Anime Reporter brings you not one verdict but two as I look at Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 1: Beginnings and Part 2: Eternal. Some readers will probably recall I reviewed the third part in the series here a little while ago. While Part 3 was written as its own film, the first two parts here are more of an adaptation of the original anime series, summarising its events, containing some bonus material and updated animation.
The two films together focus on the premise of magical girls, which as you might have gathered, are girls with magical abilities. These girls get their magical powers along with the vow to fight against the evil of witches, in exchange for their being granted a single wish. The wish can be absolutely anything, but the moment it’s made, that girl signs up to the duty of fighting life-or-death battles against powerful and evil being. While magical girls gain their powers from the birth of a wish, witches’ powers stem from curses. That isn’t to say that all is as bright and shiny as it seems with magical girls. There is many a dark revelation to be found.
The two films focus particularly on two schoolgirls, Madoka and Sayaka, who are given the opportunity to make this wish, thus essentially signing up for lifetime enrolment in the magical armed forces. Of the two girls, the title character, Madoka, is by far the more innocent and unsure. Her uncertainty sees her hesitate over what wish she should make while the battles rage on around her and her old and new friends risk their lives in all out conflict. The consequences of her choices and, ultimately, of her wish, shape the world she lives in and are well carried by impressively executed character growth.
The films start off with an extremely light tone, showcasing Madoka’s school and family life, relatively carefree and happy. This is pretty harshly interrupted by the arrival of a new student in her class, one Homura Akemi, who symbolises the much darker world of magical girls, as well as some of the graver threats facing Madoka and Sayaka.
The visual effects are a marvel, with a wonderful contrast between Madoka’s bright and cheery home life and the Kafkaesque, Burtonian labyrinths which form the physical landscape of witches’ curses. This matches up quite well with the films’ ongoing themes of innocence and corruption as well as happiness and sacrifice. While the initial premise and certainly the opening stages of the first film might paint a lighter picture, these films pair to provide a dark and deeply satisfying duology of films, setting up the slightly more disturbing third film well.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 01: Beginnings and Part 02: Eternal are currently available on DVD and Blu-ray (and DVD/Blu-ray combo pack) from the fine folks at Manga Entertainment in the UK and Ireland now. Keep an open mind. There’s more to these films than first glances might suggest.