Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Ep. 1

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the original Puella Magi Madoka Magica series. In fact, the show premiered exactly ten years ago today on January 7, 2011 (never mind the timezone discrepancy). Ten years…time really does fly, huh?

I credit Angel Beats! as the one show that got hooked me on anime but if you asked me to credit a second show, I would pick the original Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I remember watching this for the first time at anime club afterschool, towards the end of my freshman year in high school. One of the senior members played the first three episodes; he was the only one who had already seen it and he just let the show speak for itself. And boy did it do just that. I attended every club meeting after to watch more. I recall the club stopping at Episode 9 due to finals coming up but I also just had to know how the story ends so I finished the show the following weekend. Keep in mind, this was just a few months after the show finished its original broadcast and right as Madoka exploded in popularity, undeniably becoming one of the biggest anime of the 2010s. Watching the show truly was an enthralling, larger than life experience and it left my 14 year old self speechless. If Angel Beats! got me hooked into anime, Madoka helped further cement that interest in it for the rest of my life. I’ve seen a number of magical girl anime that have come out since Madoka aired. Some are good (I personally recommend Yuki Yuna is a Hero), others not so much, but none have captured that exact spark I felt with Madoka and that show remains at the top for me.

At least that’s what memory serves. I am reviewing this series in episode reviews as my way of celebrating its 10th anniversary but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t an opportunity for me to revaluate it. Thing is, it’s been a couple years since I last watched this show and with anything that you claim to love, it’s important to revisit it and see if that feeling remains as strong as it once did. Furthermore, I’ve realized over the years that as far as the entire Madoka franchise goes, it’s really only the original series that I have an affinity towards. I’ve never seen the film trilogy and I would like to give it a fair shake someday but I’ve always felt the show was one and done and I therefore had little interest in seeing it reinterpreted or continued. Last year, I saw the first season of the spin-off series Magia Record, even covered it in episode reviews. My feelings towards that one are…complicated and it really left me in doubt on how I feel towards the original series. Now is a good time than ever to revisit the show and hopefully rediscover and reaffirm what I love about it.

Chances are, if you haven’t seen Madoka before, you probably already have an idea of what the show is about and why it caught the attention of many a decade ago. With a show this famous within the anime community, it’s harder to not know anything about it. On the .01% chance that you’ve been living in the biggest rock imaginable, don’t read these episode reviews. I know that sounds counterproductive for me as a blogger and don’t worry, I will be playing dumb with regards to spoilers just to be on the safe side. But honestly, if you’re that oblivious to Madoka and you are thinking of watching it, I strongly recommend going in as blindly as possible. Much of the joy that comes from a first viewing back in 2011 was not knowing what this show is truly about and seeing it reveal all the tricks it has up its sleeve. It was an irreplaceable feeling. If there was any anime that I’d love to watch for the first time again, it’d be this one.

Assuming that you’re still reading and/or you don’t care, here’s what I can say about the story one episode in. Puella Magi Madoka Magicai follows Madoka Kaname (Aoi Yuuki), an average girl attending middle school with her two friends Sayaka Miki (Eri Kitamura) and Hitomi Shizuki (Ryouko Shintani). One day during school, a new student named Homura Akemi transfers to Madoka’s class which surprises the latter as she actually encountered the former in a dream she had beforehand. As Madoka tries to make heads or tails of her connection to Homura, she runs into another being from her dream, a cute cat-like creature called Kyubey (Emiri Katou). Homura tries to take Kyubey away from Madoka but before she can do that, their surroundings become enchanted by a mysterious monster and another girl named Mami Tomoe (Kaori Mizuhashi) steps in to intervene. After a fight, Kyubey explains that Homura and Mami are both magical girls and he would like Madoka and Sayaka to become ones as well by forming a contract of some kind with them.

There are definitely some points of intrigue in this episode. The first is Madoka’s dream. That both Homura and Kyubey appear here and then in real life can’t be a coincidence. Madoka sees Homura fighting to the death and losing but what she is fighting and losing to? Judging from the dialogue here and what’s revealed at the end, Madoka is about to become a magical girl with Kyubey’s help so does that make the dream a premonition of some kind? By that same token, we have Madoka’s connection to Homura. While Madoka doesn’t know Homura, Homura seems to know her. She approaches Madoka right from the get go, encourages her to act informally around her, and often glares at her vicinity. Combined with her stone cold personality, Homura’s demeanor is off-putting to the unknowing Madoka. There’s also Kyubey to consider. If a magical girl such as Mami is allied with him, one has to wonder what kind of beef Homura has with him, so much so that she’s trying to kill him. Furthermore, why does he seek out Madoka and Sayaka to become magical girls?

While there’s certainly some interesting developments going on here, I wouldn’t blame a new viewer if they told me that this episode didn’t exactly hook them in. It is purely setup, both in terms of narrative and characterization, and it is all very unassuming. Really, the thing that stands apart is the presentation which is no surprise, given that this is studio Shaft we’re talking about. Shaft can get needlessly stylistic at times. This is especially the case with the set designs where Madoka’s house has a number of odd looking items and the school she goes to looks like the most advanced and fanciest middle school in existence. Even so, it’s hard to deny that the style does work at times, most notably during the action scene at the end with the eerie, paper cut-out-esque aesthetic that clashes with the general art style of the show. I suppose the show’s age is quite apparent nowadays though even so, it still holds up for the most part. The music by Yuki Kajiura is also worth mentioning. I forgot how good some of the tracks are, such as the theme that plays when Mami starts fighting, with its vocal chants and its strange yet harmonious mix of classical and techno beats.

All I can say is to keep watching and watch the space. Trust me, there’s a reason why Madoka caught the attention of many a decade ago.

Thanks for reading!

Watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica on Crunchyroll, Funimation, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and VRV

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