as a normal mahou shoujo anime lol, so after I watched the first few episodes, I jumped straight to the conclusion that they were doing something different.

    It would be funny if they ended the show with a troll. “JUST KIDDING! This is actually normal mahou shoujo!” I would laugh so hard.

  7. Eh. There is something I didn’t say in that ‘reveal of the troll’ post, due to my poor Japanese. The reason they couldn’t hide Urobuchi’s name was due to the info leak happened about 2 or 3 months before the announcement of the project. The content of the leak was ‘Shaft x Shinbo and Aniplex will do original Mahou Shoujo with Urobuchi Gen’. From what I heard, it is actually very easy to hide any sort of staff information if there is no accident. So, we are very lucky.

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