Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Madoka Magica! Magical girl mayhem!

            Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one heck of a mouthful for a movie name. Also known as Magical Girl Madoka of the Magus, this movie is a retelling of the series of the same name. It actually consists of two animated films which were released here in Japan one week apart from each other because studios like money.
            If you have seen the series, there will be almost nothing new for you in this film. That is somewhat disappointing, especially considering that they expect you to sit through two halves of a movie to see what has already been released. Still, for someone who does not have the will or patience to watch the actual series, it can be an enjoyable cliff’s notes version.
            The plot centers around an ancient feud between Magical Girls who seek to protect the peace and innocent, and Witches who seek to destroy whatever they please. On the surface, it can seem like a fairly innocent children’s animation, similar to Sailor Moon. In fact, many parents came to the theater with their children in tow expecting such a film. Many of those same parents left in an indignant huff when they realized that this was not a children’s movie (thank Japan for a lack of movie rating system).
            In reality, these movies are quite dark and twisted, with a fairly complex plot (at least complex for children) and fight scenes that seem to have been pulled out of the tortured nightmares of an insane mind. Punches are not pulled. Heroes die in horrible ways. Violence happens.
            While this film is far from as bloody as some anime out there, it is not something you want to take your 5 year old to. (Well, -I- did, but my 5 year old is a little bit crazier than most). But even taking the actual fighting aside, the plot itself is very dark.
            Girls with the potential to become Magical Girls are approached by a mysterious cat-like creature named Kyubey. It offers to grant them a wish in exchange for becoming Magical Girls. Kyubey, while sweet and innocent in appearance, has all the empathy for his Magical Girls as a farmer has over his cattle. The girls, who must now battle the witches, find that they are now stuck in a job they can never leave. Their souls are trapped within a gem which slowly grows ever more corrupted. The process can be reversed only by killing witches and stealing their Grief Seeds which provided the witches with their powers. This ensures that the Magical Girls must spend the rest of their lives hunting these witches or die. Being a fan of dark stories about deals with the devil, I found the plot highly satisfying, especially as it comes full circle. I will hold my tongue to avoid spoilers.
            Now I touched on the fight scenes before, but I feel they need special note. When the Magical Girls fight a Witch, they are brought into an alternate dimension based on the powers of the witch they are fighting against. The things inside range from cute to disturbing (usually a combination) and any hope of rules are thrown out the window. It is like Alice in Wonderland if Alice were fighting the Red Queen with a musket while the red queen attempted to strangle her with thousands of clotheslines covered in sailor’s uniforms. Each fight is a glimpse into the mad mind of the witch involved and is beautifully done.
            This movie is not a comedy. It is dark and gritty with a facade of cute. It takes the normally child friendly “Magical Girl” genre and turns it into a delightful nightmare. Overall I would say it does what it does very well without any sort of apologies. There is a sort of confusing music video in the middle that really was unnecessary overall, but it is brief enough to be mostly forgivable. I would give this film (well these films) a 4.5 out of 5. Go watch it you fool!

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