type_wild: (Tea - Masako)
[personal profile] type_wild
So I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica and I definitely think it would've been better if it wasn't so hyped, by which I of course mean that my expectations were high and this didn't live up to them, which of course isn't a fault in the series itself.

The moeblog character design, though? THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

First off, this isn't a bad anime and moreover, it's 12 episodes. It's also probably something of a classic at this point, so go watch it if you haven't. It's got some really pretty music and does some funky things with the animation at times, so there's that, too.

Content-wise... well, I'll assume that you know what I knew when I sat down to watch it, namely that it is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. Summary: Our Heroine Madoka meets a New Transfer Student, and later that day runs into her again, this time brutally trying to kill Rabbitcat, this series' Token Magical Sidekick Appointing Magical Girls.

Transfer Student stops when Madoka and her BFF protect it, but gives a clear warning: Stay the fuck away from that thing.

Rabbitcat then explains that it has the power to turn Madoka and BFF into ~Magical Girls (tm)~ and doing so, grant each of them any wish they put forth. A regular Magical Girl anime would have Madoka and BFF jump at the chance. Tellingly, in this one... they start pondering if it's really worth all the danger and secrecy and stuff. And I'll leave it there, since more would be spoilers! But rest assured that there's lots of battles with huge guns and female bonding that looks really gay.

The big problem I have with this series is - as mentioned - the reception. I'm shallow enough to admit that the character design alone would be reason enough for me not to watch this if it hadn't been lauded as being a revolutionary take on the genre and, indeed, a clever deconstruction of it. And while Madoka Magica is a fine story and certainly touches onto some new ideas that I haven't seen elsewhere, it never got around to doing any reasonable criticism of the Magical Girl genre as I know it.

I'm a bit hesitant about going too loudly into this, because my familiarity with the Magical Girl genre consists of Cardcaptor Sakura, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, a few episodes of Sailor Moon and some sad three-volume affair called Time Stranger Kyoko. If we discount Sailor Moon which I've only seen bits of and Utena which isn't Magical Girl, just borrows some of its visual tropes, and... you know, I'm tempted to not count Tutu either, seeing that the setting and as such pretty much the entire plot places this miles away from standard magical girl fare... then I've seen Cardcaptor Sakura and some series no-one else has heard about! (and also W.I.T.C.H. If that counts.) So I shouldn't really be talking, yet here we are.

Are there things that can be deconstructed within the Magical Girl genre? Oh, for sure. Like what kind of saint would a twelve year old girl have to be to NOT use her powers for some pettiness like getting out of homework or punishing the mean girls in school? Just how mentally equipped are pubertal middle-schoolers for saving the world anyway? What happens to Magical Girls when they grow up? What would their parents say? What about the government?

But these are not the questions that Madoka Magica answers. It doesn't point out any ignored problems that should logically fuck up the life of any magical girl; it creates problems specific to its own mythology and uses THAT for being grimdark. In short: Puella Magi Madoka Magica IS a dark look at what happens when a group of teenage girls are given the power to fight evil. But it isn't dark BECAUSE these girls are given the power to fight evil, it is dark because of specific conditions inside this specific universe. To the extent that Madoka Magica is to be read as a criticism of the Magical Girl genre, then it's a criticism of it being cute and fluffy. Which is about as meaningful as criticing fantasy for being about magic or musicals for having the characters break into song.

Date: 2017-04-06 03:13 pm (UTC)
gramarye1971: Punie Tanaka from Dai Mahou Touge, looking satisfied in front of a burning Tokyo Tower (Dai Mahou Touge: Tora Tora Tora)
From: [personal profile] gramarye1971
Nodding along with your criticisms of this series, and this is where I actually recommend watching the third PMMM movie, Rebellion (since movies 1 and 2 are plain retellings of the TV series). It comes a lot closer to deconstructing a pretty central magical girl trope -- the sense that true love is always about selfless sacrifice for the greater good, and that selfless love is the strongest force in the universe. Without too many spoilers, in Rebellion we see that there are limitations to the power of selfless love...and that in the TV series, Homura never actually got her wish fulfilled, so what would happen if she fully embraced her desire to protect Madoka in the first place and took it to its logical conclusion?

Overall, PMMM is just dark magical girls, not some completely revolutionary revisioning of the genre. A lot of people hated Rebellion when it first came out because they felt like it killed the ending of the original series. I actually like Rebellion more than the TV series, because it does push the edges of the genre a little more forcefully than the series did.

Also, for an interesting comedic subversive take on the magical girl princess trope, I am fond of the brutal Dai Mahou Touge / Magical Witch Punie-chan, a short parody series in which the sweet magical princess who comes to Japan as a transfer student is really the heir to her mother's tyrannical empire and destroys her enemies with unashamed physical violence. Oh, and her cute fluffy mascot is also a chain-smoking ex-mercenary who is constantly trying to murder her to break the magical contract she imposed upon him after beating the crap out of him in hand-to-hand combat. It's not a deconstruction, but it does twist a lot of the familiar tropes around until they scream, which I do enjoy. (The manga it's based on also contains some pretty pointed satire of Japanese politics, which is always my jam.)


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