Any of you lunatics catch the Shaft brand rocket launchers that Homura summons for her duel with Walpurgisnacht? The notion of an animation studio branching out into munitions - - or, on the same token, an arms company dabbling in 'toons - - just tickles my black heart.
Barring an awful final episode, I feel confident about putting MADOKA MAGICA onto my list of favorite anime. It’s one of those rare titles that engages both the cerebrum and the viscera, as it were - - a show giving you something more challenging to chew on whilst still satisfying all the fundamentals you expect from an action-adventure. Honestly, I feel like the latter has to be particularly emphasized in this balance. Lord knows I’ve written-up plenty of anime with no shortage of fascinating ideas, but more storytelling shortcomings than I’d like to put up with (CASSHERN SINS, C-CONTROL, et al).
Thinking about it, I’d say that the secret of this balance really comes down to the number of “offers” being presented in each episode. That’s a term Sam pulled from improv when he was describing his frustration with CODE GEASS’ conceptually over-cooking, and it’s apt to describe why MADOKA MAGICA works for me. Each episode is structured like a paragraph in a well-written essay, with a focus on one distinct point that builds on the previous paragraph’s point and advances the overall argument of the piece.
Go back over these episodes, and you’ll notice that mind-blowing surprises are steadily paced. The episode with Maya’s death reveals that this Magical Girl business isn’t all fun and games. Another episode has the shocker that the girls have actually agreed to put their souls into these gems. Another episode uses Sayaka’s dramatic heel turn to reveal that the witches are actually all corrupted Magical Girls. Each one has a clear idea and a surprise that re-contextualizes everything that’s come before. This time, it’s the secret origin that Homura’s been at this for a very long time and her actions have actually contributed to Madoka being the “chosen one” that she is.
It’s very sharp writing. The last show I noticed doing this was CLAYMORE, and that’s actually a little unfortunate, since that show rather disappointingly went off the rails at the end. Coincidentally, or not, that series was also about young women making life-altering sacrifices to become powerful warriors who'd constantly face the threat of mutating into the very monsters they hunted.
Having written all of this out, I’m starting to think the point/surprise of the finale will be a nasty coup de grâce that sees Madoka turning into Walpurgisnacht and being sent back in time by Homura to start this awful business all over again. It'd be the mother of all tragic, cyclical conclusions, certainly - - but none of you are seriously expecting a happy ending for this, are you?