Anime Review: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

I’m going to try to get back into a rhythm of writing reviews. Now, if any of you have read my About page (hint: go read it…self-plug for the win!), you’ll notice that I’m pretty fearful of approaching the magical girl genre of anime (mostly because of the judgment). However, I was repeatedly assured that this show takes a different approach and it’s even directed by Shinbo, who gave us Bakemonogatari.

So what’s the story? Basically, we follow Kaname Madoka, a fairly normal girl in a slightly futuristic society. She runs into a strange being known as Kyuubey, who offers her a contract: one wish in exchange for an eternity as a magical girl. Enter Akemi Homura, a mysterious transfer student who tries to stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl. From there, the story follows Madoka as she continues to learn the truth about being a magical girl as she tries to make her decision about whether she wishes to become one.

This story breaks out of the “transformations” and “magical wands” that are very typical of magical girl series, bringing out something so much darker. Every episode keeps you wanting to see the next and no one is who they seem to be. This show will seriously mess with your mind.

Story: 10/10

Most of the focus in the series falls on the five magical girls, Akemi Homura, Kaname Madoka, Tomoe Mami, Miki Sayaka, and Sakura Kyouko. Although Madoka is the focus of the series and we see quite a lot of character development on her end, each of the other magical girls has a detailed background for themselves (especially Homura). These characters all voiced brilliantly as well. Also, if you’re the type of person who’s a big fan of conserving weapons…don’t freak out when the characters start tossing weapons away. Finally, we have the mysterious Kyuubey. Originally introduced as a sort of ally, the creator of the magical girls, Kyuubey remains as a mysterious presence throughout the entire series, with unknown intentions and allegiances (kill it with fire!).

Characters: 9/10

If you’ve seen Bakemonogatari, you won’t be so surprised with the animation style of this show. I’d describe it as different, but not so much in a bad way. The opening and ending themes are definitely outstanding, and the soundtrack has plenty of tracks that are memorable. The music fits the mood very nicely, giving the show a mystical sort of feel.

Animation: 8/10

Music: 9/10

Long story short: this story twists the magical concept so much that you start to question whether it can really be put in the same group as the others. And if you’re looking for tentacle rape, then I’m sorry, but you’ll have to look elsewhere. This show is definitely one that shouldn’t be judged so easily. I’m annoyed that I was so biased against it to begin with. Some may say it’s too short, and I’m almost inclined to agree, but honestly, I think the length is just fine. I’d definitely recommend this show to just about anyone.

Final Score: 10/10

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Chihayafuru Episode 10

The day of the Tokyo regionals. Naturally, Kanade is a bit excited about everyone wearing hakama (even if they’re the only ones). Tsutomu gets a bit depressed that he can’t take a card, but Nishida later reveals that he was paired up with the strongest player. He realizes that the team is focusing on Taichi, Nishida, and Chihaya, and throwing away Tsutomu and Kanade’s matches.

Things become even more complicated when Kanade wins a match. Tsutomu finally snaps and tries to go home, but Taichi convinces him to stay for the finals. Chihaya is shaken by Tsutomu’s outburst and starts to lose her edge in the next game, even losing her own card. Tsutomu hears about Chihaya’s performance and rushes to the game.

Taichi realizes his role and manages to reassure everyone through their games, which results in victory. Taichi is surprisingly perceptive. He makes a good leader (with Chihaya for motivation). I think the next episode will determine a lot of things. With these sorts of shows, there are the more common styles where the main character’s team just keeps winning up to the championships, like in Saki, or the style where the main character’s team loses the major tournament, but finds another path to their goal. I’m curious to see how this show approaches it.

Phi Brain – Kami no Puzzle Episode 10

This week’s episode starts off with Takeda from the Puzzle Club participating in a puzzle game show and losing to the puzzle of Elena. Meanwhile, Gyamon is in a puzzle battle against an Antoinette (…it’s Elena), but they’re interrupted when he drags her out to save her from some men in suits.

Later, the POG’s president orders Elena to get rid of Kaito’s friends as a Giver, so she invites Gyamon to solve a puzzle. Kaito, Nonoha, and Gyamon find her at the set for the game show, where she recreates the puzzle from the show, but with Gyamon and Nonoha as parts of it.

Elena creates betrayal option for Kaito and his friends, revealing her lack of trust in people. However, Gyamon surprises her by attempting to sacrifice himself, but Kaito stops him. At the last second, Elena tries to stop the puzzle, fearing all three will die, but the POG president has overridden her access. However, Kaito solves the puzzle.

Gyamon sort of shines in this episode (hit that, Gyamon!). Definitely not the last we’ll see of Elena. It looks like they’ll all have to battle her again next week. It looked like she was turning to the good side this week, so she might join the cast as a recurring character. Her character annoys me a bit for some reason. She reminds me a bit of Kanon from The World God Only Knows. Maybe I’m just nuts.

Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai Episode 10

Picking up from last week’s episode, Momoyo starts to fight with Tachibana again while the other girls get stuck on the train trying to join her. Meanwhile, Yamato shows up riding Cookie. The two try to disrupt Saki’s data to give Momoyo better chance. Saki hacks Cookie and reverses the situation, but the other girls show up in time to save Yamato.

Everyone attacks, but Saki uses her data analysis to defeat them. However, Yamato surprises her and manages to hit her with Cookie’s sword. This isn’t enough, though, and Saki takes Yamato as a hostage. Tachibana then reveals that she used Momoyo to demonstrate her abilities. Momoyo tries to continue the fight, but the other girls stop her to protect Yamato.

Ageha suddenly arrives, providing a distraction for Momoyo to take Saki. Tachibana shoots anyway, and manages to escape with Saki. Momoyo finally snaps and tries to force everyone to stay away from Yamato, but they just point out that she rejected him.

I guess Momoyo finally admits that she likes Yamato. All out battle for Yamato now? It’s a bit annoying that the other girls don’t really get the spotlight in the fight scenes…they just kinda get owned. It’d be interesting if they each got their own fight. Yeesh…Yamato’s quite the popular guy, huh? Well, we’ll just have to see where this goes.

C Cube Episode 10

This week’s episode starts off with a murder of a young girl, who is stuffed into a box. She is presumably to be the target of Alice’s comment at the end of the episode last week. In response, Fear goes to see Alice with Konoha and Haruaki. Alice simply tells them that she will continue to kill and runs away. Everyone catches up to her and fight, but she collapses a building and escapes again.

With the continuing murders, Fear asks Kirika for help, but Kirika was given orders not to become involved with the Families at the start of the episode. Haruaki ends up going back to Kirika’s house with her when she collapses at school. While they’re alone, Kirika admits to being threatened by someone. She then asks him to watch her as her cursed tool breaks her bones. While this is happening, Fear notices Kuroe doing something strange, and later concludes that the victims are all related to Kuroe’s salon.

Kuroe? A murderer? Say it isn’t so! Surely there must be some sort of catch to this. Lolis can’t be evil, right? That aside, this episode was also an interesting look into the burdens of Kirika. Sigh…it looks very much like Haruaki will choose no one in the end, which makes me upset. Three more episodes left. Two to finish the arc and a fan service episode to finish it? That’s my prediction. Also, I’d like to repeat my earlier statement about the focus on boobs >.> There’s a limit, you know. One last question: Why did Konoha have blue hair???

Fate/Zero Episode 10

The return of Chibi Rin! There’s no stronger way to start an episode. The first part of this episode takes a step back to before Rin is sent away by Tokiomi. She’s upset about her father’s decision, but her father gives her a gift to make her feel better. Also, we find out that one of Rin’s friends went missing when Caster attacked Saber in the earlier episode.

Rin goes out to find her by herself and stumbles upon Ryuunosuke leading a bunch of kids somewhere. Rin ends up finding her friend, but she is unresponsive and Rin is caught by Ryuunosuke. He tries to use the bracelet that he used to hypnotize the other kids on Rin, but she is able to destroy it with her own prana, releasing everyone.

One of Caster’s tentacle monsters tries to attack Rin, but she is saved by Kariya (presumably because of his relationship with Sakura). Kariya then explains his situation to Rin’s mother, assuring her that Sakura is okay.

At first glance, this week’s episode looked like a step back into the calmer life of Chibi Rin, but it quickly ramps the action and the tension right back up again. I like that this series doesn’t have those sort-of filler episodes where the main characters are just messing around, like a beach scene or something like that. The tension is there and it stays there.

So, Kariya reveals that he isn’t completely insane…although we can’t be sure of his mental state. I was pretty impressed with Rin beating Ryuunosuke when I saw it. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that Ryuunosuke actually knows no magic and was only borrowing the power from Caster. Still, beating Caster’s bracelet is pretty impressive to say the least.

Based on the emblems in the preview, it’s possible the three kings are gonna duke it out next week. Should definitely be a sight to see. Why does this show have to take a break in the winter? I’m so upset.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 9

So, in response to last week’s pool fiasco, Yozora has everyone in the club wear their swimsuits for the day. Sena suggests that they all instead go to her summer home by the beach. Later, Sena calls Kodaka asking if he will come meet her father (and bring Kobato, of course).

When the two arrive, they meet Sena’s father, Tenma Kashiwazaki, and the family’s steward, Stella (who looks strangely similar to Sena for some reason). Tenma has a polite conversation with Kodaka about his father (the two were friends after all), but Kodaka suddenly overreacts when Tenma offhandedly calls his father “trash.”

Kodaka and Kobato end up staying for the night. While Sena is…with Kobato, Kodaka has a more private meeting with Tenma, who instantly gets drunk and passes out on Kodaka’s bed (lol what?). Kodaka is then forced to sleep in the same bed as Tenma.

Looks like Sena finally managed to omochikaeri Kobato. Also, naked Kobato and naked Sena at once and Kodaka still keeps his cool? What is this man? There seems to be a lot of suggestions of something between Kodaka and Yozora. I wonder if it’s something in their past or something in their future (if you know what I mean). The end of the series is rapidly approaching, so they’ll have to cover it soon. Well, I guess next week is the obligatory beach episode at Sena’s summer home, so it should be interesting.

Persona 4 Episode 9

Introducing Risette (aka Rise)! Basically, Rise is a pop idol who originally lived in Inaba. The episode starts with her announcing that she is going on a hiatus (and treating us with a new opening theme). When Rise returns to Inaba, she meets Yu when he returns her dropped cell phone.

When everyone gets together, they decide that if Rise is abducted, it will confirm their theory that the victims appear on TV, rather than being connected to Yamano. That night, Rise appears on the Midnight Channel. Everyone gets together to investigate at Rise’s family’s tofu shop. They warn Rise of the possibility of her abduction.

While trailing Rise, they see a suspicious character and give chase. While everyone else is occupied, Yu stays with Rise, talking with her about her fame and whatnot. She reveals that she is annoyed at the fake persona of her that others see (see what I did there?). That night, Rise still shows up on the Midnight Channel.

Yu finds out that Rise is transferring into their school the next day and helps her elude the paparazzi. He also witnesses Rise’s conversation with her manager, who informs her that another idol, Kanami has replaced her for a role in a movie. Yu tries to talk with her, but she just runs away.

Yeah…we weren’t staring at Rise’s Shadow, right? Anyways, Rise’s story is pretty standard for an idol, but I did end up going for her relationship route on my second playthrough. I still can’t recall the beef bowl delivery in the game, but it is so epic! This episode was admittedly less silly than the other episodes, but it’s actually plot, so who knows? Rie Kugimiya’s voice for Rise in that scene with Yu and Rise was such a treat.

Back to the discussion of game mechanics, I just wanted to point out that in the game, you could unlock a different form for each Persona. You do this by getting their social links up to max. Naturally, this second form is stronger, and usually gets rid of their weaknesses, but that’s beside the point. I’m wondering how the anime will incorporate this, if even attempts to do so (I’m very hopeful). Mostly, I wonder because I like most of the second forms over the originals (especially Susano-o over Jiraiya).

Anyways, a new Persona in the group next week, but is that it? What if there’s a new character next week as well? I don’t know how their gonna do the episodes, but if I remember the game correctly, there should be a new character pretty soon if not next week. Also, Rise’s dungeon is kinda…well…yeah. So…yeah…I don’t what to say about it. Just look forward to it, okay?

Guilty Crown Episode 8

So this week Gai organizes a trip for Shu and some of his classmates so that Shu can take the opportunity to draw out Shouta’s Void for a mission. Naturally, this leads to the obligatory beach episode (as well as some jealousy from one of Shu’s female classmates in reaction to Inori in a swimsuit).

While they’re enjoying themselves, Shu goes to visit the grave of his father. Gai suggests that Shu use Inori to draw out Shouta. Shu originally refuses, but changes his mind later. Shouta ends up trying to confess to Inori, but Shu interrupts him and draws out his Void.

As everyone is infiltrating the facility, another man enters using an ID card for Shu’s father. Gai, Shu, and Inori reach the target to find that it has already been taken by the other intruder, identified as Keido. Souta ends up forgiving Shu because he realizes Shu is finally giving him his true feelings.

Tsugumi in a maid outfit…probably one of the few good things about this episode (as well as the…scenes with Inori). I dunno…Gai just isn’t enough to make this show like Code Geass. I guess the girls are better, but I never really cared that the girls in Code Geass were lackluster because Lelouch and the plot were epic enough to compensate. Does this show seem like it’s lacking because I’m comparing it to Code Geass even now, or is it just legitimately falling under? I’m not gonna lie. The music: absolutely great. The female characters: very nice. Shu: makes me wanna kill myself.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Endings

So this is a topic that I’ve always found interesting. Before I go on, let me clarify that I mean endings in the sense of “ending a series”, not the songs at the end of an episode. What constitutes a good ending? Or are endings so bad that putting one in an anime is undesirable? Personally, I’m a huge fan of endings, and I have trouble watching things that have no foreseeable end (with notable exceptions like The World God Only Knows).

What do I look for in an ending? Well, I find that hard to say sometimes. I could make a list of the endings that I did and didn’t like, but I have trouble coming up with a category for them all. Granted, it’s hard to talk about specific endings without spoilers, so I’ll keep it general.

I’m a big fan of the “just as planned” ending (to clarify, an ending that turns out to be all part of the plan). I don’t really like harem endings. I’d much rather the main character just choose someone. I’m also not a huge fan of the ending that’s not really an ending (“it’s only the beginning”).

That last example brings me to a different point. What constitutes an ending? Plot resolution? Because if so, Bleach ended ages ago. No more episodes? Because then we fall into the trap of “just kidding! More episodes! Also, is the ending the last episode? The final episode could very well be an epilogue. So maybe the final confrontation is more appropriate. But then what about the shows that have multiple epilogue episodes after the final battle?

If anything, I think that the most important thing for an ending is that I don’t see it coming. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily hate an ending just because I didn’t know what was going to happen (for example, love stories like Kanon). I think that most people would agree that seeing events unfold exactly like you pictured them to is a bit dull, so plot twists are usually pretty welcome.

Alternatively, maybe it’s not the ending, but the buildup to the ending that makes it great. Even if the ending was what you originally thought it would, maybe the journey to that ending was so convoluted that it made you doubt that prediction for a bit. Or maybe the ending came out of nowhere and gave meaning to everything in the buildup that you thought was so dull. I admit that I definitely like to see these sorts of things because unpredictable can become predictable after a while.

So there. I’ve made my case and I’ve made my query. What does everyone think? As before, feel free to point it out if you think I’m just rambling randomly. Hopefully I can keep this type of post steady. I’ve got some ideas, but who knows how well I’ll be about to articulate them. Tell me what you think…or else Fear will curse you.

On last thing: What was your favorite ending? (again, not music)