Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Volume 3
Aniplex of America
The story of Madoka comes to a close, at least until the movie sequel comes out. I hope that it’s as great as the TV series, but apparently, when hopes are fulfilled, terrible things happen.
The driving force of the conflicts in Puella Magi Madoka Magica is balance, or imbalance, as it were. You can not have a power in the universe like a magical girl, without there being an equal and opposite force; the witches. Likewise, the happiness that comes from a well-intentioned wish must be offset by equal sadness.
Kyubey said that were it not for the sacrifices of magical girls throughout the ages, humanity would still be living naked in caves. While the toll on the girls is great, the positive effect they have on the world is greater still, resulting in a ‘needs of the many’ kind of situation. And that is the inherent imbalance; for so many to be happy, some must despair.
This is put into personal terms by Madoka, when explaining to Sayaka why she did not save her. Sayaka made the choice to become a magical girl in order to help the boy she loved. To save her would require erasing her wish and putting the boy back in the hospital. But Sayaka endured as a magical girl because of her love for others. She made the choice, just as all magical girls do, that they will fight and die for the sake of others; and that disparity between wishes and desires is what gives them the girls powers.
In a way, magical girls are the veritable ‘sacrificial lambs,’ of the world, taking all the sadness of humanity into themselves, until they become sadness manifest and proceed to cause pain, only to be stopped by a new magical girl in an endless cycle.
Thus, Madoka is faced with her challenge: How to retain the good that magical girls have done, while eliminating the bad that they cause. But such a situation would cause an imbalance, which nature abhors. To do something as monumental as breaking the cycle, Madoka must do something equally monumental.
The last four episodes of the series tied up all the loose ends of the story, while mixing in some surprising, though perfectly fitted twists along the way. This is an expertly plotted series with exceptionally well-developed characters. The art design deserves special mention, in the way it combines very simplistic, childish characters with abstract, mixed-media witches. It perfectly reflects the contrasting nature of the series itself.
Madoka Magica is easily the best all-around magical girl series I’ve ever seen, though I think you’d have to watch a few others to get the full impact of it. The way it plays with the genre and defies expectaions are a large part of its appeal.
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.