Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – What it Did and What I Thought

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WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the ENTIRETY of Madoka Magica. I highly recommend watching this series before watching this video.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica has been one of the most successful and critically acclaimed anime series of the current decade, and helped to turn the names of its major staff members into famous ones among anime fans. Along with Bakemonogatari, it helped to pull studio SHAFT and director Akiyuki Shinbo out of relative obscurity, and contributed to production company Aniplex’s rise into the hit factory that they’ve become in the last five years. It also launched writer Urobuchi Gen into being more or less the first anime writer that people actually know the name of.

Madoka is most famous for its dark and horrific take on the magical girl genre which is typically aimed at young girls, its interesting marketing tactics, and its trippy, high-quality production. In this post I’ll both review and analyze the series, as well as provide context for how it was originally presented, and how this affected its popularity.

I think the best way to understand what Madoka is, and how it came to be that way, is to look at the people behind it. In fact, from this perspective, Madoka isn’t the least bit surprising, and fits right in line with what the creators are known for.

Madoka Magica was the second time director Akiyuki Shinbo worked on a darker, adult-oriented take on the magical girl genre. He’d previously directed Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, which, while a lot more conventional in terms of story structure and not having characters die, also gave its characters dark and violent backstories, and was very clearly marketed towards an adult, otaku audience, considering it was a spin-off from an erotic game called Triangle Heart in the first place. Besides Nanoha, Shinbo has worked on no shortage of gothic, horror-themed anime, such as Twilight of the Dark Master, The SoulTaker, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, and Dance in the Vampire Bund, and he’s been known for incorporating stylistic elements of horror even into comedy shows like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Tsukuyomi. Considering all of this, it’s not surprising that Shinbo was the one who came up with the idea of doing a dark and disturbing magical girl series in the first place, nor that he specifically asked Urobuchi Gen to fill the story with death and violence.

Of course, Butch Gen, AKA Gen the Butcher, happily obliged, having been pretty much exclusively as a horror writer, known for his dark and violent stories such as Saya no Uta, Blassreiter, Fate/Zero, and Phantom. Butch Gen was given almost total creative freedom in crafting the story of Madoka Magica, and drew inspiration from a lot of Akiyuki Shinbo’s past work. He even requested that Kajiura Yuki do the soundtrack because he’d been listening to her soundtrack to Shinbo’s Petite Cossette to draw inspiration. Ume Aoki’s character designs were also a source of inspiration, as well as Hidamari Sketch, which was Akiyuki Shinbo’s adaptation of Aoki’s heartwarming slice-of-life manga.

From this perspective, it seems obvious that Madoka Magica was going to be exactly what it was–but there are good reasons that it wasn’t perceived this way by most. For one, despite their illustrious backgrounds, Shinbo and Butch Gen weren’t exactly widely-known names except among hardcore otaku, so most viewers had no idea about their backgrounds. Madoka was promoted a lot more than is normal for a SHAFT and Shinbo show, which likely has to do with the overwhelming success of Bakemonogatari a year and a half prior. Studio SHAFT had been sitting on the script for Madoka for over three years because of scheduling conflicts, and I’d bet that if the series had been produced back when it was first written, it wouldn’t have had anywhere near the amount of money and manpower behind it, nor anywhere near the advertising budget, had it not been riding on the heels of the best-selling anime series ever.

But more than anything, the biggest trick of all was how Shinbo and Butch Gen deliberately lied in all of the show’s promotion. Madoka’s character designs, opening theme, and logo were all designed to look like a legitimate cutesy magical girl show. Tomoe Mami, the character who (and remember, there are spoilers in this post, so turn back if you haven’t seen the show) dies in episode three, was included on all of the promotional material, and had one of the most popular voice actresses in the show. Butch Gen had even said on twitter that the show was “totally innocuous” and not like any of his other work, and only admitted the truth after episode three had aired. All of this had been Shinbo’s plan to deliberately misdirect the viewer, and even though the first two episodes had shown some darker and more sinister themes and visuals than what one would expect from the genre, episode three still took most people by surprise, and is still taking people by surprise who haven’t been spoiled to the show’s true intentions even today. Needless to say, this face-heel-turn also got people talking about the show like crazy, which went that much farther in promoting it. When Madoka blu-rays went on sale, it was clear that lightning had somehow struck twice, and the series nearly matched the unbelievable record-setting sales of Bakemonogatari.

But that’s enough for the history lesson. If the gimmick of disguising a dark and violent show as something innocent was the series’ only draw, it wouldn’t have received the critical acclaim and lasting impact that it’s had–so now it’s time to look at what this show actually did and figure out what makes it tick.

Right from the first episode, Madoka Magica has a distinct feel, not only from other works in the genre, but from just about anything else in the medium. The works of Shinbo and SHAFT have always been pretty out-there visually, but I’m not sure the studio ever got to throw as much money or creative freedom at a show as they did Madoka. There are lots of angles and moments of animation that you just wouldn’t expect to see in anime, and uncommon fixations, such as really detailed hand gestures from the characters and, of course, the crazy cutout look of the reality marbles.

Everything in the show looks very crisp and distinct, and even though the colors are fairly subdued in order to give the show a creepy vibe, the color design is nonetheless striking. I’ve always characterized Shinbo’s directing style as “wallpaper fuel,” because so many of his shots make for ideal desktop backgrounds, and Madoka is certainly no exception. The combination of excessively detailed movement and crisp, memorable backgrounds gives the entire production a sense of weight and quality that elevates it above other anime series. It’s not so much that Madoka could contend with the animation quality of something like a Production IG show, but because it’s designed in such a clean and attractive way, it feels even more gripping than if it had been a normal-looking show with high quality animation.

Depending on whether you’re watching the episode for the first or second time, it takes on a pretty different meaning. On the first go-round, it mostly serves to build Homura as a mysterious character whose fate is inexplicably tied to Madoka’s, as well as to introduce us to the daily life of Madoka and her friends. However, if you’ve seen the show already and know what Homura’s really trying to do, then her scenes take on a different meaning, and we can appreciate how painful it is for her to hear Madoka calling her by her last name, or to see her protecting Kyuubei in the end.

Episode two is where we get more of the proper “magical girl setup” stuff, and this order of events suggests indirectly that the magical girl stuff isn’t the real point of the show. The first episode already presented us with the real story, which is that of Homura trying to stop Kyuubei to protect the fate of Madoka, so while episode two appears to be the meat of the story setup, it’s actually more of a misdirect made to give the impression that this really might be a proper magical girl show. Everything established about how witches and magical girls work is typical of the genre, and one could be forgiven for assuming after this that the show was just weirdly trippy, but ultimately a normal magical girl show.

Interestingly, the show is kind of careful not to outright lie to the viewer. The only reason we’re misinformed is that we’re following from Madoka’s perspective, and she gets all of her information from the utterly misinformed upperclassman Mami. Moreover, we have no reason to doubt Mami, who comes across as cool, reliable, and a good role model for Madoka. There are hints though of what a real role model should be like in the form of Madoka’s mom. When asked about what she’d wish for if she could do so, Madoka’s mom answers that she’d basically clear the way for her to climb the corporate ladder, but when Madoka suggests that she does so anyways, her mom ambitiously begins to consider doing just that. At this point, Madoka’s mom symbolizes chasing after your wishes by your own hands without relying on things like magic.

If there’s one way that the show could be called a liar, it’s with the use of the ending theme. Madoka’s opening theme is interesting in that it wouldn’t really sound out of place in a magical girl show, but also doesn’t feel out of place here. It’s a pop song, but there’s a distinct sense of sadness in the lyrics and performance, and even in the video. The show’s proper ending theme, Magia, is used as background music during fights in these first two episodes, whereas the ending song is a cheery pop song sung by Madoka’s voice actress. This false ending theme really does betray the true nature of the series, but given that Madoka still has no idea what she’s really in for, it is at least true to her feelings for this part of the show.

Episode three is where the series finally reveals its true intentions as a dark and violent magical girl series, but it’s here that I’d like to try and debunk the idea that Madoka is necessarily subversive or deconstructive of the genre. For starters, let’s clarify that this genre is actually pretty diverse. The type of magical girl show best known to older fans and those in the west is the sub-genre of battle shows, which includes the likes of Pretty Cure, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Shugo Chara, and Madoka falls in with this genre–but there are plenty of other types of Magical Girl shows, such as the ever-growing idol genre, which Madoka has little in common with.

Within the realm of battle series, Madoka doesn’t necessarily bring anything that the genre hasn’t seen before, except for MAYBE the evil mascot character. In fact, while it wasn’t thought of as a magical girl series at the time of its release because the genre title didn’t exist yet, Go Nagai’s Cutie Honey is often considered among the earliest magical girl series in retrospect, and was not only aimed at boys, but contained lots of violence, nudity, and action.

Even in series aimed at girls, there’s always been plenty of playing with tropes. The original Sailor Moon manga featured character deaths, and both that series and Ojamajo Doremi are known for dealing with surprisingly dark themes. Pretty Cure began to draw the attention of otaku audiences with its well-animated fight scenes, which may have influenced the purely otaku-oriented Nanoha franchise which, as I mentioned earlier, was often pretty dark and violent. Madoka is somewhat unique in that the main character doesn’t transform for the majority of the series, but it could be compared to Cardcaptor Sakura, in which Sakura never actually transformed, but really was just putting on different outfits while using magic; or, how in Revolutionary Girl Utena, while Utena does ostensibly have a sort-of transformation, the series is more about her long-term character arc and how she transforms as a person in the end. The idea of a completely tragic magical girl show has even been explored in the likes of Princess Tutu, and both that series and Utena do way more to subvert and deconstruct the magical girl genre than Madoka does.

After all, in the end, Madoka really does have thematic similarities to other shows in the genre. The ending could be taken as somewhat melancholy, but is ultimately uplifting. I think it’s a bit presumptuous to label Madoka as an outright subversion of the genre, and that it’s more accurate to call it a dark and violent take on the genre. It’s not that Madoka doesn’t represent its genre idealistically, it just goes about its portrayal of themes in an atypical fashion. This distinction might be pedantic in the end, but I feel that in labelling Madoka as contrary to the magical girl genre, rather than a member of it, would be to pointlessly limit the idea of what a magical girl show can be; whereas considering Madoka to be a dark example of a magical girl show actually expands what the genre can be considered capable of.

Anyways, in this episode, we see the beginnings of the kind of person Madoka will become, and how this contrasts with who Mami is, in spite of Madoka’s perception of her. Madoka is inspired by her mom’s attitude of drawing satisfaction from the general feeling of accomplishment in her life to try and become a magical girl so that she can have the feelings of doing something for the betterment of others. Meanwhile, we learn that Mami never really wanted to be a magical girl, and that her confidence and swagger are just a front she puts up so that she can deal with her work.

Unfortunately, Mami seems to have bought into her own facade and arrogantly doubts Homura’s intentions. I love the moment where Mami says that Homura’s desire to prevent competition comes from an immature mindset, and Homura just death glares at her as if to say, “yeah, exactly. You’re immature for believing that that is my intention.” Mami fails precisely because she isn’t the real deal. She gets excited at the idea that someone is going to help take her pain away, but is practically admitting in the process her own lack of strength. When reality strikes, it strikes with a vicious and unfair fury. Mami did not deserve to die for her failure, but as Homura puts it, such is the nature of being a magical girl.

With the fourth episode, the story begins to open up, as Sayaka makes her contract, Kyouko is introduced, and the motivations and intentions of the characters start coming to light. As such, I’ll be switching from talking about the show episodically to something more broad.

Miki Sayaka’s arc, which takes up the bulk of the series, is a sort of downward spiral caused by the slow realization that she, like most people, is not as strong as she thinks she is. Sayaka’s crucial flaw is that her intentions are good, but she doesn’t really understand who she is as a person. She thinks that by wanting to do good things and sacrificing herself for others, she’ll be able to find happiness; but upon the realization that she can never be with Kyousuke, she comes face to face with her true nature. It’s not so much that Sayaka is lying to herself the whole time, although there are certainly elements of that–it’s that she doesn’t understand her own limitations, and upon learning them, can’t handle the realization.

The reason Madoka has so much potential is because she actually has the mindset and personality to potentially do what Sayaka can only pretend to be capable of. In her heart of hearts, Sayaka’s desires were always selfish, and she realizes it all too late. She draws inspiration from her perception of Tomoe Mami, but as we’ve discussed already, Mami was never really that strong to begin with, which is how she got killed. Sayaka sees Kyouko and Homura as selfish and unjust, and by comparing herself against them she strengthens the idea that she’s in the right, which only obscures the truth of her nature even further. At the point when Sayaka can no longer reconcile her ideal self against her actual self is when her mind unravels, and she finally goes over the edge.

Meanwhile, Sakura Kyouko is Sayaka’s opposite. Kyouko fights out of a sense of duty, but acts as though she’s doing it all for herself. She’s willing to throw other people under the bus and make sacrifices, but all of it is ultimately so that she can keep fighting, and keep others from needing to fight.

Kyouko’s arc kind of happens too fast in the show, so part of my interpretation of her character involves filling in the blanks that the show left, but I think the best way to rationalize her actions in the end is to recognize that she was perhaps the one most interested in self-sacrifice to begin with. That said, because she’d already used her wish short-sightedly as a child, she no longer has the means to become truly powerful as Madoka can, and ends up dying in a last-ditch effort to do the impossible in saving Sayaka’s life. In a way, Kyouko was always living in the shadow of her past mistakes, and couldn’t emerge from that with enough hope for the future to power her onwards.

Whereas Mami, Sayaka, and Kyouko all failed to understand either themselves or their powers at critical moments, Homura is the only one lucky enough to get a full grasp of both. Because of her time travel ability, she can keep repeating the same cycle until she learns how to do everything right, not unlike a Groundhog’s Day loop. Homura’s ambition is to reach a timeline wherein Madoka can be happy, and while she might not get her wish in exactly the way she wants it, she will eventually get it in some form as a matter of course, since her power dictates that she gets to repeat the cycle until she gets it right. Homura may have the knowledge which the others lacked, but not unlike Kyouko, has already used her wish–and so, even if she is successful, the conclusion which she is capable of reaching is already set in stone. However, it is because of Homura’s cycle that Madoka’s latent capability keeps growing, as she in turn has new chances to do everything right every time Homura starts the cycle over again.

In the end, all the time, power, and knowledge bought by Homura’s cycle allows Madoka the clarity of thought and understanding to make a wish that can change everyone’s fates and save the magical girls once and for all. Whereas everyone else’s wishes had been too narrow in scope, Madoka realizes that the only way to truly change the nature of the cycle is to change the nature of the universe in the process, which she accomplishes by becoming a God. She takes out the entire concept that all hope must come with an equivalent exchange of despair, by becoming a self-perpetuating machine of gaining hope through the fact that she is taking on despair, i.e. permanently balancing out the hope and despair within her. And, well, the rest is adorable yuri history.

If I had to determine the key to Madoka’s success, I would say that it’s actually an incredibly straightforward and simple story, presented in just such a way that it causes the viewer to digest it differently than they would another story. Ultimately, it’s about the battle of hope versus despair, and about the main character saving the universe, which is as typical as an anime story can get; but because it plays this game with clashing tropes and defiance of expectation, it causes the viewer to engage it differently.

The producer of Madoka Magica has stated that he felt the show was actually pretty kid-friendly, in that it doesn’t feature any explicit sexuality or gore, and ultimately presents a pretty normal story–and in that I have to agree. I would compare the success of Madoka to the success of Death Note. Like Madoka, Death Note was a show whose premise seemed twisted and dark, but was actually really easy to follow and understand even for young people–which is appropriate considering it ran in Shounen Jump. Both of these series used dramatic twists, engaging stylistic trappings, and big, memorable moments to sell a straightforward plot as something ostensibly fresh and new.

I must admit that while I did enjoy Madoka overall and find it fun to watch, upon seeing it again I was unimpressed in terms of how it compares to other media on the whole. In spite of the unique presentation, there aren’t really any unique ideas in the show, and it kind of reads like a teen-friendly version of a more detailed Urobuchi Gen story like you might get from Psycho-Pass. Madoka feels very short, even for a twelve-episode series, as it seems only interested in hitting all of its plot points without doing much to flesh out the world or characters. Butch Gen has admitted that he considered the characters secondary to the storyline, and even had most of their fates decided before he’d even given them names. This isn’t necessarily a bad way to craft a story, since it means that the themes of the narrative take prominence, but I don’t think that Madoka explored its themes in an impressive amount of depth. Nonetheless, that’s not to say that the series has done anything wrong–it’s more to say that in the grand scheme of things, it might not hold up as well in comparison to other works, even within the libraries of its own creative team.

Of course, with Madoka being the ridiculous success that it was, it quickly spawned an entire franchise surrounding it. Two manga adaptations and no less than six spinoffs have been produced at the time of this writing, which I won’t be discussing in this video–nor will I cover the light novels, nor any of the five currently available video games. The biggest additions to the franchise were the trio of films, two of which are recaps of the series with some additional footage and redone voice-over, and the third of which is a totally new story that serves as a sequel to the original. I am about to spoil the movie as well, so if you don’t want it spoiled, now would be the time to stop this video, as I’m done talking about the show.

Opinions of Madoka Rebellion are pretty divided, which isn’t surprising as the film is a total clusterfuck. The first act plays out like one of those alternate-universe fun time OVAs that other shows get, or like the first part of a Higurashi arc, where all the characters are hanging out having fun. It’s basically a bunch of fanservice–a chance for us to see all the main girls hanging out and enjoying themselves as a group, both in casual life and in battles, which we never really got to see in the show. This is fine in itself, though the interactions end up feeling forced as it’s painfully obvious that these scenes exist just for the sake of themselves. Which isn’t to say that none of them are entertaining, as the scene with the characters singing in the midst of killing a nightmare certainly is, but it’s also so bizarre and out of left field that it’s hard to take seriously as a canon part of the series.

The film’s second act is way needlessly stretched out, with even more fanservice in the form of things like an extended battle between Homura and Mami (most of which operates on an Advent Children level of excess), and the creation of Bibi-chan. To clarify, Bibi is the witch that killed Mami in episode three, but in this universe she’s Mami’s best friend, and also turns out to be a loli. Or actually, she was part of Madoka’s god-mode existence, along with Sayaka. Why was Bibi a part of Madoka? Fuck if I know!

Once the plot finally starts rolling, with Kyuubei admitting to Homura that the world they’re trapped in was fabricated by herself after the incubators separated her soul gem from the Madoka system, the film’s art becomes totally incomprehensible. I don’t know how else to explain it–the visual design gets so out of hand that I literally could not tell what the fuck was happening on the screen in front of me. All of it was vaguely cool-looking in the sense that if I got really baked and put on a Pink Floyd album it’d probably be one hell of an afternoon, but in terms of conveying anything of significance I was totally lost. Even during the final battle, I could vaguely tell what was happening, but not really what the characters were DOING on a moment-to-moment basis.

The whole idea, in the end, is that Homura eventually becomes the Devil to Madoka’s God, destroying the balance that Madoka created in her sacrifice in order to bring Madoka back to life. I think. I could kind of comprehend that Homura would do something like this to take the pain away from Madoka, even though at the end of the TV show, Madoka made it explicitly clear that she wasn’t feeling any pain, and was happy being a part of everyone’s lives, and it seemed like Homura trusted her. Even if I can see Homura doing it, I don’t really grasp why she was capable of becoming the devil. I’m not necessarily saying the movie didn’t explain it, but if it did, then it went over my head while I was trying to wrap it around what the fuck was actually happening in the film’s third act.

I honestly can’t enthusiastically attempt to analyze this movie in a meaningful way, because I just outright disliked it. The early part of the film, which should’ve been effective fanservice, mostly served to remind me of how these characters aren’t really that interesting, and so watching them do fun stuff together doesn’t really fill me with the kind of feelings that I’d have gotten watching one of the similar Higurashi OVAs. The visuals and fight scenes were so far over the top that I was numb by the end of the Mami and Homura fight, and completely out of patience for the rest of the film. I feel like I understand what the ending was going for, but it doesn’t handle it with anywhere near the grace that, say, the final chapter of Devilman, or the Revolutionary Girl Utena movie does. It just feels like one big ridiculous clusterfuck that I couldn’t bring myself to care about.

Anyways, that’s kind of a downer way to end this video, and I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with me who found this movie interesting, or who enjoyed the TV show more than I did. Nonetheless, I do hope you enjoyed this video, and that you’ll check out more videos on this channel and, if you really enjoy my content, that you’ll support me via patreon or paypal so I can keep this channel going. Thanks a ton!

21 thoughts on “Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – What it Did and What I Thought

  1. Nice post. I enjoyed Madoka quite a bit when I watched it, particularly because of the very interesting visuals for the witches and witch worlds. But the plot left me feeling cold, especially in the last third of the show. The episode which consisted entirely in Kyubey giving Madoka an infodump was particularly awful, and the random last-minute plot twists (time travel! aliens! reset button!) were aggravating. Overall this left me with a good impression of Shaft and a terrible impression of Urobuchi.

    • Saya no Uta, Fate/Zero, and Psycho-Pass are all better Butch Gen works. I think Madoka is a fine story insofar as doing what it set out to do, which was just to be a dark magical girl. If you saw Petite Cossette, which was Shinbo just doing the concept “gothic lolita” I think there’s a similarity in how both shows were really about the aesthetic more than anything. Madoka has a much more interesting and developed plot than Cossette though.

  2. I don’t know whether it followed for Homura to do what she did, but the weirdest thing about it was they way she took on this “I’m evil now” persona. She didn’t just become the devil to Madoka’s god, she bragged about it and seemed pretty proud of herself for something she pretty much outright said she knew she shouldn’t have done. It was really weird.

    • Homura actually wants to be punished for her actions and has low self-esteem/severe self-loathing issues. She also has suicidal tendencies emulated through her familiars and their communications toward her, as well as what she tries to do by ‘destroying her own witch barrier’.

      It’s not fair to call someone like Homura evil when she was never ‘good’ nor filled with malice towards anyone except Kyubey in the first place. I suppose that it is misleading how she truly feels on the situation because she is mentally twisted, both an unreliable narrator, morally ambiguous in her actions and also an audience avatar, who may be just as confused and conflicted as the viewers are. And the devil lies, after all.

      Madoka Magica had a strong overarching theme of deception and insecurity, and I believe this film took that to the most logical extreme.

      I will say that Homura does not feel bad about her actions because she finally ‘saved’ Madoka but now has to spend an eternity in despair living with the guilt that she betrayed her beloved and their friends to create this paradise for them. That is simply how the ending of the film is meant to be interpreted. But for all we know, in an inevitable sequel, that theory may be debunked as well, and the other girls won’t even be angry or upset with her like she feared they would be.

        • I don’t think it’s so strange considering what she would morally think about what she did (especially since it’s something that, while it didn’t actually disgrace Madoka’s wish, it wasn’t with Madoka’s consent, unless you consider what Madoka said to her in the field of lilies earlier in the film about not wanting to be separated from the people she loves even out of duty as her form of ‘consent’). I think she realizes this as much as the audience does, but just doesn’t care what happens to her anymore as long as Madoka’s happy. Fair enough, glad I provide some insight.

  3. Hi there! I just reached out to you on Youtube and through Tumblr, but I thought I’d respond here from my WordPress blog (which is still a work in progress, so please forgive me). I have never watched any of your anime reviews before, but have heard from a group of my very close friends that you have made quite a name for yourself as far as YouTube My Little Pony and anime reviewers go. I have had the privilege of watching the entirety of your review of Madoka Magica, which continues to this day since Summer 2012 to be not only my number one all-time favorite anime, but also the most compelling, inspiring and impressive work of fiction I’ve seen to this day. I love everything about it. The extravagant and extremely detailed animation by Studio Shaft, the witch labyrinth design art by the talented and symbolism-loving Gekidan Inu Curry, the writing by the dark and cerebral yet empathic and empowering screenwriter Gen Urobuchi, the simple yet realistic and emotionally complex main female cast and finally, the story which I find so intense that I am always engaged and empathizing with everything that’s happening onscreen no matter how many times I rewatch it. I also really love the recap/compilation films Beginnings (except that I disapprove of some of the changes and scene cuts/alterations made within it) and Eternal. I saw them as less of a recap of the series and more like rewatching it again on the big screen nonstop. And yes, I am bothered by some fans who dismiss the films for being as they are but I don’t let it get to me.

    I am also a fan of Rebellion, the third film and sequel/continuation to the recap films (not the TV series, Shinbo says they are a separate canon because the series is self-contained) you show discontent towards. It is my favorite film of 2013 and maybe all time for any medium, period. I have not stopped talking about, thinking, discussing, rewatching, analyzing and feeling for everything that film had within it. I have written about my thoughts and feelings on the film extensively since it was released, making commentary on the characters actions and relationships with one another in the film, the symbolism and yes, even the ending you find to be so unsettling. I have never been caused to think or feel so intensely for a film as audiovisually extravagant and euphoric as Rebellion. Thanks to this film, Madoka Magica is in MY OPINION finally the masterpiece it deserved to be, as well as having gained the potential to do and become so much more in the future. I went into seeing the film with the expectations that it would complete the franchise while hoping that it would be the precursor to another season, like what Shinbo and Gen said back in 2012 when the first two films came out. Unless you’re interested, I won’t bother you with my thoughts on the presentation of the characters themselves or why and HOW Homura did what she did. This film is hard to properly analyze, criticize and fully understand because much like End of Evangelion and Eva 3.0, the fans and the creators are so closely knit together as well as divided on how objectively good or bad they actually are even if the films were intentionally created to be subjective and entirely up to viewer interpretation.

    However, I would like to inform you that I own the Bluray booklet where Urobuchi clarifies that he was not FORCED into writing the ending for the film just to continue the franchise, he had simply run out of ideas on how to make a proper continuation until Shinbo gave him that very suggestion which led to the ‘ending’ we have now. And there are plans for an upcoming second season if it gains fan appeal. Gen said in several interviews that he expected the film was “going to divide the people, but I’m ready to face the consequences” and that “some will beautify it and some will reject it completely. These days, static characters who don’t change are popular, and if characters ever change even a little bit there’ll be people who’ll call that out-of-character and get angry.”

    Also, I love the various PSP games and manga spinoffs which expand the universe and some of the background/supporting characters/introduce new perspectives as well, most notably Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice and The Different Story, if you haven’t read them yet. Oriko is good as well but its art is left to be desired and is a continuity that has yet to be completed as of now. Tart Magica is a story about Jeanne D’Arc as a magical girl in this universe we briefly saw in episode 11-12. Suzune and Homura’s Revenge are other spinoffs, but I have not read them so I cannot tell you my thoughts about them. I also enjoy the manga adaptations of the series and film (which I have not completed for the latter yet), as they are the rare case of an anime being produced and released before the graphic novel which inspires it and I was intrigued/satisfied with some of the alterations in the storyline and style which were made.

    Personally, I think it says something when a TV show like this manages to adapt, borrow, subvert, parody and aspire an interest and a passion for other works of fiction/mediums of art and literature its viewers would never have been exposed to or been willing to experience beforehand. That is what this series did to me as a person. I cannot praise it enough for that. To be able to watch the works Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and other eccentric Hollywood directors who contributed so greatly to the industry is now a goal within my life. Taking the time to read Faust, Paradise Lost, other classical literature which may or may not have inspired the franchise/medium as well as watching older anime series and movies is now a priority of mine. I have obtained the desire and ambition to write, read, watch, study, analyze and participate in the production and development of various television series and films. All of this for me, was thanks to Madoka Magica.

    But enough about my thoughts on the matter. I have written a research paper on Gen Urobuchi and some of the history behind the series that you mentioned and I would like to correct you on some of the points which you made as well as your comparisons/commentary on the magical girl genre.

    What you said about Iwakami and Shinbo pitching the concept of PMMM to Urobuchi and Ume Aoki which would cause them to collaborate together as Magica Quartet, as well as the series inception beginning in 2009 and being released due to Shinbo and Gen’s reputation among otaku for their past works as well as Shaft’s current success with Hidamari Sketch and Bakemonogatari is indeed correct. But you missed a few key aspects I felt like bringing up which I did in my research paper on Urobuchi and the series themes I wrote for a Creative Writing course back in high school.
    Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a very important work for Urobuchi in a number of respects. It was the first anime series he had worked on where the first draft of his script and plot proposal was approved and barely changed. He was responsible for writing the script for all of the episodes. Despite its cute and youthful characters and vibrant, colorful animation, the series is purely a work written by him. In Madoka, there are four major themes prevalent to the storyline and plot which Urobuchi is known for using in other works like Saya no Uta, Fate/Zero (2011) and Psycho-Pass (2012). Some of these themes are later portrayed to their most logical extreme in Rebellion, even if you did not pay attention to or acknowledge their presence and purpose while watching the film yourself.

    In many ways, Madoka Magica could be considered a darker perspective on the stereotypical themes of superhero/magical girl genre, not much unlike Watchmen, Alan Moore’s graphic novel that some people believe ‘revolutionized the comic book superhero genre’ in its day. Urobuchi’s script puts his young, idealistic middle school girl cast from the futuristic city of Mitakihara in circumstances where they are forced to fight against. But despite all the glory that may come from defeating these witches and saving other people, it is not a matter of heroism or being willing to make sacrifices for the sake of others which drives them. Kyubey comes to these girls when they are on the verge of death or are facing severe emotional crises over the misfortunes of their loved ones. He grants them any wish they desire and they receive their abilities in return for devoting their lives to fighting these witches, fulfilling a contract. However, he does not inform these girls of the true nature of their powers or his motives. His actions in the series are meant to be sinister and deceptive toward both the characters and viewer, as Urobuchi portrays him as a representation of a utilitarian society looming unknowingly over these girls. Puella Magi are forced into social isolation and expected to develop an aptitude for survival after they have discovered upon receiving their powers that they are no longer human.

    Despite having said all of that, I agree with you that it is not Madoka is a deconstruction. To treat it as such is what the fandom and all of the people who shower the series with glowing reviews and criticism are doing wrong. However, it does manage to take a traditional genre of anime, appeal to a different target audience, portray a darker and more brutal meta realism commentary than what you’d normally see in a mahou shoujo since the standard audience is normally elementary to preteen girls and otaku parents/siblings/relatives of theirs who would sit down to watch these shows with them (with plenty of varying exceptions).

    My knowledge on the genre is limited to what I have read about its most famous and influential titles, several of which I have already seen or plan to in the near future. While I have not finished the entirety of Nanoha and Sailor Moon, from what I have watched I can say that your claims on the initial episodes of Madoka Magica being stereotypical for a magical girl show in their ‘cutesy and vibrantly colored appeal’ and then your contradiction of the previous statement in which you said that the presence of the witch labyrinths and their overall extravagantly detailed/creepy yet brightly colored appearance being atypical for the genre could not have been more wrong in my opinion. But maybe it is merely my own personal experience and taste talking. There were plenty of scenes in what I have seen of Nanoha and Sailor Moon that I would say invoke those same exact feelings I have toward the witch labyrinths if not moreso. I am not an expert on Nanoha, but I know that my friend who is a longtime fan of the franchise has a few issues on what you said about the series, so I’ll let him speak his mind when and if he gets in touch with you. The same goes for Pretty Cure.

    As for your mentioning of Cutey Honey as ‘one of the first magical girl anime’, there is another point in which I would respectively have to disagree. Cutey Honey is a shonen anime which happens to have a main female lead who has the magical ability to transform herself at will. Keep in mind that she is also an android. While she is a magical girl herself, she is definitely not part of a show that can be considered Mahou Shoujo in the slightest. I was also surprised that you did not mention even earlier shoujo/magical girl works, including the first magical girl manga Himitsu no Akko-chan (1962), the first magical girl anime Sally the Witch (1966), Princess Knight (again, not really a magical girl anime but influential on classic shoujo works such as Cutey Honey, Rose of Versailles, Oniisama e and Utena) and finally, Majokko Meg-chan (1974). But those are minor beefs that I have with your research, honestly. The rest of it was fine and I also agree that the magical girl genre is very diverse with its themes, characters and situations it portrays. I am glad you mentioned Utena, Tutu and Ojamajo Doremi, two of which are also all time favorite anime of mine and the latter of which I need to watch eventually.

    To briefly go on a tangent, Revolutionary Girl Utena is my second favorite anime/work of fiction after Madoka, but as a fan who equally adores both in his own mind and soul, I must confess that it is NOT a Magical Girl anime in the slightest, so it should not be counted as predating Madoka as a ‘deconstruction’. It would be better to call it a deconstruction or subversion of shoujo and fantasy anime as a whole. The series has a lot more of a focus on self-acceptance and extroversion. While it DOES have a magical girl in the lead and WAS a shoujo anime, its commentary on gender roles, individualism, extroversion and the attempt in transcending social norms and the views of others take center stage over its magical girl elements, thereby it’s a lot more poignant than your average magical girl anime or even fantasy anime period. This is another reason that it is considered to be part of the Triumvirate of Late 90s existential anime, it basically does to shoujo what NGE did to mecha and Cowboy Bebop did to Space Opera and film noir/cyberpunk. Utena also HAS no defining element, and is intentionally made with being interpreted differently by everyone who watches it. Part of the series’ and its director Kunihiko Ikuhara (who also worked on several classic seasons of Sailor Moon (R, Super and SuperS), the first anime serial film and most recently, Mawaru-Penguindrum)’s philosophy is that those themes and elements I mentioned above are only presented as various parts of each character’s attempt to achieve true happiness. This is why while I’m glad you mentioned the series, I disagree with the way you compared it to PMMM. It’s all up to interpretation either way though.

    As for Tutu (another favorite of mine which I’d rather call a shoujo deconstruction), it is a magical girl show which focuses on the theme of people repelling the will of a ‘higher power’ controlling their fates, but in a setting that much like Utena, is much more like a fairy tale with postmodernist elements taking the forefront over the magical girl elements. And theatrical tropes, although Madoka and Utena have plenty of those too. I guess the other difference is that as great as Tutu is, it never felt like much of a character piece, because the characters’ paths in life were all determined by the ‘machine’ they’re fighting against, the ghost of a deceased tragedy writer who died before his book could be finished.

    Another thing I’d add is that Urobuchi didn’t write the story with the genre in mind, to him, it is merely a secondary element for which they are intentionally using and subverting/making light of the tropes the Magical Girl genre is known for. In other words, it is simply put: a tragedy in both the literary, cultural, social, media-based and meta-realistic sense of the term which just happens to center around magical girls, making it ‘mahou shoujo’. This is the one place where I would agree with your Death Note comparison, as they were both taking a genre of fiction and presenting a simple story from it in a complex manner (Death Note being a shonen psycho-thriller/mystery series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica being also psychothriller/mystery esque but catering to a seinen/otaku audience).
    Even while keeping all of the above in mind, I would like to explain why I think Madoka Magica is still revolutionary and deserving of all the praise and admiration it receives. It is my belief that the real purpose of Rebellion was to deconstruct the relationship between Madoka and Homura. That’s right. They took apart the whole notion of them being ‘super loyal lesbian best friends’ and exposed the relationship for what it really is. Mutually abusive, obsessive and idealistically flawed codependence. The very notion of two friends who are confused and disturbed by their romantic feelings for one another due to circumstance and perception of the other, which is what causes them to try and ‘control’ one another because that love is their weakness. That love is their curse.
    That’s where there is a problem. They both see each other in a certain way that prevents them from being true to themselves and each other about that love. Madoka wants the old Homura (the one who has a weak heart and no confidence in herself so she needs to be protected) back but Homura wants the old Madoka to never exist again and forget memories of that Madoka, who is the REAL Madoka. Their relationship is a virtual case of identity crisis mixed with miscommunication and desire. They don’t truly believe and feel that their perception of one another is even real in the first place.

    And that’s the true dilemma here. Although she understands and knows what she has been through Madoka still tells herself that cold and reserved person who forbids her to put herself in harm’s way for the sake of others is not her ‘Homura’. It also leads to a lot of uncomfortable as fuck psychology where you can arguably call the relationship borderline abusive because super powers and fates aside Madoka and Homura are literally the epitome of a romantic couple that tries too hard to make each other a certain way. They each believe the other is broken. Homura does not understand that Madoka’s love for her is the sole human characteristic she believes to be selfless but is actually that lust and desire to be her protector being suppressed with her sense of duty and righteousness. Madoka in turn does not understand that Homura sees no value in herself if Madoka is protecting her all the time but Homura still feels helpless.

    That is what is so scary about this. It adds to the whole notion that because they are as Homura said ‘living in different times from each other’, they do not really KNOW what the other is truly like anymore. Homura only remembers the Madoka she became cold toward in order to suppress her feelings because that is the only Madoka she WANTS to remember while Madoka remembers and loves the Homura SHE wanted to PROTECT in the first place. They have been using each other as emotional crutches.

    It’s not just Homura who feels that way. Madoka also believes this. The whole problem here is that they wish for a happy ending together but then they realize and wonder if it is really happy if they ‘lose their sense of self’ and ‘cease to exist’ as they truly are, not how they are seen by their loved ones?

    This is what makes fans so damn uncomfortable because Shinbo and Urobuchi are basically defying the romanticization of such tragic relationships just as Hideaki Anno has done with Evangelion and Kunihiko Ikuhara has done with his portrayal of Haruka and Michiru in Sailor Moon S and his treatment of both the UtenaXAnthy and JuriXShiori relationships in RGU. Shaft has simply done the same with MadoHomu in PMMM.

    Age isn’t an issue here and neither is gender. What they have done here is a fucking deconstruction of love and friendship because this is going into psychosexuality and innocence. And this goes for all of the girls, not just Madoka and Homura. KyouSaya and Mami are also in the same boat. They’ve taken the whole concept of this idealized unconditional love and friendship between these girls fighting for the common good and their own desires and are saying that in the past the genre has made it too idealistic. Therefore, they are refusing to be lighthearted about it. This is what sets apart Madoka Magica from other magical girl anime who use the tropes of the Power of Love and Friendship to save the world and solve major problems between the characters or ones that they themselves face. While Utena and Tutu were also known for tackling and subverting these themes, keep in mind how I said that they were not ‘true’ magical girl shows. I think simply because of the target audience as well as the dark and realistic portrayal of the tropes within PMMM, Madoka Magica is truly innovative and unique in that respect. This statement and the ideas expressed in this headcanon…

    …are why I think Madoka Magica is truly revolutionary even if it is not actually a deconstruction of the magical girl genre for all the reasons I have stated.

    I simply do not think no matter how many times said month repeats for them in both the series and the film that Madoka and Homura’s relationship is in any way healthy if they end up together at this current time. However, that was intentional on the part of the creators, and I also believe that them becoming a goddess and devil respectively was a step in the right direction in coming to understand exactly what they want for each other and themselves as well as being able to resolve said issues. It is not just because of the circumstances but also as Homura herself says in episode 11, “To you, I’m just the girl you met last month. But to me you’re so much more,” it means that she doesn’t feel as if she has gotten a chance to get to know her and really appreciate her friendship and love no matter what form it takes because she does not know that Madoka thinks exactly the same way about the whole situation. But these are just my feelings based on my own positive, optimistic and critical analysis/attachment to the characters and the ending of this film, so it is okay if you don’t agree with my sentiments.

    I thank you for having taken the time to read all of this, as a huge fan of the series I’m very glad that you’re willing to let me share my thoughts and discuss them with you even if you hold no major attachment to its characters and themes. Feel free to contact me on either WordPress, Tumblr, Youtube, Skype or Facebook if you would like to discuss anything I have wrote or additional ideas further. Thanks again, Digibro! :D

    • The first and most important thing to recognize here, which I’m sure you have already, is that we have very different levels of how much we care about this show. And that goes a long way in a conversation like this, because I generally don’t have the energy or will to engage with this series on the level that you have done so, so discussion between us on the subject is going to be really one-sided in your favor. I do however highly recommend this long-ass analysis series by the blogger Froborr, who would probably be more than willing to discuss the finer points of the series analytically:

      I haven’t read all of Froborr’s writing on Madoka, nor do I plan to, which brings me to the next important point. I completely appreciate, and even agree with, a lot of the more detailed interpretations and analysis of Madoka. However, they just don’t represent the way the series makes me feel. When I see people really getting into the bones of its symbolism and characters and how they relate to it, I understand where they’re coming from, it’s just that I personally don’t care to engage the series on that level, as the series doesn’t really speak to me in that way.

      All of those things that Madoka did for you, like going to go watch movies by subversive directors and stuff–other shows have done that for me. I’ve already been down that road and had that effect happen to me, so Madoka never had the opportunity to be that way for me. If Madoka had come out when I was like 18, I could see it still having that effect, as I wouldn’t have seen anything quite like it yet; but as someone who’s been fanboying over Hideaki Anno and Akiyuki Shinbo shows for like eight years, I’ve gotten to the point that even a lot of their shows barely do anything for me anymore.

      Moving onto points you raised against my review:

      I did mention that Gen had “almost complete creative freedom” and also that “Madoka reads like a teen-friendly version of the themes found in his more detailed work.” You compare Madoka to Watchmen as a “darker take,” but I would say that Watchmen really IS a deconstruction and major subversion, which you agree with me that Madoka isn’t. It’d probably be more apt to compare it to something like The Dark Knight–something that still represents comic book ideology, but presents it dark, realitically, and with strong themes.

      You mention being surprised that I didn’t mention all those old magical girl anime, but I don’t see how mentioning any of those helps my point. I only brought up Cutie Honey because it was violent and aimed at boys, so I was saying that even early stuff in the genre had similarities to what supposedly makes Madoka unique. If any of those other shows have those qualities, I wouldn’t know as I haven’t seen them (I only talked in the video about magical girl shows I’ve actually seen at least some of). Also, whether or not you consider Cutie Honey to be a magical girl show, it IS considered one by a lot of people, so that really comes down to a matter of debate.

      I don’t see how Utena being a deconstruction precludes it from being a magical girl series, as it’s obviously meant to deconstruct that genre. The whole series was basically made as an answer to Sailor Moon before it, among other things, but that’s really for another time. I could probably write an entire book about Utena.

      Your analysis of the Rebellion movie is really good stuff. Again though, I don’t regret that none of that is in my video, as my video is just my feelings and opinions, and not meant to be a comprehensive tale of everyone’s analysis of the film. That said, you could/should totally start an anime blog for stuff like this. EDIT: Oh lol, looks like you already did!

      • Whoa! You replied fast! Yeah, I totally understand and respect that, which is why I said I wouldn’t try to convince you to engage in any form of analytical discussion or change your opinions even while expressing my own.

        I’ve already read some of Froborr’s writeups, and think they’re absolutely excellent.

        I see what you’re saying. If I had watched Madoka later in life after having seen so many other anime, I probably wouldn’t be obsessing over it as much as I do now. But I watched it when I was 16 (and it came out when I was 15), and since then have seen many other series like it or because of it I might’ve never watched beforehand. Let’s just say it exposed me to what I think are the better parts of the anime medium. And yes, I did finish Eva, Utena and Lain AFTER Madoka, and while I absolutely adore those series, they don’t surpass my passion for PMMM in any way. I haven’t seen a lot of Shinbo anime yet, but I did watch his loose adaptation of one of the Negima mangas ages ago and started Bakemonogatari. Same goes for Anno’s non-Eva work. So my bias probably doesn’t run that deep due to my lack of experience with their other works. A fair point you made.

        That’s interesting that you mentioned that. I should’ve clarified that I had been reading Watchmen and many people told me it WAS a deconstruction, but I haven’t actually finished reading it. I also haven’t completed the Dark Knight Trilogy (blasphemy, I know). Perhaps I’ll have a different opinion and stance once I get to those.

        They don’t, but they’re genre kickstarters that came before CH, so I felt like they were important to mention. The fact that you didn’t simply irked me a bit since Cutey Honey herself is a magical girl (but also an android), but her show is not. I’ve only seen the Re:Cutie Honey OVAs by Gainax of that franchise so far, so perhaps maybe the way that Anno and Imaishi presented her (which is the same as what he’d do with Ryuko in KLK) doesn’t really compare to the original representation of her character from Go Nagai’s 70s series. But meh, you’re right, it is a matter of debate. Still, different genres are important to keep in mind. I know that Madoka is targeted at young adults because of its dark and psychological take on all of those themes, but I know plenty of non-young adult male otaku (teens, girls and women) who did watch it and enjoy it. Some of them weren’t even Mahou Shoujo fans in the first place. I don’t think you have to be one to enjoy the content of this show. But that’s neither here nor there.

        *sigh* I was simply saying that Utena ISN’T a magical girl show in a traditional sense, nor is it meant to be one. Also, it is NOT Ikuhara’s answer to what he wanted to do on Sailor Moon. Okay, yes it is, but he was going more for a 70s shoujo approach which was inspired by his own outlook and philosophies on life, psychological background and interests, work on Sailor Moon AND the inspiration to go to with all of that from having seen and watched the success of Eva take off for his lifelong friend, Anno. I guess what I was trying to say was that while it is a deconstruction, it is TRYING to be one while to me, it just sort of happens with Madoka by accident or inevitably. I was also trying to say that ‘shoujo’ and ‘mahou shoujo’, while they often seem to go together, they don’t HAVE to. In fact, you can argue that a lot of female characters in ANY anime who have special powers or abilities are ‘mahou shoujo’. But that’s just how loose I see the term, I suppose. Also, I guess that depends on both your definitions and opinions on the term ‘deconstruction’ and ‘subversion’. But that’s neither here nor there. I’ll drop it for now. In my opinion, they’re both amazing shows and I love them both whether they’re revolutionary or not. I’d love to read or watch something on Utena from you. Same with Tutu.

        Thanks. I have more where that came from, and I feel like my interpretation of the film is really that the main theme I mentioned about ‘deconstructing love and friendship’ IS what PMMM is all about. But I understand that this video was just your own feelings and opinions, and I respect that. Thank you for taking the time to listen to what I had to say about this series I cherish so much though. I really appreciate it. I few like you’re one of the few people who doesn’t care that much about Madoka who hasn’t outright attacked me for my views on the series. It’s nice to be understood. What’s your favorite anime?

        Yeah, I recently remembered that I had a WordPress blog where I wanted to put all of my writings on various anime up there (and I have a lot). Guess I should get around to updating that, lol. I just find the whole WP system to be somewhat of a pain when it comes to adjusting personal settings, but it’s no big deal. I commented on your own blog with the same message, which I assume you read as well since you replied to it.

        Welp, I think that’s about all that needs to be said here. Thanks again for the reply! And if there’s any other series we’ve both seen you’d like to talk about, feel free to contact me. That’s all for now! :)

      • Given that I’m literally twice towriteabsolutedestinyapocalypsesonourarms’ age, have been watching large amounts of anime since before they were born, and am the author of the long-ass analysis you linked (thanks for the plug!), I don’t think age/experience of anime is necessarily the deciding factor here.

  4. I’ve found comparing PMMM and Mai-Hime to be quite fascinating, as both follow much of the same themes and character exploration. Mai’s like an amalgation of Madoka and Sayaka, although Sayaka is also a Midori sequel, if she were Mai’s age, and ShizNat is like if Homura was obsessed with Mami instead. Kyoko is obviously Nao. Lol, Nagi and Kyubey.
    There’s a lot of fluff and fanservice in MH, and PMMM condenses all of the tragic romances into Sayaka’s arc, so sometimes, I’ve described PMMM as “Mai-Hime with the fat trimmed off, and more stylized visuals.”

    Yet, I do prefer Mai-Hime, even though I don’t like the fanservice and silliness most of the time. I actually like the execution of Mai-Hime’s plot and characterization better than PMMM’s distilled version. As you pointed out, PMMM puts the characters and their relationships in service to themes and plot, whereas the shenanigans in Mai Hime allow us to spend time with these characters in a greater variety of settings, making them more interesting, or at least strengthening our emotional attachment to them.
    I also quite like Mai-Hime’s ending. PMMM’s bittersweet ending about how you cannot always destroy the system, and only subvert it bit by bit to make things a little better, is to be commended, for sure, but Mai-Hime’s message of outright rejection of the system is equally valid. Sometimes you can only make incremental steps, and sometimes you just don’t have to put up with this bullshit anymore.

    At any rate, I sure like Mai as a protagonist much better.

    • Meh, I found Mai to be a very obnoxious protagonist. And I didn’t enjoy HiME very much, mostly for its pacing, plot holes, Mai herself, the fanservice and fluff which really bogged down a very intriguing and intense plot/concept (love the idea of Childs and Keys so much). And the ending, pretty much because it killed all notions of tragedy brought on by the Carnival, didn’t even explain how they were able to come back (Mashiro being the last Carnival winner doesn’t excuse any of that since they barely told us that at the last minute), the fact that they were all getting along even after Shizuru and Yukino went on a blackmail/raping/killing spree and just how completely ‘Disney’ the ending was, even if I was happy to see them all alive in the end. Also, bringing Tate back and not actually killing off Reito and Mikoto was also pointless IMO. And that fight with Obsidian Lord (who actually looked a helluva a lot like Ame no Murakumo from Kannazuki no Miko) was WEAK. Mai-HiME did have its good parts, don’t get me wrong, but it simply did nothing for me and I was disappointed in the end. I might watch Otome in the future though, just to say I did and to see these characters again.

      Also, please don’t compare Madoka/Sayaka to Mai, ShizNat to HomuraxMami wishful thinking (I’m a crack yuri shipper in my fandom just like anyone else in theirs but goddess I HATE that pairing) or call the plot and characterization of PMMM ‘distilled’. Thank you very much. :P

      • By most metrics, PMMM is a better show than Mai-Hime.
        But there were some very specific personal sweet spots that Mai-Hime hit for me, so I like it better.
        There’s also the fandom aspect to consider, in that simply by being an older series with an iconic yuri couple, I was not only primed to like MH going in, but afterwards, had much more fanfiction highlighting and exploring the rest of MH’s great potential to extensive lengths. I recognize that MH was kind of trashy, and I didn’t even like said trashiness, but it’s not going to change my liking of the show.

        I still stand by my assertion that PMMM explores much of the same themes as Mai-Hime.
        The comparisons are there and valid.
        Mai is optimism, family loyalty, idealism, and realized determination out of initial indecision, with a feisty personality. Madoka and Sayaka.
        Shizuru and Homura’s comparison is obvious, especially post-Rebellion.
        Natsuki and Mami are people who have developed cool outer personas to cover up their internal loneliness, as a result of the death of family.

        I don’t understand what your beef with the term “distilled” is. Most consider it a complimentary description of media. The plot and characterization certainly isn’t that original. (Note that I do not consider originality to be an inherent virtue.)

        I got maybe 5 episodes into Otome before the fanservice squicked me out of continuing.

        • Absolutely it is. But that’s not to discredit HiME, because even if I was disappointed by it, I enjoyed SOME parts of it myself. Searrs and Carnival were really well handled in my opinion, and I enjoyed the sense of drama and tragedy they gave us. As for the rest of the show…it takes a lot for fanservice like that to turn me off…it didn’t really but I just didn’t see the point of it in an anime like that…although it was shonen after all. But yeah, HiME did have some good to it, not even questioning that.

          I’m not sure what you mean by the ‘fandom aspect’ honestly. I do love me some ShizNat, although some Maikoto and Harukino was mostly what I wanted to read as far as fanfics go. Man, Tate and Reito coming back at the end like that…goddess that pissed me off. So unnecessary. Anyway, PMMM’s fandom is pretty goddamn huge, the yuri and extensive universe highlighting is now bigger than ever thanks to the various manga, PSP games and Rebellion. So I don’t get what you’re trying to convey here but that’s okay.

          I honestly never said they didn’t. I just plain don’t like Mai as a character nor a protagonist. So comparing her to Madoka/Sayaka rubs me the wrong way, because I REALLY love their characters. They definitely explored the same themes, but you can’t deny that PMMM did it MUCH better. Which you’re not, you understand that as well, and since your reasons for preferring HiME’s ‘lighter yet still realistic’ approach to those themes are valid and respectable, I won’t argue with you on that.

          Yes, agreed with you on Shizuru…but while Shizuru and Homura are DEFINITELY in a similar situation (I have a PERFECT chart for this, also includes Chikane Himemiya from Kannazuki no Miko who is definitely appropriate to be mentioning here lol)…

          …Shizuru as an ACTUAL person and character is a lot more like Mami. And I actually LIKE Shizuru better than Mami, but they’re both equally great characters. The Natsuki comparison with Mami I REALLY didn’t see coming since Natsuki herself acts so much like Homura, but it ultimately makes sense. I hadn’t heard that before, so you bringing it up was interesting. Natsuki was one of the triumphs of HiME tbh.

          I might consider giving it a rewatch, although I ranked it a 7/10 after having finished it, and usually anime like that I don’t rewatch unless they’re part of a long running series so they only consist of one season out of all of those (like the first season of Sailor Moon, as an example). That’s good to know about Otome though. I have a pretty high tolerance for fanservice though, so I can probably push through it. I’ve heard the yuri content and actual story kind of pays off in the end, so I’m willing to stick with it. It’s very LOW on my watchlist though, regardless.

          This has been a nice talk about HiME. I’m actually happy to be discussing a series that I had really mixed feelings toward and yet focusing on comparisons to PMMM and all of its positive aspects. Thanks for bringing it up. :)

          • Fandom aspect: simply that by virtue of being an older series, MH had more fanworks to consume by quantity, as well as the years it had to build goodwill before PMMM was even released. In addition, as PMMM was such a focused show, most of its (good) fanfics tend to follow its flavor of intensity, and an eye for world-building. Fanfics for MH (and by association, MO) have a wider spread of styles, from comedic to action to romance to fantasy epic to all of the above rolled into one, which is enabled by the show itself including all of those different atmospheres. Personally, I find it harder to fully enjoy slice-of-life PMMM fic because it runs so contrary to the feel of the show.

            Hah, I have joked before the MadoHomu (pre-Rebellion) was how ChikaneHimeko should have actually been done. And perhaps was an incarnation of them? :3

            I somewhat disagree with comparing Shizuru and Mami. Yes, there’s the cool upper-classman exterior, but the interior doesn’t match at all, so I don’t see it. Mainly, though, the power dynamics between Mami and Homura prevent me from seeing Shizuru as Mami, because Homura has so much foreknowledge from looping that she has kind of stopped taking Mami seriously, and finds her exterior kind of immature. Perhaps in an earlier timeline, when Homura still looked up to Mami as the cool sempai, then the comparison would work.
            But anyhow, I really don’t see Natsuki as Homura! Pretty much the only thing they have in common is the hair. Natsuki is a dork with some skills trying to be a badass, with the show determined to make her a comedic butt-monkey every step of the way. Even for her revenge plot, she’s relying on borrowing Shizuru’s laptop, and badly lying to Shizuru about it, lol. And her “coldness” is more out of inexperience and being out of touch with her own emotions, whereas Homura’s comes from spending entirely too much time self-analyzing and angsting over her own feelings and desires. In that sense, Natsuki actually shares more in common with Monogatari’s Senjougahara.

            MO less ambiguous about the yuri by never having the characters show any heterosexual inclinations, and not having to fight each other, but at the same time, none of their relationships are ever technically confirmed. Plus, the focus of the show is actually on new original characters, plus a completely re-purposed Mashiro, so don’t watch expecting much of the original cast. Definitely much prefer Otome Harukino, though.

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