The other day, I found myself discussing the Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime with Okazu Superhero and good friend Bruce. We agreed that, for us, the sign of excellence in a series could be boiled down to one quality – the ability to withstand continuing critical review. No matter what angle you take, Revolutionary Girl Utena can withstand critical review – it has a lot of material to discuss, to analyze, to critique and criticize. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, as much as I adore it…really doesn’t hold up well under critical review. The repeated footage is not meant symbolically or ironically – it was just a money saver. The Monsters of the Day are not clever social commentary. Yes, the Senshi themselves are archetypes, but that’s about as far as one can take a discussion of Sailor Moon, before one has to invoke its effect on increasing the market for shoujo manga, or rely on discussion of shoujo tropes. By this standard then, both Bruce and I felt that the Madoka anime was excellent. It holds up under critical review of plot, character or visuals.
One of the key visual elements of the anime was Kyuubey’s unchanging face. It was that – and solely that – that was the first screaming red siren for me. He’s cute, carefully crafted to have an honest, open, trustworthy face. Everything about Kyuubey screamed “RUN!” at me. Which is why I wrote this helpful guide What You Need to Know To Become a Magical Girl, which so many people completely failed to understand.
Which of course, is the very basic premise of Madoka. We need to learn to think critically. Not cynically, not paranoically…critically. We need to learn to ask good questions to get good answers – and we need to learn to understand the answers we receive.
In Volume 2 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sayaka becomes the second sacrifice to lack of critical thinking skills. What questions might she have asked if she was older, more experienced or wiser? What might she have heard – both said and unsaid – in the answers she received? But we cannot blame Sayaka, really, or Madoka. They are children, being manipulated by a creature with the balance of power and information on his side. And this brings me to the only comment I have about this book. The art ruined it. The whole point of Kyuubey is that we never know what he is thinking, that we only ever see that trustworthy face. By giving him an “evil” face at the end of the volume, the manga artist has crushed one of the key visual elements of the story, rendering it a comic for children, not for adults. Volume 3 will play out as we already know it must, but I no longer trust the manga to tell the tale well enough to hold up under critical review.
Art – 5
Story – 6, but only because the art has positioned itself as an enemy to the plot
Characters – 6
Yuri – 1
Service – 2
Overall – 5
Many, many thanks to Okazu Superhero Andreas L for giving me the chance to look at this manga critically. ^_^