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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

17. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. I finally got to watch the ending of Madoka yesterday, and it was amazing. It's a shame for a story that complex to end in just twelve episodes. I feel like more could have been said and done, and the story was a little rushed. At the same time, it's such a pleasure to actually see the ending of a series. This is such a rare option, because most anime series are endless or end randomly in the middle of the plot.

Madoka Magica is a story about dealing with powers beyond your comprehension and the pitfalls that come from acting out of ignorance. Things that initially seem beneficial can have unintended consequences. Because of this, ignorance is a sin, as dangerous as any other. In fact, Aristotle once said that ignorance was the only sin, because people only behaved badly out of ignorance. Whether Aristotle was right or not, it's definitely A sin. So much harm is done by people who mean well, but act out of ignorance, that it easily overwhelms all malevolent bodies.

If Madoka becomes a magic girl like the weasel kyubey wants, she'll end up destroying the world later as a terrible witch. Only Homura, a time traveler who has seen the events play out again and again, is aware of this fact. Even worse, she's tried telling Madoka before but it only leads to further tragedies, like her friends murdering each other to prevent themselves from becoming witches. Homura realized the only solution was to stop Madoka from ever becoming a magical girl in the first place, but this is also impossible, because they need Madoka's power to defeat a Walpurgis Night that will destroy Madoka's city (which includes Madoka) if nothing is done. The cycle goes round and round, with Homura courageously never giving in to despair, but trying endless permutations of the same situation in the hopes that just one ending will be happy, until Madoka breaks the gordian knot by becoming a magical girl with the power to erase all witches and witch-hood itself from the universe. The plot had so many twists and turns to reach this conclusion, you could never predict what would happen next. I didn't foresee the ending at all.

What makes Madoka so amazing? It's totally unique. The art style is new, and expresses the world of Madoka perfectly. Both the surreal abstract art that surrounds the witches, and the creepy normal art that surrounds the magical girls. Every scene is so memorable. The characters can't be classified into any specific category. It feels like they are themselves and no one else. The love the characters feel for each other is the real thing -- they trust each other, admire each other, and are loyal to each other, even to the point of death. The nobility of all the girl's souls is just amazing. These are the people I want to inhabit the world. Humanity needs to be more like Madoka, Miki, Mami, Koyoko and Homura.

Miki Sayaka still steals the limelight however. As the girl who's ideals were the hardest to uphold, her courage to continue upholding them to the very end was so beautiful. They were bad ideals, they ended up killing her and Koyoko, while achieving nothing -- but they were her ideals, and she fought for them from start to end, following the path she felt was right, no matter how hard on her it became. That's just so precious. Instead of learning from her mistakes, Saiyaka just told herself to become harder and learn how to endure the consequences, because she believed in herself, and in her role model, Mami, too much to betray her ideals. Every speech she gave telling people not to pity her, and not to lecture her, because she was doing what Mami would have done, just fills you with pride for such a proud girl. She's just one of my beloved cast though. None of the girls, in the end, can be ignored.

Madoka's taking of all sins into herself and purging them all with the idea that having hope can never be wrong is perfect. Homura refusing to give up, becoming a colder and colder fighter, but never forgetting the reason for all of her trials and tribulations, her love for her best friend Madoka. . . you have to watch episodes ten through twelve to understand. . .Homura's heart is as wide as the pain it's caused her, but even so she never gave up. What a wonderful girl. At the end of the story, she still hasn't stopped fighting, because she still hasn't forgotten Madoka, and she knows this is what Madoka would want, and so her journey continues, and her love for her friend continues, unabated, long after Madoka's dead.

Kyubey is a wonderful villain, just freaky and exotic enough to always keep you off-balance. Instead of laughing maniacally or eating puppies for fun, Kyubey just acts in his own rational self-interest. It's a refreshing villain that you can respect as well as oppose. We need more of those and less laughing maniacs.

The music for Madoka is done by renowned composer Kajiura Yuki, who I consider at Human Accomplishment levels, easily able to take on Schubert or Handel. His creepy atmospheric tunes are perfect for the action and plot of the series. Everything in the story helps to create the mood, which is absolutely unique to Madoka, it could be called the 'Madoka mood' from here on.

Madoka will keep you thinking about right and wrong throughout the series, because there are no easy answers. In the end, though, Madoka made the right decision. It was a brilliant decision, better than any I could come up with. It's so refreshing for the characters in a story to be wiser than me, instead of hopelessly dumb.

If everything about Madoka is so good, why am I only giving it 17th place? Two reasons: It's too short, and it doesn't take on the most important subjects in life. Clannad is a story about what's important. So is Crest of the Stars, and Gurrenn Lagann. You handicap yourself when your story is about something exotic, that will never come up in real life, no matter how well you write about it. If a story isn't relevant it loses all emotional strength. Once aliens are offering us faustian bargains, sure Madoka will be helpful, but aside from that, when could we ever apply what we've learned??? Clannad talks about family. That can be applied anytime. It's a huge difference. Angel Beats takes on how unfair life is to some people, God, and the afterlife. How can Madoka Magica, a story about aliens and witches, compete? A story needs to be relevant to be good, this is why fiction so often loses out to non-fiction. We know non-fiction is relevant, but fiction is anyone's guess. Madoka is so surreal it's hard to take what you saw with you in the form of some life lesson learned. The best stories, however, give you just that, and change your whole way of life. Madoka is doomed to fall short of the true elites, because it's philosophy is too esoteric.

Even so, 2011 should be proud to have produced a series this high in my all time rankings. Madoka is the best thing that's happened in 2011. It's what will be remembered from 2011, decades from now. It doesn't get much better than this.

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