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Post Reply Madoka Magica and why I don't like it as much as everyone else.
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Posted 4/19/14

Insomnist wrote:


There's a train of thought I see often with regards to Madoka Magica, where the viewer decides if an action makes sense in their mind and then affirms or criticizes the show because of it. But, without saying that's what's happening here, when it happens, it's a trainwreck of narrative logic. The actions taken by a character informs the character. Someone saying "I wouldn't do that" belongs nowhere in criticism, unless the story is actually about them personally.

Furthermore, a statement like "No one would do that" is just biased generalization.

In order to make this criticism there has to be a diegetic inconsistency. The action must not fit the character, or the character who would make that action must not fit the world, or the story itself should have not permitted the action, etc.; saying that "I wouldn't do that" is tantamount to saying "I would not have written that" and is a criticism of the writer, not the work. The implication being that the writer is dumb, when they actually probably wrote what they did for good reason.


Small take away from a larger argument, and I've not nearly sat on this for any period of time. Just a thought on this segment of a bunch of thoughted thoughts.

It's not so much "I wouldn't do that, this character isn't making realistic decisions" as it is "This character is not making decisions, they're reacting to a script"

A character is capable of making decisions, stupid or smart, to the contrary of the audience or the story. The girls of Madoka react to events and questions thrown at them. This does not make them bad characters, this makes them not characters.

I say the girls of Madoka Magica are not characters in a realistic sense. They're not people, they're archetypes. They're literal archetypes, they exist to embody specific ideals and beliefs and are to react in such a way to enforce those archetypes.

A person can be an archetype, but an archetype is not a person. People are more complex than that.

Not that this has anything big to do with your super smart argument, it's simply the reaction argument I wanted to throw back at those specific words.

I might change my mind and what I've just typed sounds stupid as hell in an hour... but I'm a person. I'm complicated like that.
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Posted 4/19/14

Felstalker wrote:

The characters in Madoka Magica don't simply live their lives. They're living in a story. Houmura is as tragic as she is engineered. She doesn't simply make mistakes, she makes story mistakes.

I feel like I"m doing a really really bad job of explaining this.

[...]

It's a series of events leading to an ending, like a play.


I think that's pretty accurate, actually. It is like a play, and the writers were very much aware of it; the first episode starts with a curtain rising. I don't really see this as a problem, though. Their personalities and actions are believable enough and woven into the story well enough that they don't feel like puppets, at least not to me. (Also, there was this Shakespeare guy, who wrote plays that formed a foundation for many proceeding narrative structures and character designs, especially in tragic writing...you may have heard of him. )

This sort of relates to the debate over filler. I don't like it, but other people often do because it makes the characters seem more real to them, and less like actors. My opinion is that you only need that sort of filler when your story and characters aren't constructed well enough to seem real without filler, but that's not an absolute truth, obviously. Mainly stems from my colossal impatience. I get more than enough pointless blithering and everyday events and dead-end sideplots in real life.

It's true that they get punished harshly for their mistakes, but again, that is how a tragedy works. If mistakes led to bad, good, or irrelevant things at random, it would be more like reality... namely, tedious, meandering, and incoherent. Stories, or these types of stores at least, tend to focus on unusual events: times when everything went wrong, or everything went right, or a bunch of weird stuff happened all at once, or something along those lines.

In the end, Madoka rejects the tragic story they're trapped in and rebalances the world to be less horrible--in fact, all of the characters tried to do this, in their own ways. They all try to break out of the angsty molds they were forced into, and they eventually succeed. It's something of a metafictional exercise. Homura rewrites the story over and over, Kyouko tries to revive Sayaka's attempt at a heroic story, Mami just didn't want her story to end as a car accident victim with no friends. Madoka pulls all of this together to make the conclusion less grim and not pointless. (A similar yet more convoluted thing happens in Rebellion, but, spoilers.)
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Posted 4/19/14

Felstalker wrote:

I might change my mind and what I've just typed sounds stupid as hell in an hour... but I'm a person. I'm complicated like that.
Same boat.

We write something out and go "I think this is smart... I hope it's not dumb... I really, really hope it's not dumb..."

I'm not sure I agree in this particular sense, but the concept is interesting and I don't have a framework for dismantling it. Character as Plot Device is something I've wrinkled my brows at before, but I haven't found any decent analysis of it.

So I'm not sure how to proceed without being obtusely subjective, and Madoka Magica isn't fresh in my mind either.

But, yeah. I'll think about it. Maybe it'll knock something loose.
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Posted 4/19/14

kotomikun wrote:

I think that's pretty accurate, actually. It is like a play, and the writers were very much aware of it; the first episode starts with a curtain rising. I don't really see this as a problem, though. Their personalities and actions are believable enough and woven into the story well enough that they don't feel like puppets, at least not to me. (Also, there was this Shakespeare guy, who wrote plays that formed a foundation for many proceeding narrative structures and character designs, especially in tragic writing...you may have heard of him. )

This sort of relates to the debate over filler. I don't like it, but other people often do because it makes the characters seem more real to them, and less like actors. My opinion is that you only need that sort of filler when your story and characters aren't constructed well enough to seem real without filler, but that's not an absolute truth, obviously. Mainly stems from my colossal impatience. I get more than enough pointless blithering and everyday events and dead-end sideplots in real life.

It's true that they get punished harshly for their mistakes, but again, that is how a tragedy works. If mistakes led to bad, good, or irrelevant things at random, it would be more like reality... namely, tedious, meandering, and incoherent. Stories, or these types of stores at least, tend to focus on unusual events: times when everything went wrong, or everything went right, or a bunch of weird stuff happened all at once, or something along those lines.

In the end, Madoka rejects the tragic story they're trapped in and rebalances the world to be less horrible--in fact, all of the characters tried to do this, in their own ways. They all try to break out of the angsty molds they were forced into, and they eventually succeed. It's something of a metafictional exercise. Homura rewrites the story over and over, Kyouko tries to revive Sayaka's attempt at a heroic story, Mami just didn't want her story to end as a car accident victim with no friends. Madoka pulls all of this together to make the conclusion less grim and not pointless. (A similar yet more convoluted thing happens in Rebellion, but, spoilers.)


Look, if you're going to bring up Shakespeare use tragedy the way he would! Macbeth style! A great heroes fall to villiany...which does and does not represent Madoka Magika(I'M GOING BACK TO USING K, MAGICA WITH A C IS STUPID AND YOU SHOULD ALL FEEL BAD FOR IT. C IS A STUPID LETTER, IT'S SIMPLY A SOFT K, WHILE K IS A HARD C. AS FAR AS I KNOW, JAPANESE DOESN'T HAVE A SOFT C, ONLY THE HARD K BECAUSE IT'S KOOL)

Filler argument here. American media from Sitcoms to drama's are DEEP with filler. But it works because of the character focus. When you want to see characters interacting, the plot doesn't matter. We rarely use overarching stories, instead focusing on the daily lives and struggles of the characters.

this is why Filler in Anime tends to fall short... it's not geared for such nonsense. I"m sure plenty of shows are CAPABLE of good filler, but Japanese writing doesn't have room for it. So you have some writers who're good at filler, and many many many who are bad. It's simply a side story to waste time, instead of a chance to explore characters. Good sit-com like Anime are able to pull filler out their asses with pristine value to them, go watch those...maybe.
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Posted 4/19/14

Felstalker wrote:

Look, if you're going to bring up Shakespeare use tragedy the way he would! Macbeth style! A great heroes fall to villiany...which does and does not represent Madoka Magika(I'M GOING BACK TO USING K, MAGICA WITH A C IS STUPID AND YOU SHOULD ALL FEEL BAD FOR IT. C IS A STUPID LETTER, IT'S SIMPLY A SOFT K, WHILE K IS A HARD C. AS FAR AS I KNOW, JAPANESE DOESN'T HAVE A SOFT C, ONLY THE HARD K BECAUSE IT'S KOOL)


The Shakespeare thing was more of a joke than anything else, but Madoka really is a lot like classical tragedy (Faust), at least until the characters start trying to tear down the fourth wall. And it's spelled "Magica" on my Japanese copy of the manga, so I think I'll stick with that.

Filler is something I can't really appreciate in any context. I lost interest in both the prevailing plots and the filler in American TV years ago. Japanese filler is no better, but at least it's different-ish. I can't relate to a character after being subjected to their "quirky" personality for hours on end until they lose all sense of individuality. So I can't enjoy stuff like One Piece, but given the amount of hours I'd have to spend on that, I don't really mind.
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Posted 4/19/14
This thread has some really great discussion. I learned a lot reading it actually.


Man_Of_Leisure wrote:
Exactly, you would re-evaluate. It would change your outlook on everything, and you would have a shit load of questions. Questions you would ask. Specifically how and why. Also, how long does it take for them to ask how a rabbit can talk or have magic powers? This is basic exposition and no one seems to care.


I feel you here. I struggle with some anime where the characters don't seem to be asking the right questions about potentially dire circumstances. It breaks my immersion if how they act feels like it's more for the sake of the plot than a natural human reaction. Strangely enough I did not really notice it here with PMMM; probably because of the way everything is animated being so surreal. But, yeah, in hindsight I think you have a point here.

I struggled more with the look of the witch worlds being like a bad acid trip. The everyday things look so simple yet so sinister that it made me uneasy and was hard for me to watch. They did an excellent job with the horror aspect, so well it took me weeks to get through the dark times in the first half of the series. This series is mostly well done I think, and I certainly understand its popularity, but it's a bit too dark of a story for my liking. Also, I'm not really a magical girl, moe girl, or yuri fan, so the characters did not really appeal to me much. The only one I liked was the past version of Homura; she looked pretty in those glasses and with her hair in pigtails.
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Posted 4/20/14 , edited 4/20/14


Your critique is well thought out, and you may raise some good points about certain fans of the show, but I want to defend it as definitely the best overall anime I have ever seen and give my reasons why.

Firstly (and least importantly) is the overall quality of the product. The animation, music, and voice acting come together to make something that is definitely worthwhile. While that is remarkable, it isn't why I think it is the best anime I have seen.

The real reason I think the show is so brilliant is the quality of the writing: both in terms of the plot and of the meta-plot/ commentary about life. The literal plot of the show is definitely good, and yes, the tone shift is surprising and memorable. However, the show works on other levels as well. Above the literal plot is the genre deconstruction which happens. Mami's death is more than just the death of a character, I think it also symbolizes the death of the overdone, cliched part of that genre. After all, Mami is the most stereotypical magical girl in the show. The rest of the show's plot has literal meaning, but also symbolizes the creators attempt to revive an (arguably) tired genre and remind people of its merits. The basic premise of hope struggling against dark emotions is so basic that anyone can identify with it, if given the right setting. In addition to these genre commentaries, the creators also work in some subtle but well-presented ideas about society and its views on women.

Above even the genre-deconstruction and societal commentaries, Madoka is an incredibly well-done Buddhist parable. For the girls, what causes them to despair and become witches is their own desires. Through Homura's commitment to her wish (vows), she very nearly beats despair herself (and she enables Madoka to do so), and she continues to fight because of her convictions. However the show's message is essentially that hope can always beat despair. This is a complicated thing to think about, but it's basically the message of every world religion. I think that message is very clearly, interestingly, and beautifully presented in the show.

The fact that the writers can fit all these (and many other) messages into a 12 episode show I find completely remarkable. I may be exaggerating a little, but as of now, I can't think of a single wasted frame of animation in those 12 episodes. Every scene serves a purpose in terms of either the literal plot, the genre deconstruction, or the deeper message of the show.

For these reasons I think Madoka is objectively the best-done anime I have seen. It isn't even my personal favorite because of some subjective things. But attempting to be as objective about art as possible, I think it is simply the best executed and written I have seen. I am a little drunk as I write this, so I apologize if I was not as clear or concise as possible, but I still wanted to air my thoughts about this.

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Posted 4/20/14


I don't really see how that's a problem. No one's going to remember what Rick Grimes had for breakfast or the name of the umpteenth whore that Tyrion Lannister slept with. Don't all characters solely exist to serve a function in a story?

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Posted 4/20/14 , edited 4/20/14
I'm actually up to episode 9 at the moment (largely thanks to this thread) and I'd definitely concur that the irresistible culture shock has been the element drawing me in most conspicuously. However irregardless of any narrative ploy being utilised to engage its audience, this is an excellent anime. It's conceptually sound, blessed with delightfully ambiguous characters (especially enjoying the sociopathic, self-cannibalising cat-ish creature) and stylistically augmented by the whole 'puppet show' hybrid art it has going for it, on top of the already rather impressive animation. And of course, Madoka is completely adorable.

Where the series lets itself down is that it's always a little too eager to address the dark message(s) at the crux of the series and in doing so, relinquishes it's grasp on its audience somewhat. Culture-shock is only effective when you incorporate effective signposts of the said culture you intend to subvert and Madoka largely fails in this respect. We get very little of the fluffy, carefree slice of life vibe that's integral to establishing a system of values and beliefs as well as the motivations of the characters subject to it. The series is excessively reliant on us having experienced the tropes and structures of a more conventional magical girl anime in the past and subsequently neglects to sufficiently establish the relationships it seeks to turn on their heads. Though it feels hypocritical to say, what this anime really needs is a couple of filler episodes, or rather the equivalent of that in terms of raw content.

I'd argue that this really just needed to be a longer show. Given the inherent complexity of the premise in particular, there's simply too much to achieve within a mere 12 episodes for Madoka to fully achieve its potential.


jmcnally wrote:
*snip* Mami's death is more than just the death of a character, I think it also symbolizes the death of the overdone, cliched part of that genre. After all, Mami is the most stereotypical magical girl in the show. The rest of the show's plot has literal meaning, but also symbolizes the creators attempt to revive an (arguably) tired genre and remind people of its merits. The basic premise of hope struggling against dark emotions is so basic that anyone can identify with it, if given the right setting. In addition to these genre commentaries, the creators also work in some subtle but well-presented ideas about society and its views on women.


Wow, that's so true. I hadn't really considered the event critically but now that I think about it, that was the major thematic turning point of the show. I certainly wouldn't question that there was an immense poise in...ejecting Mami from the proceedings as it indisputably galvanised the pace and cut squarely into the meat of the narrative; though I do question the timing. In the third episode such a climactic event felt premature and as a consequence the impact of it, both emotionally and in terms of the overarching plot seemed diminished.

There's glaringly plenty more to this show than meets the eye and you produced some awesome analysis. I take off my hat to you sir.
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Posted 4/20/14

Angerudusto wrote:

I don't really see how that's a problem. No one's going to remember what Rick Grimes had for breakfast or the name of the umpteenth whore that Tyrion Lannister slept with. Don't all characters solely exist to serve a function in a story?



Its not about "what" its about "why" why did Rick have eggs and what does it say about him. Why does Tyrion like sleeping with shores specifically over a proper relationship.

Characters need to fufilk their roles, but that is not theo sole purpose. They need to be likable and dislikeable. Have qualities and promote themes outside the core narrative.

Storytelling has evolved past simple roles.

Kindle acting up and I'm going out swimming. Figure the typos on your own time.
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Thanks! I think there is definitely enough substance to this show that an English major somewhere could easily get a thesis or two out of it.

I haven't thought about the timing of the tone shift as much as I have about other aspects of the show, but I do have a few thoughts on it. It is definitely true that the early timing makes the full impact of the show reliant on some previous knowledge of the way the genre is supposed to go. However, I think that choice works fine. In the opening animation, first ending theme, and in the first two episodes, the audience gets to see a little bit of how Madoka's and Sayaka's normal lives play out. It's only a hint of normality, but I think their personalities as shown later in the show are well developed to the point that one can imagine what normal life would be like for them. I also feel like the audience does come to see the character's values clearly presented, even if we don't get to see how those values play out in regular life.

The question is then, "why not include slice-of-life before the tone shift?" I think there is a thematic argument for not doing so. By shifting the tone early, it helps the show establish its identity. Madoka Magica is simply not a happy show. It is a hopeful show, but it isn't meant to be happy per se. It can be interesting for an audience to be able to contrast equal (or more equal) amounts of happy and sad moments the characters experience. However, if the sad moments are sufficiently relatable (which I think they definitely are in Madoka), then the explicit contrast isn't necessary. The audience can provide that contrast from their own experiences and imagination of how the characters would experience those things. The early tone-shift serves to highlight the big message of the show: to chose hope even when you don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. By spending the vast majority of the show focusing on the dark emotions that have to be overcome, I think the eventual conclusion is made even more impressive.

All that said, I definitely wouldn't complain about a slice-of-life ova or something. It would be cool to see these characters in regular life more, but I don't think it's *necessary* to the development of the show.
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Posted 4/20/14

Felstalker wrote:


Angerudusto wrote:

I don't really see how that's a problem. No one's going to remember what Rick Grimes had for breakfast or the name of the umpteenth whore that Tyrion Lannister slept with. Don't all characters solely exist to serve a function in a story?



Its not about "what" its about "why" why did Rick have eggs and what does it say about him. Why does Tyrion like sleeping with shores specifically over a proper relationship.

Characters need to fufilk their roles, but that is not theo sole purpose. They need to be likable and dislikeable. Have qualities and promote themes outside the core narrative.

Storytelling has evolved past simple roles.

Kindle acting up and I'm going out swimming. Figure the typos on your own time.


But why? I don't see your impact. All you've manged to do is prove that the characters of Madoka are comparatively simplistic to characters of other shows. Are you arguing that simple characters are bad, or that complex characters are always better than simple ones? If that were the case, I disagree with you. First of all, complexity and simplicity are completely subjective. what is easy to understand for one person can be incredibly hard for someone else to understand. For example: While I found Kill la Kill easy to understand, some of my friends couldn't keep up with the fast pace and had to rewatch it several times just to understand what was going on. Second, some things are better done simply. Over-complicating a character (or anything, really) can disfigure the message that it tries to present. For the good are simply good, and the bad are bad in every sort of way. There are lots of art and art movements that people would consider bad because they don't require the same amount of "skill" compared to the other art forms. For example: compared to the Renaissance painters, Impressionists were seen as talentless hacks. Nowadays, one can see the works of Van Gogh or Monet or Manet in highly esteemed art museums.




A Renaissance painting (left) and an Impressionist painting (right)
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Posted 4/22/14

Felstalker wrote:
A character is capable of making decisions, stupid or smart, to the contrary of the audience or the story. The girls of Madoka react to events and questions thrown at them. This does not make them bad characters, this makes them not characters.

I say the girls of Madoka Magica are not characters in a realistic sense. They're not people, they're archetypes. They're literal archetypes, they exist to embody specific ideals and beliefs and are to react in such a way to enforce those archetypes.

A person can be an archetype, but an archetype is not a person. People are more complex than that.

This, I think, is a very valid criticism of the show. I don't think the girls of Madoka are as reactionary as you say they are (after, all action is reaction to something), and Sayaka and Homura both are active characters, making decisions and suffering the consequences. Madoka, on the other hand, is actually a pretty weak character from my viewpoint.

While I don't think I would go as far as saying they are all archetypes, I also don't think they are all particularly brilliant characters. Well-written characters, perhaps, but not brilliant characters on their own. The plotting is so strong in Madoka that it kind of takes over all elements of the show, and that includes the characters.


Also, to the OP of this thread. I also don't like Madoka as much as everyone else, but for me it has to do with the fact that I seem to have consistent problems with the thematic underpinnings of Gen Urobuchi's work. So, for me, Madoka is a very strong series technically that fail to really connect with me on an emotional level.
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Posted 4/22/14
Madoka hit me hard emotionally. I cry every time I rewatch episode 12. And the writing was good too.
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Posted 4/22/14
Well, to be honest I consider Madoka one of the greatest anime of all time.

It have that touch that makes it special. I can't put in word what is. But for me has the touch.
It's a great story. And very well narrated.

The only anime in recent times that came closer to deliver a experience as powerful as Madoka was Girls und Panzer. Another excelent, sadly horrible underrated, show.

Of course, YMMV. As always.
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