A Review of a Review: SF Debris on Madoka Magica
If there is one thing I enjoy as much as watching films and television series, it’s reading reviews of those films and television series. I’ve pored over the websites of Roger Ebert and Steven Greydanus, among others, hoping to find a favorite movie or show extolled in prose far more witty and intelligent and eloquent than mine own (and also in the hope that some of their talent will rub off on me). A good review leaves you appreciating a favorite film even more than before, your head humming and sparking with newfound insights, analyses, and perspectives, and your heart warm with the knowledge that somewhere out there is someone else who appreciated this story as much as you did.
It was then, with great pleasure, that I recently discovered not one, but twelve such reviews. Chuck Sonnenburg over at SF Debris has done a twelve part review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, giving each episode about 10 minutes of consideration, analysis, and snark. His analysis of Madoka’s character has caused me to rethink my original view of her as somewhat dull and uninteresting compared to the rest of the cast; her characterization is just as strong, it’s simply more subtle. He makes a good distinction in the series between what is ‘dark’ and what is just realistic, something I think he is able to do better than many reviews because of his lack of knowledge of other magical girl cartoons. Most magical girl cartoons are unrealistically light and fluffy; against this storytelling tradition Madoka Magica looks comparatively dark and grim, but, as Mr. Sonnenburg points out, the show is often not descending into darkness so much as it is descending into reality. There is a great deal of thematic and plot analysis in these reviews that highlights the craft of the show’s creators, and really gives a deeper appreciation for the work. His analysis of the characters is likewise excellent. I particularly liked his interpretation of Kyoko’s eating habits as a means to stave off despair, and of the nature of her relationship with Sayaka as that of a protective older sister atoner rather than that of a potential romantic partner.
Watching Chuck warm up to the series and the characters as his reviews progress is an odd combination of fun and heartwarming. It’s like introducing a friend to a beloved series and watching them get more and more excited as it goes on. At the start of the reviews he states plainly that apart from a few movies he’s reviewed (Ghost in the Shell and Rebuild of Evangelion), he is not at all familiar with anime. For someone such as myself who grew up steeped in the stuff, these reviews were a rare chance for me to see a non-anime fan seriously reviewing an anime series. As such, when the credits roll on episode 12 and Mr. Sonnenburg delivers his final verdict, I found myself immensely impressed with the power a mere dozen episodes can hold; excellent anime is potent stuff indeed.
These reviews left me with an even greater appreciation for the series than I had before, and made me rethink some of my own views on the show; I’m looking forward to rewatching it soon, and looking forward to Chuck’s promised review of Madoka Magica: Rebellion. So if you’re looking for some great anime analysis, or want to refresh your memory of the series before watching Rebellion (review for that coming soon), check ’em out! (content advisory: Adult language and humor throughout. It’s pretty funny though.)