Into the Postmodern: Mahou Shoujo 2.0?

So cute.

Considerable excitement struck the anime community with the arrival of the first episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a show combining the talents of Shinbou Akiyuki, Aoki Ume, and Kajiura Yuki. And considering Shinbou’s art style is unique in the world of TV anime and the novelty of the genre he’s working in, it’s not surprising just how much attention is being paid to Madoka. However, I’m not convinced. I want to take a step back from all that’s being tossed around about the show and deconstruct it from a particular perspective. Through this deconstruction, I want to analyze Madoka’s potential for success as a mahou shoujo anime.

Central to my project are two fundamental questions:

  1. Why mahou shoujo? In an interview with Megami Magazine (cited by Wikipedia), Shinbou had specifically expressed interest in doing a show about mahou shoujo.
  2. What does Shinbou’s directing bring to the genre? I’m willing to bet that Shinbou had some ideas in mind when this project was proposed. Perhaps he felt that he could take themes prevalent in magical girl series and do something with them.

I concede that there’s a problem with question two. I simply cannot fit a discussion of multiple aspects of Shinbou’s directing at length, so I will focus on a specific aspect of the art in Madoka. This will by no means be a fully comprehensive analysis. Now, with all that said and done, let’s begin.

The (De)Construction of Space

What stood out most poignantly in the episodes of Madoka thus far was the unorthodox use of lines and color to generate space. Generally, we humans imagine ourselves as three dimensional creatures, adding depth onto height and width. Shinbou’s style, however, distorts perspective throughout the show. At first this distortion seems to quirky and random—typical of Shinbou. Instead I present a more structured view where style is critical to identifying some sort of meaning inherent in the visuals of the show.

Notice how the layers have pseudo-depth but float on top of each other at the same time.

In the image above you can see how the strong use of white on the incline leading up to the school gates has almost wiped out depth. Were it not for the difference in sizes between the three girls in the foreground and the other students, as well as the slight gradient on the steps, the image would almost look two-dimensional, with the school floating on top.

Notice how the interaction between glass and frame provide the building lightness, as if naturally extending out of the ground.

Another thing worthy of note is the function of glass so far in the series. It has a significant role architecturally and decoratively. Take for example Madoka’s house. Not only is the style identifiably postmodern in its design, but the functional yet structural lightness, so to speak, of the building is generated by the thin walls and frame. Likewise, at school the sleek golden frame with glass panels form cages that trap the students in their classrooms, but I think just as importantly it creates openness by allowing students to look through the rooms, inside the rooms, and outside the rooms. This isn’t surprising to see in Shinbou’s work; Gaguri over at Ha Neul Seom discussed something similar with Bakemonogatari.

Decoratively, glass features prominently as a surface that reflects or mediates the human figure. In the shot of Madoka and her mother brushing their teeth, the placement of two mirrors opposite each other in the room produces unending image within image, embedding a space within a space. On the other hand, the glass table appears non-existent during a close-up of Mami in episode two—the tableware looks as if it’s floating in the image.

The source of light and the single linear perspective almost make the building look as if it continues on forever.

What does it all mean? In my opinion, Shinbou portrays Madoka’s reality as a world remotely related to our own, existing in a three-dimensional world. The visuals de-emphasize “stuff” (for lack of a better word) in exchange for expansive negative space through the use of white, the delicate use of lines, and the revealing and reflecting properties of glass.

On the other hand, the world of the witches is a fundamentally dark, deranged world in which space is utterly collapsed; everything just seems like a giant animated collage, with all of the elements pasted onto screen. It is only for the sake of character movement do we really get a any sort of depth in this alternate realm, and even then depth remains minimal.

In a sense, the mirrors repeat the space it encaptures over and over ad infinitum.

Take the battle scene between the Mami and the witch in episode two. Artistically, the design is so eclectic it immediately reminded me of Dada, or the “anti-art movement” early in the 21st century. Although we realize that this final battle takes place in a room, the overlapping of unrelated layers renders the scene surreal. Linear perspective is dropped along with the previously pleasant colors, now replaced by patterned wallpaper. A quick look at some shots from other areas of the magical world reveals the same propensity for skewed perspective resulting in what I call a collapsed space, where the visual signs provide us with an incoherent sense of the world.

Essentially, this polarizes the visuals into two strongly opposing sides. The real world in Madoka tends to be open to its inhabitants while the evil witches have created a world in which there exists no such openness. Color-wise, the real world is a sequence of clear, sharp, and vivid colors while the alternate world consists of dirtied, patterned, and inconsistent blocks. Even in the few moments when we are led to believe that there’s any sense of normal space in this freaky magical world, we become subject to conflicting signals from multiple visual cues.

Notice how the top left cup seems to be both above and at the same level as Mami's head from the viewer.

Narrative

As Mystlord of T.H.A.T Anime Blog pointed out about the first episode, the narrative is fairly standard. It still feels bland in the second episode. However, he goes on to write:

I really don’t think it’s a far stretch to attribute Madoka’s absolute awesomeness to Shinbo alone. I mean if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on that separates SHAFT from other animation studios, it’s the animation style. And that’s why I love SHAFT when they get it right. The mark of a great SHAFT anime is ultimately the utilization of some element that just can’t be captured in any other medium.

But here is where I turn around and ask: “Has SHAFT gotten it right? Have they captured something unique?” I think the real question we have to address is not whether Shinbou’s visuals are intellectual, interesting, and provocative (which they are), but what exactly it has to do with magical girls. Why would he direct a new show for an established genre and paint it so differently from other directors?

Similar to how space works on a 2D plane (imagine making a collage), the lack of linearity flattens the image. The result is something inbetween 2D and 3D.

To provide a point of comparison, let’s look at typical mahou shoujo anime. We find shows like Cutie Honey, which pioneered the transforming magical girl, and Sailor Moon, which popularized it for both men and women. Sailor Moon certainly does embody the idea of modern, capitalistic consumption: for girls, the magical nail polish and accessories and the transforming clothes allude to modern beauty products, and for guys, the cute yet strong battling girl was a novel way to intake the female body. This latter trend continued until we saw the moe-fication of mahou shoujo anime today (John Oppliger of AnimeNation claims this occurred 2003-2004).

Throughout all this, narratives for mahou shoujo anime have largely remained the same. Schoolgirls, charged by chance or destiny to protect themselves and the world around them, must rise to the challenge by overcoming their own initial hesitation, doubts, and worldly troubles. By doing so, the girls reaffirm the importance of their realities in two ways. First, after each transformation they return to their normal selves; in no way does the magic permanently force them to change outwardly. Second, through saving the world they imply that the best option, rather than change or destruction, is to leave the current world as is. In essence, the narrative structure of mahou shoujo reaffirms the superiority of the status quo, despite having some overtones of empowerment in areas of gender and consumption. It is a celebration of the possibilities for self-improvement in a mundane, everyday setting.

So far in what we’ve seen in Madoka, nothing suggests that the narrative structure will be any different from your standard magical girl series. I don’t mean to say that this won’t be different later on, but it makes me worry about where this show is going.

Even during the transformation scene, it feels like there's one foreground image pasted over a background image, more so than a foreground and background.

Synthesis

Now, you might ask, what do these two seemingly unrelated topics have to do with one another? I want to point out that from here on out, mostly speculation takes place. Because only two episodes have aired, I’m not in a place to discuss definitively what Shinbou wants to say. But what I can do is guess where this show is going.

Why mahou shoujo? It seems to me that Shinbou chose to do a magical girl series because he wants to offer a fresh spin on the genre. This, I think, is a relatively noble goal—attempting to create a series far different from the stereotype can be a challenge. With so many different elements (the magical weapons, the magical world, animal-looking magical companion), Shinbou could potentially reverse the tendency for loli magical girls (Nanoha, anyone?) Just looking at the transformation sequence above, we can see how Shinbou has taken on the series and made it his own. But the sequence is short, Mami doesn’t seem to have a super powerful final move, and she doesn’t have some sort of catch phrase either. Did Shinbou reduce these typical mahou shoujo elements on purpose?

What does Shinbou’s directing bring to the genre? The more difficult question, I see the art as dividing the show into two halves: that of the regular world and that of the magical world. The regular world carries with it a delicate use of line and color that creates a complex sense of space, with the emphasis on sleekness and functionality reminiscent of postmodern architecture in general. On the other hand, we have the magical world which is surreal. Expression lies not in the abstraction here (Shinbou masterfully employs abstract minimalism in Hidamari Sketch), but in the defying of convention to an absurd degree (similar to some modernist art). In terms of narration, there seems to be no difference between Madoka and any other standard schoolgirl-turned-heroine. They both attempt to vanquish evil and save their world.

I surmise that the tension between these two worlds will lie at the heart of the narrative’s conflict. From what we’ve seen of the story so far, it’s highly likely that Madoka will reject the magical world, thus affirming the standard in the mahou shoujo literature. If Shinbou chooses to go this route, then I feel that Madoka will have lost all of its potential in providing a fresh outlook on the genre. By adopting a narrative that’s almost the same in every other magical girl anime, Shinbou essentially does nothing new with his trademark artistic style. And once the novelty of Shinbou + mahou shoujo wears off, it becomes nothing but a well-executed anime.

However, with the conception of space Shinbou has created, I think the series numerous possibilities it can take to stand out from the crowd. One possible way is to reveal the witches as sentient creatures, adding a relativistic element to the typical good vanquishes evil situation, and seek in the end to incorporate both worlds together. Space then, in the final product, will play a key role in illustrating a synthesis of worlds.

To conclude, I find that a comparison with shows such as Revolutionary Girl Utena or Serial Experiments Lain may give us a better understanding of the directions this series can go. Utena’s power lay in many of its boundary transgressions, melding shoujo and shounen together into a unique creature. Lain, quite the opposite of Utena, embraces a conception of conflict between cyberspace and reality, resulting in the final absorption of the schoolgirl into the Wired that approaches a concept of a postmodern space. Both of these shows contain a synthesis of sorts that subverted previous stories in animation as well as creating unique visuals; in the case of Lain the conception of space is a critical plot device. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, Shinbou will be able to turn this into a masterpiece. As it stands now, what we’ve been shown doesn’t seem that special at all.

Which is why, unfortunately, I see little to distinguish it from the usual Shinbou at the moment.

12 Responses to “Into the Postmodern: Mahou Shoujo 2.0?”

  1. *whistles* Now I can see why you were so stressed about putting this together.

    What does it all mean? In my opinion, Shinbou portrays Madoka’s reality as a world remotely related to our own, existing in a three-dimensional world. The visuals de-emphasize “stuff” (for lack of a better word) in exchange for more negative space through the use of white, the delicate use of lines, and the revealing and reflecting properties of glass.

    Is there a necessity to de-emphasize “stuff” for greater openness? I’d say there are equal parts where “stuff” is pointed out, but are restricted in an orderly fashion that structures the space into a linear expanse of openness. So I’m not disagreeing with your conclusion, but I tend to think that “stuff,” instead of being de-emphasized, is regimented into a very clean way to point to the negative space. If anything, they stand out to point to the space. The witch world, by contrast, points to the inconsequential chaos of things by de-emphasizing any meaning in its parts, making each part pointless except to give use visual cues for being one of many.

    Throughout all this, narratives for mahou shoujo anime have remained relatively the same. Schoolgirls, charged by chance or destiny to protect themselves and the world around them, must rise to the challenge by overcoming their own initial hesitation, doubts, and worldly troubles. By doing so, the girls reaffirm the importance of their realities in two ways. First, after each transformation they return to their normal selves; in no way does the magic permanently force them to change outwardly. Second, through saving the world they imply that the best option, rather than change or destruction, is to leave the current world as is. In essence, the narrative structure of mahou shoujo is reaffirms the superiority of the status quo, despite having some overtones of empowerment in areas of gender and consumption. It is a celebration of the possibilities for self-improvement in a mundane, everyday setting.

    Now that is an interpretation I’ve heard tangentially but never seen discussed. It’s one that I can get behind, but I don’t really think it is necessary to change this to be different. If the journey to the same conclusion differs greatly, can we count the two narrative lines as similar? If we have a situation where the final notion is “I wish I could return to the status quo” after a significant upheaval in structure versus “I think the status quo is the best” after a typical final battle with the big bad, would we consider these equal given their conclusions, even if the events play out on different ends of the idealism/cynicism spectrum?

    Why mahou shoujo? It seems to me that Shinbou chose to do a magical girl series because he wants to offer a fresh spin on the genre. This, I think, is a relatively noble goal—attempting to create a series far different from the stereotype can be a challenge. With so many different elements (the magical weapons, the magical world, animal-looking magical companion), Shinbou could potentially reverse the tendency for loli magical girls (Nanoha, anyone?) Just looking at the transformation sequence above, we can see how Shinbou has taken on the series and made it his own. But the sequence is short, Mami doesn’t seem to have a super powerful final move, and she doesn’t have some sort of catch phrase either. Did Shinbou reduce these typical mahou shoujo elements on purpose?

    I see this question as something slightly different. He does want a fresh spin on the genre, but there are specific preconceptions in magical girl he wants to pick apart that can not be expressed in another genre. There are some things we hold “constant” in the magical girl genre he wants to scrutinize and subvert, but as to what he wants to bend is beyond me. This may be because I myself am not entirely sure what I’ve considered a staple of magical girl. At least, this is why I think he chose mahou shoujo; there’s a chance I’m way off.

    What does Shinbou’s directing bring to the genre? This, I think is the more difficult question. Art can be seen as dividing the show into two halves: that of the regular world and that of the magical world. The regular world carries with it a delicate use of line and color that creates a complex sense of space, with the emphasis on sleekness and functionality reminiscent of postmodern architecture in general. On the other hand, we have the magical world which is surreal. Expression lies not in the abstraction here, but in the defying of convention to an absurd degree (similar to some modernist art). In terms of narration, there seems to be no difference between Madoka and any other standard schoolgirl-turned-heroine.

    I don’t know about this, as it sets the dichotomy at an imbalance. Again, it presents the conclusion as an indicator of direction, when there are numerous ways, some of them exclusive and subversive of each other, to reach the conclusion. Your criticism leaves Shinbo only one of two concluding options as a logical choice to differentiate himself, which I think severely restricts the options he does have. I’m also a little wary of seeing sentience in the witches, as I don’t actually see that as something new to magical girl series. We’ve seen equal footing on both sides before, and we still get a dichotomy that can only lead to some form of reconciliation, be it tiding one side to the other or synthesis. What might be more interesting is the conflict within one side, which casts doubt not by building up the other side but tearing down the first side, creating more potential conclusions.

    In the end, I do agree with you that Shinbo’s directing needs to bring something to the genre. As I remember a comment I made before, one part of my criteria for judging Shinbo’s anime is how his artistic trademark supplements the content. Quite a few of his shows are merely artistic flourishes that do little in promoting the actual content itself, making it look superficial and weakening the original premise further even when Shinbo’s style looks fantastic. This is why I don’t subscribe to Mystlord’s opinion that as long as Shinbo pushes animation boundaries he’s doing well. I’m hoping Puella Magi Madoka Magica can avoid that and actually put his talent to use, and I do think that space will become important in the end. I just believe that he has a lot more options than you limit him to; there is definitely more than one way to turn this into a masterpiece. As it stands, I do feel an eerie atmosphere hanging over the show telling me that we’re being lured into believing it’s the usual Shinbo. There’s a sort of tension that wants to break away at any moment but leaves us unnerved that is hasn’t. But maybe that’s me reading too deeply into it.

    And for something completely different, first Lain tag on BtNHRV!

  2. If it becomes Mahou Shoujo + Bokurano as small clues in 1 and 2 suggest, it will be a really fresh take on the magical girl

  3. Even though I didn’t completely agree with this article, I had so much fun reading it. This is a great analysis of Shinbo’s visual techniques. And while I do think it’s fairly clear that the answer to your second question can’t be known for certain before the end of the show’s run, I’m not inclined to agree that the narrative is the same as most other mahou shoujo. There are two notably different aspects in this case, and that’s the element of competition (about which we’re still not clear on the stakes) and the explicit risk associated with becoming a mahou shoujo. In that regard, it’s reminiscent of My-HiME. OK, I recognize that’s not new, but if you define My-HiME as a shounen action rather than a mahou shoujo (it’s an anime where the two genres are blurred), then a Shinbo-esque take on the premise, with, very possibly, something else thrown in could lead to a genuinely original take on the genre. You can’t deconstruct a given genre without first acknowledging its main tropes. I think that’s what Madoka Magica has done so far. The deconstruction, I’m guessing, is still to come.

  4. hey you can’t be writing articles like this, this is my niche >:0

    anyway, few things I want to add:

    - I agree with you about the lightness and openess of spaces of the normal world, my small gripe is that the style is decidely modernist (at least, the ones posted here), influenced mostly by Mies van der Rohe’s concept of “skin and bones” architecture, including the functional steel structure you talked about that allows open plan and large glass facade/walls framed in repetition, as well as clean finishings with no decorations, and very rectangular geometry and volume.

    After first episode I was thinking Shinbo was trying to use modernist style to create an utopian-like world where everything is ordered, open, light, functional. But like you say there are some postmodern elements to the design, like the infinity mirrors in the bathroom, and there is one scene of the school walkway that had slanted glass facade(which is definitely NOT modern) with intricately shaped columns that were placed way closer than structurally necessary- explaining this would be so much easier with just one screenshot -__-

    Another setting design element that deserves mention I think is the transition between normal world and magical realm. In episode 1 and 2, before they become enveloped in madness, they enter dark, gritty, torn-down, abandoned basement like spaces, heavy and very rough exposed concrete structure and facade in contrast to normal world’s light openess and clean finishings (insert more screenshots here). I might be over-analysing here again but there are very subtle presence of objects like exposed pipes, electrical wires, iron chains, which I think are running visual motifs for thorns.

    I feel that Shinbo likes playing with this idea of illusion of false sense of happiness, and more fulfilling sense of harsh reality. It was true in Le Portrait de Petite Cossette when the hero rejects illusion of Marcello’s painting and embraces Cossette for who she is by painting her with his own blood and passion. In Bakemonogatari there is lightness and heaviness. In Arakawa, although themes weren’t treated that seriously, I loved the introductory scene when Kou hides behind his thick cloud of money, education, social standing, is fished out by Nino, who without a single tree to hide behind. Shinbo loves making moe anime for otaku but he also criticise his own audience in his own anime (which we laugh it off).

    When I look at the spaces in Madoka’s normal world I can’t help but feel that he’s trying to do something similar here with all those reflections, vast openess, lightness, cleaness…but also emptiness, souless. In that regard, I think your connection to Lain is very relevant, as the real world of Lain is also very white, sterile, souless, compared to the fluctuating and ecstatic, fluid-like cyberspace of the Wired.

    Ok now since you took a stab at the expected narrative direction, I will do so too.

    Unlike you, I think Madoka will embrace the magical world, hence Shinbo’s attempt to deconstruct mahou shoujo genre. I think, Madoka will go through lot of sufferings and thorny paths of magic. But she will embrace it, because she will find a wish that’s worth fighting for. She will find something that you can’t find stuck in a caged, illusory world of contentment and status quo that she’s been living in. She will finally choose to wake up from this dream, open the locked door to the room she’s been shut in and actively shape her future, no matter how painful the thorny path may be <<(from the lyrics of OP).

    But let's see what shinbo can do.

  5. The mention of Lain and Utena in regards to colliding worlds hit on something. Both of them saw their perspectives profoundly change, and by rejecting the paradigms offered by both the normal and the supernatural, they broke through to realize the truth behind everything and essentially ended up disappearing/transcending their worlds. To know is the end itself, and I wonder if that fate is what’s in store for Madoka here.

  6. you talk as if this is Shinbo’s first foray into the Mahou Shoujo genre when in reality he is the one who arguably ushered in the “tendency for loli magical girls” due to the fact he directed Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.

    The feeling I have is that there are certain things he likes about the genre and certain things he doesn’t. He wanted to create an artisticly different show from his previous work. Perhaps a major deconstruction with the art while embodying the traditions of the genre with the story. The script is being penned by Nitroplus writer Gen Urobuchi which could help or hinder the show since he’s mainly written for visual novels.

    Surprisingly no one is comparing this to Nanoha like they do Star Driver and Utena despite having the same director. Also should be noted Shinbo is the director but oddly enough not the series director. Not sure what that means.

    In the end I’m not sure how right it is to post the success or failure of the show on Shinbo. Based on the script writer, series director, and the fact Shinbo does have past history with the genre.

  7. [...] had a great conversation about the mahou shoujo series recently, and most of it was in reference to his post. Of course the major question that he asks is: Is Shinbo really doing anything with the mahou [...]

  8. Thanks all for taking the time to read and reply.

    @Elineas

    Your first point: you’re right, it’s not de-emphasis because both elements play off each other.

    He does want a fresh spin on the genre, but there are specific preconceptions in magical girl he wants to pick apart that can not be expressed in another genre.

    I’m not quite sure what he’s doing. Fresh spin? Maybe. Blockbuster that conforms to previous norms? Maybe. New artistic expression? Maybe. You and I will just have to wait for more episodes. ;)

    Your criticism leaves Shinbo only one of two concluding options as a logical choice to differentiate himself, which I think severely restricts the options he does have.

    Don’t get me wrong; I only offer it as an example. I certainly hope that I’ll be completely and pleasantly surprised by something he can pull out of his hat. My idea sort of came out of thinking about the treatment of space more so than an attempt to formulate the best possible narrative.

    As it stands, I do feel an eerie atmosphere hanging over the show telling me that we’re being lured into believing it’s the usual Shinbo.

    I really, really wanted to stay optimistic, but the opening sequence in which Madoka dreams of Homura fighting seemed to me to suggest a standard end. I truly hope he subverts that somehow, so we’ll see.

    @Anon

    Bokurano… Didn’t think of it that way. Not sure if I completely 100% agree, but it’s interesting to think about.

    @Sorrow-kun

    But one of my gripes is that Shinbou HASN’T set up the main tropes. Where’s the super sentai-style fighting poses? The cool consumer products used in transformation? The finishing moves that blast away the enemy with a cheap invocation? Where will the show go when the mahou shoujo-ness of it seems to be fairly weak in the first place?

    I do agree with you that the message to take from Mai-HiME is that a show can truly begin to show its genius far further into the show; in that sense my critique of the first two episodes is like critiquing the first few episodes of Mai-HiME. I don’t necessarily feel that my current stance is unjustified, but I certainly don’t think that this show doesn’t have potential. I wanted to point out what can be seen as an acknowledgment of certain standards in the genre, and how if nothing new happens potential will be wasted.

    @gaguri

    I agree with you about the lightness and openess of spaces of the normal world, my small gripe is that the style is decidely modernist (at least, the ones posted here), influenced mostly by Mies van der Rohe’s concept of “skin and bones” architecture, including the functional steel structure you talked about that allows open plan and large glass facade/walls framed in repetition, as well as clean finishings with no decorations, and very rectangular geometry and volume.

    I had a tough time deciding how to word that section. Actually, the skin and bones conception of architecture was definitely on my mind when I wrote this, although I wasn’t aware of its name or origins.

    You’re right in that much of what I’ve cited is modernist architecture more so than postmodernist, but I ultimately took the construction of the setting to follow a postmodernist bent. I came to the conclusion that modernist design principles shared by postmodernism can be fully incorporated into how space functions in Madoka’s real world without compromising the integrity of the overall thematic analysis. In the end, I chose to let my theory regarding postmodern space dominate over how I choose to interpret the design, but you’ve pointed out a good place to start a counter towards my argument.

    I feel that Shinbo likes playing with this idea of illusion of false sense of happiness, and more fulfilling sense of harsh reality.

    I wholeheartedly concur. I didn’t write this article because I’m assuming the project will fail, but I’m actually hoping that he can unify the elements in his story. In fact, my critique of Shinbou in terms of narrative isn’t really a critique because his narrative isn’t even formed yet. I simply feel that the setup in two episodes hasn’t been particularly surprising.

    She will find something that you can’t find stuck in a caged, illusory world of contentment and status quo that she’s been living in.

    I certainly hope so; perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic.

    @Taka

    I hinted at Nanoha because I don’t feel that Shinbou’s work with Nanoha is representative of his goals with Madoka. And on that note, I definitely do feel that Urobouchi adds a nice touch to the series, especially with the abstract renditions of the evil creatures we’ve seen so far.

  9. Er, I don’t have much to add but I still want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It highlights some of the ways that Shinbo establishes visual trends through his direction that could theoretically be tied to the development of the plot later on, even without the use of motifs and symbols which I usually associate with borderline arthouse directing.

  10. There was a film that came out years ago called A.I. I’m reminded by Madoka of the architecture (and perhaps the general setting) in that film, but not so much for what it was, but how it altered the mood. IMO, the architectures yields a clean and distanced tone, which makes it slightly difficult to gauge various emotional hints.

    Then we have the 3D witch areas. These are trippy, but I don’t think the aesthetic is where Shinbou is diverging from magical girl. There’s a pretty strong feeling of dark fantasy with this imagery, something familiar to D.Gray-man or maybe Soul Eater, and I find the feeling again is where Madoka is distinguishing itself.

    The goal or by-product, in my opinion, is a darker magical girl series, but the visual stimuli are purposely there to create the feeling rather “be visual.” Maybe the difference we see in Madoka has little to do with animation in the end, but more to do with atmosphere and story-telling.

  11. [...] post on Behind the Nihon Review I mentioned is this one, written by [...]

  12. [...] get: sweet, good-natured virginal girls who face dangers to protect the world and its order (see Kylaran on mahou shoujo and the status quo). Their powers come from things like the powers of love and [...]

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