Tag Archives: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Magica #4: Depictions of Gratuitous Violins

Madoka ep4 (20)

Thought: does the magical girl genre exist in the world of Madoka Magica? We can assume that anime does, given that Sayaka references anime tropes when she’s joking around in the first episode, but apart from that the only media we’ve seen the characters interact with is music (both pop and classical). Do the characters in-universe have any concept of what a “magical girl” is before they meet one/become one? It’s not entirely clear. Which is odd, in a way, since having pop culture set a precedent that real life does not match up to would lend a degree of social commentary—in a “television is not preparing our children for the harshness of reality” sort of way—to the series. After all, if you’re going to take familiar tropes apart (and here, clearly the subversion of familiar tropes is for the benefit of the genre-aware audience, rather than the characters themselves) you may as well use that process to make some sort of point.

Maybe it’s too early to be diving into that sort of discussion. It’s just something that blipped across my mind while I wondered where exactly this ideal image of a magical girl that Mami worked so hard to display, and her friends admired so much, came from. Are they taking cues from media? From history, perhaps, given that Kyuubey’s been making contracts since early human civilisation? From a logical combination of society’s ideal visions of femininity and society’s ideal vision of selfless heroism? The fact that Madoka’s setting seems to be some sort of deliberately ambiguous, slightly sci-fi, and architecturally stunning Anyplace isn’t helping. Do these characters exist in a bubble, a world vaguely recognisable as our own but effectively just a grand and beautifully-designed stage for this story to play out that’s isolated from any conception of actual society as we in the real world know it??

God. Anyway. This week we’re dealing with the wake of Mami’s untimely death, and everything is the worst. Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Watches

Madoka Magica #3: Let Them Eat Cake

Madoka ep3 (15)

Have I talked yet about how much I love the music in this show? Each track is distinctive and atmospheric, helping to set the tone of each individual scene and build a consistent otherworldly sense for the whole series. I especially enjoy ‘Sis Puella Magica’, which manages to be both beautiful and haunting, evoking a sense of simultaneous wonderment and foreboding that really does sum up the Madoka experience, and especially neatly reflects these first few episodes where we—and Madoka—are still figuring things out. And oh boy does that “mild sense of magical foreboding” come together this week.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Alex Watches

Madoka Magica #2: You Can’t Fight Crime If You Ain’t Cute

Madoka ep2 (14)

After a handy, abridged flashback to the fight scene at the end of the previous episode, Madoka wakes up wondering once again if it was all a dream… until she glances over and sees a pink-eyed Devil Kitty sitting on the shelf with her toys. To her credit, her immediate instinct isn’t to scream and fling the creature across the room, which means she has more resolve than me.

Given that these are spoileriffic analyses, I want to take a moment to talk about Kyuubey. They (er… it? Homura says “it”, and Mami says “he”, but let’s go with “they” for now) are pretty cleverly designed in terms of fitting all the technical hallmarks of a cute magical girl companion while also managing to use those same elements to be unnerving. Kyuubey has big eyes and a cat mouth, which should by all technicalities be adorable… but the unblinking, ever-staring red eyes and the fact that the mouth doesn’t move when they talk is uncanny and creepy. Kyuubey is small and fluffy and has those Neopets-esque ear extensions, which should be cuddly and cartoonish… but instead they just seem alien. Kyuubey speaks in a high-pitched cute voice, but the existential words they actually say create an unsettling dissonance. Even before we know Kyuubey is essentially the villain of the piece, everything about them is engineered to set the audience just a little bit on edge. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

Madoka Magica #1: Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made of These

Madoka ep1 (13)

The curtain rises on a strange and twisted wonderland, a young pink-haired girl running through a warped checkerboard landscape. This world is cold and silent, an unsettling mess of colour and pattern offering no solace. The girl finally finds a door, but on the other side is only more chaos: a strange upside-down monster hanging suspended in the stormy air over a destroyed city, locked in battle with another young woman. She is clearly magical, flying, fighting, but is also clearly in trouble. The pink-haired girl can only watch in horror… or can she? Amidst the floating rubble and thundering chaos a small creature appears and offers her a bargain, a chance to help, fixing her all the while with an unmoving catlike smile…

…aaaaaand snap, the pink-haired girl wakes up in a soft and sunny bedroom. Was all of that really just a dream?

And so begins Puella Magi Madoka Magica, 2017’s Big Summer Rewatch Project. Who’s excited to dive back into this world of magic, monsters, and metaphors? I know I am. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

A Journey Inside the Mind with Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers

flip flappers rabbit dreamworld

Have you ever wondered exactly what’s going on inside your friends’ heads? Of course you have. Have you ever wanted to take a surreal and frightening journey inside the physical manifestation of your friends’ thoughts, feelings, and worries? Maybe? No? Well, in these two series, you can!

Fiction provides us with a unique opportunity to see into the minds of others, in that we get to live out other people’s stories and lives and see the world through their point of view for a time. Fantasy and sci-fi elements that allow us to literally see into and interact with the minds of characters, such as the dream-diving in Paprika and Inception, take this a step further. Through literally venturing into a physical manifestation of another character’s mind, you can learn a lot about them that they may not show you on the surface, such as hidden insecurities and secret memories. And sure, as a writer you could get the same information across in a dream sequence that lets the audience see inside that character’s mind for a scene, but the act of physically entering someone else’s mental landscape is what I want to talk about today. It lets the other characters, rather than solely the audience, learn what’s going on in the subject character’s head, and does so in a way that also moves the plot forward and provides a physical adventure at the same time.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers are two series that, via magic, give their characters the opportunity to explore their co-cast members’ inner worlds, sending them all down a proverbial rabbit hole into surreal, symbolism-heavy, and often frightening landscapes that teach them (and the audience) something about their peers that they couldn’t have known before. The two series use a lot of the same tools, artistically speaking, but the consequences and emotional outcome of their heroes’ journeys into each other’s mindscapes is very different in each case.

Dream-dive to Lady Geek Girl for the full article!

2 Comments

Filed under Archetypes and Genre

The Problem with the Dark Magical Girl Genre

Sad Homura

Magical Girl Raising Project finished airing a few months ago, drawing its Battle Royale-esque death game to a close with most of its young, frill-clad, magical girl cast dead. It’s the expected outcome of anything that comes with that formula, but it’s an incredibly grim way to describe a magical girl show—shows that are, traditionally, at their hearts all about girls banding together to support each other and saving the world with the power of love and friendship. Murder and despair are normally nowhere near the magical girl archetype, but that’s changing in some recent and disturbing developments.

Read the full post on Anime Feminist!

Author’s notes: WOOHOO! This piece has been in development for a long time owing to both AniFem still growing and getting onto its feet as a website, and owing to the amount of tireless and passionate editing and re-outlining it was put through in collaboration with Caitlin and AniFem’s editor in cheif, the stellar Amelia Cook. The result is the beautiful analytical 3,000+ word beastie you see before you, which I have to say I’m immensely proud of.

In the Patreon link to this post, AniFem says “We’ve linked to Alex’s work on The Afictionado before, and this definitely won’t be her last piece for Anime Feminist!” which a) fills me with all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings of a “senpai noticed me” variety, and b) has me excited to get on board and contribute to this website more as it grows. Watch this space!

Never laid eyes on AniFem before? Here are some of my favourite pieces:

“Your Name”: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines by Hannah Collins, a review and picking-apart of the blockbuster Your Name.

Straight Guys!!! on ICE by Amelia Cook, a look into Yuri!!! on ICE’s references to actual queer skaters and queer culture, and (in the wake of episode 7) lamenting  the fact that homophobic fans were bending over backwards to deny the “gayness” of Yuri and Victor’s relationship, and lamenting that LGBTQ+ fans had to bend over backwards in turn to try and justify their stance.

Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shoujo romance by Amelia Cook. Well, the title really says it all–an in-depth analysis of Kiss Him, Not Me! and the incredibly skeevy “romance” tropes it has been playing into of late, and what that means for the genre.

She and Her Cat and her story by Dee, a heartstring-tugging review of She and Her Cat.

Why aren’t problematic translations fixed? by Amelia Cook (if you couldn’t tell by now, she’s both editor in chief and a writing juggernaut), in which I drag my hands down my face and ask why the hell the supposedly progressive American industry would bend sideways to take implied gay out of Dragon Maid (and other such examples).

And the one that started it all, How fan service can attract or repel an audience, and how to tell the difference by Lauren Orsini. Interesting and on-point thoughts.

Also, their podcast about Utena was super fun, even if I myself haven’t watched the show yet. Looking forward to seeing what else Chatty AF covers in future!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Things We Need to Stop Doing

The Pretty Cure for All This Gritty Nonsense

Go! Princess Precure

I’ve written a few posts on here about magical girls and how important they are, so it was with a bit of a shock that I realised, apart from my beloved W.I.T.C.H. comics, a few out-of-order chunks of Sailor Moon I caught on TV as a kid, and Puella Magic Madoka Magica, I hadn’t actually… watched that many. Of course, most of this is because my pre-and-early-teen self broke out in hives at even the implication that a show or book was girly (the dread scourge!!). Perhaps sitting down and periodically bingeing all 50 episodes of Go! Princess Precure with CP is a kind of retrospective remedy for that, but mostly, it’s just been ridiculous fun. And it’s made me think more about the genre, and balk a bit at  Madoka (specifically, the movie continuations) and how they take great pride in being deliberately gritty deconstructions that kind of… kick the breath out of the entire point of magical girls.

Go! Princess Precure is 2015’s instalment in the Precure (or Pretty Cure, or PreCure, or Cute Girls Save the World With Perfume All Year Every Year and Sell Millions of Toys in the Process) series; the story of three (later four) young girls who gain the powers of the Princess Precure to battle an evil kingdom of despair. They transform with the power of Princess Perfume and Dress Up Keys, gaining frilly skirts and Big Hair, and for their final attacks they go into Elegant Mode and earn themselves enormous ballgowns. They exhibit the true traits of princesses: beauty, inner strength, kindness, delicacy, and above all hope and love and determination to follow their dreams. It’s ridiculous, adorable, and genuinely engaging and well-put-together (kids’ shows can be like that—who knew?). Also strangely relaxing, which I realised was only strange to me because, again, the magical girl show I’m most familiar with is bloody Madoka Magica, where the most openly determined and hopeful magical girl warrior gets her head bitten off three episodes in. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under And I Think That's Neat, Archetypes and Genre