When you like anime you get used to people telling you how great awful shows are. You get downright numb to it, especially when a new season of anime is underway and people only have 20 minutes on which to base their opinions (yay season previews!)
So when an anime becomes a phenomenon, I get skeptical. I remember hearing about how great the magical girl show Puella Magi Madoka Magica was.
But unlike a lot of phenomena, the buzz around Madoka Magica didn’t quietly slip away. It only got stronger. A citizen applying to the dangerous recovery efforts after last year’s big Japan Earthquake disaster notably wrote ”I saw the final episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, so I’m not worried.” Kazuo freaking Koike said the anime made his blood boil with excitement, inspiring him to create his own magical girl story. Koike, renowned for forever shaping the manga business with both his own pulp stories and his training school that boasted students as far-reaching as Rumiko Takahashi, lost his shit for this show. In an interview with the series’ author Koike confessed he was learning a thing or two about storytelling.
Many months later and the buzz continues. The twelve episode series is going to be adapted into a trilogy of films. The first two are basically recut from the original TV episodes. And when they began airing in select US theaters they ranked a notably high per-screen average of $12,468.
Last weekend I checked out the phenomenon in my own personal way and came to better understand why Madoka Magica, a magical girl anime preening with a sinister edge that surprisingly doesn’t fall apart when all the plot twists reveal themselves, might appeal to a broad swathe of anime fans. What I still don’t understand is the almost mythic status imparted upon it.
Certain paradoxes make sense to me. The anime industry is arguably doing the worst it’s ever done in North America, and yet it’s been leading to some of the most exciting retro anime licenses of recent memory. I get how that’s happened. Anime convention culture is valued far more than the Japanese cartoons responsible for it. That too makes sense, hate it as I may, in light of how meme-based and gamified pop culture has become.
I don’t want this post to be about me coming to some kind of terms with a show I was never interested in to begin with, but that’s exactly what I appear to be doing. Because I’m not only out of the loop on what makes the show an instant-classic, I’m also positively baffled as to why anyone would bother watching the compilation movies for a twelve episode series they really liked, let alone go out of their way to see them in a movie theater.
It seems like a trick to me, a manipulation of fan enthusiasm to repackage a show into two movies that run nearly as long as what they’re compiling only a year after the show originally aired. But perhaps the people celebrating these movies are adding some kind of valuable energy to the world, which after all is the ultimate function of any Puella Magi. I just can’t help seeing Kyubey in the background, smiling innocently. But I know what you’re up to Kyubey, you can’t fool me! Not again!!
If you don’t understand that last paragraph: be glad. And if you’re one of the people who wrote about this show, maybe next time take your examination of it deeper than simply expressing the hyperbolic extent to which you liked it. It will confuse people like me far less, and we won’t have to spend as much time wondering if you’re crazy.
Which you totally are, by the way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some classy comics to read.