“Psycho-Pass” Season 1 – A Masterful Future Dsytopian Anime

Shorewood Blu-ray Ocard

   “Psycho-Pass” is one of the best dystopian, sci. fi. cyberpunk animes I have ever watched since “Ghost in the Shell.” Both go into philosophy, psychology and full development of characters and their motivations. The fact that Gen Urobuchi is the writer of the series helps as “Madoka Magica” and “Fate/Zero” are both amazing projects that he was also the writer behind. Everything I have watched by him has been consistently great and Season 1 of “Psycho-Pass” is no exception.

      The series was directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani and Katsuyuki Motohiro and written by Gen Urobuchi.

    The story takes place in a future dystopia where everyone’s lives are controlled by the Sibyl System that scans the Psycho-Pass of every individual to decide if they are criminals or need therapy. We follow Akane who is a rookie cop on the Public Safety Bureau who works with latent criminal enforces and is pulled into the greater events of the world.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is absolutely beautiful. Production I.G. did a great job designing and producing this show and it flows seamlessly and doesn’t have any moments where the tone is inconsistent.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack feels like an 80’s sci. fi. and it is wonderful in how it captures the moments of terror or reflection. Yugo Kanno did a fantastic job.

The Writing – Gen Urobuchi is a fantastic writer and this show is no exception. All of our characters go through arcs and the world where everything takes place in changes over the course of events.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of the show and what make it a great. I’m curious how they are going to handle Season 2 given the changes that happen over the course of the show.

Unit One – Unit One are the main folks we follow who Akane is the rookie in. They all have great relationships to one another and change each other in different ways over the course of the story.

The Sibyl System – This system is creepy as it made from the minds of murders and criminals and countless others that work as one God-like Mind. There is a creepyness to it and it’s power and influence over others is to the point that it shapes what careers people take and how justice is met out.

Inspector Nobuchika – The Inspector is a bit unstable and is dealing with the fact that his father was made an enforcer. His arc is making peace with his old man as he eventually finds himself as an enforcer when he is unable to calm his hue and in doing so becomes a latent criminal. He goes through the most loss in this series.

Tomoni Masaoka – He is the Inspector’s old man is one of the best characters on the show. He’s always wresting with the why and is a fantastic philosopher. Sadly he doesn’t make it as Shogo eventually takes him out with a grenade when he grabs it to protect his son. What a great character, he is the wisest of the group and has the greatest influence on Akane.

Kagari – Is the young enforcer who was never given the choice as he was dubbed a latent criminal at age 5. He hates the Sibyl System and the murders he hunts and is the joker of the group. He sadly dies when he discovers the truth of how the Sibyl System runs and what it is. Though his legacy lives on as he is the martyr for the greater truth.

Yayoi – Yayoi has the least development though it is cool how she was once a punk rocker and I love her relationship with Karanomori the tech. She is the bitter perspective within the group and is the calmest. Through the series she comes to respect Akane and trust.

Karanomori – I love this character, she’s my favorite character on the show besides Tomoni. She’s a red dress, a cigarette and has hooked up with most of the folks in the office. She doesn’t care and even though she’s trapped being a latent criminal, finds freedom in how she can help hunt down criminals and in the relationships she forms at the office. She’s super cool and I can’t wait to get to know her character more.

Shinya Kogami – Shinya is the standard bitter ex-cop out hunting Shogo and it’s personal. He decides to kill in the end and leave the system behind and we gather he finally finds the freedom he was always seeking. He’s a bit of a cipher as his being emotionally scarred is so much a part of his identity.

Akane – Akane is the rookie who becomes leader of Unit One by the end of the series as she is trusted enough by Sibyl that they approach her and show her who they are and we see her take control of the Unit as it is falling apart as well as her tactful forms of resistance against Sibyl throughout the series. She’s a great protagonist and I look forward to seeing what she does next season.

The Villains – Besides the Sibyl System Shogo is the main baddie and the different pawns he uses like his hacker friend, a serial killing girl and a man who replaced his entire body with a machine. They are all compelling in their own ways.

Shogo Makishima – Shogo is a great villain. He’s a bit of an anarchist, a bit of the joker and an all around dangerous character who will turn on his allies just as easily as anyone else. He actually hurts the Sibyl System when he destroys one of the member brains. He wants the total collapse of society but is stopped by Unit One. He’s well read, strong and smart and his conversations are some of the best in any anime.

The Philosophy – Philosophy is key to this series as Plato, Descartes and countless other theories of the self are expressed and explored by different characters through the series. This is what really sets it above most other action animes as it doesn’t just focus on one thing but explores so many aspects of what meaning is.

Free Will and Choice – This is a major theme as the Sibyl System decides everything for you unless it believes you’d be apt at different ideas. We see this in how characters are used and how what it means to be a person is explored.

Tyranny and Freedom – This is another theme brought up by the Sibyl System’s existence as it is full tyrannical control and with it stability. Characters are a slave to it and it sees it’s main purpose as making society healthy and happy. The show explores this extremely well through the eyes and thoughts of the Enforcers, Akane and Shogo.

I highly recommend this series, or at least Season 1 of it. If you like Gen Urobuchi work like me this is easily one of his best and I think when I do eventually  re-watch it I’ll discover even more about the ideas, themes and characters than I did before. There was nothing to dislike about this show. But I will give a warning that it does graphic and brutal times so it certainly is not a show for everyone.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Finale – Season 1, Episode 12 – “My Best Friend” – The God of Hope

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      What a Finale. I got to say, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is one of my favorite animes after this and I’m grateful to all my friends who recommended the series to me. This episode tied all the timelines together and really defined all the characters in different ways and get glimpses into their souls after the Universe changing event that unfolds.

     The episode was directed by Jun’ichirō Taniguchi, Mika Takahashi and Yukihiro Miyamoto and written by Gen Urobuchi who clearly knew what he planned for the overaching arc of the series.

    The episode begins with Madoka making a wish to stop all Witches before they were born and to give hope to all those who had lost hope, doing away with the existence of Witches in all and every timeline. We see what this does to her as she becomes a God and how it affects the lives of each of the Magical Girls including Homura and Madoka’s family.

The Pros: Madoka’s Transformation into The God of Hope – Madoka’s wish is to end all Witches before they begin in order to give people a life. We see a scene with her talking with Mami and Kyoko about it. Mami warns her over her loss of identity and Kyoko tells her to go for it. From here we see Madoka begin her transformation into a God as she absorbs all the despair from Magical Girls throughout time, turns into a giant Witch which she then destroys which in turn creates an entirely new Universe and now in our Universe Madoka and Witches no longer exist. It’s a powerful sequences and transformation as you see Madoka rise in power and become large and later transparent, omnipresent and Omnipotent.

The Magical Girls of the Past – Joan of Arc receives peace, and countless others throughout time who were ready to give up and despair. It’s a powerful sequences as their deaths may not change (see Joan of Arc) but they receive hope again and are at peace.

Madoka’s Friends – None of them remember her outside of Homura but Sayaka’s spirit gets to see the boy she loves become successful and is happy for Hitomi. Kyoko misses Sayaka and we see that she loved her as much more than a friend and Mami mourns the loss of Sayaka too. Homura mentions Madoka’s name, but no one knows who she’s talking about.

How the Universe Changed – The new Universe is one where the Incubators made a deal to eat the remains of the Soul Gems that break and where they create Magical Girls to hunt Wraiths who are giant spirits who haunt the city. Madoka is gone but Homura remembers her as does Madoka’s little brother and even Madoka’s mother feels nostalgia in the name and feels like she would have named her daughter that and used the ribbon (Madoka gives Homura the ribbons from her hair) that she would have made her daughter wear. We see there is hope but still challenges and that the world is not perfect, it is changed though because of Madoka’s wish.

Homura – Homura has the hardest time letting go but in the end she finds peace too knowing Madoka is always with her and that she remembers even though the Incubators don’t. It’s really cool that Homura is the one carrying all the timelines and it’s made her Guardian of the World because she sees it as worth protecting because Madoka believed it to be. Her love for Madoka is truly what defines her in the end, even in a world where Madoka is no more. But now, Homura uses a weapon similar to Madoka’s bow and arrow.

The Message – It is never worth holding onto hate and despair, they only destroy you and those around you (the Witches as a living example of this). Madoka was that answer. Another one is that any girl can be extraordinary and make a difference. Madoka was just a kind school girl but in the end she saves the world and we see how any girl can transform the world in the actions and wishes of every Magical Girl and their roles as Guardians in the Universe before and after Madoka.

   This is one of the best animes I have ever watched, which this episode cemented. Things change but there are always challenges and always the darker side of human nature to face even if certain systems are changed. In this episode we see consequences and Madoka’s core good as she empowers all the girls to live and to live. It’s done really well and shows that hope and love are no small things, and that it’s our ability to feel those things that make us human.

I’ll be doing an assessment of the series as a whole later. Until than, it has been an amazing journey.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 11 – “The Last Signpost” – For Friendship

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    This was a powerful episode that sets up the Finale really well. In this we see Homura open up fully to the Madoka in this timeline as well as having Kyubey reveal that all Homura has done has been helping his people more too as they get to collect more energy because of how important Homura has made Madoka with her wish. But more on that later.

    “The Only Signpost Remaining” was directed by Shin’ichi Miyamae, Toshiyuki Fujisawa and Kotono Watanabe and written by Gen Urobuchi.

     The story kicks off with Madoka’s mom worrying about her as the school mourns the death of Sayaka. Soon we see a storm coming in and the arrival of Walpurgis Night. Madoka is ready to make a wish to save everyone even though she doesn’t trust Kyubey, who shows her the history of the Incubators and humanity and how all women who shaped history were Magical Girls. When Madoka goes to Homura for advice Homura tells her not to fight as she’s been doing everything to protect her. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: Walpurgis Night – The Witch is so large and powerful that to the rest of the world it looks like a hurricane is hitting the city. You really see how powerful the witch is too especially since Homura is using everything she’s prepared from all the times she’s time traveled but the Witch still defeats her in the end.

Madoka’s Mother – There are two great scenes with Madoka’s mother, the first is when she suspects Madoka might know more about Sayaka’s death and later when Madoka is about to go into the storm and she has to trust Madoka’s judgement. You can see how conflicted she is but also her love for Madoka.

Kyubey – Kyubey is still obviously an alien and can’t relate to emotions but he does a good job of showing how the Incubators and humanity have helped one another throughout history and surprisingly he never outright pressures Madoka again either, he’s just upfront and honest about the different situations knowing he’s lost trust for another reason.

History of Magical Girls – Joan of Arc, Cleopatra and countless powerful women throughout history were magical girls, all of their stories end in tragedy too as by making the wish it brings despair in equal amount. It’s powerful and really shows how broken the system is that was created.

Homura – Homura is as prepared as she’s ever been this time and we see her do everything she can to protect Madoka. From weapons and bombs hid throughout the city, to her confession to Madoka that she’s watched her die countless times and the confession that each time they grow more distant because of the cost of the magic. She is defined really well in this episode.

Madoka – This is the episode where Madoka gets all the information (Homura’s history, History of the Magical Girls) and also time with her family and the city under siege and it is here she  makes a decision to choose the wish. I’ll do the wish in the last segment since that is where we learn where it is. In this Madoka asks Homura to trust and protect her just as Homura has done, now Madoka wants to return it and wants her to live.

  This episode is Madoka fully coming into her own as a person. She knows the consequences of choices and events and is ready for whatever comes. It’s powerful too as we see her overwhelmed by Kyubey’s info dump on the history of Incubators and Magical Girls and Homura’s confession, and her mom trying to stop her…but all of these define and give reason to the wish she makes at the end. The wish that changes everything.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 10 – “I Won’t Depend on Anyone Anymore” – The Girl Who Jumps Through Time

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     “I Won’t Depend on Anyone Anymore” provides Homura’s backstory and also fully shows what is at stake when Walpurgis Night hits. The layout of the episode is fantastic too with the opening song playing at the end which plays into how it is a prequel to the series really well and gives us a glimpse into all the characters and Kyubey’s end game.

     The episode was directed by Yoshiaki Itou, Kazuya Shiotsuki and Yuki Yase and written by Gen Urobuchi.

    The story is that of Homura’s where we learn that in the original timeline she was a timid girl who becomes friends with Madoka and later the other Magical Girls. Eventually Walpurgis Night occurs and all of them die but Homura makes a deal with Kyubey to become a Magical Girl to relive the time before she met Madoka so she’ll be powerful enough to save her. From here she continues to fail as she tries  to create the timeline where Madoka is protected, Walpurgis defeated and Madoka never becomes a Magical Girl.

The Pros: Sayaka – Sayaka isn’t the focus of this episode but we see her become  a Witch again in the different timelines and that she is hostile to Homura in all the timelines, especially after Homura reveals Kyubey’s plan to turn them all into Witches.

Mami – Mami is the mentor and the guide for Homura and Madoka initially and her protectiveness goes to the point of killing them after Homura tells of Kyubey’s plan as Mami wants none of them to become Witches.

Kyoko – Kyoko appears briefly and is shown to have feelings for Sayaka in this timeline as well as she wails when Sayaka in Witch form is destroyed by Homura. She also starts out as an antagonist at first too, just like the timeline we are in.

Kyubey – Kyubey is shown to not care about humanity reaching the stars, his whole agenda is the collection of energy and he just uses the Magical Girls in every timeline. In this we see just how cruel he is and that his species is not to be trusted even more, they are worse than expected as the destroyed city is something Kyubey is indifferent too as well as what the Magical Girls risked.

Madoka – Madoka is very active in this timeline and everytime she makes a wish or contract it is to protect others. She represents the ideal of the just Magical Girl far more than Sayaka does and it is only Homura protecting her that makes her passive in the current timeline. In each one she sacrifices all and in one of the major one asks Homura to protect her from ever making a deal before asking Homura to end her so she won’t become a Witch. It’s a powerful scene…and you really get why Homura and Madoka care so much for each other. In past timelines she was Homura’s best friend and the one who helped her open up from being shy, in the current timeline Homura has taken up that role.

Homura – Homura starts shy and has a similar arc to Madoka in the current timeline as Mami is her mentor and Madoka is her best friend who motivates her to make her contract with Kyubey (just like how we saw Madoka do the same for Homura). She starts out being shy and unsure of herself but becomes bitter and hard and talented after how many times she witnesses her friends die and turn on one another. At this point she just wants to save Madoka’s soul above all else.

The Premise – The idea of using Time Magic to create an infinite loop to try and find the perfect timeline is wonderful as each timeline has consequences and changes Homura in some way and in each Kyubey and his people are learning how Homura fights as well, so she doesn’t have an infinite amount of time either. She is their adversary.

   This was an amazing episode and highlights what is so great about this series, you have characters who are changed by circumstances thrust into a world far bigger than themselves. It is a world of consequences and you can relate to the characters who fight for their friends and for the world they want. This is shaping up to be one of my favorite animes and I can’t wait to see how the series ends.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 9 – “I’ll Never Allow That” – Someone to Fight For

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     This was a great world and character building episode. We get the motivation behind Kyubey and his people (and see more of just how manipulative they are), see that Kyoko has found someone to fight for again and Homura continues to be Madoka’s guardian angel. It was a fantastic episode with some great action too.

      The episode was directed by Miyuki Katayama and Masahiro Mukai written by Gen Urobuchi. ai a

      The story picks up where we left off with Kyoko escaping Witch Sayaka with Homura and bringing along Sayaka’s body as her soul is now a giant Witch. From here Kyoko approaches Madoka for help after Kyubey explains why his people create Magical Girls and turn them into Witches. In the end Madoka and the Magical Girls confront Sayaka’s Witch and try to save her soul.

The Pros: Kyubey – Kyubey is not good nor are his species but they at least have a motivation now beyond themselves. In this episode we learn they create Soul Gems and Magical Girls so that the universe will continue to have energy and to prevent entropy from ending all things and that Magical Girls becoming Witches and when they die releases so much energy that other civilizations in the Galaxy use and that they hope humanity can join them all someday. They still are unethical but you can at least understand their motivation now. Kyubey is upfront that Magical Girls are sacrifices.

Sayaka’s Witch – It is a giant night and her battle music is an orchestra…it all ties into her wish so well and we see that she is one of the most powerful witches so far as Kyoko who tends to finish off Witches easily even has a hard time and has to take her final form to neutralize Sayaka’s Witch. Best Witch design thus far. The use of music as a weapon and Knight’s armor was very well done and capturing Sayaka’s motivations for becoming a Magical Girl in the first place.

Homura – Homura is once again Madoka’s protector and also the adversary of Kyubey in his people, though with Kyoko staying behind and possible dying when facing Sayaka’s Witch she is alone with Kyubey and his people in control and counting on Madoka to not make the contract, even with the city at risk through Walpurgis.

Kyoko – Kyoko learned how to love again through Sayaka’s sacrifice and sacrifice’s herself in turn for Sayaka, staying with her Witch at the end when Madoka is not able to reach Sayaka’s soul. Her arc is powerful and shows just how far she’s come. She’s gone from selfish to someone who is willing to ask for help and work with others (Homura and Madoka) and loves Sayaka. She’s become one of my favorite characters in this.

Okay: Madoka – Madoka takes action to try and save Sayaka and her calling Kyubey’s people out showed good characterization but she still felt too passive this episode. She gets an information dump from Kyubey and Kyoko and she hasn’t fully acted on that information yet.

    This was another great episode, though the weakest link was Madoka…I’m very curious where her arc is going to go and what the writers have in plan. Kyubey and his people are manipulative and evil so we know we can’t count on or trust anything they say (Sayaka could never be saved Kyubey admits to Homura) and everything they want is to get Madoka. The big battle is coming and I’m very interested to see how the endgame turns out.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 8 – “I’m Such a Fool” – The Evil of Kyubey

Madoka Magica ep 8

          This is an episode leading up to some pretty big tragedy later. It was this episode where I think the most I can expect from this show is a bittersweet end, and that’s what I like since this show it fits the world and characters. Every Magical Girl is tragic and we learn the reasons behind that and why Kyubey manipulates and what it’s role is in everything and why it forms Contracts. Suffice to say, this episode was intense.

          “I’m Such a Fool,” was directed by Tomoyuki Matsumoto, Yuuji Kondou and Takashi Kawabata and written by Gen Urobuchi.

       This episode continues with Sayaka’s self destruction as we see her refuse the Grief Seed as she doesn’t want anything for herself. She is exhausted and drained and attacks Madoka for not becoming a Magical Girl too. Things come to a head when Homura attempts to kill her to protect Madoka. Kyubey also reveals his agenda and purpose to Homura when Homura attempts to kill him again after she kills him to prevent Madoka from making a Contract.

The Pros: Kyoko – Kyoko has become noble and saves Sayaka’s life when Homura tries to kill her and sticks by her when she transforms into a Witch when Sayaka’s Soul Gem goes black. She has become a truly good character now.

Madoka – Madoka is the one who feels pulled from all sides. Sayaka says she needs her to be a Magical Girl, Kyubey says she could become God if she becomes a Magical Girl and Homura fights for her soul knowing what could happen. Her decision is yet to come as she leaves when Homura cries before her as she feels overwhelmed and alone.

Homura – Homura truly cares for Madoka and it is implied she remembers the dream that kicked off “Madoka Magica.” She is driven to protect Madoka even if it is an impossible fight as Kyubey has many lives and every form she destroys does not end it. She is the one who learns his true nature too and that he is an Incubator (Kyubey) of Witches and that Magical Girls are that pre-form.

Sayaka – Sayaka is alone, refuses help from everyone as she doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t feel human anymore and when her Soul Gem gets fully corrupted she is turned into a Witch. It is a tragedy that shows that she was always only a tool or food for Kyubey. He made the deal with her and many others before her just to make them Witches. Sayaka’s fall is that of nobility gone wrong and why taking things on alone and being self-righteous can lead to tragedy. You have to care for yourself and recognize those who care for you.

The Evil of Kyubey – Kyubey is a bastard and a great villain. The thing is an incubator of witches and a manipulator, evil in a nutshell as he uses innnocent girls as weapons against one another (since we see in this Witches were once Magical Girls) and that Kyubey cares nothing for what he does. Seriously, this character is one of the most cruel villains in anime. Most are openly cruel and don’t use innocents so.

The Cons: Scattered Narrative – At times the narrative was scattered but when it was focused on Homura and Sayaka it was really strong. Both of these characters really drive this episode and Madoka is the only one who really brings it down as her feeling torn makes the narrative feel scattered at time and takes the focus away from Sayaka’s decline and transformation.

  This episode continues the tragic bent of the show and has a powerful message on how important it is to recognize one’s own value so that bullies like Kyubey won’t manipulate you into hurting yourself. Homura cries before Madoka to recognize her value just as Kyoko and Madoka fight for Sayaka to find and discover her own self worth. This message is powerful and keeps me watching as characters continue to change and every action has consequences.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 7 – “Can You Face Your True Feelings?” – Forever Alone

Madoka Magica ep 7

     I really liked this episode. “Can You Face Your True Feelings?” Lives up to it’s name and we get to get Kyoko’s backstory and even get to know Hitomi, the one friend of Madoka’s not connected to Kyubey in some way. It’s a great episode that doesn’t forget the ripping of souls from the body of a Magical Girl to create the Soul Gems that we learned last episode and we see how each of the Magical Girls deal with this reality of their state.

     The episode was directed by Ryou Kobayashi, Tomoaki Kado and Satoaki Kidokoro and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The story picks up where we left off where Kyubey defends his methods by explaining he trades in miracles and shows Sayaka that without her soul torn she would be destroyed by the Witches and feel nothing but pain. Later Kyoko meets up with Sayaka and tells her story about the deal she made as her Father was a preacher and and how the wish ended up leading to her father killing himself and their family with only her surviving. After Hitomi approaches Sayaka and confesses her feelings for Kamijou leaving Sayaka full of guilt and regret with her only friend she can be honest with being Madoka.

The Pros: Kyubey – Kyubey is an alien. He doesn’t understand what it means for a person to be seperated from their soul and maybe this is because He isn’t human which Homura thinks, or maybe he chooses not to because it would break whatever illusions and agenda Kyubey has. Suffice to say though Kyubey is controlling, he puts Sayaka in pain in order to show her why what he did was right…not a good creature.

Hitomi – Hitomi shows that she has integrity. After Sayaka healed Kamijou she wants Sayaka to confess her feelings first since they are friends and she sees that Sayaka has watched him longer. She has good intentions but it breaks Sayaka as Sayaka realizes that now that she’s a “Zombie” she can never share that connection again.

Homura – Homura is the observer again and we see her check in with Kyoko who now is no longer trying to hurt Sayaka, and she defends Kyubey explaining that he is alien and that is why he doesn’t get that the tearing of souls from the body is bad.

Madoka – Madoka is also an observer this episode but she is active too. When Sayaka needs a friend she is there and is the one person taking on everyone else’s pain. I don’t see her becoming a Magical Girl anytime soon as we see at the end that becoming a Magical Girl has finally broke Sayaka just like it did to Mami and Kyoko.

Kyoko – Kyoko’s story is a tragedy and a powerful one at that. Kyoko’s father was in charge of a Church got other ideas and began preaching his own ideas which lead to them becoming homeless and alone before she made the deal with Kyubey for people to listen to her father. This lead to her Father becoming famous but going mad in the end when he finds out what Kyoko did and kills his family leaving only her alive, he labeled her a Witch before the end which she sees as ironic given her job as a Magical Girl. It’s a really tragic story and we see how caring she is of Sayaka. She pretends she doesn’t care but chooses to care even letting Sayaka fight a witch and only joining in at the end to save her. Sayaka’s pain and wish for another is something she can relate too. It’s why she does whatever she wants since she no longer has anyone.

Sayaka – Sayaka finds herself forever alone as she loses everything…she loses Kamijou when she knows she can’t be with him and her friend Hitomi wants to be with him, she loses the connection to herself too after Kyoko’s story and being hurt by Kyubey as we see her say detachment makes it so there isn’t any pain as she kills the Witch she was facing off against. It is in that moment she loses Madoka as Madoka cries knowing she can no longer reach her and the Sayaka who was around before exists no longer.

    This episode captures the tragedy of what it means to be a Magical Girl really well. From Kyoko’s tragic backstory, to Sayaka losing everyone and herself in the end. These are young girls put into combat and trauma through how they are created and what their job is…and the one who creates them is indifferent and thinks it is justified. This is the tragedy of it all and why Madoka resisting is a good thing. This episode really shows why Homura wants to keep others from making the Contract.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 6 – “This Just Isn’t Right” – A Matter of the Soul

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     “This Just Isn’t Right” is a great episode at showing the limitations of Magical Girls, the complexities of their relationship to one another and the nature of their Soul Gem and what it means in regards to who they are before they are killed. It’s a good episode, though I wouldn’t call it great. It is more concerned with worldbuilding than the overall plot it feels like. But I’ll get into more of that later in the review.

    The episode was directed by Fujiaki Asari, Jun’ichi Fukunaga and Hitoshi Miyashima and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The story picks up where we left off with Kyoko stopped by Homura where Homura knocks out Sayaka and berates Madoka for being a fool. Later Homura visits Kyoko when she sees Kyoko as the best bet for the arrival of “Walpurgisnacht.” Things come to a head later on when Kyoko acts on her own to egg Sayaka into a fight and is only stopped by the arrival of Madoka and later Homura where Kyubey than reveals the nature of the Soul Gems.

The Pros: Kyoko – Kyoko is actually really good in this one. We see that she is crazy but in control of herself and it is that control that she is not willing to give up. When Madoka throws away Sayaka’s Soul Gem which leads to Sayaka appearing dead Kyubey says that Sayaka is the Soul Gem which is how they fight witches which leads to Kyoko turning on Kyubey realizing that her soul was torn from her body.

Homura – Homura reveals herself to once again be good as she saves Sayaka’s life by recovering her Soul Gem before leaving. Her agenda is met too as now all of them distrust Kyubey minus Sayaka.

Sayaka – Sayaka begins under pressure as Kyubey says she needs to get more Grief Seeds to get stronger and that should be her aim. This promotes the selfishness of the Magical Girls but Sayaka’s is firmly Kyubey’s currently. We later see her stalking the boy she saved wit her wish before Kyoko eggs her into a fight. We learn this episode that Sayaka stands as a protector for all and against all enemies of humanity be they Witch, Familiar or Magical Girl. When she loses her Soul Gem she is knocked out and when she has it again does not know what happened.

Madoka – Madoka learns from her Mom that people drink because of pain and that’s the nature of being grown up so Madoka should make mistakes earlier, especially if it protects the people she loves like Sayaka. It’s a powerful scene and you see just how deep their relationship is with Madoka’s mother telling her to hurry and grow up than so they can drink together. Madoka is reckless we see as she doesn’t know what throwing away a Soul Gem does and nearly kills her friend in trying to stop her friend from being killed. When she realizes what the Soul Gem is we see her crying in surprise and pain.

Kyubey – Don’t trust Kyubey, he’ll tear your soul out of your body and make you a weapon of his will. Even the insane Kyoko doesn’t trust him now. This scene made me happy as the sooner Kyubey is out of the picture, the better. Kyubey is just like a Witch in almost every way and that scene of a large Kyubey like force facing off against Homura is troubling to say the least.

The Cons: The Narrative – The narrative is all over the place this episode and I wish it would have focused on Homura or Sayaka. Because it is split it brings the episode’s quality down and makes it harder to focus on the story.

     This episode like the last one is mostly setup, but it does a good job of it. It is because it is a setup that it is brought down though. It can’t focus on a single character or point so there are a few throughout which takes away from it’s overall power. Still, great to see an episode with Magical Girls outside of Homura turning on Kyubey.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 5 – “There’s No Way I’d Regret This” – Motivations of a Magical Girl

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    This episode fills unfinished, largely because of the ending…but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. In this episode we get to know what motivates the actions of different Magical Girls, as well as more reasons why Kyubey is not to be trusted.

      The episode was directed by Takahiro Majima, Mino Honda, Mayuko Matsumoto and
Kazuhisa Kosuga and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The episode begins showing Sayaka receiving her soul gem when she makes the wish for Kamijou’s hand to heal. We later see her celebrating his receiving of his violin. Elsewhere Madoka asks Homura to protect Sayaka, which Homura refuses. Later when Madoka and Sayaka are hunting a Familiar they are attacked by Kyoko and the story unfolds from there.

The Pros: The Contract – The contract is presented as dark…like the picture above it looks like Sayaka is dying and with our warning from Homura about becoming a Magical Girl meaning death it gets all the darker, especially in how Kyubey doesn’t get involved in the fight between Kyoko and Sayaka since he wants to pressure Madoka to make a contract too.

Homura – Homura stops the fight at the end, whether this is to protect Madoka from making a contract or because she’s learn to care about others remains to be seen but she is no Kyoko who believes that only the strongest should live. Her motivations aren’t known but her actions of getting involved show us there is more to her character, especially since she doesn’t get involved at first and refuses to get involved to Madoka.

Kyubey – The making of a contract is dark and the information he withholds from people is pretty dark too. Really curious what Kyubey’s motivations are but at this point he or it is on par with a Witch. Witches change people and Kyubey does too, both are selfish at their core and use people to their own ends. Haven’t seen anything to show that Kyubey is noble in any way.

Madoka – Madoka looks out for those around her, which makes her good in my opinion. We see this when she goes with Sayaka to be back up and when she pleads for Homura to get involved in protecting Sayaka. She has awareness of others and wants the Magical Girls to ally, which would be the right thing to do as it would probably lead to an end to Witches and most likely Kyubey as well.

Sayaka – Sayaka is great in this episode! Her motivations to give the person she loves the ability to do the thing he loves again shows how healing and deep her wish is and this gives her Wolverine-like regenerative abilities which help her in her battle against Kyoko. She also knows that she has a lot to learn and wants to be prepared for the more dangerous wishes. She is afraid and it makes her human and she is motivated by good and protecting others, which puts her at odds with Kyoko.

Kyoko vs. Sayaka – This is a really cool battle. It is a spear against a sword and of course the chain spear wins until Homura changes the battle to no one winning at the end. Before that though we see that Sayaka can get under Kyoko’s skin even if she isn’t as strong in fighting ability.

Okay/Pro: Kyoko – Kyoko believes in survival of the fittest and things Magical Girls are top of the food chain with Witches being next in line and finally humans. She is selfish and cruel but respects Sayaka enough not to kill her at first. Her motivations aren’t fully known either but she is a great fighter. She has the potential to be a pro once her motivations are better understood.

  This was an enjoyable episode, with the only con being the cliffhanger ending. Really curious what Homura is going to do next and if Madoka has reminded her about caring for other people. Madoka is the hope for the Magical Girls it feels like as she wants them to ally and defeat the Witches and sees the fights for how unnecessary they are.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Both Miracles and Magic Exist” – Sayaka’s Wish

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      “Miracles and Magic Exist,” is a great episode. In this episode there are more reasons not to trust Kyubey since we have another magic girl arrive on the scene which is telling given that Sayaka make the decision to become a Magical Girl this episode. This episode is an exploration of the reasons she chooses to beocome one while Madoka chooses not to become one.

     The episode was directed by Shin’ichi Omata and Miyabe Ozeki and written by Gen Urobuchi.

      The story picks up where we left off with Sayaka with the musical prodigy Kamijou who can no longer play. He lashes out at her for bringing him classical music which to him is painful as this whole time it has been hell and reminding him of what he lost. She tells him miracles and magic exist when he tells her that it would take something like that to heal him. Kyubey appears on the mantle. Elsewhere Madoka talks to Homura who tells her of all the Magical Girls she has watched die and that it is all their destinies as well as Madoka being too sweet. Madoka is pulled back into the world of Magic though when the Witch Elly pulls Madoka’s friend Hitomi into a death cult with her kiss and it is up to Madoka to save them all.

The Pros: Elly – Elly the witch is a flying television that creates people. Her changing of reality to look like a television show is cool as well as her doing suicide through death cult shows brains given the manipulation that media can play on the person. It’s a good fight too and she puts up a fight against Sayaka when Sayaka saves Madoka from her.

Homura – Homura is great! In this we see the weight she carries as a survivor and that she’s lost count of all the Magical Girls who have died. We also are left wondering how self aware or possibly bad she is when she is late to save Madoka from Elly.

Kamijou – A boy who can no longer play his passion because of an accident. It is this knowledge that prompts Sayaka’s choice as we see him healed at the end, though it is done hauntingly, making me wonder on what the darker side to the wish is. How is he going to be changed now?

Kyubey – Kyubey is a manipulator. He leaves to take advantage of Sayaka (though it does save Madoka’s life). Can’t wait to see what his true intentions are. The fact that he just stands by when Kyoko arrives to kill Sayaka is telling.

Madoka – Madoka shows she has courage even without magic. She destroys the poison the cult is going to use to kill themselves and attempts to escape the Witch. She also listens to Homura and shows wisdom when she isn’t scared.

Sayaka – Sayaka is an awesome Magical Girl! She’s got a sword and cape and her reasons are somewhat noble for choosing to become a Magical Girl. She gives an injured child the ability to play music again, showing just how much she loves him. It’s a telling scene and we see how the wish has changed her too, she is more confident like Mami but also more disconnected from everyone. What will come of her wish remains to be seen.

R.I.P. Mami – Madoka visits Mami’s apartment and cries during a meal as she remembers Mami’s head getting crushed by the Witch. Death isn’t just brushed off and we see how all the characters have been changed by the death of this character. Even Homura mourns her and her death is one of Sayaka’s motivations.

The Cons: Kyoko – Kyoko is just the crazy Magical Girl who looks like a cat. We don’t know her motivations beyond power and I was hoping she’d be more well rounded from the get go. Hopefully she becomes more well rounded later, and her reasons for wanting to kill get better explained.

   This episode was great and continues to show me why this series was recommended to me by so many of my friends. I look forward to seeing where it goes as I hear it gets only crazier later. Right now there is good build up, exploration of characters and their motivations and of course consistently beautiful music and animation.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10.