I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but now feels to be the best time to complete it. As my many avatars, posts, research, translations, imports, and news attest, I am a immense fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya series. But why this series? Aren’t there better series that can be used as examples of why anime is great, much less ones that would appeal to a broader audience? I’ll get back to the former and yes to the latter. I can’t deny that Haruhi is not technically the greatest series. In fact it has quite a few flaws in comparison to other series but it holds much more significance to me. This is why I’m a Haruhi fanatic.
Considering the uproar that is the Puella Magi Madoka Magica franchise and the fact that it just ended last week, it’s no surprise that this past weekend was dominated by conversation about the finale and what it meant both as a show and to anime in general. Pre-orders are astonishing not just for the Blu-Rays, but for the DVDs as well. Even HMV, a giant retailer in Japan, has doubted whether or not they have enough copies to meet demand for the first volume. There is no doubt that demand for Madoka is at an incredible level, both domestically in Japan and internationally.
We’ve entered another world. This is SHAFTLAND!
Over my vacation, my good friend skorpigeist and I marathoned the series as it finished. I’m not a fan of magical girl shows and after seeing the designs for the characters in Madoka I had no interest in starting the series. Since skorp is a fan of Shaft’s animation style and I had heard many positive things about the series, we decided to marathon it when neither of us had seen it before to give a fresh viewing for both of us. Honestly, my faith in the show was so low that I still say that marathon was the only way I’d be able to watch it. So that’s the gist of my disclaimer: I went into the series not expecting to like it at all.
I wish I was animated by a studio that was able to put works out on time!
To begin, I’ll say that Madoka is a rare show that I like more and more as time passes. Initially, I was ready to give it a 6 or worse on my scale as the first two episodes were very weak and the show dips after episode 3 as well, but episode 10 single-handedly saved the show for me. While skorp and I made several jokes at Shaft’s expense (or lack of), this was the only episode at which we kept quiet for the entire way through. I was nearly afraid to finish the series as 10 left me with such a great feeling.
If I had to choose for her, I’d choose to move to K-On! At least that’s safe and full of tea.
Madoka lacks in characters that I personally could become attached to. There’s not a single character in the show that I can say with 100% certainty that I like. The closest one was Mami and we all know what happened to her. Even still, the plot is well developed enough that it didn’t even matter about attachments. Madoka walks a tight line between realistic portrayals of what a normal girl would do as well as what a magical girl show would do in that same situation and makes it work. Even the twist about bodies and souls is well done to be believable yet unordinary.
Homera really needs to take better care of her hair; those split ends are awful!
So with so much against it, and only episode 10 that really impressed me, why did the show appeal to me so much? It’s the rare show that is incredibly well done from beginning to end. While my opinion of the first couple of episodes is rather negative, they are needed for the show to positively progress. They lead you to believe everything’ll be alright in the end and then take away the happy ending early. The ending is logical and is both well-hinted at and somewhat surprising about Madoka becoming immensely powerful. The immense anticipation that is built to finally see Madoka make her contract is masterfully done. We see many many chances for her to become a magical girl as well as her outfit in the opening and promotional images, but it’s only in episode 10 that we finally are rewarded by her presence in the official show. With how much we had to wait, it’s believable that her power is on an immense level.
I can’t even joke about how much time it must’ve taken to set all of this up due to her power!
Visually, I like everything but the actual characters. The contrast between the ordinary world and the witches’ lairs is absolutely great in its wildness. Being modeled after the respective girls is a great visual delight and makes it personal for each time. The rest of the city is well shaded and is near the top of Shaft’s works in quality. This is better than anything I’ve seen from them so far.
May the power of Shaft propel you!
So, I can’t say that I’d import this show from Japan right now, but I may end up getting a used copy one day. It’s a show that will be marked as one of the “must-see” series if you are an anime fan and deservedly so. I can’t say it’s just one thing that makes it all worthwhile, but the entire series visually, musically, and writing-wise combine to have a great hit. At the end of the day I feel glad that I watched it and that’s the best thing anyone can say about a show.
Over the past couple of months I’ve made a few comments on blog posts about what I consider to be the worst force in personal opinions: nostalgia. Nostalgia, coming from the greek words nostos -returning home and algia -longing) is something that is present in nearly everyone. There are many times where we remember something and think about the good emotions that are associated with that memory; that would be a classic case of nostalgia.