Review by: Faith McAdams
Publisher: Aniplex of America
MSRP: $94.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: 13 UP
Release Date: February 14, 2012
If you weren’t a fan of magical girl shows, you will be after this one.
Admittedly, most of the girls in this office love the magical girls theme and we even have favorites whether it’s Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha or even the classic Sailor Moon but we have seen a few others that have fallen victim to the same wand-waving cookie cutter pattern as well. Well, magical girl fans, Aniplex of America have given us a magical girls series that will rekindle your love for the genre in a big way with its Limited Edition Box Set of Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Covering the first four episodes of the series in a collectible edition, Puella Magi Madoka Magica – or just Madoka Magica – is a magical girl series with an artistic visual style and a story that is both surprising and compelling. You see, we are introduced to a cute girl named Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader in Mitakihara Middle School with a charming little family that consists of a stay-at-home dad and a young but successful mother as well as an adorable baby brother. She considers herself very average and often tells others that she’s not a great student nor does she have any redeemable qualities or talents.
Oh, but Madoka has some pretty bizarre dreams like the one she has about being lost in a most unusual labyrinth only to find herself witnessing a battle between a girl her age and a foe that is even stranger than their surroundings. There’s even an unusual cat-like creature in her dream. When she wakes up and goes to school with her two best friends, Hitomi and Sayaka, Madoka discovers that the new transfer student named Homura Akemi is the same girl from her dream!
While the idea of Homura being the girl she seen in her dream is absurd, it turns out that Homura does recognize Madoka and tells the girl that if she treasures her life, friends and family that she should stay the same no matter what. Ok, cryptic message aside, Madoka and her friend Sayaka decide to ignore Homura who doesn’t seem to like both girls. As fate would have it, however, a trip to the mall changes the lives of both girls forever.
You see, Madoka hears a voice in her head crying for help when she encounters the same cat-like creature from her dreams being hunted down by none other than Homura in a magical girl outfit. The creature happens to be called Kyubey who speaks telepathically and it happens to accompany another girl who shows up in time just as the world around them changes in a strange way. This other girl is a magical girl named Mami Tomoe who uses her magical girl abilities to get them out of the strange labyrinth by defeating a witch.
Both Madoka and Sayaka learn much about the world of magical girls from Mami who also attends their school. A kind-hearted girl who lives alone, Mami has an interesting past that become even more interesting when she made a contract with Kyubey. As a matter of fact, Kyubey wants Madoka and Sayaka to make a contract with him to become magical girls. As Mami points out, the benefit of becoming a magic girl is that they are granted a single wish no matter how impossible that wish might be. The downside is that these magical girls must fight a deadly battle against witches.
The offer to become magical girls is a big one and both girls start to weigh the benefits versus the dangers of becoming one. For Sayaka there’s a boy named Kyosuke who she visits often in the hospital where he is a patient but what motivation does Madoka have for becoming a magical girl? Little does she know that Mami sees something special in Madoka and so does Homura.
Fate does have a way of nudging a person in the right direction but this nudge is more like a violent push that puts Madoka and Sayaka in the line of danger. She and Sayaka had witnessed a witch hunt and its aftermath involving a magical item but what happens when Mami finally shows up to help the two girls leads to a shocking chain of events that pushes both Sayaka and Madoka towards their fate.
I will say no more since it will ruin the surprises and exciting cliffhanger but know that by the end of the fourth episode of this first volume you will definitely be looking forward to the next volume. It certainly packs a lot of story in just four episodes. Madoka Magica certainly manages to tell a great story while adding its own unique twist in its visual style. The Labyrinth is delightfully twisted visual treat and its colorful animation is quite stunning and even more so on Blu-ray.
The Limited Edition Box Set makes for an excellent collector’s item since it contains more than enough juicy extras such as a third disc that’s actually a CD consisting of the wonderful soundtrack. There’s also booklet, two-sided mini-poster and postcards plus stickers. The price tag, unfortunately, might not fit everyone’s budget but if you do have the money you really will find much to love about this set.
Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is, by far, one of the more visually stunning and delightfully remarkable magic girls series to come along and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that there are a number of great ones already available. However, Madoka Magica casts a convincing and compelling spell that makes its magic worth admiring. Sure it’s a very pricey package for only four episodes but trust me when I say that the series will make you a big fan and you will kick yourself for missing out on this Limited Edition Box Set.
BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
After waking up from a bizarre dream involving a mysterious girl battling a strange entity, Madoka meets the new transfer student who happens to be the same girl. Suddenly, Madoka is introduced to the world of magical girls who hunt witches as she and her friend, Sayaka, are given the choice to become magical girls in exchange for a wish. However, a single event changes everything for both girls.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Madoka Magica is simply a stunning-looking anime series with an intriguing visual style when it comes to the witch hunts. The DVD version looks great but the Blu-ray version is – naturally – the way this series was meant to be enjoyed.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice cast is top notch for both language tracks and while I favor Aoi Yuki as Madoka but the English dub cast has talents like Christina Vee, Carrie Savage, Kyle Hebert and Christine Marie Cabanos that do a great job. Then there’s the music by Yuki Kajiura that’s excellent and great opening theme song from ClariS and even better closing theme song from Kalafina that is a favorite in this office.
The Limited Edition Box Set is a Must Have item if ever there was one especially since the third disc in this set is the soundtrack CD composed of the brilliant music from this series. On top of that awesome extra there’s the fact that it includes both the Blu-ray and the DVD version and the slipcase is downright cute. The discs themselves contain trailers for the series, the textless opening and the music video of the closing theme song “Magia” by Kalafina.
Also includes in this set is a 24-page booklet with artwork, interviews with the voice cast and an even cuter 4-panel “Comic Theater” by aokiume that is a fun read just like the rest of the booklet. There’s even a two-sided mini-poster with the key characters, Kyubey stickers and a few “Preview Illustration” postcards featuring the artwork seen in the Previews screen in the end of each episode.
By far one of the more artistically stunning and refreshingly enjoyable magical girl series to come along in a long time, Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is simply one series you should not miss especially if you’ve given up hope on the magical girl theme. Come for the gorgeous animation and appealing characters and stay for the well-written story. You will definitely not be disappointed.
Review copy provided by Aniplex of America