Puella Magi Madoka Magica (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika?, "Magical Girl Madoka Magica") is a Japanese anime television series produced by Shaft and Aniplex. It was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and written by Gen Urobuchi, with original character designs by Ume Aoki, character design adaptation by Takahiro Kishida, and music by Yuki Kajiura. The story follows a group of female middle school students who choose to become magical girls and must battle surreal enemies called witches. However, they consequently learn of the anguish and perils associated with their newfound roles.
The first ten episodes of the series aired in Japan on TBS and MBS between January and March 2011, while the final two episodes were delayed until April 2011 due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. A manga adaptation of the series and various spin-off manga series have been published by Houbunsha and licensed in North America by Yen Press. A novelisation by Nitroplus was released in August 2011, and a dedicated magazine, Manga Time Kirara Magica, was launched by Houbunsha in June 2012. A video game for the PlayStation Portable was released in March 2012, with another for PlayStation Vita released in December 2013. A film series has also been produced, consisting of two films recapping the anime series, released in October 2012, and a third film featuring an original story which was released on October 26, 2013.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica has received widespread critical acclaim, with critics praising the writing, visuals and soundtrack of the series, as well as its approach to the magical girl subgenre. It has also been a commercial success, with each BD volume selling more than 50,000 copies. The series won several awards in Japan, such as the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, as well as 12 Newtype Anime Awards and the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Arts awards.
In the fictional city of Mitakihara, Japan, a middle school student named Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki encounter a small, cat-like creature named Kyubey. It offers a contract in which a girl may have any wish granted in exchange for obtaining magical powers and being tasked with fighting against witches. Meanwhile, a transfer student and magical girl named Homura Akemi tries to stop Madoka from making the contract with Kyubey at all costs. Madoka and Sayaka then meet Mami Tomoe, an upperclassman at the same school who is also a magical girl and offers to bring them along on her witch hunts so that they may learn of the responsibilities that come with being a magical girl.
As Madoka contemplates accepting the contract with Kyubey, she witnesses the death of Mami at the hands of a witch and realizes that a magical girl's life is filled with danger, anguish, and suffering. This is further enforced by the appearance of Kyoko Sakura, a veteran magical girl whose wish indirectly caused the death of her family. Madoka also discovers that not only do magical girls give up their souls to form their Soul Gems, the source of their magic, but when those Soul Gems become too tainted with despair, they transform into the very witches they fight against. This is exemplified when Sayaka, heavily disillusioned with the current state of the world, falls into an irrecoverable despair that turns her into a witch. It is then revealed that Kyubey's alien race is harvesting the emotions from magical girls to use as energy to counteract the spread of entropy. Madoka also learns that Homura is a magical girl from a different timeline who has repeated the same month countless times in order to try to save her from a grisly fate. After these revelations, Madoka decides to become a magical girl with the wish to stop witches before they are created. This rewrites the laws of the universe, resulting in Madoka becoming nothing more than a concept and Homura being the only one who remembers her in the new world that is formed.
While collaborating on Hidamari Sketch and Bakemonogatari, Akiyuki Shinbo expressed to Aniplex producer Atsuhiro Iwakami his desire to create a new magical girl series, thus spawning the development of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. During the early planning stage, Iwakami decided not to adapt an existing work in order to give Shinbo more freedom in his direction style. Another goal of the project was to develop an anime that could appeal to a wider audience than the usual demographic for media within the magical girl genre. Iwakami and Shinbo intended for their series to be accessible to "the general anime fan." Shinbo then contacted Gen Urobuchi to work on the project as a scriptwriter and Ume Aoki as a character designer. Takahiro Kishida was also enlisted to adapt Aoki's character designs for production of the television series.
In his role as producer, Iwakami took a mostly hands-off approach. Due to Puella Magi Madoka Magica being an original series rather than an adaptation based off an already existing work, he described the main goal solely as "coming up with a high-quality piece of entertainment". After helping to recruit the staff, he allowed them mostly free rein in developing the actual content of the story, providing minimal guidance from himself. After viewing the character designs that Aoki created, he became fully assured that he could trust the creative talent of the team. In an interview with Anime News Network after the series finished airing in Japan, Iwakami summed up his philosophy as "I don't matter much; it's up to those talents to do their work. If something comes to a stand-still I might intervene, but they did an excellent job and I was very happy seeing the results in episode one."
During the pre-writing planning phase, Iwakami simply requested that Urobuchi make the storyline "heavy". However, Shinbo further specified that it should contain copious amounts of blood and violence, elements that were unusual to the magical girl genre. The director also specifically sought for many of the magical girl characters to be killed throughout the series. Urobuchi admitted he had no trouble with these requirements, referencing his past reputation as a writer of very dark and somber stories, something Shinbo had not known the full extent of. One objective was for the script to starkly contrast with the way the anime was to be marketed. Shinbo planned for the series to be advertised in an innocent and pure manner that would deliberately conceal its dark undertones. For example, the title logo for the anime was rendered using rounded fonts that would appear more harmless to audiences. Urobuchi further misled fans following the development of the anime by using his Twitter account to try to convince them that the plot of the series was very innocuous. The true nature of the series was disguised because Shinbo strongly desired for its dark themes to come as a complete surprise to the viewer. Iwakami later defended the mature themes in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica, stating "the story of Madoka is serious but it's not entirely inappropriate for children. For example, there's nothing sexually explicit in it. There's some death, but it's not gratuitous; it can be explained within the context of the story."
Otherwise, Shinbo granted Urobuchi a large amount of autonomy in writing the series and determining the path of the story. In describing his interactions with Iwakami and Shinbo while collaborating on the series, Urobuchi commented that "neither one is the type to show their hand, they would always wait for me to make the next move." In his effort to create a successful deconstruction of the magical girl genre, Urobuchi studied aspects of traditional magical girl media that were "troubling or overlooked". He also stated that the development of the plot was heavily influenced by the character drawings he saw Aoki design. Other inspirations he credited for contributing to the series included horror fiction author Stephen King as well as previous projects that Shinbo directed such as Hidamari Sketch and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
Urobuchi attributed his past experience working on projects with screenwriters Ichiro Itano and Yōsuke Kuroda as a major influence in his writing for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and has referred to both of them as his mentors. To set the initial pacing of the series, Urobuchi used a technique he credited as originally from Kuroda. The first episode would throw the viewer into a specific part of the story with unknown context, the second episode would then define the particular rules governing the story's setting, and the third episode would be responsible for divulging the revelation in the plot so as to hook the viewer. The twist in the third episode was determined during the project proposal stage and involved the death of Mami, a main character figure. This decision was controversial, and Urobuchi recalled production staff members continually approaching him and asking him to reconsider due to their own fondness of the character. However, he refused and the plot remained unchanged during production. Nevertheless, Urobuchi realized that this progression could be very hard for viewers to accept and might hurt the overall series' success with some audiences, commenting: "I always thought this is an age where entertainment basically is about soothing and healing, like adopting a style where unchanging day-to-day life is to continue forever."
In an interview with Ultra Jump Egg, Urobuchi gave insight into his writing philosophy, stating that he believed the overarching plot of a story was more important than the characters within it. He indicated that he would first determine the actions and the ultimate fate of a character before even assigning it a name, and contrasted this with other writing methods which first focused on developing the characters and then creating a storyline for them to follow. He again defended his decision to have Mami die, claiming that this could actually have the converse effect of making her character even more memorable, saying "I think there are quite many characters who became immortal exactly because they died, like Caesar Zeppeli in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or Raoh in Fist of the North Star. Precisely because of the way they died, they were able to live forever."
Urobuchi stated that Sayaka was his favorite character overall, and remarked that her plotline was the most enjoyable to write. Due to her grim fate by the end of the series, a destiny that Shinbo believed was slightly unfair, he asked Urobuchi if it was possible to change the plot so that Sayaka could be spared. Urobuchi declined, asserting that her death was too integral a part to the overarching story. Shinbo then inquired if there was any way that she could be brought back to life, admitting he had become very attached to the character. However, Urobuchi again refused, explaining that this would be impossible with regard to the already-established rules governing the story. Shinbo finally acquiesced to this, but remarked that he believed there may have been too large of a burden placed on the characters who were in essence young middle school girls.
The alien character Kyubey was also envisioned and designed by Urobuchi. As one of the primary antagonists in the series, Iwakami stated that "the mash-up of cuteness and darkness is the central theme to Madoka, and Kyubey is an epitome of that theme." A central goal in Urobuchi's writing was to highlight the moral and ethical dissonance between Kyubey and the young middle school girls, which was done through actions in the series such as Kyubey eating its own corpse in order to recycle energy. He compared the character to monsters occurring in the works of horror fiction author H. P. Lovecraft, commenting of Kyubey: "he isn't evil, it is his lack of feelings that make him scary." Urobuchi further remarked upon the moral ambiguity that the series displays in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, stating "Al-Qaeda brought down the Twin Towers due to their self-righteousness. Justice for some people is an evil for others. Good intentions, kindness, and hope will not necessarily make people happy."
Due to unforeseen scheduling problems with Shaft, production for the series was postponed for three years following the completion of its writing. However, once the issues were resolved, production began without any other complications. The animation studio spearheaded the conception and design of the witches in the series, as well as creating each one's individual backstory. Urobuchi had originally envisioned the witches to be similar to conventional monsters such as Godzilla, but upon seeing the surreal concept art for one of the main witches, Walpurgis Night, he remarked: "How can Homura possibly fight against something like this?" Designers from Shaft also added quotes from the German folklore legend Faust to the series. Throughout production, the animation production team Gekidan Inu Curry had freedom to insert into or modify details from the original script. An example is during a scene in the final episode where the team added black wings to Homura, something which was not included in Urobuchi's writing. Urobuchi praised this aspect of the production, commenting that "additions by the animation production team added more mystery and depth to [the] characters, and without them, it would have been very difficult to write any further stories in the world of the series".
Iwakami and Shinbo recruited Yuki Kajiura to compose the soundtrack for the series after Urobuchi recommended her. Shinbo had previously worked with Kajiura on Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, and Urobuchi told of the inspiration the music from that series had on him while writing parts of the script. Stating that he had long been a fan of her anime soundtracks, Urobuchi also praised Kajiura's work ethic, remarking that she would always fully familiarize herself with the plotline of the story while composing for it. Japanese pop music duo ClariS was also commissioned to perform "Connect" (コネクト Konekuto?), the opening theme of the series. Iwakami involved himself directly in the song's development to ensure that it would fit with the series, marking one of the only times that he explicitly intervened in an aspect of the production. Both "Connect" and the ending theme, "Magia" by Kalafina, were revealed in a television commercial several weeks before the series' premiere in Japan.
Broadcast and Distribution
On January 7, 2011, Puella Magi Madoka Magica debuted on Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS), Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), and Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting (CBC) in Japan. The first ten episodes aired weekly without interruption, and were also available for streaming on Nico Nico Douga and BIGLOBE's Anime One service. However, due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in March, the planned broadcasts for the last two episodes were halted. Additionally, TBS elected to cancel its scheduled airing of the 10th episode in order to provide more news coverage of the natural disaster.
Due to these delays, Urobuchi issued an apology to viewers. However, he also indicated that the postponements could be viewed in a positive light because they alleviated some production pressures placed on animation studio Shaft due to the tight broadcast schedule. Citing particularly challenging drawings for episodes 11 and 12, Urobuchi and Iwakami planned to have Shaft continue to improve the episodes immediately up until their new air time. Furthermore, Urobuchi remarked that if episode 11 in its current state had been aired as scheduled, the result most likely would have been disappointing. On March 23, 2011, the broadcast for the rest of the series was delayed indefinitely. However, the production team reported that they were continuing to work on the episodes and announced their intention to finish airing the series by April. Finally, on April 10, 2011, the official website for Puella Magi Madoka Magica announced that broadcasts would resume on April 21. Episodes 11 and 12 aired back-to-back on MBS to conclude the series, while TBS and CBC ran episode 10 in addition to 11 and 12.
Iwakami later commented on this unique production experience in an interview with Anime News Network. He mentioned that Shaft was always pressed for time during the production process and only just managed to complete each episode right before its air time. After the earthquake and tsunami occurred, he stated that much of the staff was rattled by the incident and because of this they were not able to work effectively on episodes 11 and 12. However, in overcoming this situation, he remarked "a week went by, and two weeks went by, and the staff started saying that they couldn't stay in shock forever, that they had to keep on going, and then production continued."
The series was released on six Blu-ray Disc (BD) and DVD volumes between April 27 and September 21, 2011, having been delayed from the original release date of March 30, 2011 due to the earthquake. Drama CDs were included with the first, third and fifth BD/DVD volumes. The sixth and final volume released on September 21, 2011 contains a director's edit of episode 12. The series began streaming on Crunchyroll on February 15, 2012, as well as Hulu and Crackle.
Aniplex of America released the series in North America, including an English dub, in three BD and DVD volumes released between February 14 and June 12, 2012, along with limited editions containing the original soundtrack CDs and special items. Manga Entertainment licensed the series in the United Kingdom and released it on BD/DVD in a complete collection on October 29, 2012. Madman Entertainment licensed the series in Australia, where it began to air on the kids channel ABC3 on June 29, 2013, following an early preview on January 6. The dubbed series began streaming on Viz Media's streaming service, Neon Alley in late 2013.
Houbunsha has published three manga series based on the franchise. A direct adaptation of the anime series, illustrated by Hanokage, was published in three tankōbon volumes, each containing four chapters, released between February 12 and May 30, 2011. The manga has been licensed in North America by Yen Press. A side story manga, Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice (魔法少女かずみ☆マギカ〜The innocent malice〜 Mahō Shōjo Kazumi Magika: The Innocent Malice?), written by Masaki Hiramatsu and illustrated by Takashi Tensugi, was serialized between the March 2011 and January 2013 issues of Manga Time Kirara Forward. A third manga, Puella Magi Oriko Magica (魔法少女おりこ☆マギカ Mahō Shōjo Oriko Magika?), written by Kuroe Mura, was released in two tankōbon volumes released on May 12, 2011, and June 12, 2011, respectively. Both Kazumi Magica and Oriko Magica have been licensed by Yen Press in North America. The first volume of Kazumi Magica was released in May 2013. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ［魔獣編］?), written and illustrated by Hanokage, began serialization in the 20th issue of Manga Time Kirara Magica released on June 10, 2015. The plot serves as an interquel depicting the events that happened between Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Eternal and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. The first volume of an official anthology comic featuring guest artists was released on September 12, 2011. A dedicated monthly magazine by Houbunsha, Manga Time Kirara Magica (まんがタイムきらら☆マギカ Manga Taimu Kirara Magika?), launched on June 8, 2012, and features various manga stories, including spin-off stories of Oriko Magica. A film comic adaptation of the series titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Film Memories went on sale on May 26, 2012. Another manga by Hanokage, Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Different Story, was published in three tankōbon volumes between October 12 and November 12, 2012, and licensed by Yen Press in 2014. Puella Magi Suzune Magica (魔法少女すずね☆マギカ?), written and illustrated by Gan, released its first volume on November 12, 2013, before starting serialization in Manga Time Kirara Magica on November 22, 2013. Puella Magi Homura Tamura (魔法少女ほむら☆たむら?), written and illustrated by Afro, is serialized in Manga Time Kirara Magica, and released its first volume in October 2013; Yen Press licensed the manga. Puella Magi Homura's Revenge! (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ ほむらリベンジ!?), written by Kawazukuu and illustrated by Masugitsune, was serialized in Manga Time Kirara Magica, and released two volumes in December 2013; Yen Press licensed the manga.
A novel adaptation of the series written by Hajime Ninomae and illustrated by Yūpon was published by Nitroplus on August 14, 2011. A pre-release was available at Comiket 80 on August 12, 2011. A book based on Gen Urobuchi's original draft treatment for the anime, titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Beginning Story, was released in November 2011.
A video game based on the series titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ ポータブル Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika Pōtaburu?) for the PlayStation Portable was released by Namco Bandai Games on March 15, 2012. The game allows players to take many routes, changing the fate of the original storyline. Urobuchi returned as the writer with Shaft doing the animation production on the title, while Yusuke Tomizawa and Yoshinao Doi acted as producers. The game was released in two editions, a standard box including a bonus DVD, and a limited edition box containing a Madoka Figma, a bonus Blu-ray Disc, a Kyubey pouch, a 'HomuHomu' handkerchief and a special clear card.
An action game for the PlayStation Vita titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram (魔法少女まどかマギカThe Battle Pentagram?) developed by Artdink and published by Namco Bandai Games was later released in Japan on December 19, 2013. The game featured an original story created with guidance from Urobochi in which all five magical girls team up to defeat the powerful witch, Walpurgis Night. Upon release, a limited edition version was also available that included codes for additional in-game costumes as well as merchandise such as a CD copy of the original sound track and an art book.
A free smartphone application, Mami's Heart Pounding Tiro Finale (マミのドキドキティロフィナーレ Mami no Doki Doki Tiro Fināre?) was released on October 14, 2011. A third-person shooter titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica TPS featuring Homura Akemi was released for Android devices in December 2011. A second TPS title featuring Mami was released on August 2012 and a third featuring Sayaka and Kyoko was released on October 16, 2012. A puzzle game for the iPhone titled Puella Magi Madoka Magica Puzzle of Memories was released on March 29, 2013.
Costumes from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, alongside content based on other anime and games, are available as downloadable content (DLC) for the PSP game Gods Eater Burst in Japan. Costumes and accessories are also available as DLC for Tales of Xillia 2. Costumes and accessories were made available as DLC for Phantasy Star Online 2 in October 2013. Another collaboration with the mobile game Phantom of the Kill took place for an event that ran from August 8, 2015 to September 21, 2015. During that campaign, players had a chance of obtaining various playable Madoka characters through the Gatcha. There were also Madoka Magica themed missions, weapons,and items during that time.
In November 2011, it was announced in the December issue of Kadokawa Shoten's Newtype magazine that a three-part theatrical film project was in development by Shaft. The first two films, titled Beginnings (始まりの物語 Hajimari no Monogatari?) and Eternal (永遠の物語 Eien no Monogatari?), are compilations of the anime TV series featuring redone voices and some scenes with new animation. The first film, which covers the first eight episodes of the TV series, was released in theatres on October 6, 2012, while the second film, which covers the last four episodes, was released on October 13, 2012. The first two films were screened in selected locations in the United States and seven other countries between October 2012 and February 2013, as well as screened at Anime Festival Asia between November 10–11, 2012, in Singapore. The two films were released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on July 30, 2013, in standard and collector's edition sets and is being made available for import by Aniplex of America. The third film, titled Rebellion (叛逆の物語 Hangyaku no Monogatari?), features an all-new story written by Urobuchi and acts as a sequel to the TV series. It was released to Japanese theatres on October 26, 2013. The film received a North American imported release on December 3, 2013. The first and second films were re-released with an English dub on July 15, 2014.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica has received widespread critical acclaim. In his 10 out of 10 review, UK Anime Network's Andy Hanley lauded the series for its deeply emotional content and described it as immersive and filled with grandiose visuals along with an evocative soundtrack. Additionally, he recommended that viewers watch it several times in order to fully comprehend the complex and multilayered plotline. He went on to claim that it was the greatest TV anime series of the 21st century thus far. Scott Green of Ain't It Cool News commented that the series was "hugely admirable" and he would give it the highest possible recommendation to anyone even slightly interested in anime. He also praised the animation team's attention to detail, stating that the series "would not work nearly as well if the characters in general and as magical girls specifically weren't presently so spectacularly winningly by the production." T.H.E.M. Anime reviewer Tim Jones criticized what he regarded as weak character development but nevertheless remarked that the series was "beautiful, well-written, and surprisingly dark" and gave it four out of five stars. In the review, Jones also commended the unique animation and design of the backdrops shown during witch fights, which he described as surreal and "trippy", but beautiful. In his review of the three BD volumes of the anime series, Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network characterized the story as very emotionally dark and "one of the most ambitious and beautiful anime series in recent memory." He went on to award each of the volumes A or A+ overall ratings.
The darker approach to the popular magical girl subgenre in Japanese anime and manga was also a point of high praise by reviewers. In its take on the series, the staff at Japanator remarked that this trope "added a level of depth and complexity to the genre that we haven’t ever seen, and I don’t think we will see again. [...] Adding on that dressing gave the show a more perverse and cruel feeling to it, making it all the more compelling to watch." Liz Ohanesian of LA Weekly attributed the genre deconstruction of Puella Magi Madoka Magica to the series' popularity with older, male audiences, an otherwise unusual demographic to the genre. Furthermore, she commented on cultural impact that the series produced, observing that in both Japan and the US there has been incredible fan captivation surrounding the series. She credited the all-star crew including writer Urobuchi, director Shinbo, and the Shaft animation studio as "hitmakers" and described the anime as "a series designed for acclaim." TechnologyTell's Jenni Lada warned that the show's external appearance belied its true "darker and more twisted" essence. She recommended viewers watch at least three episodes in order to discover the series' true nature. Production I.G's Katsuyuki Motohiro watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica after hearing opinions that it exceeded Neon Genesis Evangelion. Upon viewing the series, he was so amazed that he began analyzing Urobuchi's other works and was then motivated to request Urobuchi to write the crime thriller Psycho-Pass.
Sales and Accolades
The first BD volume sold 53,000 copies in its first week, 22,000 of which were sold on its first day, breaking the record previously held by the sixth BD volume of Bakemonogatari. The second volume sold 54,000 copies, breaking its own record. Each subsequent volume has managed to sell over 50,000 copies in its first week. This was despite controversy over the pricing of the volumes which some considered to be unfairly high. The staff at Japanator stated they could not recommend that their readers buy the volumes due to the prohibitive cost. Bertschy concurred, writing that the "limited episode count and high price of entry make the show inaccessible to an audience unwilling to shell out."
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper reported that before the release of the third movie, the anime had grossed a total of 40 billion yen in the sales of related goods. A live broadcast of the entire series streamed on Nico Nico Douga on June 18, 2011 garnered around 1 million viewers, surpassing the previous record of 570,000 held by Lucky Star.
The show won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, as well as 12 Newtype Anime Awards and the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Arts awards. It also won three Tokyo Anime Awards in the Television Category, Best Director and Best Screenplay, and the Selection Committee Special Prize award at the 2012 Licensing of the Year awards. Madoka Magica was awarded a Seiun Award for "Best Media" at the 2012 Japan Science Fiction Convention. In 2015, the show was also awarded the inaugural Sugoi Japan Grand Prix, Japan's nationwide vote for manga, anime, and novels considered as cultural assets that have the potential to be beloved all over the world, among all the works published since 2005.