Movie Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 1: The Beginning

(Source: SHAFT)

(Source: SHAFT)

The first movie of the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica played at Montreal’s Cinema Banque Scotia last Thursday, sponsored by Montreal’s own anime convention Otakuthon. I consider myself a rookie Anime fan so I thought I’d go see it, as the genre is mostly absent from movie theaters, specially here in Canada.

I’ve watched a few anime series, but I’m hardly a connaisseur. I am not familiar with the series. I know it was produced by the Shaft, the same studio behind Bakemonogatari. The film was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and written by Gen Urobuchi. It was released back in October, 2012.

The film follows a young girl named Madoka Kaname and her friends from Mitakihara Middle School who witness a confrontation between a Magical Girl, Mamie Tomoe and a Witch. The animation is for the most part layered with a mostly static background, but it fits the story… until we step into a magical area called a Labyrinth created by the appearance of a Witch. Labyrinths are riddled with images of real life objects into the animation, something I found quite jarring the first few times. The idea of a labyrinth is pure chaos, but I had a hard time maintaining my sense of disbelief.

The plot however makes up for it as we begin with a basic, idealistic world of good and bad after the magical creature called Kyuubee, who grants girls a wish in exchange for forming a contract to turn them into Magical Girls, starts to show its true colors. The very light nature of what seemed to be an inane story becomes complex fast, and suddenly we become aware of responsability, sacrifice and the most real characteristic of them all, deception.

Uncharacteristically, Madoka refrains herself from becoming a Magical Girl – but we are given blatant clues she will become one with very obvious foreshadowing: everyone tells her she has the potential to be the most powerful of them all. However, the strongest character and most intriguing is a Magical Girl named Homura Akemi, who actively tries to stop Madoka from becoming a Magical Girl. Even Kyuubee doesn’t know who she is.

In this first film, it’s Madoka’s friend Sayaka who ends up becoming a Magical Girl. Although both are offered the contract by Kyuubee, they are also witnesses of the death of the previous Magical Girl, Mami. Sayaka goes on a very personal journey of taking the offer for the sake of a boy she loves just so he can be healthy and play the violin again. Afterwards, things become very dark as the true nature of her task is revealed and she starts losing her sanity.

I can’t judge if the film is true to the actual series or the much less the novel, but as a film I have to say it did intrigue me further as the drama unfolds. I can’t say I’d recommend it to someone who’s not already into the anime genre. For me, it was a good film to watch even if I had some issues with the animation and the sound (generic footsteps sounds in anime kind of annoy me, but I did block them out eventually). On the other hand, advanced anime fans probably know a million of other Magical Girl series that I’m unfamiliar with.

For someone in the middle-of-the-road like me, I’d say I have no regrets and will be attending the sequel this week. Although if I want to be honest, I don’t see myself becoming a hardcore fan of the Magical Girl genre based on this film. Mixed.

That will do for now.

(Sources: ShaftMadoka-Magica.com)

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