Madoka Magica Madness

My Dungeons & Dragons group has movie nights on occasion. It started as a way to just hang out during the pandemic. We’d hop onto Discord, pick a bad movie, and just press play at the same time. We’ve gone through Kung Fu Hustle, Mortal Kombat, and Spaceballs.

One day, I don’t recall how, but the subject of anime was brought up, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica was mentioned in the conversation.

Side note: From here on out, whenever I reference this anime, I’m just going to call it Madoka Magica.

I had never heard of it before, and neither had the majority of our party. Only two had seen it, one of them being our usual Dungeon Master, Sidney. He immediately volunteered the series as our next watch on movie night. In its favor was the fact that it was only twelve episodes long, and it was on Netflix.

Honestly, I’m not a big anime person. Often, anime series are huge time investments because the good ones have massive amounts of manga chapters to follow. I have bought a few manga volumes, notably Death Note, Fruits Basket, and Naruto. But I haven’t even made the leap to watching their anime all the way through to their conclusions.

As such, I had no idea what to expect from Madoka Magica.

Let me tell you, while it is not the most disturbing anime out there, it is definitely shocking for the genre it is commenting upon.

The “magical girl” genre is a popular one, and it basically involves a select group of girls who are granted magical powers, transform into their badass selves, and then whup evil’s ass. Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura are perfect examples of this.

Madoka Magica seeks to dismantle the tropes you commonly see in a magical girl anime. The toll the girls must accept for gaining powers is insane. The monsters they face are deadly, and, as it turns out, their transformations come at a heinous cost.

So what started as a lighthearted, girlish adventure turned into this universe-ending shock-fest. Sidney, who had already seen the series, spent half his time watching our faces on the computer screen so he could see our reactions. And we were totally engrossed. We stayed up well after midnight guzzling each episode with our eyes.

I won’t necessarily recommend Madoka Magica to you, my Above Average Readers, because I’m not sure what you’d think of it. To prove my point, two of our D&D party members just refused to watch the series (Mia and Dalton). One because she had seen it already and been disturbed by the plot twists, and the other because he refuses to watch anime that deconstruct themselves.

I will, however, say that if you want one hell of a hellish time and you enjoy a bite-sized anime every so often, then Madoka Magica should be perfect for you.

No Eyes Will Stay Dry: A Silent Voice Review

I’m a mild to moderate manga reader and anime watcher. Like, I’ve read all of Death Note, but I’ve never read Bleach. I’ve watched a chunk of Naruto, but I haven’t even scratched the surface of Attack on Titan.

That said, I have friends who are avid manga and anime consumers. They are the ones who reproach me for never having seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or for reading an issue of Shonen Jump. They also advise me on absolutely everything I should be watching/reading.

Side note: Demon Slayer is apparently really, really good.

Of all my friends who watch anime, my good buddy Bubba is probably the best. (Hey, shaka brah!)

Since this whole pandemic started, we’ve been watching movies with each other using Discord or Xbox Live. From Blade Runner to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we’re chewing through films.

One of the movies we settled to watch was A Silent Voice, an anime film made in 2016 that hits you right in the feels. As of this writing, it is on Netflix.

It’s honestly a very touching story. Using blunt symbolism and dialogue left unspoken, A Silent Voice dives into tough subjects like bullying and depression. I approached this movie with absolutely no expectations, and by the time the credits rolled, I had to wipe my eyes and sniff snot back up my nostrils.

Needless to say, I thought the film was good.

The plot revolves around a boy named Shoya, who was a merciless bully to a fellow student named Shoko. Shoko is deaf, and it is this that forms the basis for her getting bullied. Egged on by his “friends” and classmates, Shoya is relentless in being mean to this girl.

However, after leaving middle school and entering high school, things have changed. Shoya elects to make up for what he’s done to Shoko, and spends the rest of the film desperately trying to make amends.

I seriously don’t want to spoil the ending, so I won’t detail how this situation is resolved, but it is a damn roller coaster of emotions.

The genre of the film is clearly slice-of-life, focusing on Shoya and Shoko’s teenage and childhood years. In the grand scheme of things, nothing dramatic or remarkable happens, but the emotional revelations the story places in your lap are enough to keep you engrossed in what’s going on.

A Silent Voice is based on a manga, so, as with anything that gets adapted into a film, there are parts that feel unexplained or rushed. While some might take this as a con of the movie, I feel like it contributes to the concept of peeking at the flashes of Shoya’s life.

That leads to one of the major draws of the movie. The manner in which the characters are examined perfectly encapsulates the overall message of the story. You don’t always know what is going on with a person below the surface. The film successfully conveys this in the way it gets you to (eventually) sympathize with a bully. Plus, there is a near-end-of-the-movie twist that emphasizes that point even further, showing that just because a person looks happy doesn’t mean they’re not struggling.

While it can get heavy-handed, the symbolism in the film is one of its strengths. At one point, Shoya feels like he can’t interact with other people without hurting himself or them. He effectively cuts himself off from socializing with classmates. The film demonstrates this by having every person who isn’t Shoya’s family bear a giant X on their faces. Shoya never meets their eyes, and the movie ensures that viewers can’t as well. This feature of the film is one that only an anime could successfully pull off.

Needless to say, the story covers some triggering topics, with suicide being referred to several times. I think it is handled well, especially with the notion that no life is worthless being incredibly stressed by the end of the film. Anyone can come back from the edge, and while forgiveness does not come easily, it can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Though I did cry, the movie’s end left me with a positive feeling.

Bubba and I like to make jokes throughout our movie-watching, but A Silent Voice managed to temper them. It’s a sobering and poignant story.

I rate it a silent-and-resounding-success-that-should-be-seen-at-least-once.