“Penny Dreadful” Season 2 – Some of the Best Character Moments and Worst Written Villains

   “Penny Dreadful” continues to be my trash and after this season I’m really curious to see how it all wraps up. This season is not as good as Season 1 and that is due largely to how the characters are written to get to the climax and the villains. God, I hate these villains. They are trash and do not work and I’ll get into the why below. I still think this show is worth your time though due to the strong character moments this season brings.

The show was created by John Logan.

The story picks up with Nightwalker Witches lead by Evelyn Poole targeting Vanessa and her team. At the same time Lily is finding her footing in undeath and John Clare seeks work once more as Inspector Rusk investigates the most recent spate of murders tied to Ethan.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Abel Korzenioweski is an amazing composer. This season really illustrates it well too as some of the plot is real dumb but his soundtrack still elevates the emotion or threats of scenes. The opening theme song is also worthy of praise as it captures the melancholy tone of the show.

The Lore – This season has some great lore reveals. The greatest lore is reveal is Lucifer has a brother named Dracula who was also cast from heaven and thrown to Earth. I’ve never seen a gothic fantasy show do something like this. I’m very curious to see how this plays out later.

The Characters – The main characters and most of the supporting characters continue to be the strongest part of this show. John Logan is good at bringing nuance and depth to our protagonists and newcomers and this season that is fully on display.

Lyle – Lyle is wonderful. This flamboyant, gay and Jewish egyptologist is under Evelyn Poole’s thumb as a double agent at first but he uses every opportunity to fight back. He even kills one of the witches and is one of the few characters at the end giving Victor a listening ear. I thought he’d die this season but was very glad to be proven wrong.

Angelique – Angelique is one of the coolest minor characters this season. She is a transgender woman who works as an uptown prostitute who becomes the lover of Dorian Gray. She is wrestling against abuse and prejudice and for much of the series Dorian supports her, until he meets Lily Frankenstein and until Angelique finds his painting. Her death illustrates Dorian’s depravity in a way we haven’t seen in the show as it was only his inability to trust that lead him to do it. She deserved so much better.

Sembene – This is the season we get Sembene’s backstory. He is an outsider as he was once a former slave trader and we know he dealt with other beings like werewolves, as when Ethan is revealed to be one he accepts Ethan. Hs story ends in death when he is trapped when Ethan transforms in a very stupid witch’s plot. Like Angelique I wish we had gotten more of his story.

Ethan and Vanessa – One of the strongest relationships this season is that between Ethan and Vanessa. We learn Ethan is “The Wolf of God” and the one thing the forces of darkness fear. We also have Ethan’s inability to open up about being a werewolf to anyone outside of Sembene, but in Vanessa and Ethan’s protecting of each other we see a deep friendship become a complicated sort-of romantic relationship. I loved their scenes together and am curious if this arc is going to pay off next season.

Victor and Vanessa – Victor and Vanessa have a lovely platonic friendship that was needed on this show. Vanessa helps Victor in his courting of Lily (they even go dress shopping together) and she is one of the few he will listen to in facing his addiction. I hope we get more moments of this relationship next season.

Victor and his Creations – This season we see Victor’s guilt tied to his creations and the reasons why. He loves Brona who he turned into Lily Frankenstein but is so jealous that of course it will only end in tragedy. He also created Lily for John Clare (Caliban’s new name). John Clare is a constant shadow over his life as we see the guilt Victor feels in the pain in John’s creation and John’s killing of Proteus. His relationship to his creations is what defines him and when Lily becomes a powerhouse beyond his control he loses himself in addiction at the end of the season.

John Clare – John Clare has a healthy friendship this season, and it is with Vanessa Ives. She sees beauty in him and they talk philosophy and poetry and she even teaches him to dance. Sadly him being the monster leads to his job at a waxworks ending in him captured to be a freak on display. In the end he kills the owners and escapes, and after his understandable rejection by Lily and then her offer of power that he refuses, he asks Vanessa to run away with him. She is afraid to hurt him though and stays in London, leading to him heading north like in the novel “Frankenstein.”

Dorian Gray – Reeve Carney has really come into this role. The season starts out with a broken-hearted Dorian being greeted by Angelique. It is this forwardness that entrances Dorian and for much of the season he is building up her confidence in her as he claims to believe in her. Sadly this ends when he meets Lily Frankenstein and we see Dorian is only interested in what he sees as the newest person to entrance him who can give him new experiences. We also see the depths of sociopathy when he kills Angelique after she still loves him even after seeing the deformed, undead painting of his true self. It is this undead nature that brings Lily to him and at the end of the show they establish an alliance as undead faction with plans to rule all.

Lily Frankenstein – Billie Piper has some amazing range that is really on display this season. We see her rebirth from Brona into Lily and relearning herself and new identity in relationship to Victor. Her arc from here is transcending this as we see her murder a “john” and throw John Clare around when he attempts to force a relationship calling out the abuse of men before offering him power and a chance to rule. This offer ends up being accepted by Dorian, and when Victor tries to kill her we learn that for sometime she has remembered who she once was and has greater plans to rule as an immortal. It’s excellent and I can’t wait to see what she and Dorian do.

The Cons:

Contrived Main Character Idiocy – Most of the idiocy this season is tied to the witches and their plots. I really think the writers didn’t know what to do so they wrote the story to force character action, rather than characters making organic choices that made sense. This really comes to a head in the final episodes that I’ll get into below.

Characters Going Alone – Malcolm is under Evelyn Poole’s spell for much of this season and once he is freed he goes to face the witches alone, when he’s never done that before and last season the whole point was acting as a team and trusting each other. This happens again with Vanessa going alone to save Malcolm and finally Ethan goes during a full moon, knowing he’ll be a danger. He does this again when he turns himself in to Inspector Rusk. This only happened so we could isolate the protagonists to separate them at the end when nothing last season or this season would set this up. I hated it.

Sembene’s Death – Sembene dies from contrived character idiocy and characters going alone. We saw Ethan turn down going out twice before because of the danger of becoming a werewolf and him doing so is how Sembene dies as he is trapped when Ethan transforms. It is real dumb. He is also the only person of color on the cast so his death stands out even more as a toxic trope. Why couldn’t his story continue? He was in the main credits so the showrunners saw him as main cast.

The Witches – The dumbest part of this season is the witches. They are trying to have Vanessa become Lucifer’s wife but none of their tactics do anything to make that possible. When they aren’t failing in basic tasks, they are peacocking around like they’ve already won. They are never scary because they rarely succeed, and beyond staying young they can’t even really control others all that well. In the end nearly all of them are killed by Team Vanessa, with only Evelyn’s daughter Hecate escaping after she uses Ethan the werewolf to kill Evelyn. She clearly has plans for Ethan but I don’t care. She is just as idiotic as her sisters and she only lived due to most characters being hit with the “stupid stick” in the last few episodes.

This season isn’t as strong as season 1 but it has stronger character moments than season 1. In the end I’d still recommend watching on though as that is what I plan to do. I want to see how things end in season 3 as I care about Team Vanessa and see potential in the deep lore that was largely wasted this season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2018): A New Studio’s Decent Introduction to the Studio Stage

With Hayao Miyazaki retiring soon and with it…I doubt his studio will ever be as strong. Hell, his son’s film “From Up on Poppy Hill” nearly put me to sleep and I’m afraid to see “Tales of Earthsea” given how much I love that series and the bad things I’ve heard about it. So lets put Ghibli’s future on hold. Who will take up the banner? Well Studio Ponoc throws their hat in the ring with this film as it captures many similar themes, from coming of age, nature v. science and other Miyazaki-esque themes. How did it do? If you like anime films I’d recommend it. It isn’t great but it is a solidly enjoyable outing. The film was released in 2017 in Japan but 2018 in the States so I’m counting it as my first 2018 film review.

The film was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi who also co-wrote the film with Riko Sakaguchi and produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura.

The story involves Mary, a young girl in England about to start school who stumbles upon a Witch’s Flower which transports her to a magical school where she soon finds herself in over her head as Witch Madame Mumblechook and Doctor Dee seek the flower to their own ends.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is really neat. I like that the Magic School / World lives above ours so it is hard to access, and the fact that it seem to imply anyone can access it and be changed by it. This also leads to a con though, the logic of this world is never answered…which I’ll bring up later.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful and very Ghibli-esque. It is open and gives characters a range of expression while also being fluid and full of compelling color, while remaining bright like a fairy tale. If they make more films with this aesthetic I may check out what they simply to see the animation and if they can take what great thing they have and make it better.

The Flashback – A mysterious witch is running away with the flower while being attacked by summoned water dolphin beings. The threat is high the entire time and we see her fall and her broom and the flowers become overgrown by the world below. This is an amazing setup and I wanted to know what happened.

Doctor Dee –  I saw the English dub because that was what released in theatres and Jim Broadbent is the one who voiced this mad scientist. He is really interesting as he sees unethical experiments as for the greater good and is seeking immortality. He also used to be tall but has now become short and uses machines to walk. His obsession has completely transforms him, but that didn’t change his love for Madame Mumblechook, the Headmistress of the school.

Great Aunt Charlotte – This is the character the movie should have been about. She is the witch at the beginning and we see that she’s settled down but still held onto a single flower. How did her life change after her escape? So much time has passed…but she was a witch so does her magic leave after she leaves the school? None of these questions are really answered. I wanted her story. She is way more compelling than our protagonists.

Okay: Mary and Peter – Mary and Peter are okay. Mary is clumsy and wants to help and doesn’t thing she is good at anything and Peter is a bully who ends up becoming more when he finds that Mary is friends with his cats. Mary saves Peter after becoming a witch and must stop Mumblechook and Dee…okay. This is all fine but none of them are all that complicated and I was far more invested in the side characters than our leads.

Madame Mumblechook – Madame Mumblechook is also okay, we don’t really see why the Witch’s Flower corrupted her motivation as Doctor Dee is the one doing mad scientist experiments and she is in charge of the school. We don’t really get her change beyond possibly her love for Dee? Which is a shame as Dee was driven by mad science, so he had more going on.

The Cons: World Development – Do Witch’s only get magic from the flower? Do you keep your magic if you stay at the school? How does the Witch World interact with ours? What is the difference between magic and science in this universe? This was a world of potential but it failed to fully explore the fascinating premise it started with.

I wish Studio Ponoc success, and given this is their first film they’ve released I hope they can continue releasing films of at least this quality and better. For any fans of the themes in Miyazaki and Ghibli films, check this one out. It has a lot of untapped potential but what they do explore is a lot of fun and the animation is simply beautiful. Here is to the future and hoping that Studio Ponoc will only grow from here.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

 

“Supernatural” Season 11 – Reminds Us Why We’re Here for the Characters and Chokes at the End

Supernatural Season 11

    Well, I came back to the show. I didn’t watch the non-myth arc episodes unless a friend recommended a certain one, but I came back…and the show got better! The ending still kind of sucked, but the overall story improved a lot! This was the season that payed off on the relationships that have been building up for so long and seeing how those relationships unfolded really lended power to the choices and consequences that happened leading up to the Finale.

      I wish the show had been canceled this season though, so much of what was bad about the Finale could have been avoided if they’d just tied the story together at the end as the Winchesters and their allies live on after their greatest battle..if only we’d been so lucky. Last season was terrible, and here are some of my thoughts on it:https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/supernatural-season-10-retrospect-terrible-writing-pointless-deaths-dropped-arcs-and-codependency-continues/

But this season managed to fix some of those things, and avoiding the “Monster of the Week” episodes made the overall experience better.

    The showrunner for this season was Jeremy Carver, and he actually managed to capture a lot of what made the Lucifer/Apocalypse Arc back during the first 5 seasons (after how bad last season was I wasn’t expecting this).

SPOILERS

    The story involves the Winchesters trying to stop The Darkness after they release into the world after last season when Dean killed Death and the Mark was destroyed. From here they will free Lucifer, find God and create an Alliance to stop the ending of everything.

The Pros: The World – The world of “Supernatural” is fascinating, and we actually get some questions answered as to the nature of the world in this season. Seriously, for a lot of this season it feels like it is trying to everything that went wrong last season.

Metatron – Metatron’s back and actually has a redemption arc! We see Cas about to kill when he’s filming people he’s killing to make money on the street, but when God finds him to write his Memoirs there is a turn around and we see Cas’s mercy actually helped him to grow. In the end he stands against the Darkness/Amara and dies for it.

“Safe House,” The Bobby Episode – More Bobby is great and I like that he was helping the boys through his journal not physically being there. It was tactfully done and showed the cost of being a hunter.

Team Free Will – Team Free Will is the best it has been and now Crowley and Rowina are kind of part of the Team too, as well as Chuck/God (yep, he’s God). They finally take these arcs somewhere interesting.

Castiel – Castiel is the sacrificial lamb this season and becomes Lucifer’s vessel to defeat the Darkness. He is an outsider from Heaven and is full ally of humanity at this point. Misha continues to own this role and his performance as Lucifer is fantastic.

Lucifer – Lucifer possesses Cas to defeat the Darkness and we get to see him try and kill the brothers and eventually resolve things with God as they both resolve how selfish and flawed they both are. He also keeps fighting the Darkness until she kicks him out of Cas and possibly killed him. Misha’s performance here is brilliant.

Dean  – Jensen Ackles continues to be the charisma of this show in regards to why the Winchestsers are still main characters. Here we see him become more of a mentor to countless characters and even help the Darkness and God resolve their issues. This is a character who is tough with a lot of empathy and this season really illustrates that.

Sam – Jared Padalecki does alright. He still doesn’t feel all that different from all his past seasons…but at least he’s given more to do this season. Sam feels like his role has been taken over by Cas and the only way to counter that is to have Cas possessed by Lucifer, so props to the writers for getting that right. He isn’t memorable per usual, but I liked that he at least didn’t bring the show down.

Allies – Rowina and the Witches and Crowley and his demons become allies at one point! This I thought was handled pretty well as we see Crowley getting human blood really did change him a lot and Rowina’s motivation for helping makes sense. The treading water with these folks last season actually goes somewhere.

Rowina – Rowina like Crowley allies with Lucifer and is nearly killed…allies with the Darkness…same thing and finally gets that she needs people who care about her a little and resolves things with Crowley and even makes friends with God in relating to being a parent.

Crowley – Mark Sheppard is one of my favorite actors and he owns the role of the King of Hell. In this he loses it when Lucifer comes back but escapes and later becomes an official part of Team Free Will when he realizes his minions don’t respect him for his humanity and that he is the outsider, just like them. He is Neutral at this point, with leanings to good and it lends power to his role. He ends up embracing that when he can’t win on his terms as the Darkness doesn’t owe him anything and he values having something whether it is respect for relationship. Crowely continues to be one of the best part of this show.

Chuck/God – Chuck is God and how they do it is really cool…what if God were humanesque but alien? The show tackles that as he learns to see the details in the big picture and his overall good intent is explored to the fullest as he seeks out to resolve thing with Amara/The Darkness after she tries to kill him. This reveal was handled amazingly and I like that they made this writing choice.

The Darkness/Amara – I’m glad that the Darkness has a personality. This is a character who I expected to hate after last season but whose performance manages to actually matter thanks to Emily Swallow. You get why she hates what God did, given he imprisoned her forever…Her arc is resolving this as we see at the end of the day she is in everyone, not just Dean which there is romantic tension due to him having the Mark. I got her choices and changes and really , this is where the show had ended. There is nowhere to go after this that doesn’t feel like a cheap encore.

Okay/Con: The Ending – Everything with Amara, Rowina and Crowley, the brothers, Castiel, Heaven and Lucifer…and Chuck is great…but it keeps pulling away from that to set up next season with the London Chapter of the Men of Letters. 

The Cons: The London Chapter of “The Men of Letters”  –  These guys ruin the drama going on between Rowina, Crowley, Lucifer, Castiel, Chuck/God, The Darkness/Amara and the brothers. This only exists because they got renewed and just hurts the plot that I would have at least put at an 8 if not for this crap.

Happy Ending When Show Isn’t Done – The show should have been done…you defeat the thing that was around before God and make it care about what God made. This could have been much more emotionally powerful if it had just been the end, but it wasn’t. London Chapter comes out of nowhere to prosecute the boys and shoot Sam and Dean finds Sam and Dean’s mom…What the hell?

  As you can see there are a lot more pros this season than last season, which felt like it was largely treading water. I think that they were getting ready to end the show but when they were green lit for another season they knew they needed something to keep the cash coming, and it cost them good story in the process, and gave us a Finale that was good when it wasn’t setting up next season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 8 – “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” – A Good Idea Lost in Poor Symbolism

Star Trek the Animated Series Lucien Magic

   After my laptop getting it’s battery replaced it is nice being able to write reviews again! I have a few reviews to catch up on but here is the latest of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

    “The Magics of Megas-Tu” really show how the original series wasn’t so good at metaphor and showing but not telling. In this the basic premise is that the witch trials, specifically those in Salem were bad and that we’ve grown beyond them. If that wasns’t obvious you haven’t been paying attention and the fact that witches are still scene as a threat and with that superstition leading to dangerous actions…there is that too, which the episode misses. I enjoyed the animation in this (which was surprising) but the story doesn’t hold and I’ll go into more detail on why.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Lary Brody.

     The story involves the Enterprise going into the center of creation and running into the Megans, who put humanity on trial for their treatment of witches and it is up to Spock and Kirk to save the day.

The Pros: Spock – Spock is a wizard in this and realizes that since what you believe is real you can cast spells in this reality. Seeing him act as a wizard and defending humanity being an outsider from it is really powerful.

The Animation – The presentation of magic is really cool in this and has chaos and beauty intermixed to create some wonderful scenes when they are passing through the core of the Universe.

The Cons: The Message – Persecution of “others” is bad. This is true but it could have been executed so much better. For one better to use Medieval Times or the Inquisition to express persecution of pagans and magic or even going modern day with some more fundamentalist theist sects or certain tribes in different regions…going Salem is so vague and shows lazyness.

Lucien – This guy is arrogant and I never believed his kindness. There was so much they could have done with this character who was meant to be Lucifer and Loki in mythology. Instead we got none of the complexity and only a god wanting to have a good time. He should have been another deity that fit

The Crew – The crew is just kind of there, even Kirk who exists wholly to send a message that humanity has grown beyond persecution of witches. It was entertaining but a character becoming a message only weakens the story.

  This was a below average episode that I’d only recommend for the animation experience. No reason to see it beyond that. Spock is as usual an awesome character but Kirk in this feels like a plot device and the crew doesn’t do anything productive.

Final Score: 4 / 10

Seventh Son (2014): Bland Leads and Would Have Worked Better as a Mini-Series or Videogame

Seventh Son

    “Seventh Son” was okay. For what it is worth it did get me interested on the book it is based on and the side characters are far more interesting and compelling than the leads (Jeff Bridges, Kit Harrington and Julianne Moore) are characters so there is that, but so much of the world feels unfully fleshed out and the story does feel rushed, like it was trying to take advantage of the fantasy in cinema interest going on right now. I’ll get into more of that in the assessment though. This is a decent rental but the limitations of film don’t serve this film justice and the presentation would have worked better as a really good videogame.

    The film was directed by Sergei Bodrov, written by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight and produced by Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull and Lionel Wigram, and based off the story The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney.

    The story involves Gregory (Jeff Bridges) searching for the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son since they are gifted at fighting Witches and the Queen of Witches Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escaped and killed his last apprentice Bradley (Kit Harrington). This leads him to Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) who is the last Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and also has magic in his blood as his mother is a Witch. He must train Tom before the Blood Moon when Mother Malkin will be at full power and impossible to stop.

The Pros: The World – The world is interesting as there are Witches who are shapeshifters and aren’t all bad as well as their being many other creatures and beasts like Bogarts, Wights, etc. Some of whom aren’t bad. This isn’t fully explored though as so much of the plot is focused on Tom and his romance that the plot didn’t need.

Bradley – Kit Harrington does a great job and would have been great in the role of Tom as his character has a lot of personality and is the happy go lucky one to the bitterness of Bridges’s Gregory. He sadly dies pretty early on to Mother Malkin in his Spook Apprenticeship to Gregory.

Gregory – Jeff Bridges is wonderful and I like how you get why he is bitter as Malkin was his lover before he got married and after she killed his family and his apprentices he carries nothing but hate and anger. He makes a great character though and Bridges makes him sympathetic. His relationship with Bradley and Malkin would have made this a great story, but sadly we get boring leads instead.

Mother Malkin – Julianne Moore hams this role up and does a great job of reveling in being evil for the sake of power. She is a good threat and far more interesting than those who follow her. He backstory being Gregory’s lover gives her depth too and motivation for what she does, she wants to get back for being trapped and wronged.

The Cons: Story Execution – The story execution is bad, largely due to the focus on our uninteresting leads of Tom and Alice who are blank slates and contrived love. The actors and script can’t carry those characters and it brings down the dynamic between Malkin and Gregory.

The Lieutenants – We don’t know anything about them though they have cool designs, from an army of stone, a shape-shifter and a multi-armed killer though we never get their motivations and they would have been much funner in a videogame, not a film.

The Other Witches – The other witches are plot devices. Alice and Tom’s mothers dies to show that not all witches are bad and to motivate the characters to change. They don’t ever feel like characters, they are there to drive plot and that is it.

Alice – She is the spy for Malkin but changes sides because she loves Tom. She has no motivation outside of love for Tom which was contrived since all she had was his saving her life. The actress is also really bland.

Tom Ward – Ben Barnes was horrible in this role. He wore one expression the entire time and he was written as a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. He’s half witch and a Seventh Son so he can do anything and has all the magic powers! This felt super contrived and plot armor kept him alive when he should have died on a few occasions. Super weak writing and terrible acting.

 This is a movie that would be fun to watch and mock with friends or if you want something that you don’t have to think deeply about. It’s a throwaway film and not my kind of movie though I do want to read the book now, so there is that. It isn’t good though, it’s okay at best and again, it’s a film that would be most enjoyable mocking with friends and having in the background.

Final Score: 6 / 10

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

Madoka_12_goddess

      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.

Group_pic_last_scene

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

Homura_Hugs_Madoka_ep_11

    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.