In the magical girls anime genre, schoolgirls gain magic power given by a cute pet to fight monsters. These shows are often repetitive and/or forgettable. At first Puella Magi Madoka Magica looks like it is yet another magical girls anime, but it quickly reveals itself to be far deeper than its appearance. Even the cute pet only looks cute – its agenda totally betrays its cuteness.
The first movie, Beginnings (Blu-ray release 2013-7-24), is based on the first eight episodes of the TV series, dropping relatively unimportant stuff. A cute pet known as Kyubey offers the schoolgirls a wish each in return of giving up their souls to become magical girls, with the risk of losing their lives when hunting witches. In spite of the cute visuals, the story quickly takes a dark shocking turn, and progressively gets even darker, to the point that I have a little doubt about whether this show is really suitable for very little girls. Aside from this doubt, everything is as perfect as it can be – plot, visuals, depth, psychology of characters, etc. I think we are never going to see this level of depth from Disney animations featuring little girls.
The second movie, Eternal (Blu-ray release 2013-7-24), based on the last four episodes of the TV series, concludes the story. In this movie we witness the deep time-transcending friendship between the two protagonists, with one girl relentlessly try to save another. I’m deeply moved by this friendship and this dedication. The ending is divine and not that common in typical movies, that’s why this movie is called Eternal. These two movies remind me of Neon Genesis Evangelion. As someone said, what Puella Magi Madoka Magica does to the magical girls genre is similar to what Neon Genesis Evangelion did to giant robot anime – both of them revolutionized their respective genre.
In spite of the really complete and eternal ending of the second movie, it is surprising the filmmakers managed to create a new movie – Rebellion (Blu-ray release 2014-4-2) that continues from the last one. It managed to show all the magical girls teaming up again despite what occurred before, without breaking the continuity of the story. Without spoiling it, I can only that the loneliness of a girl drives this movie to its shocking ending. Again this shock can be compared to the shock in The End of Evangelion. My first reaction is that I didn’t like this new ending – it sort of destroys the previous achievement, hence the title Rebellion. However, when I think about it more, it is not all that unreasonable, and allows for further development of the story, which is not necessarily a bad thing.