Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Manga Quarterly Review [Completed]
[It’s July 1st! Canada Day! The Birthday of Canada, even! Well, at least as a dominion of Britain…]
Whew. Oriko may have sucked, but this manga doesn’t.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica covers, interestingly enough, the same plot as Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica does! What a surprise there. Nobody could have predicted that. Amazing.
Actually, not only does it cover exactly the same plot, it’s the same even down to the chapter titles, the Hitomi-makes-crude-jokes, the suicidal-roofjump-woman, the Madoka’s-teacher-saying-stuff-about-fried-eggs, the Kyousuke-slapping-his-hand-on-some-CDs, the Mami-dies-because-of-Charlotte-moe, the Kyouko-scolds-Sayaka-for-wasting-food, the Sayaka-slaps-some-monk-with-a-sword, the Homura-hitting-oil-can-with-golf-club, and the Madoka-says-some-vague-words-about-hope.
Well, some parts are different – I’m not sure if Homura uses the big pile of C4 against Walpurgis (but she does use the truck, among other things), Homura definitely didn’t have those stupid wings at the end, and the police didn’t say anything about a blatant supercell formation.
Since it’d be easier to comment this way, I’ll write down the plot (spoilers, but who hasn’t seen Madoka anyways), which is divided into three volumes, from chapter/episode 1 – 4, 5 – 8, and finally 9 – 12.
First, Madoka has a dream about Walpurgisnacht and Homura, when Homura joins her class the next day. Madoka hears Kyubey’s screams and rushes to save him from the evil Homura.
I remember when I was writing the Winter Season Preview, I was totally expecting Madoka to just be a cheesy magical girl anime about magical girls fighting for justice and whatnot. This started to change when the mood changed at Episode 3, and then Episode 9 just completely shattered all previous expectations of the show.
I have a feeling the director (not mangaka, because the mangaka was merely looking at the storyboards and then drawing the manga) planned all this to also be in line with the manga, adding a cliffhanger at the end of chapter 4 (Kyouko appearing) after the climax (Mami’s death), adding a cliffhanger at the end of chapter 8 (Sayaka’s grief seed) after the climax (Kyubey’s evilness), and finally adding a climax (Madoka) even after the climax (Homura vs. Walpurgis) in the final volume.
Not only does this encourage people to buy the next volume, it also assures that they aren’t just reading each volume as a giant cliffhanger to the next volume, because some things are still resolved at their climaxes. Some people just seem to not understand this theory, creating a giant super battle tournament that’s nothing but rising action to a giant cliffhanger, only to realize that nobody’s going to buy a volume that has no climax at all, no sense of completion. (This is what I perpetually feel when I read Bleach every week.)
“Make me a sammich.”
Anyways, the first episode totally felt like a cheesy magical girl anime about magical girls fighting for justice and whatnot. I would’ve dropped it, but when I watched episode 1, I think episode 7 already aired, and everybody was telling me how it would get better, they swear.
Isn’t the beginning cliche and happy? Weird witch barrier aside. You have a normal girl with normal friends at a normal school, when suddenly, something abnormal appears – a transfer stud. The transfer stud seems really cool – just like a BAD GUY. The normal girl suddenly realizes that the transfer stud REALLY IS BAD, and saves a cute stuffed plushie from her. Because she saved the plushie’s life, the plushie agrees to turn her into a magical girl, and then they go out and save the world, eventually beating the EVIL transfer stud, who was actually a WITCH that wanted to KILL all magical girls.
Of course, we also have this COOL MENTOR magical girl who helps them realize the POWER OF HOPE, etc. Granted, I’ve never watched a magical girl show before and I have no idea if that’s the path they take, but still. Madoka seemed STUPID after one episode. Kyubey’s stupid expressions and overall cuteness added to this. Kyubey is so much cuter in the manga than in the anime.
But he didn’t save on time so he had to reload the game
The next chapter dealt with Mami telling them the nature of wishes and witches, and them saving a woman from committing suicide. It still felt like a magical girl show (“We’re giving hope to depressed people!”), but it diverged a little bit – have you ever seen a show where the main doesn’t immediately become a magical girl? Not really. This seemed to foreshadow where the show would go – imagine Madoka’s story as being real, and the director as just being someone who took a part of her story and gave it to us. If Madoka were to become a normal magical girl, would the director start the story a long time before she became a magical girl, or close to when she becomes a magical girl? Obviously close to when she becomes a magical girl – the rest isn’t interesting. This must mean that Madoka would not become a /normal/ magical girl, that she would become an exceptional one.
Funny – in Kazumi (the third spinoff manga), the main characters also save people, possessed by witches, to commit suicide. Whereas other people have said that Madoka was great because of how the witches completely ruined Madoka’s ordinary life, I think it’s more that it was great because of how Kyubey completely ruined our conceptions of ‘normal’ magical girl shows. And that’s how Madoka started – as a normal magical girl show.
Of course, next, we have the cutest character in the entire series, who goes off and eats Mami.
This chapter was truly a turning point – not from when Mami died, but from Mami’s sadness when she talked to Madoka. Magical girls aren’t sad! They never are. But, Mami breaks down in front of Madoka and tells her how scared she is, inside. Magical girls shouldn’t be scared! What’s the worse that could hap-oh.
On the note of Charlotte, she really was a cancer patient, probably – look at the nurses all around, the hospital ward design, the rolling-bed-things that’s in every hospital, and how the barrier surrounded a hospital in the first place.
Madoka also drew a picture of what type of magical girl she wanted to be if she became one. I don’t know why, but I’m sensing a lot of similarities between Mio and Madoka, besides their hair colour. Y’know, when I first watched Nichijou, I thought Mio was the main character – probably because subconsciously I linked her to Madoka. Right now, I still think she’s the main character. Think about it yourself, find all the similarities between the duo – even shallow similarities, such as hairstyle, are plentiful.
Kyousuke’s violin was rendered beautifully – I’m pretty sure everything there was drawn perfectly. Yet, underneath him on the same page is a reversed inverted eighth note…
Kyouko, being a serious musician, did not appreciate Kyubey’s joke
Chapter 4 dealt with Hitomi attempting suicide and Sayaka (being a magical girl) saving her. Here’s the last episode where a witch was the main antagonist, fitting for the end of the first volume. The first volume, all in all, was pretty standard magical girl fare with a few radical moves (killing off Mami). After this is where paths diverge – Madoka could continue along this path of ‘magical girls appear and kill evil witches, sometimes a magical girl dies’, or go into what it did go into, where magical girls became magical girls’ enemies.
Truthfully, that didn’t need much creative thought, did it? In every magical girl show, eventually an evil magical girl appears. From chapter 1, you’d expect that to be Homura, but instead, they brought in a new magical girl, Kyouko.
If you look at their portrayal of their personalities right now, Sayaka’s an easy-going person who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, Madoka’s that person who tries to make sense of the crazy situation she’s in, Kyubey is a cute stuffed animal, Homura is a heartless, emotionless final boss, and Kyouko is an evil magical girl who thinks that witches should become witches purely for their Grief Seeds. Let’s just see how these interpretations will change, drastically, and rapidly from now on…
Well, here’s your cute stuffed animal. For some reason, after his true intentions are revealed, his eyes change colour and he becomes creepy, even though there’s no reason for him to do that. This is Chapter 5, the first of the revelations, in that your soul is trapped into your Soul Gem (I wonder why they named it that durr hurr). This is a small revelation that really doesn’t matter, but its purpose was to make us question Kyubey’s real intentions.
Chapter 7 shows us some of Kyouko’s past. Now, she stops being an evil magical girl who frequently uses profane language, and appears instead as a person with hope, who lost it. Sayaka also starts to change, losing her cool and starting to become insane.
Finally, Chapter 8, the end of volume 2, brings us to our climax – Kyouko becomes a good girl, Sayaka completely breaks down, and Homura is seen as more of a reasonable character than we originally thought.
The second volume is a ‘transitional’ period, where the main enemies change from being witches to conquering emotions. Notice how not a single witch was an important enemy in this volume, and the main focus was between the relationships of the main characters. Not character development. Relationship development.
The final volume starts with the end of Sayaka and Kyouko, and Kyubey’s final revelation about the true purpose of magical girls. To be honest, I never actually watched the ending part of this (where Kyouko is a Christian and her cross falls off dramatically) because the video wouldn’t play, no matter however different videos I tried. :X
This last third is just one climax after another, bang bang bang. Homura’s time travelling is revealed in chapter 10, she tries to fight Walpurgis in chapter 11, and Madoka saves the world in the final chapter.
The development changes once again, from the relationships between the magical girls to the morality of Kyubey’s acts. The enemy changes from conquering their emotions to fully understanding them. No, the enemy doesn’t change to Walpurgis. Madoka’s final wish was a result of what she was doing in the entire story (which oddly enough isn’t ‘standing around and watching her friends get killed’) – understanding herself, and understanding others. Blah blah blah insert more random crap about hope and emotions and you get my drift.
“No, Madoka is not an anime about drunk teenagers in a band eating cake.”
To be honest, re-reading it, Madoka does seem better – unlike other similarly good shows, which focused on one premise and held it throughout, Madoka changed its perspective and purpose throughout the entire show – a losing strategy for long shows, but it somehow worked in this one. Constantly changing purpose is a mark of amateurism and lack of decisiveness, but when you constantly change purpose for one unchanging purpose, that’s just brilliance.
To be honest once again, re-reading it, Madoka does seem worse. The ending felt like a giant ‘what the heck’ deus ex machina – I mean, why didn’t other magical girls do the same? The obvious answer is that none of them knew about Kyubey’s purposes, and the second obvious answer is that none of them were powerful enough. Even though I have these obvious answers staring me in the face, I still feel like Madoka’s ending was stupidly sudden and anticlimatic, even though it was more climatic than any other climax I could have thought of (Occult Academy ending aside). Perhaps it did feel better after waiting for two weeks because of that terrible earthquake, or maybe not watching it all in one run just made me think that it made sense.
To be honest a third time, you have to re-read/re-watch Madoka. It’s one of those shows that you’ll always get something out of when you watch/read it again. A classic, if you will.
Yet, you still have to have watched the anime first. The anime is much less rushed, and explains much more, giving you a much more ‘completed’ feeling. The manga doesn’t even explain what a witch’s maze is. The anime is unfairly better than the manga in two main aspects – the moving pictures allows a slower pace, more explanations, and better fight scenes, and the music contributes incredibly to the final mood. Imagine watching Homura’s fight scene against Walpurgis without the music. Imagine watching Homura’s fight scene against Walpurgis without the music, and only in a series of frames each twenty seconds apart.
Those are both inherent limitations of the medium, so all in all, the mangaka did a great job. Nevertheless, Madoka’s slow pace, thoughtful explanations, and breathtaking music (and of course, transformation sequences featuring naked little girls) were massive contributors to the anime’s success, and so I can’t say that the manga was able to reproduce that feeling. Especially the pacing – at the end of this manga, everything was just unconnected and a mishmash of random ideas I didn’t fully understand. Compare Steins;Gate (manga) to Steins;Gate (anime). One is random, stupid, and doesn’t provide any good explanations. The other is ordered, intelligent, and follows through events in a logical way. Can you figure out which one is which?
A good thing is that the manga’s art doesn’t show characters with heads like a squished egg. The art’s very natural, and the mangaka is perfectly capable of assuming a large number of angles. Even Mami’s hair feels natural (though on closer inspection, it still looks unrealistic).
I was still wondering about Kyubey’s powers, and I thought for a while – if he could make somebody go back in time, and if he could also make somebody else rewrite the rules of the universe, why didn’t he do that in the first place?
It requires too much energy.
Kyubey’s race can alter the rules of the universe. No doubt, they’ve done it thousands of times. Similarly, they can also go back in time, and that’s probably ingrained into their society. However, those operations all cost energy, energy that is then somehow /lost/ from the universe. Because of that, they hardly ever do that.
However, because magical girls give energy, they can let the magical girls do that.
In fact, since Homura’s timeline intertwining was the reason Madoka’s so strong, Kyubey probably purposefully calculated that and granted Homura the ability to jump back in time, even though that made the universe lose a ton of energy. He did that so that Madoka would become stronger and stronger, eventually unleashing a huge bout of energy that would much more than displace the amount of energy Homura lost.
Kyubey was also able to grant Madoka’s wish because of the huge amount of energy Madoka would create, by giving hope to all humans. Since he still hasn’t mastered human emotions, he couldn’t do such a thing (if he could, he already would have), and requires a magical girl to do it.
Which means, that the entire thing was all according to Kyubey’s plan.
Two final notes.
How does Sayaka fight wearing high heels?
Homura is really good at Red Light, Green Light.
Overall Rating: 6/10 (Amazing)