Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Volume 2
Aniplex of America
There’s a quote from the film Patton (which was never said by the actual Patton) which goes, ‘no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.”
Sayaka, disillusioned by the less-than-idealistic magical girls she has met since Mami, decides to devote herself fully to the cause of helping others. She commits to never using her powers to help herself, believing that if she follows this principal, everything else will work out. But this is war, and fighting on pure ideals is for suicide bombers, not victorious veterans.
Sayaka’s story plays out slowly and deliberately over the four episodes in this volume. She starts off cheerful, flush with power and the ability to do for her loved ones what was never possible before. But she soon finds that that which makes her special, also separates her from others. She can save a person’s life, but can never share in it. This only drives her further into her ideal. Being unable to connect, she starts questioning the value of her own life. It leaves her cold; she exists solely to make others happy, but she can never be happy herself. So, what happens when she starts to question whether or not other people deserve to be happy at her expense?
Kyoko is the opposite, a magical girl who has committed to only using her powers for her own benefit. As we should expect, this makes her a far more effective fighter. She may come off as borderline evil, but she is merely surviving, doing what is necessary in a war to continue fighting.
Madoka is starting to see what being a magical girl is really all about, and it horrifies her. And yet, she still nurses the hope that if she were to become a magical girl, she would be able to alleviate Sayaka’s pain. That’s the seductive power of Kyubey’s wish, not matter how terrible the cost, there is inevitably something, in the entire world, that is worth the trouble.
Madoka Magical is a deep and artful series, both visually and in terms of plot and character. It has a reputation for blowing up the magical girl genre, but I’m not quite sure that it does. Certainly, it ranks amongst the best of the genre, but similar things have been done before (Utena, for example). Madoka Magica turns up the dial, but it doesn’t snap it off the radio.
That doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it’s a brilliant and beautiful series, though; one that I would highly recommend without even seeing the last four episodes. It has a cast of perfectly realized characters who stop to question and examine the genre cliches they are confronted with.
The Blu Ray from Aniplex of America is very well done. Excellent video (with unaltered opening/closing credits and titles) and removable subtitles. There is also a dub, which I didn’t listen to.