Hello, dear readers!
After re-watching Madoka Magica made me all fired up about wanting to do a proper review for the show. I’m focusing solely on the first While I’ve done a review for this show before, re-watching the anime made me want to examine the tone in this I know that I’ve done a review for this TV show before–at least a year ago–but re-watching it makes me want to do a proper review, this time specifically focusing on the tone that the show has to offer.
The Magica Quartet focuses on five girls, all middle-school age. Madoka, our protagonist, is a cheery, caring girl who wears a lot of pink. Her best friend, Sayaka (Sigh-aka), is just as youthful and upbeat. She’s a tomboy, and a romantic. Kyoko shows up a little later in the series, but her presence in the anime is just as constant as the food she’s eating. Homura, who is the show’s mysterious character, is trying to stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl, for reasons that the audience doesn’t know until much later in the anime’s progression.
The Tone of the Opening
At first glance, this show is highly deceiving. It looks very girly, taking the middle-school age into consideration, as well as projecting an image of innocence.
At first glance, the original opening looks, sounds, and feels happy. There’s an emphasis on the girly-ness of the anime. It’s got bright colors, featuring the color pink–the color of Madoka’s clothes throughout most the show. Without knowing anything about the anime, you’d probably expect a slice of life piece, in which super cute girls hang out, deal with the drama of school, and talk about (and maybe even date!) cute boys. Oh, and they will probably go shopping on the weekends and have tea parties in their cool, pretty dresses. Coming to a screen near you!
The English translation of the opening focuses on the transitional period that Madoka and her friends are experiencing–they are going through puberty, a time in which their bodies and minds are maturing. The opening song is both a love song/ode to friendship promises and a narrative about making a shift from childhood into adolescence. Modoka is starting to experience low self-esteem and doubt herself for the first time since childhood, but her friendship (and possible romantic interest) in Homura reassures her of her own strengths and abilities. With Homura’s help, Madoka begins to reclaim her childhood optimism, believing that she can “fly onward into that blue sky,” the blue sky of her childhood hopes and dreams. Nothing can stop her from achieving her goals.
The opening also ties into Madoka’s role as a magical girl. The more Madoka learns about what is truly means to become a magical girl, the darker the sky grows above her. She doubts whether or not she can help her friends, like Homura and Sayaka, due to their pessimism and cold acceptance of their fate. But, because of Homura’s strength and her insistence that Madoka “stay as [she is]” as a person, Madoka delays her role until she’s absolutely sure of what she wants to wish for when making her contract. By delaying her role as a magical girl, Madoka reaches her full potential, shocking even Kyubey (pronounced Kew-bae) with the power of her wish. Only by delaying her wish, as well as learning the history that she and Homura share, does the sky regain its blue hue.
The Tone of the Ending
The ending sequence to the show is massively different from the opening. In the ending, there’s much more emphasis on the romantic undertones, as well as a heightened sense of urgency that is absent in the opening “Connect.”
The ending appeals much more to the strife that Madoka and her friends are facing as magical girls. Madoka keeps running away from her fellow magical girls, slipping through Homura’s fingers as she desperately tries to keep her friend (and possible love interest) safe from becoming a magical girl. The darkness, contrasted with the bright colors and the running outlines of Homura and Madoka, makes the situation much more urgent. Madoka and Homura are running towards their destiny’s, which is fighting Walpurgisnacht (pronounced with a V), while the other girls seem to be sitting in either resting or defeated poses.
With the English translation, there’s an emphasis on the connection that Homura and Madoka share as girlfriends (both as potential romantic interests and as friends), since Homura misses seeing and fighting “side by side . . . just like heroes do” with Madoka. Homura also seems to give a reason for her cynical attitude, as well as her wavering optimism: because she’s had to relive the same months over and over again, only to have it end in “darkness,” while Madoka remains constantly optimistic, kindling a “hope of saving the world” even though their situation worsens. Yet, Homura strives to “see/Darkness [give] way to clarity,” which I take to mean that, through her many time travels, and failed endings, she knows just what it takes to try and keep Madoka from ever becoming a magical girl.
The romantic love interest aspect can be read into in the lines “Night after night I would cry as I dreamed of you,” as well as the line, “Even though our dreams played like fairy tales,/righting wrongs with a smile you’d never fail,” due to the loneliness suggested in the first line, which feels a little deeper than just missing a good friend. With the second line, there’s the sense of young love, as well as the notion that Homura remembers quite clearly how Madoka smiled. It was Madoka’s smile that changed the situation, and very possibly changed the way Homura looked at the world.
In part two, I’ll look at how the tone of the anime changes, through the skillful use of innocence.
Thanks for reading,