It really can’t be because I had high expectations. I didn’t really. I was skeptical. I’m always skeptical. Especially as the one series from the Winter season that seemed to be universally well-liked, I went into the whole thing with a large grain of salt. After all, I don’t seem to have a great track record for agreeing with the popular opinion (see Eureka 7 and Gundam SEED).
Magical girls? Yeah, okay, whatever. Even if Sailor Moon was my first and only, I don’t have a problem with magical girls — but my opinion towards the genre probably wasn’t necessary to factor in anyway, considering everyone was liking Madoka because it was “different” from what you’d typically expect from a magical girl series.
But the first two episodes bored the hell out of me. I didn’t see anything different. It wasn’t bubbly and shoujo enough to be typical magical girl, I guess, but it wasn’t groundbreaking in any way or even halfway intriguing. The characters were flat and uninteresting, wholly good and moral. Homura was a question mark, but did not provide a lot of excitement. Kyuubey was creepy though. Clearly he has an ulterior motive! The collage element in some scenes were kind of neat, but not neat enough for me to watch on that basis alone. And boy, was that opening theme fan-pandering or what.
So I thought about dropping because hey, when was the last time I actually ended up liking a series that I almost dropped early on? Oh, right, never. (The only halfway case was when I almost dropped Dennou Coil near the midpoint because it was slow, but I wasn’t bored at the beginning of the series.) But I was goaded into watching episode three because it’s such a short series anyway, and episode three was the first instance of Puella Magi Madoka Magica being different.
(Spoilers for the entire series beyond this point.)
Well, I guess one of the girls dying horribly when a monster witch thing bites her head off is kind of unexpected, yes.
But even still, the series didn’t seem to pick up. There is drama, but the characters continued to be flawlessly moral with every bit of negativity justified with a tragic and uninspired backstory, and I just didn’t care. Here is another series that failed completely at getting me to sympathize with the characters. All of them could have died and it wouldn’t have been interesting because I wasn’t emotionally invested at all. It might have been a little surprising, but it wouldn’t have been interesting. The backdrop for the series is not unimaginative, but without characters that didn’t suck, none of the events mattered to me.
The terrible wishes all of the characters were making also annoyed me. I mean, really, guys. First rule of wishing-making: say it right. It isn’t like you have a time or 140-character limit. The show isn’t even hinged on interpreting your wishes wrong, and it was established that Kyuubey isn’t really trying to trick you. You can be as specific as you want, right? If you’re selling your soul to the creepy white alien bunny, you should at least make sure that you get exactly what you want in return. Who’s to say you can’t have a compound sentence in there too?
We didn’t hear Sayaka’s wish specifically, but really? You wished his hand magically perfectly well again, but not his legs? I get that his hand was more important and that his legs were probably gonna heal anyway, but come on. We’re making miracles here! Kyoko’s wish is forgivable, I guess, since she was depicted as very young at the time. But Madoka’s? Man… Madoka, you could have fixed everything, but you didn’t. (More on this below.)
I was ready to drop it again around episode nine. At that point, I would have been fine if someone had just spoiled the rest of the series for me. It’s always a bad sign when I stop caring about spoilers. I normally hate spoilers, no matter how minor. But man. It’s such a short series. Twelve episodes! Just three more to go. How bad could it possibly be? And maybe I’d get some pay off finally?
Episode ten did make me care a little more about the outcome of the series though. With Homura’s motivation finally clear, I could almost kind of care about whether she succeeds or not! And I love time shenanigans. Time shenanigans are cool. But time shenanigans also opened the floor to a bunch of questions and possible plot holes:
- What was the contractual wish of original!Madoka if current!Madoka is having such a hard figuring one out?
- Is Homura actually retconning/rewriting all previous timelines by physically traveling back in time?
- But that doesn’t make sense since she never meets a younger version of herself.
- Kyuubey implies that she’s been traveling into parallel universes, but in this case, she’d still need to deal with duplicate versions of herself??
- It’s conceivable that she’s merely transferring her consciousness into a past/alternate version of herself, but in this case, I feel like her physical skills/prowess wouldn’t transfer as smoothly.
- Other than Homura’s knowledge of previous timelines, is anything else changing between timelines?
- Obviously, because Madoka is apparently having her fate twisted by the universe?
- And also, if nothing else had changed, Madoka would already be a magical girl in each timeline since she’s already one when she meets Homura and it’s implied that Homura restarts at the same place every time.
- Not knowing what Madoka’s contract wish was originally (since they hadn’t met at that point), I’m not sure how Homura could go about preventing Madoka from making that original contract. I guess Madoka could have told her, but
- Given all this, why does the mere fact that Homura is messing with time screw up these other things?
I didn’t expect the series to actually answer any/most of these. It’s actually pretty easy to be forgiving with timefuckery plot holes because it’s such a complicated plot device. But seeing as this turning point reveal was the only thing I found interesting in a series full of disappointments and that it took ten damn episodes to get there, well.
My brother had been amongst the people singing praises for the series and had specifically recommended it to me. He was disappointed that my final thoughts were basically “MEHHHHHH.” We usually have similar tastes, but it seems that every time we disagree, it’s me disliking a series that he likes. Rarely does he dislike a series that I like. He went through my MAL to make sure. The following is the conversation I had with him on Facebook about the conclusion of the series, and then the series in general. It’s unedited except to replace our names and his profile picture.