There’s no hiding it - - my experience with anime’s whole “magical girl” genre is woefully limited. That’s why I bring on people like Sam and Nick T. to this site who’re serious aficionados. I even had the other Nick do a whole editorial on a recent series that sounded like a post-modern, slightly-meta reinterpretation of the genre on the order of horror-deconstructions like SCREAM. That series, of course, was MODOKA MAGICA and, upon watching it for myself, I suppose BUFFY would be better a comparator, because this very much seems like an anime directed by Joss Whedon.
It’s not just about the girl power, of course. The characters in this story are all quite aware of the genre they’re in, citing how they don’t want to fall into its tropes in the very way that the “Scooby Gang” would recognize potential pitfalls from all the horror flicks they watched. Likewise, the whole switcheroo about the one spooky new classmate seeming to be bad’un, but actually turning out to be good’un, felt like it’d been constructed by somebody with an extensive understanding of how such scenarios typically play out in these types of stories.
Even the dream opener was exciting in the way that so many “false starts” fall so short of being. I can just imagine the director checking off a list of things that frustrate him when a series opens with a dream sequence, saying, “Let’s make sure it feels like it’s actually got high stakes. Let’s make sure it actually relates to what’s coming next in the real world,” and so on.
The kind of attention to the detail and potential drawbacks even extends to these girls’ classroom. I’ve already started growing tired of seeing the exact same scenery in all these high school-set shows, and I bet the director is too, because this outlandish high school is actually something I enjoy looking at, rather than hoping the characters get out of, right away.
I’m kind of intrigued to continue with this... but maybe I’m too late to the party? What do you lunatics think? Is there more to be observed about MADOKA MAGICA?
Watch this episode, "I First Met Her in a Dream, or Something...” here and decide for yourself.