originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/623808...
Wait a minute, Bryn, wasn’t last week Animation Night 10? Well it turns out I can’t count, so there. This is the real Animation Night 10, the other one was just Animation Night 9 in disguise.
If you just want the time and place: 7pm UK time on 16 July 2020, at twitch.tv/canmom
Tonight we’re going to do something rather ambitious: we’re watching all three Puella Magi Madoka Magica movies, for a total of six beautifully animated hours of magical girls fighting to transform a traumatising world. The first two are essentially abridged, and partly reanimated, cuts of the original series; the third, Rebellion, is an original film which continues the story, through some of the most gorgeous animation and choreography I’ve ever seen in anime.
But hold on, let’s rewind. What’s this all about?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica began in 2011, as a series by the venerable Studio Shaft, known for their distinctive geometric shot compositions and stylish editing in the Monogatari series… but that wasn’t the main draw. Gen Urobuchi, then known as a writer of extremely dark visual novels such as Saya no Uta, was writing the series. For those who knew his work, this seemed a surprising turn, especially with marketing that painted Madoka as a fairly conventional, upbeat magical girl show.
Of course, it soon became clear that Urobuchi had something rather more drama-oriented in mind. Madoka turned out to be a story about a small group of girls who are drawn in to a system which attempts to exploit them and twist their desires, all for the sake of an uncaring, impersonally cruel force… personified in the form of a cute cat creature. But all of them refuse to take this awful situation on its own terms, and things get twisty…
Madoka proved wildly successful, becoming one of the most influential anime of the 2010s, and launching Urobuchi to write a whole series of other shows such as the excellent Psycho-Pass. It’s so popular that it’s become somewhat parodied (c.f. meguca, or the legendary homura leekspin), but it holds up very well today. Rebellion, which came out in 2013, continued the story of the series to a very controversial ending which I’m looking forward to discussing with all of you…
Like much of Urobuchi’s later shows, such as Fate Zero, Madoka is deeply concerned with desire: with what is a worthwhile wish to pursue, and the lengths people will go when the universe stubbornly refuses their deepest wish. Yet contrary to its grim reputation, it is ultimately quite a hopeful story! Seriously!
There’s a lot of dubious interpretations of Madoka floating about, including a rather unfortunate reading as a “realistic” “deconstruction” which I strongly urge you to put aside. Madoka is absolutely playing with the conventions and history of magical girl stories in order to tell its story, but “realism” is not at all on its agenda. And despite the darker tone, it’s not so thematically far afield.
What sets it apart is most of all is instead how it’s told. The plot is full of unexpected turns, Ume Aoki brings some distinctive and memorable character designs, Studio Shaft do some great work on the character animation, and there’s an incredible soundtrack by the group Kalafina. But the most distinctive aspect is the surreal witch’s labyrinth scenes, which draw on a startling range of styles including collage and paper cutout animation, resulting in unique sequences reminiscent of Eastern European experimental animation.
So if you haven’t seen Madoka before, you’re in for an absolute treat. And if you have, I still invite you to come see it again and enjoy discussing it with a bunch of gay nerds who won’t utter the word “deconstruction”! We’ll be starting pretty sharp at 7pm because it’s a 6 hour long program, and I hope to see you there :D