If I were a fan of Magic Girl shows, little girls showing their underwear ever so teasingly (and getting naked if only during the OP), SHAFT, Shinbo and/or Urobochi, then I’d probably think Magic Girl Madoka Magica is a stunning achievement and I’d love it with a burning love!
I’m none of the above. Still I think Madoka Magica is a good show, and is quite interestingly so. This isn’t a review of the show so partisans and anti-partisans I don’t think I’m going to make it easy for you to find fodder for flaming each other. I’m going to talk about an aspect of the show that I find quite interesting indeed…
The execution of the show was a long tease about the eponymous character revealing herself as herself, but with the show playing with the nature of not only the “rules” that govern/define a character such as her, but ultimately used a world-building solution to resolve the conflicts raised by the plot.
I’ve seen some knee-jerk comparisons to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann but I think this only works to a limited degree. TTGL eschewed, nay, kicked reason to the curb. It ended the way it did because it wanted to end the way it did, keeping with its theme of going “beyond the impossible.” MGMM is also consistent with its theme of rules and deals, but it chose not to work with such rules and rewrote them in the last minutes (and minutes and minutes, considering Homura).
I’ll leave it to the plot-hole bloodhounds to deal with whatever problems they see with that.
What I’m enjoying about this is how symmetrical it is from a distant view. The show kept viewers guessing and guessing every episode, raising expectations for one thing, then changing the game right after. There are many examples of this, but I still think Madoka not properly becoming a Magic Girl until the finale is the best one.
A cynical view would suggest that it’s a cheap convenience to avoid having to actually work at something solid, but I’m no cynic and I think being interesting is an achievement in itself.
We think of world-building as either or both the things that a story deploys to provide color, points of interest, and the rules by which the plot unfolds (among other possible things). In many cases, it’s treated like a side-dish by which to enjoy character portrayal/development, plot, database elements in the foreground. World-building is something in the background.
Even in setting-dependent and atmospheric works like Aria, and particularly Yokohama Shopping Trip the world-building is a powerful yet, subservient thing to the resolution of the narrative. Instead of TTGL, I can think of Neon Genesis Evangelion/End of Evangelion as a work that threw the world building book at the resolution of the plot similarly to how MGMM did it.
Bad, wrong, works/doesn’t are far less interesting considerations for me at this point. I’m just glad to see it actually attempted using gobs of money and with a palpable sense of ambition. What are other shows you think tried to do something similar? How do you feel about those?