As the winter season approached and more promo material was being released, I had gradually resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to like Madoka Magica. Magical girl anime have left some pretty deep scars in the past (well, actually only one, but it’s a pretty deep scar). Combine that with the aura of Hidamari Sketch (review forthcoming) and there was the perfect recipe for anime everyone else loves but I despise. Yeah, I think I may have spoiled the plot for this review. What did you guys expect? That I’d like a fluffy magical girl show like Madoka Magica? Hahahaha…..yeah, I liked it….
I like Shaft’s animation style. When other animation studios use cost-cutting methods, they have endless scenes of talking heads with not much movement. When Shaft use cost-cutting methods, they leap around to present things in a different manner. Calling it cost-cutting and therefore a bad thing is totally missing the point. It’s an ingenious method of presenting a shot by flipping the apparent negative aspect of animation on it’s head to present it in an interesting manner. Problem with early Shaft was they were using this method without much attempt at making these shots be anything other than cost-cutting and artsy. If they were meant to mean anything, if was often stumbled upon by fluke rather than directorial skill. For the past two years though, Shaft finally calmed the fuck down and presented their anime in a much less frantic animation style. Very few directorial animation quirks remained and this time they actually meant something.
Madoka Magica is the next step for Shaft on their path to enlightenment and the anime I have been envisioning them making for the past few years. One where all their animation quirks come together to actually mean something and you have the perfect creation. The time when Shaft make something with animation and artwork as good as Gankutsuous was. Madoka Magica isn’t quite it, but it’s a massive step in the right direction and it’s the first time I’ve seen their animation come in sight of that promised land. It works! For once, almost every directorial quirk works. Obviously it helps to have little miss Bee Train doing the music, but for once it’s all coming together, animation-wise, for Shaft.
Not that I don’t have problems with the show. It does have rather too much of my anime kryptonite, ‘girls being insufferably nice to one another‘. The dialogue is rather stunted, as it always is in these kinds of anime. However that doesn’t matter so much here because the enjoyment nor the story is really told through the dialogue. It’s told through the animation and partly the music. Shadow here to show she’s scary. Crazy alternate world here that doesn’t mesh with the square headed character designs to show they have entered an other-worldly place. I can see this all turning to crap as the ‘girls being insufferably nice to each other’ genre wraps it’s tentacles over the show and infect it with even more mundane dialogue, but for now I’m impressed. Didn’t see that coming now, did you?