Last summer at Comiket, the folks who brought us Puella Magi Madoka Magica put together a two-volume novel series for the franchise through Nitroplus books. Okazu Superhero Zyl sent me those books, and after a lot o’reading, I’ve finally made my way through the first of them. I was in Kinokuniya this past week and I got a chance to look at Puella Magi Madoka Magica – The Beginning Story, (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ The Beginning Story) and it does appear to be the exact same story, so you can buy it now in Japanese, or in English when Yen Press releases it.
The novel follows the anime pretty closely and I honestly didn’t expect anything different. It picks up the day Akemi Homura transfers into Madoka’s class at school.
So…why bother reading it?
Obviously, if you thought Madoka was the most amazing thing you’d ever seen, this will be a great way to enjoy again it in a different format. But I think it’s worth taking a look at anyway, even if you didn’t think that. (If you hated the series, then, no, don’t bother. ^_^)
I find that I have enough distance from the anime that I don’t remember certain things happening, or things that I do remember have not, but I imagine that the inconsistency lies with my imperfect memory.
More interestingly, since the book is told from Madoka’s point of view, we’re getting more information about her state of mind, and less about the other characters, which skews the perspective slightly from that of the anime. In fact, the book corrects something I feel strongly detracts from my enjoyment of many books – the lack of existence outside the confines of the story.
So often when I pick up a book these days, the characters are presented as if they never existed before the story began and as if they will all disappear after the story ends. They have no childhood, no memories at all that exist before the beginning of the story. There’s a lack of depth that is resoundingly obvious in writing like this. An author may never have cause to mention the protagonist’s favorite color, but ought, in my opinion, to know it. If the character is real, he or she has memories, stories, existence beyond just the confines of the story. How did Yuriko spend her fourth birthday? Sulking, because her mother bought her a pretty dress and she had gone outside to play in it, got it dirty and was yelled at. It doesn’t matter, that will never ever come up in the story, but I know it, because Yuriko is a character whose existence is not defined solely by the boundaries of the stories about her.
Madoka has memories of childhood. She can remember when she met Sayaka, and therefore, what Sayaka means to her. She has dreams that make her question reality, she has opinions about her mother’s career and life, and she loves – and likes – her little brother. She is very close to being three dimensional, even in a story that doesn’t need her to be. For this reason alone, I’d recommend reading the novel.
(The more I acquaint myself with Madoka, the more I am reminded of Nanoha, another magical girl for guys series, in which the characters are remarkably well thought out and given depth.)
As a stand alone book, it’s surprisingly well-written. Unlike some light novels based on games or anime and which really are meant for the already existing audience, this one could very well stand on its own. I’d even go so far as to consider it a good YA book, except for that thing that happens, you know the one. (Oh god, please don’t go and spoil it in the comments, I won’t abide that. It’s tedious in any case and not at *all* clever.) But with YA books these days being all about “dark” and all, and since I don’t have kids and if I did, yes, I’d let them read this, I say it’s a pretty good YA book. ^_^
Ratings: Overall – 8
Many, many thanks to Zyl for the hours of reading pleasure!