With All That Said, I’ll Probably Watch it Again on Blu-Ray: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Over the past few years I’ve become a rather big fan of director Shinbou Akiyuki and studio SHAFT. However, my relationship with these two has naturally had some rough patches, especially when it comes to the Shinbou side of the equation: Between keeping up with his current collaborations with SHAFT, and catching up with his older work, it’s become clear that he has a less than stellar track record. This isn’t to say he lacks directorial talent, but it demonstrates a lack of discretion when it comes to what works he takes on. Shinbou is a working man. He’ll do anything, even (or especially) deviant porn. But while his body of work varies in quality in a number of ways, Shinbou’s methods remain more or less consistent. Recently his works with SHAFT have drawn more attention his way, giving him some degree of clout in the industry. So much so that he’s able to approach a producer and say, “Hey, I want to make a magical girl show.”

And that show is Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica.

As some of you may well know, I’ve been pretty vocally negative about Madoka as it’s gone on, and the show’s conclusion didn’t do much to change my opinion of it. But since I don’t have all of my opinions down in once place, and considering every other blogger and his dog is reviewing this show right now, I figured I’d throw in my $0.02. I’m going to assume that everyone in this time plane has already seen the show, but if you’re someone from the future who hasn’t seen it yet, I recommend you do so now, as I’m going to spoil all of it. It’s that kind of show.

Before diving headfirst into my well of issues with the show, let’s start with the positive. There is a lot of good in Madoka, which is part of why it bothers me so much. Most of its good points lie in the visuals, from the imaginative world design to Shinbou’s compelling directorial touches. Even in the relatively tame first episode, Madoka makes a bold statement with its space-age architecture crossed with Shinbou’s love for more antiquated buildings. Shinbou’s design fetishes are strong here, resulting in some ridiculous structures that only exist in the interest of good graphic design. And wouldn’t you know it, the shopping arcade from Cossette even makes an appearance!

But beyond Madoka’s modern art-inspired house and the city’s lavishly patterned walkways, the show’s direction also does a lot visually, which is par for the course for a Shinbou show. Madoka certainly isn’t one of Shinbou’s best works when it comes to utilizing his directorial magic, but it’s quite strong. Shinbou is a master of creating atmosphere, and Madoka is thick with it. Between SHAFT and Shinbou’s characteristic attention to color setting, lighting, shot framing, along with the aforementioned visually arresting world, it’s hard to say that Madoka lacks atmosphere.

This atmosphere wonderfully underscores the show’s few strong moments, brought to life further by Shinbou’s strong directorial style. One could criticize Shinbou for lacking subtlety, and I wouldn’t disagree; but his heavy-handed theatrics do complement Madoka’s dramatic moments very well. That said, the theatrics are actually toned down a touch here, making them a bit more effective when they’re used; unlike something like Vampire Bund, where such techniques are overused in a rather slapdash manner. On a technical level, these moments leave strong impressions. One favorite scene of mine is shot in starkly contrasting grayscale–almost black and white–awash with dark shadows and silhouettes. These visuals are particularly appropriate, considering the scene in question depicts Sayaka’s plunge into darkness.

When talking about Madoka’s visuals, it would be a crime not mention the work that doujin circle Gekidan Inu Curry did for the show’s fight sequences. Inu Curry’s use of antiquated icons and design elements, mixed with their patch-work cutout style make the witches’ worlds into truly nightmarish places beyond the scope of this writer’s imagination. In the past they’ve done a few bits for shows like Bakemonogatari and Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, as well some opening and ending sequences, but seeing their work actively integrated into a show’s story is quite refreshing.

However, despite these strong visuals, I still have a few nitpicks as an OCD Shinbou fan. For a Serious Shinbou Show, the storyboarding isn’t terribly interesting. While I did mention that the show had a lot of nicely framed shots, I wanted it to have the same dynamism as something like The Soultaker. SHAFT’s very straightforward and simplistic framing works in their comedies, but I feel it cheapens their serious shows somewhat, like Vampire Bund. Madoka’s visuals don’t suffer seriously because of this, but they could have been a bit more adventurous. The action scenes in particular suffer from this lack of dynamism, and I’m assuming that’s because they left the framing up to the animators. Homura’s final assault against Walpurgisnacht is quite imaginative and brutal, but is still let down a bit by framing that is entirely too simple. It also doesn’t help that I also have a personal bias against strongly magic-centric battles. If I was writing the show, the girls would fist-fight each witch, and every fight would look like this.

Madoka’s background music both helps and hurts the show. I’m not huge fan of Kajiura Yuki, but I think her stuff works as decent mood-setting background noise. However, since Madoka is 12 episodes long, what starts off as nice mood-setting background noise turns into repetitive and droning background noise. Tsukuyomi’s soundtrack did this same sort of thing with way more dynamism and variety.

Madoka’s weakest visual elements are definitely the character designs. I enjoy Ume’s illustrations by themselves, but something goes wrong in the transition to animation. The characters look entirely too simple, lack anything in the way of solidarity, and have absolutely no 3D definition. They almost feel like paper-thin cutouts that don’t occupy much space in their own world. At worst, they look almost as bad as Key designs, but at least KyoAni fixes those up somewhat. Never mind that Madoka’s face looks like an acorn, and Mami’s hair makes no sense.

The characters’ lack of visual strength is only made worse by their lack of actual strength. I talked about this earlier, but it bears repeating: The characters in Madoka aren’t that interesting. Throughout the show’s 12 episode runtime, the characters never become anything more than just characters. They’re cogs in a giant machine that don’t stand out as individuals. This strikes me as particularly strange, as Madoka’s shtick is emotional porn. While it seems as if most of the show’s fanbase really got into watching these girls’ plights, I was left wondering why I should care.

The show tells us nothing about Mami before her curly head is bitten clean off. While her death is indeed shocking (and only shocking the first time around), it’s emotionally empty since, really, we never get to know anything about her beyond what her stock archetype is. Sayaka and Kyouko get a bit more time to shine before Urobuchi hilariously murders them off, but still never manage to develop much in the way of engaging personalities.

Madoka herself suffers from the dreaded Boring Main Character Syndrome that seems to constantly infect mainstream anime and manga. I realize that’s her role in the show, but once again, I fail to understand the prioritization of making the plot work over writing interesting characters. Characters should come first, and the plot should be written around them. Even in a story like Madoka where the premise is about young girls getting swept up into a cruel game, the emotional porn doesn’t work if we’re not given something to relate to in these people. I’d like Madoka as a character a lot more if she was at least given a hobby, or something. Watching her cry about everything happening around her is like watching a comedian laugh at his own un-funny jokes–it’s just a really cheap attempt at trying to make you care. Perhaps I’m just cold, but it’s unreasonable to expect people to care about characters when they’re simply not interesting. Even Maeda Jun knows this, which is why he gives us a few cute slice of life moments before everything goes to hell. That’s not say that his stories are good, but I’ll admit to at least enjoying Air and Kanon.

During one of my many Twitter debates about Madoka, mt-i–of the Most Dangerous tsurupeta.info–told me that the shorthand present in Madoka is just how moe works. I’m not going to debate moe with him, given he has stronger language skills than I do, and has probably read more on the subject; but what Madoka does strikes me as really low tier. I’m a fan of moe archetypes, but the best examples of moe anime I can think of involve characters that display variety of views and emotions far beyond their stock template. They do this by actually discussing things relevant to real life so you can relate to them on a personal level. Whenever anyone in Madoka speaks, the only words that come out of their mouths are “soul gem” or “grief seed” or something I couldn’t care less about. I understand that being a magical girl may take over your life, but at least give us a few slice of life moments to chew on between all the silly plot nonsense. I suppose there was a subplot around Sayaka and Hitomi’s feelings over Kamijou, but like every other bit of character drama in the show, I just didn’t care. That scene was actually painfully boring to watch.

As it happens, my favorite characters in the show are the ones who have nothing to do with the plot–Madoka’s mom and her teacher. They actually feel like, you know, people. Madoka’s heart-to-hearts with her mom and dad are some of the best moments in the show. And I’m not one of those people morbidly interested in Kyubey, but he is one of the few bits of genre subversion that I think is a little bit neat. He still doesn’t have anything on Kero-chan, though.

But I will give the characters some credit, as there is a degree of slightly interesting development across the cast. Seeing Sayaka turn from your typical pure-hearted genki girl to a person overflowing with hatred and spite is somewhat satisfying, even if just on a sadistic level; and seeing Kyouko open up a bit also demonstrates some level of the breadth in her character. Homura is naturally the most developed character, but considering that all of her development happens in one episode, it’s hard to really care about her during all those other moments in the show where she’s just being vague and boring. I suppose some people would read that as “mysterious,” though. Madoka managed to gain some of my respect with her wish in the final episode, but much like Homura, she spends more than 90% of the show crying, so that one moment hardly saves her.

Despite me writing it off as “silly nonsense,” Madoka’s plot is actually quite good, but it’s one of those things that would be more interesting to me as a Wikipedia entry. It’s structured well, and a lot of it fits together logically. But ultimately, it’s not terribly creative, and doesn’t stand out as something that should be praised by the amount of people praising it. There are some interesting twists, such as the effective range of the Soul Gems, Homura’s backstory, and how magical girls have been important figures throughout history.  Even Kyubey’s origin and his pseudo-science lesson are a little interesting, if not a bit silly. But these small moments are bogged down by the aforementioned boring character drama, as well as characters like Homura constantly repeating themselves. Perhaps Madoka would have been better as a 6 episode OVA.

Since Urobuchi is a visual novel writer, the show has a few hilarious hack-job moments. These moments are mostly restricted to Homura’s flashback, such as when Mami goes crazy and kills everyone, and when a timid twin-tailed Homura steals a bunch of guns from some big scary Yakuza guys. These contrasting images Urobuchi tries to draw by having cute girls in frilly outfits murder each other, or shoving cute girls in the dead center of the underworld are once again cheap grabs at emotions that just make me laugh as opposed to feeling anything about these people.  That said, Homura’s flashback is probably the most interesting part of the show, even if it’s shallow. The rest of the show is boring and shallow.

Madoka does come together nicely, though. In the end it completely adheres to all of the rules it sets down, and pulls no BS. However, since I just don’t care about anyone involved, it’s emotionally empty. And in some ways, it’s not even surprising. By the time Madoka makes her wish, you more or less know what it’s going to be. The ramifications of her wish did actually manage to surprise me, though.

I understand that some of my criticisms of this show are unfair. These types of stories have their audiences, and I’m fine with that. But the issue is, I’m a big fan of SHAFT and Shinbou. And this kind of story just doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that fits their quirky, off-beat style. It’s far too normal and straight forward to be the sort of thing they should be taking on. While I want to be distracted by all the pretty colors and cutout animation, it’s hard to get sucked into SHAFT’s amazing work when every line that comes out of a character’s mouth is completely boring. All of those moments I mentioned earlier: Mami’s death, Sayaka’s plunge into darkness, Kyouko’s death, and various other pivotal points in the show are all executed well, but it’s hard to get lost in them when you just don’t care. This is the exact reason why this show bothers me so much–it simply feels like a waste of talent on the part of SHAFT.

What grinds my gears even further is that lots of other people like Madoka–even people who don’t even know anything about Shinbou, or have vocally expressed displeasure with him in the past. It’s like when everyone else starts liking your favorite underground band because they finally sold out and went mainstream. But what gets me the most is when supposed “fans” of Shinbou claim this as his masterwork, or when people say that Madoka made them see Shinbou in a better light. Bakemonogatari wasn’t that long ago, and I know they haven’t seen Tsukuyomi. I mean, Tsukuyomi isn’t perfect, but it has way more heart and soul that Madoka could ever hope to have.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is one half My Thing, and one half Completely Not My Thing, and even the half that’s My Thing is held down by bad character designs. But in the end, Madoka is just a horrible disappointment. I wanted SHAFTxSHINBOU’s first original anime to be something I could really get behind, but in the end they delivered exactly the type of otaku-fodder that I can’t stand. But on the positive side, hopefully this will convince producers to throw more money at SHAFT so they can explore their full creative potential.

And the fanart was quite nice.

48 thoughts on “With All That Said, I’ll Probably Watch it Again on Blu-Ray: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

  1. You took the commentary on lack of characterization right out of my head. I thought the Sayaka love triangle could have been really interesting had her jealousy pushed her to do something stupid, like murder Hitomi, and then that regret pushing her to become a witch. Maybe, then she would have felt less like a case study of a magical girl, and more like an actual character.

  2. You’ve basically nailed my perspective down, so thanks. I think it’s probably a matter of experience getting in the way of my enjoyment, because I tend to easily notice hack writing, shallow characters, etc.

    When you’ve seen or read n stories about kids being treated unfairly just to get a rise out of the audience, it greatly diminishes show n+1, and when the show’s emotional success rides on identifying with the characters and their situation, I too start to chuckle rather than cry.

    But hey.. pardon my being trite, but millions of flies can’t be wrong. They loved Angel Beats, which was so awful it didn’t even fall into “so bad it’s good” territory. At least Madoka tried.

  3. I’m a fan of Madoka but I can definately see where you’re coming from with your opinions on it. I don’t share them but that’s just my tastes, I guess. One thing that I did find interesting about the characters is after watching episode 10, I re-watched 1-9 and was suprised to see that there was a lot of forethought (or at least some forethought) put into the conversations between Madoka and Homura. It added a little more depth to the interactions between those two characters early on for me that everything Madoka says seems spesifically worded to get under Homura’s skin and piss her off.

    Perhaps it’s something I should have guessed and/or spotted the first time through but it was interesting to me at least.

  4. A rather nice (and long!) review. I can’t say I disagree with any of the main points you bring up. I also really liked Madoka’s mom and the scenes where Sayaka is clearly going batty are among the visual highlights contained therein. Do you think that it could have bettered itself if it ran a traditional 26 episodes and was given more time to creatively stretch out? Or would that have not really helped in your opinion? I am curious.

    I haven’t ran into any Shinbou fans that think this is the best thing he’s done (muses that his favourite is the 6th episode of Devil Hunter Yohko in a joking manner), but I’m sure there’s quite a few newcomers to SHAFT that aren’t terribly familiar with the typical -isms that they frequently deploy. I do have to say I did not know that he did that ero-anime title, where did you dig up that information?

    Fans of underground music show strikingly similar patterns to disgruntled otaku, so your analogy is a good one. To continue with this, if I make an honest remark, I listen to mostly classical music and various forms of heavy metal. Whenever some unknown band makes some space for themselves, a certain sector of fans always seem to disown them. I guess they feel that “special connection” is no longer there and cannot stand the influx of new fans. I think it’s kind of silly, but I think I understand it.

    It’s odd that you mentioned “Air” as that was another show that I enjoyed on a very surface level, but nothing beyond that.

    Anyway, this was a good review and while I definitely liked Madoka more than you did, I can see your point(s).

    The fanart is indeed pretty good when it’s not guro illustrations of the headless Shoujo, Mami.

  5. I’ll admit to having really liked this show, but your criticisms are certainly valid. It’s definitely not my favorite SHAFT work (that’d be Bakemonogatari, by a fucking mile) but I thought it was good, though better early on, because the grimdark hadn’t set in so badly that, as you say, any and all dialogue had to do with grief seeds and such.

    I guess I share the same perspective but am more forgiving, or some such thing. I’m also a total goddamn sap, so the emotional porn gets me more.

  6. What grinds my gears even further is that lots of other people like Madoka–even people who don’t even know anything about Shinbou, or have vocally expressed displeasure with him in the past. It’s like when everyone else starts liking your favorite underground band because they finally sold out and went mainstream.

    Now why would you ruin a perfectly good piece of criticism with that? You do realize that it frames your entire essay in a bad way, right?

    I find misguided your decrying of the use of moe archetypes in Madoka while at the same time demanding that “slice of life” scenes be used to make us connect more with the character, when such “slice of life” scenes are nothing more than just another moe shorthand. Madoka’s failing in developing its characters comes not from the fact that it didn’t tack on a bunch of meaningless scenes at the front in order to exploit you into feeling things; it comes from the fact that the story, which is supposed to develop the characters, didn’t. Characters are developed by the story, they don’t exist separate from each other, and Madoka’s story was so focused on its mystery/scifi/fantasy reveals that it failed to show us more of the characters along the way.

    I think you went a bit too easy on the failings of the show to develop Homura. Homura isn’t the most developed character; as you said, it happened very close to the end of the show, and all in one episode. That’s not development, that’s an infodump. A futilely melodramatic one at that, though I don’t think the limp scenes you referenced were meant to be dramatic at all. Mami killing everyone was funny, in a sadistic sort of way, and given the context, it couldn’t have been a dramatic or a moving scene. The most developed character was indeed Sayaka, with a good chunk of the show being devoted to her downfall.

    I also don’t think Madoka came together nicely. In fact, that’s where the show unraveled. Not because of any plot points (on the contrary, I loved where the plot went), but because of the exact points you laid down in the show. We see Madoka talk with Kyoko & Mami, Homura, and Sayaka, and it’s clear that we’re supposed to feel something, but… we don’t. Because we find it hard to feel anything about these characters due to the poor character development. These were the scenes where it was clear that the show had devolved into emotional porn.

  7. OMG the second person who doesn’t like Madoka. BLASPHEMY!

    Ah well, maybe the reason why I enjoyed the hell out of this show is that I had no prior knowledge of Shinbo or Urobuchi.

    Besides whatever trick they pulled off worked quite well considering a lot of people are raving about this show.

  8. 1) I actually like Yuki Kajiura, but it felt like she only wrote one song for this show, and it got played on repeat the entire time

    2) mt-i is right and now that I think about it, knowing that is why I really can’t watch shows that use moe in the way that he describes. Like that by knowing that what’s being shown isn’t some kind of objectively “bad” quality characterization or something, and is rather objectively “good” makes me realize “Man, this is sooooooooo not something for me”.

    Also, I vaguely recall that conception of moe being discussed on that ANN podcast that you were on? The like “Oh man, a girl with a hair ribbon that refers to herself in the third person and runs with toast in her mouth! That’s all I need!”

    3) I actually had the opposite reaction with the visuals. This is going to get kind of film theory-y, but jokes about head tilts and how there would be 10 minute stretches that consisted of the same 3 static shots aside, the much more simplistic shots that Madoka uses compared to a lot of other Shinbo shows actually communicate a LOT more than their “adventurous” shots tend to. A lot of that boring technique is made to seem inconspicuous to us, because it’s form in service of the story and characters, rather than like form for form’s sake. That’s why nobody is ever like “WHOA, it was SO AWESOME when it cut away after the character finished her line so that we could see the other characters’ reactions because that line is an important element in terms of moving the main story forward and the way they deal with that will affect how the story progresses!” Then on the flipside, the first time we encountered the parallel world and Mami was like “There’s the witch”, I was like wait, what and where are the witch? I couldn’t differentiate anything from anything else.

    4) Being a visual novel guy and all, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan somebody needs to teach Urobuchi that whole “show, dont’ tell” lesson. Similarly, the heavy emphasis on delivering words rather than letting the audience figure stuff out. I’m thinking stuff like characters sitting around wondering about wishes and duty and whatnot.

  9. I understand where you’re coming from for the most part, although I disagree with you about the music being repetitive. I rarely listen to the OST of anything, be it movie, anime or other tv shows but I found myself fascinated by Madoka’s OST.

    “It’s like when everyone else starts liking your favorite underground band because they finally sold out and went mainstream.”

    While I kinda get what you’re saying, this kind of comments make a person sound very arrogant. It’s like those people who loved to brag about how their theories of Madoka were right, or those who were condescending or Higurashi fans because they only started liking it when it became an anime (as if all of us followed doujin novel games in Japanese which were even niche in Japan). Whether you like ir or not, a director’s shows will not always be your cup of tea, just like that cup of tea will be liken by others. I can’t understand why one would say that means “they sold out” just because it became it impacted with more people. It just means that’s not your cup of tea.

  10. Personally, I think that Madoka could have been a much better series if given more episodes to develop. While watching a felt that the plot had the right elements to be good, but I lacked enough attachment to the characters. This attachment can only be built up through contact, having more episodes to get to know them.

    I also felt that certain story elements came off as being rushed. A lot of things could have been taken into greater detail. For example, I really would have liked to see an entire episode focusing only on Homura’s fight with Walpurgis night. Instead it was intermixed with scenes of Madoka being boring and amounted to maybe 3 minutes of action, total.

    On the flip side of that is whether or not they could make a series with 26 episodes. Watching some of the episodes a second time through, many of the scenes were boring. Things like ‘grief seeds’ or ‘soul gems’ are interesting to here about the first time around when you dont understand what they mean or how they affect the story. The second time through it’s just plain boring. In other words, as it is currently written I see very little rewatch value in Madoka.

  11. @djwhack03

    Yeah, that certainly would have spiced things up a bit. But I think they made her sufficiently dark when she killed those two guys.

    @Hogart

    While I think Angel Beats is shallow bullshit, I actually enjoyed the characters and story more than Madoka. I mean, that dark humor was really good. Maeda knows comedy, and he should probably stick to that instead of writing more sob-stories.

    @Knowledge

    It’s certainly one of those shows that would benefit from a re-watch, and not just to see what SHAFT fixed up. As per the title of this post, I’ll probably end up watching it again at least one more time. Maybe I’ll get drunk before hand…

    @kgods

    In my previous post I humored the 26 episode idea. The show’s story would have to be drastically changed (Madoka would have to become a magical girl sooner) and I don’t think people would have liked it as much. But I may have ended up liking it more, so long as the first 13 or so comedy/action episodes were actually good and not normal filler crap.

    21stcenturydigitalboy actually alerted me to some porno anime that looked suspiciously like The Soultaker, and upon doing some research, it’s safe to say that the director of those OVAs–Minamizawa Juuhachi–is in fact Shinbou Akiyuki. Juuhachi is Japanese for “18”, by the way.

    I watched Air when I was in high school and first getting into digisubs, so it’s pretty nostalgic for me. I know what it does is cheap, but I like those early Maeda works, even if it’s partly through the lens of nostalgia. I also watched SHUFFLE! again recently and kind of enjoyed that despite its silly drama.

    @gwydion

    Yeah, I set the standard high when it comes to SHAFT…

    Well, not animation wise, lol

    @lvlln

    I was unsure about putting that bit in, but it’s honestly how I feel about it. I know it sounds bad and elitist, but that’s actually exactly how I feel. I don’t think it devalues the review, though.

    Being someone who mainly consumes anime, one begins to separate plot from characters. Lots of series in the 90s were divided between a silly set of 13 one-shot episodes to kind of get one acquainted with the characters, and the rest was for the actual story. That’s just how I’m used to things. I don’t think slice of life scenes are “meaningless,” but that’s just because I actually enjoy watching characters be characters. And after a few episodes, they turn into people I know very well.

    Your point about Homura is getting a bit too much into semantics. Whatever it is, we both think that Homura probably had the most going for her after that episode, regardless of whether or not it was development or an infodump.

    And knowing visual novel fans, they probably actually thought those scenes were emotional.

    Regarding the ending, you basically just said exactly what I said in the review. I liked it, but it was emotionally empty.

    @Magical Man in frills

    Yeah, they know what nerds eat up. I’m not one of those nerds, sadly. I actually like PERSONALITY in my shows.

    @jpmeyer

    Yeah, I think that kind of moe is complete bullshit and cheap. Which is basically what I think of Madoka as a whole.

    I think simple shooting works with non-limited animation/live action movies. Limited animation (most anime) should depend more on clever shooting and cutting. Madoka certainly had more budget than your usual SHAFT show, but the characters weren’t moving around all the time.

    Watch the A-Part of Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei episode 1. The framing is generally quite simple, but things are moving all the time, so it’s interesting to look at.

    And yeah, the show was way too heavy on the exposition…

    @yaku

    But the thing is… SHAFT and Shinbou ALWAYS do things that are my cup of tea. I can even appreciate shitty things like Arakawa on some level. Madoka was just too much of a departure for them thematically, so I felt kind of betrayed.

    @kuroyuki

    I feel the very rigid episode structures for anime hurts storytelling, certainly. 15 episode Madoka? 18 episodes? Nope, has to be either 13 or 26…

    But like I said earlier in this comment, I do think the show has some re-watch value just to see how certain interactions take on a new light given foresight. But yeah, unless you’re a super-fan, the only reason to really watch it more than once is for the animation fixes, lol

  12. Nice read, which is good because like many others I’ve have-as the French say-discussed this fucking show to death.

    Honestly, in my opinion Madoka fell flat visually as well, like it’s trying but didn’t quite measure up. I remember describing the first episode as it came out as “Bakemonogatari Light”, that they watered it down a bit to appeal to more people but still have them say the visuals were “edgy”. It changed down the track, but I stand by that for the first few episodes. I do agree that the aesthetic of the environments is nice, but not as arresting as those in, say, Bakemonogatari. It also seemed like there was very little synthesis between the different visual elements of the show and they weren’t trying to fit it all together. The hospital, for example, was very plain compared to a lot of it, and it kind of felt like they only cared enough to do some bits but not others.

    Another thing that I didn’t like was that it seemed like it was a representation of Shinbou’s work. Stuff like Cossette, Moon Phase, Bakemonogatari, Zetsubou Sensei etc. all have very unique and differing visual elements, but all of them bear his hallmarks. Madoka just borrowed different things from each of them and didn’t make anything unique out of it like they told someone to make a show that looked like a Shinbou show. OK, but not that great.

    Also, and I have brought this up on IRC, but I felt that Gekidan Inu Curry was incredibly misused. I never felt it added anything to the show. I never thought I’d find Inu Curry boring, but in Madoka it was boring AND trite, something I’d never experienced before. It’s possible that they’re at their best when their adding another a layer of depth to an existing production but can’t carry discrete pieces of a show. I am loathe to think that it’s their fault based on their track record though. Had SHAFT just designed their own “Wow, look how freaky it is! It MUST be a supernatural power!” stuff for the show it wouldn’t have been any different. I am the only person who thinks this, though, so they probably did make the right decision :/

    The visuals did get better as it went on, but there’s no excuse for it not being like that from the start. The only bit that really sticks out or made an impression on me was the Kyouko’s Death and Yuri Confession (even if that whole thing was contrived as fuck).

    Honestly, though, for everything it was ultimately the atrocious (in my opinion) characters and writing that let this show down. I won’t go on about it at length, but if the character interactions in your show can be reduced to:
    “I am going to go to my own destruction for ”
    Madoka: “-chan! Sonna! *chocking sob*”
    Urobuchi: “Shit, I am a fucking GOD. This is some powerful shit! I am turning magical girl on it’s fucking HEAD”
    …you need to take a serious look at what you’re doing.

    Urgh, that got a little vitriolic and long unfortunately. Even I hate my opinions. Anyway, nice review!

  13. “show are all executed well, but it’s hard to get lost in them when you just don’t care”

    Isn’t this a matter of personal taste and opinion? You may not have cared but other people certainly did.

    “Bakemonogatari wasn’t that long ago”

    Bakemonogatari was boring, just talking, talking, flash, talking, talking, talking, flash. Probably one of the most overrated shows I’ve seen. Episodic monster of the week plot with no sense of direction. Madoka had 12 episodes and managed to word a well thought out story in them. Yes it has flaws as you’ve mentioned, but it seems like you’d prefer a story were 2 people talk about how they feel for 20 mins and call it a day.

  14. @ InazumaKick

    I think it’s unwise to compare Madoka to Bakemonogatari, as they’re shooting for completely different aesthetics. Madoka on a base level is actually similar to Shinbou’s older stuff, like Cossette or Tsukuyomi. Or TWILIGHT OF THE DARK MASTER.

    I think the show by itself isn’t horrible. By itself, it’s “good,” but something that’s just “good” shouldn’t make every otaku out there bust his fucking nut. And it disappointed me greatly, so I look down upon it with a considerable amount of disdain. I realize it’s pretty personal.

    @ Nebulous

    Yeah… that’s what you do in a review… write your own opinion. Nothing is objectively good or bad. I’m sure someone could write a glowing review of Gundou Musashi.

    Bakemonogatari was probably boring to you due to a lack of cultural context and lack of appreciation for other human beings. I like listening to people talk to each other about random otaku stuff matched to weird supernatural machinations, so I liked it quite a bit.

  15. Well, there’s always a first time for everything. I like a lot of artists in a lot of fields, but not all the works they’ve created are to my liking; there’s no exception.

    1. Even in the SHAFTxShinbou shows that suck (Arakawa, Maria Holic) they at least adhere to my idea of “good entertainment” even though they suck. Madoka more or less goes against a lot of what I perceive to be worthwhile.

      1. My point exactly. While SHAFTxShinbou usually adhere to YOUR idea of entertainment and what YOU think it’s worthwhile, there will be times when they don’t. This is one of those times.

        For me Madoka pushed a lot of my buttons about what I perceive as worthwhile; does that mean my tastes are less than yours? While some people might arrogantly think like that (not saying that you do, but I know a lot of people who think like that), it’s all about what you like/dislike, your opinion against this other opinion. It’s not about “your opinion is better than mine”, everyone has different tastes. You won’t be able to satisfy everyone 100% all the time.

        I don’t think Shinbou “sold out” just because it doesn’t cater to his “regular crowd” or whatever, and I’m glad he and the studio are always trying stuff in different directions.

        1. It’s not even a case of “usually,” it’s 100% of the time. This is the first time, hence my shock.

          I mean, SHAFT did do ef, which I thought was, in the end, royally shitty, but Oonuma Shin directed that, so I don’t think of it much. I’m more a Shinbou devotee than SHAFT.

          Also if “different direction” means “mainstream crap,” I’d rather they just stick to their bread and butter stuff. Even if Madoka is bringing in the most bread and butter now…

  16. Personally, the main pleasure I derived from the show stemmed from watching all of the girl’s downward spiral as they began to fully grasp their situation while everything just managed to get worse and worse. That’s probably why your thoughts on the characters lacking depth go directly over my head — it’s not necessarily something I need in order to get enjoyment. The plot by itself, such as it was, was more than enough to keep me entertained.

    Plus, the animation was really nice.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t think the plot was super creative or interesting to just stand on its own, and while the animation was okay, like I said, I didn’t like the character designs.

      I need good characters in any show, with few exceptions. Just how I am.

  17. This and other critics’ negative, heavy-handed criticism will not stop me from enjoying PMMM (and again), nor prevent me (and thousands more) from buying a copy of this show once it gets licensed. This is guilty pleasure, bar none.

  18. Your criticisms seem as easy and glib as some people’s PRAISES for the show are.

    Madoka Magica plays with archetypes as if for an audience that has already seen or understood the magical girl genre (at least the Shoujo vs Cosmic Monsters type) and doesn’t SUBVERT out expectations as much as it does reanalyze them. It’s not a deconstruction, as some were too quick to declare, but it is very much an intriguing and straight-forward case study of the magical girl as an “event”. Like one would look at an encapsulated moment in current events or something. It has all the elements of a normal genre piece but merely swiss-cheeses certain elements so you get skewed versions of normal archetypes. Like Mami, who IS an empty character archetype. Her death IS shocking, even if only once, but that doesn’t make it cheap. People are too afraid to be shocked in single instances nowadays. They retreat and prepare dismissive rhetoric. They simply fire the gun too early/eagerly. Theres something to her death and subsequent absence. They’ve set up her archetype and killed her in an emotionally distant scene almost as if to show us she doesn’t even matter as far as the role of magical girls extend in the world of the show. Homura, as well, doesn’t simply shove her development into a lazy infodump. It’s more interesting and even SIMPLER than that. She’s merely gone through all of this shit before. Way too many times to violently emote all over the place like her magical girl contemporaries are. She breaks down finally, yes, but only when it’s most appropriate for her to do so. (ie, Madoka pulls some Ideon shenanigans on the universe). I don’t believe Madoka is shallow. It’s not a question of being shallow or deep, it really isn’t at all with a lot of shows anymore. These shows are what they are. We’re trying to qualitatively assess them from an objective standpoint but we’re ignoring all sorts of context (especially with a show that is not trying to hide it’s archetypal usage) that come in really easy situations. Like, for instance, how Madoka ultimately aims to play the magical girl straight, and not merely destroy it, and just make us APPRECIATE other/future magical girl genre pieces by slapping us awake just a little bit and saying that there’s more to these shows if we’re willing to submit a little bit and apply some situational awareness. This is like how Christopher Nolan’s Memento (and by extension, his brother’s book which inspired it) is actually a completely linear film. It’s NOT non-linear. It merely reorganizes the parts of a conventional film in order to show us that these conventional stories are more bizzare then we take for granted. Just by applying one step backward from the genre/convention/etc… and one-and-a-half steps forward by the end of the story. Madoka may not be the Shaft show I enjoy the most as far as how I self-identify. But it’s not shallow. And I do praise it for making me appreciate the substance and potentially dismissed aspects of other shows it’s playing off of.

    Madoka did cry too much. Talks with her mom WERE the best scenes of the show, but they aren’t merely extricable from the context of the show.

    I don’t apologize for those fightin’ words. I hope this was cordial and not merely foaming or such.

    HOWEVER, if it’s some consolation, that embedded clip of Tsukuyomi (a show I’ve only heard of passively but not watched yet) has single-handedly convinced me to watch it. Which sub group do you recommend for that series?

    Just pitch more of Moon Phase to me. Because I’ve never read into it’s premise. Only hearing about it on the periphery of my normal state, it’s not even me ignoring it.
    Pitch more of Moon Phase to me. I’m very intrigued now.

    1. Yeah, all those things you said made for an interesting essay-comment, but it doesn’t mean the show is any less boring and shallow. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I don’t care about how conceptually interesting it may be–in practice it’s just not super great. I can’t speak for other people, but I need strong and interesting characters in my entertainment, not just archetypes.

      That clip is not representative of Tsukuyomi. The show is mostly slapstick comedy and antics by way of the show’s quirky cast of characters. I just like it because I feel the characters are really strong, and there’s some nice old-school Shinbou moments sprinkled throughout (like the clip I linked.) If you want a synopsis, just read Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukuyomi:_Moon_Phase

      It has a pretty simple story with a few interesting details, but the show is primarily carried by the characters, their interactions, their struggles, and their joking around. It’s mostly comedic, but there’s good helpings of fairly convincing interpersonal drama.

      And Hazuki is cute.

      You’re gonna want to buy the show: The TV airing is an incomplete product, with the DVD being the fixed and complete version. The show is like 20 bucks on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Moonphase-The-Complete-Collection-S-A-V-E/dp/B001GT9DQG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305039000&sr=8-1

  19. I can see where you’re coming from in this post, but I think you should keep in mind that some people can get emotionally attached to characters in plot-driven works, even if you can’t. I liked watching the plot unfold in Madoka, but I also found it moving; I cried during several of the key Homura moments later on in the show, for instance. Personally, I’m capable of experiencing emotions about a person’s situation even if I don’t know much about that person, so long as the situation is compelling or poignant enough. I don’t feel like I know Homura or Madoka the way I would know a friend, but the stuff they go through is emotionally grabbing enough that it still gets me going.

    I don’t mean that I’d feel emotions just from reading, say, a two-sentence summary of the events, just that I don’t need to know about the rest of the characters’ lives in order to get something out of a dramatic portrayal of just this one set of poignant events. My emotions are just calibrated in such a way that they respond strongly to individual situations, even out of context. If I see a person in visible pain, I feel an immediate response, even if I don’t know who they are or what they’re like under normal circumstances. That sort of thing.

    I can certainly imagine not being this way, and many people aren’t, but then — well, many people are, too. All I’m trying to say is that some (maybe even many) people do enjoy Madoka (and things like it) for the characters, emotions and drama, even though — perhaps even because — the work is “plot-driven.” Honestly I often feel more for the characters in plot-driven works, which I don’t think is all that unusual (it’s just an extension of the way that, in real life, people who go through extreme circumstances together often feel a strong, sudden sense of connection to one another). And there is a long tradition of works that are plot-driven and also attempt to produce emotion, from Greek tragedy to a large fraction of modern short fiction and science fiction. The fact that there’s so much of this stuff suggests to me that I’m not alone in liking it, that a lack of character development (as traditionally conceived) is not necessarily a flaw, by many people’s standards. I can respect that you don’t get anything out of this stuff, but there’s a large audience for it and it’s been around for a long time, so I don’t think you can just dismiss it as bad writing or “emotional porn.”

    (Of course you could make the claim that plot-driven, emotional works are fine if done well, but that Madoka is just badly done. But I don’t see an argument like that in your post. I may be misreading you, but it comes off as though you just think it’s always objectively bad to write a story in which we see people get put through bizarre circumstances without learning much about them. Well, if that makes Madoka bad then it also makes a large proportion of western literature and entertainment bad. You’ll have to go further if you want to show that Madoka is, in terms of craft, bad in a way that all that stuff is not.)

    1. I just said I didn’t like it. I don’t really think anything is objectively bad… to a point, anyway. Gundou Musashi may just be that point, but like I said earlier, I’m sure someone could write a rave review on it.

      Let me put my argument this way: As someone whose primary entertainment medium is anime, Madoka is particularly disappointing since anime and manga are traditionally known for having good characters. A friend of mind told me that in editorial meetings at manga magazines, editors will look at a story, and even if it’s good, if the characters don’t stand out, it’s deemed No Good. I’m going to assume there’s a similar editorial process for most light novels, given the types of characters that appear in those works. This is perhaps why I enjoy manga/light novel adaptations over most original anime coming out these days (which is few in number, I realize.)

      And I don’t mind plot driven stuff… just anime usually have boring plots, at least these days. This is mostly why I prefer to watch comedy anime these days, since few writers in the industry can put together something really interesting story-wise. Madoka was OK, like I said, but I don’t feel the story was enough to carry it. Take a look at the original Gundam. Well, the movies anyway. It’s somewhat clunky, but at heart it’s an epic war drama pushed forward continually by shifts in the plot. But at the same time, all the characters are well realized, and you care when they die. At least I do.

      You don’t have to prove to me that you’re not alone. I can just look at legions of Madoka fans to know that. What I was trying to prove with this review is that, really, not everyone thinks this show is great. And as someone who is something of a devoted follower of this director and studio’s work, I felt some people may be interested in what I have to say. I lack academic kung-fu (can’t comment on Greek Tragedy, short fiction, or SF because I simply don’t read fiction for fun) but I feel what I bring to the table is the perspective that comes from being a devoted Shinbou fan, and someone who’s seen a few cartoons over my 10 or so years of being a fan.

      So don’t read this as I THINK MADOKA IS OBJECTIVELY BAD. It’s just my opinion. I’m no expert, but hopefully some people out there can appreciate this point of view for what it is.

  20. You don’t have to prove to me that you’re not alone. I can just look at legions of Madoka fans to know that.

    I understand. What I was trying to say was not just “there are people who like Madoka!”, but that there are people who like the characters, even though they are not developed in much depth. I didn’t just like the show because of, I dunno, the cool plot twists or something (though they were cool, IMO). To me it was an affecting human story, even if it was a brief one where we didn’t get a chance to know people very well. That’s why I brought up short fiction: in a short story there just isn’t enough room to develop the characters, and yet there are short stories out there that many people find emotionally affecting.

    But of course this may all be clear to you already. I just wanted to clarify that there are reasons to like Madoka besides just the cleverness of the plot, though I suppose that is probably obvious.

    I feel what I bring to the table is the perspective that comes from being a devoted Shinbou fan

    I can respect this, but I also feel like your characterization of Shinbou as “selling out” and “going mainstream” is a bit odd given how warmly this show has been received by the anime blogosphere. You mention that some Shinbou fans have been calling Madoka his masterpiece — doesn’t this suggest that, even if Shinbou is reaching out to a broader audience, he’s not leaving (very many of) his fans behind? It’s possible for a niche artist to create a product with broader appeal without losing the qualities that appealed to the niche audience in the first place; not every instance of audience-broadening counts as “selling out.” In fact, given Madoka’s positive reception from fans of Shinbou and SHAFT, it seems like an ideal example of this, no? (Of course Madoka doesn’t have the qualities you like in Shinbou’s earlier work. That’s a viewpoint that’s interesting to hear, but it doesn’t mean, in itself, that Shinbou has sold out. I know that you’re just expressing your own opinion, but when you start doing things like putting the word “fans” in scare-quotes and talking about “mainstream crap,” it suggests that you think your opinion has a certain objective weight.)

    So don’t read this as I THINK MADOKA IS OBJECTIVELY BAD. It’s just my opinion.

    Sure. And I do think it’s valuable to hear minority opinions. But as I said in the last paragraph, a lot of the phrases you use sound like objective claims, so I hope my response is understandable. When you say things like “emotional porn” and “cheap attempt at trying to make you care,” or when you say that the plot is “not terribly creative” and isn’t “something that should be praised by the amount of people praising it,” it sounds like you’re really saying other people are wrong to like these aspects of the show. I mean, should those people be praising the plot, or shouldn’t they? Is it creative or isn’t it? These statements sound objective in nature, even if they’re not supposed to be.

    1. >>I understand. What I was trying to say was not just “there are people who like Madoka!”, but that there are people who like the characters, even though they are not developed in much depth.

      You don’t need to convince me of that either. Swaths of pixiv fanart and fanboy gushing is enough.

      Basically, at this point, I don’t think you really need to convince anyone that there are lots of people who enjoy lots of aspects of Madoka.

      >>I can respect this, but I also feel like your characterization of Shinbou as “selling out” and “going mainstream” is a bit odd given how warmly this show has been received by the anime blogosphere.

      That’s exactly why I think he’s sold out?

      Bakemonogatari did super well on BRD, but the story and characters were the sorts of things SHAFT typically does, so I don’t consider its success to be selling it.

      Look at the people on Madoka: Urobuchi Gen, Kajiura Yuki, Ume Aoki… well, to a lesser extent Ume, since she’s worked with SHAFT before. But Urobuchi and Kajiura are huge otaku favorites, and they do work that specifically appeals to mainstream (read: boring) otaku tastes. If that’s not selling out, I don’t know what is.

      (Yes, I know Kajiura did the music on Cossette, but nobody bought that)

      Of course, adapting a Nisioisin work like Bakemonogatari could be construed as selling out, but his stuff works better amongst SHAFT’s past body of work. But it’s not as if Nisioisin isn’t an otaku favorite either… but his stuff is actually kind of cool.

      And keep in mind, SHAFT and Shinbou essentially only do adaptations. Madoka was their first original together… but like I said, its subject matter and attitude is completely different from their older (good) stuff. It’s just too… normal, straightforward, and boring.

      >>But as I said in the last paragraph, a lot of the phrases you use sound like objective claims, so I hope my response is understandable.

      Yeah, I’m fully aware of doing it, so it’s understandable. But at the same time, I should hope we’re all grown up enough that we don’t have to qualify each statement with IN MY OPINION. We’re not kids anymore, we can stand people having strong opinions on things. I’m just some schmuck on the internet, I don’t have any credentials. So don’t lose sleep over me calling Madoka an overrated piece of crap.

      1. But Urobuchi and Kajiura are huge otaku favorites, and they do work that specifically appeals to mainstream (read: boring) otaku tastes. If that’s not selling out, I don’t know what is.

        Okay, when I talked about a “warm reception” in the blogospohere, I should have said something like “relative lack of negative reception.” All I meant is that if Madoka really represented Shinbou sacrificing fan appeal for non-fan appeal, then it would have alienated his fans and pleased everyone else. But it didn’t; it pleased basically everyone (except you). The fact that it appeals to mainstream otaku tastes does not mean that it is not something Shinbou wants to do. He may not find mainstream otaku tastes as boring as you do. (Doesn’t the fact that it’s an original, not an adaptation, make this interpretation seem likely?)

        But at the same time, I should hope we’re all grown up enough that we don’t have to qualify each statement with IN MY OPINION. We’re not kids anymore, we can stand people having strong opinions on things.

        Okay, but being a grownup is not an excuse for being unclear about what you’re saying. “I don’t like this” and “other people shouldn’t like this” are different statements. When you say Shinbou sold out, if you’re just giving an account why the show frustrates you, that’s fine (and interesting), but if you mean that that’s actually a good description of what factually occurred, then I think you’re probably just wrong (see the previous paragraph). You can’t just say “oh, we’re all grownups here, you know what I meant” because I didn’t know what you meant; I can imagine someone saying these sorts of things in either an objective or a subjective sense (and I’ve witnessed both before). And of course it doesn’t personally offend me or anything if you’re saying something that’s wrong . . . but I’m still going to tell you I think it’s wrong. If you have a blog with comment threads, I’m going to assume you’re interested in feedback on your opinions, right?

        (I think we’ve probably communicated all we’re going to be able to communicate at this point.)

  21. See, I think that DOESN’T make the show shallow or boring. I should’ve just been more succinct. You, and some other friends of mine, keep talking about characters. It’s very modern-esque literary period sentiment, actually. That if we do not intimately know the details of a character’s life, we do not know the characters and therefore cannot be invested.

    Honestly, I don’t separate Characters and Plot in how I experience stories. One cannot exist without the other. And I mean that literally. Literally these things are not essences people can try their best to pull apart and say one carries the other. Strong plots inherently involve strong characters. Strong characters inherently form strong plots. It’s pretty self-reinforcing.

    I mean. Of course I want to be invested in the characters of a story. Madoka isn’t JUST an art student’s experiment (which was my initial concern/worry when I was getting into the show, actually) that’s ultimately a hollow shell. I think they are well-rounded. And it’s because of the “essay-commentary” aspects above, rather than in spite of them. Just a different way to achieve a good effect. The plot doesn’t bore me. The characters aren’t shallow to me. I don’t believe these genre aspects they were playing around with were just empty lip-service or sacrificing character development for the sake of plot. (Again, I think these things actually served to develop the characters instead) I guess I don’t believe you have an illegitimate opinion. You come from a good place, being such a devoutee. I only am uncomfortable with the idea that this show is merely shallow (no character investment) and boring (ie, nothing of interest happening).

    But I’m only currently watching Bakemonogatari (midway synopsis: Pretty fuckin good.) I will relent to you out of courtesy. Madoka Magica may be something people will appreciate more as a stand-alone piece. But I think there is value in that. Great value, actually. But it seems this whole thing boiled down to “not my cup of tea” so maybe I’m just debating AT you rather than WITH you. If that’s the case, my bad. I just don’t think its shallow and dull. I only push this because you seem to actually give a damn about finding investment in a show. And I think that’s great and needs to be found more in others.

    But I do understand you better with your Gundam movie comparison. I also believe the movie trilogy is far more engaging than the TV series. And for exactly the reasons you identified. It’s a conventional but very sweeping full-rounded epic that manages to bring out the essence of what made the tv series great. But without the dull moments that come from pacing issues and rough patches that come from feeling out how the show should be executed, being a new original endeavor at the time. Do I prefer Madoka Magica to Mobile Suit Gundam the movie trilogy? The answer, I guess…is no. I prefer MSG Trilogy. (not taking into account their different incentives and goals) I appreciate where you’re coming from, actually. Your point of view, anyway. It’s something worth putting out there as far as expressing your philosophy about viewing tv and movies.

    I’d consider watching Moon Phase officially anyway, since a close friend (also a Shinbo/Shaft devotee, you guys might get along) is getting me into Shaft’s work.

    Speaking of which, what series do you believe is a great follow-up to watch after Bakemonogatari? I’d love to hear your suggestions. I hear Shinbo worked on Nanoha. Is that something you’d recommend? I’d like to find other substantial Magical Girl shows out there. I got so bored of Utena, probably for the same reasons you found Madoka boring, but I’d be willing to try it again if someone really drove home something I’m just missing out on.

    1. >>Honestly, I don’t separate Characters and Plot in how I experience stories. One cannot exist without the other.

      I may have said this earlier on in the comments, but I’ll say it again: As someone brought up primarily on 90s anime, one notices that these shows were broken up into two parts: the first 13 episodes where you simply get to know the characters through a bunch of light-hearted one shots, and the last 13 episodes which are The Real Plot. That’s why I separate characters and story the way I do. That’s just how I’ve been taught to process entertainment.

      I may just have a fundamental issue with the type of story Madoka is, though. While I think it would be great if the show just had long scenes of characters talking about nothing in particular (My version of Madoka would open with a Clerks-esque discussion of magical girl anime between Madoka and Sayaka, lol.) I fundamentally do not like how the characters have no control over what’s going on. It just feels as if they’re there for Urobuchi to write his rules around and torture. In every Bakemonogatari story, the characters play a pivotal role in what’s happening. Often times, they’re the catalyst for the issue at hand. And in Gundam, character actions go a long way towards driving the story forward. As far as I can tell, Madoka is the only one who does anything that affects the story, while the rest is just Kyuubey dropping new rules every now and again, and some character telling you their (boring) backstory. Or there’s some (boring) love triangle between people you don’t care about.

      This may completely destroy my credibility (if it wasn’t already) but a story somewhat like Madoka (lots of rules, twists, shallow characters) that I enjoy is Death Note. Light’s a complete asshole and nothing else, but that’s why I like him. The story brings up lots of interesting moral questions, and it just moves at a brisk pace and is exciting to read/watch. Also there’s no dumb love triangle part, but the second half of the story does move rather slowly given how dumb parts of it are. They fixed that in the TV series.

      But yes, Madoka is completely not my cup of tea. Take this with a grain of salt, but I think it’s because it appeals to more traditional nerd entertainment, like SF and fantasy writing, which I personally will never touch a with a ten-foot-poll. That stuff just offends me on a personal level, because I feel it’s cold, and separated from reality. I’m not saying I enjoy strictly realistic stories, I just like stuff I can personally relate to on a deep emotional level, and nothing about Madoka was emotional to me since all those characters could express interest in were Soul Gems and Grief Seeds. Like I said, at least give them all a hobby so I can connect with them in SOME way.

      >>Speaking of which, what series do you believe is a great follow-up to watch after Bakemonogatari?

      A good follow up to Bakemonogatari may be Denpa Onna to Seishun no Otoko… it’s weaker, but it’s the same sort of thing. It’s still airing at the moment, so I can’t tell you whether or not it’ll turn out good. I like it well enough.

      I say for now just watch the comedies: Pani Poni Dash, Zetsubou Sensei, Sore Demo Machi Wa Mawatteiru, Natsu no Arashi…

      Don’t watch Nanoha. Shinbou only did the first season, and was severely held down creatively. It’s pretty boring. I hear A’s is good, but I haven’t watched it yet, and Shinbou didn’t do that one, so it probably has no artistic merit whatsoever.

      I’m not much of a mahou shoujo fan, but Cardcaptor Sakura is wonderful. Watch that. Yes, I know it’s 70 episodes. They’re all standalone, so you can take them at your own pace.

      >>Madoka Magica may be something people will appreciate more as a stand-alone piece. But I think there is value in that. Great value, actually. But it seems this whole thing boiled down to “not my cup of tea” so maybe I’m just debating AT you rather than WITH you. If that’s the case, my bad. I just don’t think its shallow and dull. I only push this because you seem to actually give a damn about finding investment in a show. And I think that’s great and needs to be found more in others.

      Yeah, you’re kinda debating at me, but you’ve managed to explain yourself better than others I’ve spoken to. But yeah, I do give a damn about finding investment. Particularly emotional investment.

      1. >>>>>”I may just have a fundamental issue with the type of story Madoka is, though. While I think it would be great if the show just had long scenes of characters talking about nothing in particular (My version of Madoka would open with a Clerks-esque discussion of magical girl anime between Madoka and Sayaka, lol.) I fundamentally do not like how the characters have no control over what’s going on. It just feels as if they’re there for Urobuchi to write his rules around and torture. In every Bakemonogatari story, the characters play a pivotal role in what’s happening. Often times, they’re the catalyst for the issue at hand. And in Gundam, character actions go a long way towards driving the story forward.”

        See this actually makes QUITE a lot of sense to me. It’s not a RIGID position I hold (only as far as Madoka Magica is concerned) but it’s a position I definitely relate to and have expressed personally. I just happen to very much like BOTH styles. The kind where characters feel they have no control. And the kind where characters feel they have too much influence/control (two extremes here, I realize there is plenty of middle ground). So I definitely get you now. Makes me appreciate where you’re coming from. And that’s EXACTLY what I would’ve done too as far as the Clerks-style opening discussion. I am wanting to write for television and that’s what I’m studying right now, professionally (still need to find a grad school, pretty close to finishing undergrad). I love opening with introductory discussions that are pretty blatant like that.

        And you have absolutely no shame in liking Death Note. You shouldn’t. Death Note isn’t a “guilty pleasure” of mine personally. It’s great BECAUSE it’s paced so excitingly. Doesn’t even matter that it’s ridiculous. In fact, that probably serves to make the show’s pacing even more attention-grabbing. I like Death Note and recognize how absurd it is. I feel like the writer for the series isn’t self-aware about what he’s doing (ie he doesn’t realize how almost silly it can appear from the outside) and that would be my only criticism. Because I like it enough as it is, but just imagine what could happen if the creator’s DID know how crazy it was. And not just for comedy, I think interesting kinds of character development could happen.

        I watched the first episode of So Long Mr. Despair, per your request. I loved it. Wholesale. And I actually DID plan to watch Cardcaptor Sakura this summer. Partly because of nostalgia, and partly because I have a soft spot for two genres: mecha and magical girls. (and Tokusatsu I guess, but more for how awesome/silly it is. And that’s not animation anyway) And I want to explore them more now that I have the free time.

        I’m new to your blog, as if you couldn’t already tell. But I also see you’re unconditionally loving Tiger & Bunny as well. Good man. I love you for that. Also know that the kind of blog-surfer I am is similar to “rf” up there. I relate to a lot of the kinds of things “rf” is concerned about. So I hope I don’t step on any toes.

        1. Well, Bonertown (my other writer) actually wrote about Tiger and Bunny. I haven’t seen it yet.

          But welcome to the blog! Hope you enjoy it…

          1. Hahahaha!

            I thought “Bonertown” and “wah” were two distinct levels of interest that YOU were labeling for each show. Made sense on my end.

  22. Goign back to a point you made in response to a previous comment, I also think that the idea is good in concept. However, it seemed really heavy-handed to me. Perhaps it’s just because I’m familiar with lots of cautionary fables and I’ve seen the same progression done before. After the first two episodes, I was able to say with certainty what direction it was headed in. Did it seem fairly obvious to you as well?

    Also, stories which immerse the main character into big things that are already in motion generally end up being one of three things: main character breaks down, main character saves everything, or main character is a bystander through which we see the events unfolding. And I’ve seen all three done before multiple times, so it would have to have been pretty original for me to get hooked.

    I thought the visual style was actually pretty weird, especially with the characters seeming flat in the real world. I could see all kinds of visual elements flying around in the show, and it was off-putting.

    Oh, and in reply to all the comments about the subjectivity of reviewing and the eltist-sounding “sold out” line, I think everybody who both reads and writes reviews should take this into account. Comments like that shouldn’t happen, because we all know we have our own opinions. By making a review, you’re putting out there how you felt and reacted to the piece in the hopes not that it will change other peoples minds but in the hope that it will get them to be able to see the work in another way. People watching non-comedic reviews should be reading them with the same idea in mind: “Oh, I like Madoka, why does wah not like it?” You answered that question well, and even though I don’t know Shaft’s works, I can get where you’re coming from by relating it back to other similar experiences I’ve had. Very well done.

  23. I enjoyed Madoka as a roller-coaster ride. There were ups and downs, but in the end I felt like it didn’t have enough to it. I have watched You may not believe it, but Tsukuyomi was the first fansubbed anime that I ever watched. I enjoyed it immensely, and I noticed a lot of what I now have put together as Shinbo’s quirks after reading your blog.

    I guess I’m just one of those guys who likes to watch the pieces fall in to place, but as I watched each episode of Madoka multiple times every week waiting for the next episode, I did sort of gather an emotional attachment, even if it was small, to at least Homura. Sayaka made me want to smash my head into the wall and Madoka… Well, Madoka cried.

    Kyubey feels to me like the polar opposite of Kero, and Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my all time favorites. I watch Cardcaptor Sakura at least once a year, I like it that much. I think that Madoka has added a few twists to the Magical Girl genre like Cardcaptor Sakura did (oh god, 13 years ago? I feel OOOOLD!). I am not saying that it really revolutionized the genre as I feel that Cardcaptor Sakura did (i.e. Dressed up when she’s all magical girl, just because Tomoyo.) but I feel that there were a few “new” things added to the Magical Girl bag of tricks.

    Being a huge fan of Yuki Kajiura, I must say… I only liked two or three tracks in the entire show, and it took a while for them to grow on me. You are absolutely head-on – there is not enough variety. They use the same wanna-be-foreboding track in both light and heavy drama situations, which really detracts from the intensity of the stronger moments.

    I guess I will wrap this up with, I don’t like Ume Aoki’s character designs all that much. I prefer Hanokage’s take on them, as seen in the episode 1 illustration card and the manga adaptation. That is, except for Kyubey – Hanokage’s Kyubey is off. I absolutely agree with the characters feeling like cut-outs, it was hard for me to put that feeling in to words but after I read this that describes it perfectly.

    &regarding Nutarama’s spiel on “review-y comments are trying to change the author of the original review’s mind” – to each their own, I just wanted to say something. WAH has his taste, and mine don’t line up that well with his. Nothin’ I can do :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *