Monday, April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013? -- MAGICAL GIRLS FOREVER!

Yes sirree, Bob! The thrall of Madoka Month is TOO POWERFUL to be confined to just one month's worth of content! I know a thing or two about how to ride an idea well past its welcome, so from now on the rest of the year will be a celebration of the greatness that is Puella Magi Madoka Magica.


We begin this odyssey of despair and horror the only way I know how: Watching the movie. To begin, I'll be watching the copy of the first of three Madoka Magica movies using the legal copy I legally bought from Hong Kong. The inside of the case smells like formaldehyde!

So does the movie live up to the experience set forth by the series? Find out after the break!

In 2011, it was announced that Madoka Magica would be adapted into a movie trilogy, with the first two movies being a retelling of the anime series while the third movie would be made as an official sequel based off of ideas that were meant to be used for a second season of the anime.

Obviously, right? When has a second season of a really good anime ever turned out not okay?

When I heard that the first two movies were just re-tellings of the original, I was a little hesitant to tackle it for the review. Fortunately, since I decided to talk about Madoka for the rest of the year, that means my decision makes a little more sense, especially with the final movie in the trilogy set to come out later this year.

Fortunately, my fears were abated when I found out that this movie isn't just a rehash of the series. From what I saw, it's almost like I was watching a completely different story, a story that is a brilliant celebration of everything I've learned about magical girls over the course of my life.

Let's get started!

Well that title card's a bit busy for my tastes, but I have to admit that it's Pretty cool. PreCool, you might say. Unfortunately the only subtitles on this disc are in Chinese and my Mandarin is a bit rusty. My Japanese isn't much better, but I'm pretty sure that says "Puella Magi Madoka Magica".

Our story begins in a typical Japanese city as citizens go about their Japanese business. Their merriment is interrupted when a giant lizard begins to attack the city as a dark pall is cast over the town. Gojira attempts to destroy a Ferris wheel with a mighty fireball, but is stopped by a mysterious force.

Watch out evildoers: The magical girls are here to save the day!

This brings me to the first thing that makes this movie better than the original series: They take it in a fun, lighthearted new direction. I like how all the magical girls are working together to battle evil instead of trying to kill each other in fabulously-dressed turf-wars.

Look at them all go! Love the new outfits, girls! The more simplistic artistic direction of the original series seems to have been replaced by a more detailed, angular design approach. Interesting choice.

Hey, it looks like Kyubey and the gang even showed up to cheer the girls on. That's right: Kyubey is one of the good guys now, and he's anxious to show us that he's ready to make a difference to make sure that all the kids unite in jubilation to cheer on his magical girl friends as they battle evil! Throughout the movie, Kyubey shows up to ask the audience to cheer on the magical girls so that they know the world is rooting for them.

And it looks like it works, as the girls fight valiantly against the monster, expertly dodging fireballs and tendrils as they thrash the evildoer with the opening theme playing in the background. The intro to this movie isn't quite as catchy as the ClariS opening theme from the show, but it sets a triumphant tone that it's able to maintain throughout the narrative of this movie.

I can't get a good look at all of the magical girls, but I can't help but feel like some of them look familiar.

The monster is soon defeated and peace is soon restored in Japanese City, leaving them free to resume their urban fervor. Their job isn't over, however, as it looks like little pieces of monster goo are out bouncing around the city.

We cut to the next day, where the news is doing a special report on the battle between the monster and the magical girls. And that's when we meet the heroine of this story, the titular Madoka Kaname.

Admittedly a curious redesign of Madoka, as I'm not entirely sure why they changed the color of her hair. Also I can't be sure, but it feels like they keep calling her "Ayumi". This sounds like a bit of a plot hole, but we later find out that poor Madoka is having trouble making friends at her new school. I guess it makes sense that people keep calling her by the wrong name.

On the way home from school, she passes by what looks like a small bug that's trapped under a twig. Being the same kindhearted girl we're used to, Madoka selflessly helps the little guy out to reveal that it's an adorable little puyo-like creature.

It's adorable! Naturally, Madoka thinks so too, so she invites it to crawl up her arm and perch on her shoulder. She names it "Fuu-chan" after the adorable sound that it makes when it breathes. Or maybe that's asthma.

Meanwhile, the magical girls are scouring the town in their civilian outfits to try and find the fragments of monster goo to prevent Perfect Chaos from returning to terrorize the city. It looks like Sayaka is already a magical girl in this one, as her, Mami, and Kyoko are part of the investigation team. Why did they give Homura green hair?

I know what you must be thinking at this point and the answer is no: The pink-haired girl is not Madoka. Her name is Miyuki, apparently, but it's weird how she looks more like Madoka than Madoka does in this movie.

The five of them practice their vaudeville routine for a bit before we switch back to Madoka and Fuu-Chan as they go out on the town. Madoka admires a fancy bracelet, which causes Fu-chan to mold his amorphous body into a replica of the bracelet.

Meanwhile, Miyuki arrives to investigate the store and absently bumps into Madoka. Socially awkward Madoka apologizes to Miyuki and runs out of the store to avoid any additional human contact.

If you look at that picture up there you'll notice something interesting. I almost missed it my first time through, but there's actually a cameo appearance from a character from a different magical girl series. The girl on the left with the pink hair is a character from one of the lesser PreCure series. Fresh, I think. Her name escapes me, however.

Actually, for those who are curious, on a scale of greater to lesser, the PreCure hierarchy is:

Heartcatch>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Yes! PreCure 5>Futari wa> Max Heart>Smile>Splash Star>Fresh>Suite>Tokyo Mew Mew

Pretty Cure as a franchise is quite good. I should watch it again once Madoka Year is over.

What was I talking about before? Anyway, I guess my point is that I'm glad that this show is trying to pay tribute to its magical girl forebears by including a fun cameo like this. Because as we all know, the magical girl genre is a sacred keystone of pop culture zeitgeist and is perfect in every way, putting it above criticism or deconstruction.

Having discussed the finer details of MagiGirl lore, let's return our attention to the movie. After the initial chase scene, we cut to

Another new character? Seriously? I mean, this is a pretty good adaptation of Madoka Magica so far, but come on! If you keep introducing characters we've never met the audience is just going to get confused. How the hell can your narrative support so many characters!? That only works in anime, where you have several episodes to devote to each character. You'll recall that's one of the things I liked about Madoka Magica in the first place: its expert pacing and sense of balance with regards to its character arcs.

Anyway, this new character's name appears to be Hibiki, and she's playing detective to try and track down more of those demon blobs that are hip-hopping around Japanese City. Unfortunately, the only case she's able to solve is the case of how many birds she can fit on her head, as she's unable to find any trace of the little puyos.

It figures. I mean, let's not be naive: How many female detectives have there been except for Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Ema Skye, Miss Marple, Olivia Benson, Naoto Shirogane, Ziva David, Kate Beckett, Juliet O'Hara...

Anyway the point is I'm a better detective than a fourteen year old girl. That's the important thing to take away from this movie.

Madoka returns to the movie as she continues to run away when her old foe, the impulse-momentum theorem, arrives to terrorize her again. This time she runs into Hibiki. She's still being chased by Miyuki, and now Hibiki wants in on that sweet action. Now Madoka is being chased by two people we don't know.

If this is this series's new idea of what constitutes psychological horror, then I have to say I'm a little underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong: the idea of being chased by middle schoolers sends me into a cold  terror-sweat every night, but it doesn't make for much of an exciting show.

Look at this jerk. See how he judges us ALL.
It turns out that the two of them just wanted to apologize for bumping into Madoka, even though in Hibiki's case that isn't entirely accurate.

Madoka arrives home and is barked at by a dog, which enrages Fuu-chan, who attempts to step up and fight the evil canine. Madoka isn't about to let the little puyo get offed by a doggie, so she swoops in and saves the goo before anything bad can happen.

Globs of chaos goo around the city begin to move about, converging so that they can grow larger...

But that's far too interesting and relevant to the plot. Instead, let's rejoin Miyuki and Hibiki on a park bench. As they discuss their similar theories as to the significance of the pivot side-quest during the Assassin's Creed 3 epilogue. All of the sudden, Miyuki sneezes out and seems really impressed by the wicked strand of snot that she's able to produce.

"Duuuuuuuuuude... You couldn't do that in your sleeve or something?"
I'm kidding of course. In actuality it was Hibiki who sneezed.

But more importantly, the girls finally realize that this is a movie about magical girls and give chase to the supernatural threat that they've worked so hard to track down.

The two meet up with Hibiki's magical girl homies and we get the first transformation sequence of the movie... The first four transformation sequences... This is going to be a long movie isn't it?

At Madoka's house, Fuu-chan signals out to his gooey brothers, informing them that they must grow.

At the local harbor, the magical girls do battle with the green balls from Space Ace that kill you in one hit if you touch them and are beating the crap out of them. The movie may be a little bit different from the show, but at least they still dish out some old-fashioned street justice.

Sailor Moon wishes she could dish out American History X style
justice to her monsters of the week.
Miyuki ends the fight with a metsu hadoken and before long, the monster is vanquished. The girls go their separate ways as Miyuki rejoins with Sayaka, Kyoko, and the gang.

Fuu-chan falls to the ground after failing to grow. As he wonders if he'll ever grow bigger, Madoka saves the day by bringing some food for the little guy, reassuring him that if he eats, he'll be able to grow.


That night, Fuu-chan decides to put Madoka's theory to the test and settle his grudge with that asshole doggy at the same time.

They kill the dog. Fuu-chan eats the doggy. Madoka Magica is still the most depressing show.

Let's check back in on Kyubey.

It looks like the little guy's just about gathered up all the miracle lights to bring joy to the children of the world. Go Kyubey! Do it for the children!

The next day, Fu-chan's back and he's bigger and more talkative. It is at this point that I make a reference to Gremlins by scolding Madoka for feeding Fuu-chan after midnight. After a montage where Madoka makes pottery as Fuu-chan sits behind her to hold her hands steady Madoka and Fuu-chan go eat ice cream and look at model sailboats (confirming my suspicions that this movie is in continuity with Assassin's Creed 3).

The two end their day with a friendly round of tennis on Madoka's X-Wii-S 3 when mom shows up to yell at her for playing video games for longer than an hour. Somewhere there's a neoGAF thread full of neckbeards that think Madoka is completely justified in beating her mother with a shovel.

Madoka runs out of the house, which forces Fuu-chan to ask her if she hates her mother. Because children don't know how to interpret their feelings, she responds that yes, she does hate her mother for turning off her video game. She then tells Fuu-chan that she hates having to move to the city and hates everyone in the city. Ah, youth. I miss being able to hate so many things all at once with no real consequence and for no apparent reason.

"Maybe I wouldn't hate everything if everything didn't SUCK."
Hey, did anyone else important live in this city?

Oh right.

Fuu-chan misinterprets Miyuki's advances and attacks to defend Madoka from the non-threat.

Oh no! It's Walpurgisnacht! I did NOT see that coming! This didn't happen this early in the show... Maybe this whole movie is just the dream sequence from episode one.

Either way, the magical girls had better snap into action, or else they're gonna be WalpurgisDEAD! Where's Kyubey with those flashlights? We could use some joy magic right about now.

Fortunately, the girls quickly transform and go on the offensive. Kyoko opens up with a wicked forehand serve to shoot a magical fireball at Walli...

But instead of killing it, it just makes it sexy.

Now it's Homura's turn. Despite her ability to bend it not unlike Beckham, her attack is absorbed by Walli, who then turns green and barrel chested.

Mami summons the power of Grayskull and launches a lightning attack! Again, it doesn't work.

Sayaka distracts him while Kyoko delivers a critical hit to his demon-nads. Miyuki follows up with a collarbone-breaker so that Sayaka can deliver the death blow.

Finish him, Sayaka! 
I lied, her attack doesn't work. In fact, all it does is turn the monster into a bodybuilder form of Perfect Chaos.

Just as Hibiki and her posse show up and make the fight AWESOME, Madoka intervenes and stops the fight as Fuu-chan reverts back to his puyo form. Even in the movie Madoka is the personification of anticlimax.

Madoka returns home to find her mother waiting. Unfortunately, Mom made the mistake of raising her voice to her daughter so Fuu eats her. Madoka is not okay with this. Evidently, Fuu interprets anybody who mildly inconveniences Madoka to be her enemy. Naturally, since his friend's enemy becomes his enemy as well, that means that anybody who Madoka doesn't like becomes puyo-chow.

Fuu-chan is talking nonsense! Not content with eating doggies and Momdokas, he turns his attention to the city itself.

Liquid tendrils begin to rise out of the ground and water at various areas around town, which can only mean one thing:

WALPURGISNACHT!!!! Don't worry kids! Kyubey will make sure that the bad guys won't win!

Madoka and the magical girls run to try and catch Fu-chan, but are stopped by the goo monsters. Fortunately they get help from an unlikely source.

Heeeeeeey... I know them! Those are the girls from Ojamajo DoReMi! Yeah, there's the pink one, the blue one, the purple one and the brown one. I bet you guys are impressed by my keen knowledge of MagiGirls!

Apparently every magical girl exists in the same universe. Cool!

Ugh, who invited Mermaid Melody?

In any event, I will now reenact the rest of this movie for you.

That's pretty much it. They run to get to the goo monster so they can punch it in the face. Only difference is that there's now more people running and they're much better dressers.

This all goes great until

Oh no! It got Madoka! Looks like Sayaka will have to show up to

Dammit! I was hoping we could avoid that this time! Now Homura will have to reset the timeline again!

I feel like this shouldn't happen until the second movie. It's beginning to feel like I'm not even watching a Madoka movie.

Well, Ultimate Madoka eventually gets to Fuu-chan and stops him from doing anymore damage. Unfortunately, his subordinates disagree with his decision to stop destroying the city and decide to kill Fuu and Madoka, who for some reason decided to transform back without actually fighting anything.

Luckily the girls step in to try and fight him off.

Fight, Sayaka!

Fight, Homura!

Fight, Mami!

Fight, Kyoko!

Fight, Jem and the Holograms! Defeat the world!

In the end, Fuu-chan sacrifices himself to power up the girls and defeat Perfect Chaos once and for all. A moment of silence for our brave friend.

We'll never forget you, Lemongrab!
Just as Madoka mourns, she hears Fuu-chan's voice telling her that he is a part of the city she lives in now. He, like Obi Wan Kenobi, will now remain in her heart and mind forever, giving her strength and guidance. Now that she has the strength of heart to make friends and speak her feelings, she finds her new city to be a great place to live. Everyone is happy.

Yep. I think that kid's gonna turn out all right.

This movie is a gosh-darned masterpiece! I should warn any fan of the show that this movie is quite different than the show, but the changes they make are for the better. I like that it has a happy ending that doesn't make me want to cry myself to sleep! For one thing, Sayaka doesn't die. Also, Mami's death served no purpose so letting her live also makes this movie better than the show.

Again, it almost feels like a completely different show! The different magical girls and magical girl cameos add a little variety to what otherwise could've been a really boring retread of the series, and the bright colors make it more visually attractive! Sure there aren't as many complex themes or strong philosophical implications, but it was cute so it gets a free pass. Parents, this is a movie that I think the kids'll love.

I was very impressed with Madoka Magica Part One: Beginnings, and I certainly can't wait to watch the second movie to see how this story continues.

As I side note, I need to find a way to thank that guy from Hong Kong for selling me this movie. For some reason he didn't leave any contact information.

Until next time, enjoy life and stay magical!

Update: Okay, so obviously this was an April Fool's Day joke, but there's just one actual thing I want to say about this movie. The new PreCure, Cure Echo, DOESN'T DO A DAMN THING IN THIS MOVIE. What the HeartCatch, guys? Why not just call her Cure Sue if she's not going to fight or save the day? Seriously, she turns into a cure and then talks sense into Fuu-chan who ultimately destroys the rest of fusion. The children in the theater watching this movie as they wave around their miracle lights are more of a protagonist than Ayumi, the star of the movie, is.


  1. Replies
    1. I said a lot of things I didn't mean that day. I still laugh at the irony of identifying HeartCatch PreCure as the best Pretty Cure show and then not recognizing them when they show up in the movie.