I’ve watched Modoka Magica a few times, and I feel that there are two important things that can be gleaned from re-watching this anime: 1) the deception of innocence that these young girl’s possess and 2) the loss of innocence that these young girls experience.
Deception from the trailer: Deception of Innocence
The deception of innocence is established right away. The trailer itself is deceiving: it’s filled with bright colors, cheerful background music, and a setting that suggests this is going to be more of a slice-of-life anime, one in which a young girl by the name of Modoka goes to school and interacts with her family in her day-to-day life. She might even become a magical girl! How cool would that be?
The trailer itself features a strange girl with long dark hair, someone who asks Modoka if she values her friends, her life as it currently is. But this doesn’t seem too menacing, because the trailer as a whole is happy and full of bright colors. It seems like nothing could possibly go wrong.
How very wrong we all are, because it turns out that the trailer is lying to us.
Loss of Innocence: The First Three Episodes
If anything can be gleaned from re-watching this show, I feel it’s the loss of innocence. This loss is quickly established within the first three episodes of Modoka Magica. In the first episode, “As if I Met Her in a Dream,” we see normal girls talking about normal teen-aged things: boys, stuff they find funny, and the time they spend inside the classroom.
As the show continues, and Madoka and Sayaka follow Mami into the world of monsters, there’s the sudden loss of innocence. The death of Mami in the third episode, which makes the girls cry and realize that what Mami was doing was actually dangerous, puts their innocence in check. Up until now, there were tea parties and fun times, and sightings of the dark-haired girl. There’s also a cat-like creature named Kyubey, which asks Modoka and her friends if they want to form a contract with him and become magical girls.
What is a magical girl, anyway? Up until now, the audience only knows as much as Sayaka or Modoka: you go into a strange world, filled with witches, and destroy them. It looks cool, and feels fun and easy, because Mami was good at what she did. Until she was killed by the witch.
What makes Mami’s death even more sinister is that the audience knows just as little as our main characters, and becoming a magical girl seems pretty cool: You get a fancy dress, cool sleek weapons, and fun new abilities. The act of making a contract with Kyubey seems harmless, and wishes are equivalent to wishing in wells or wishing on stars in the sky.
Mami’s death opens Madoka’s eyes: After this, she doesn’t want to become a magical girl any longer. She realizes that her fanciful dream of becoming a magical girl is something far more sinister: it’s a dangerous job, one that can get just about anyone who isn’t careful killed.
The introduction of death to the show steadily reveals the darker tones of the anime. It also poses the question to Madoka and her young friends about what it really means to become a magical girl–you lose a significant part of yourself, you lose the comfortable sense of innocence in the world around you.
One particular example of the loss of innocence is the sudden shift in tone in the anime. In one harrowing example, Mami saves a woman from committing suicide via jumping from a tall building, a side-effect of the witches. Another later example causes one of Sayaka’s friends to want to mix ammonia and another dangerous chemical to try to kill herself. This is another example of the power of the witches.
Madoka eventually comes to learn how magical girls really exist: they must give up their souls, which in turn become their soul gems. They are like zombies, their souls protected inside the soul gems. If these gems are tainted, if they are not cared for, the magical girl will become a witch.
This is precisely what happens to Sayaka, Madoka’s best friend, after she becomes more and more unhinged by her disillusionment of the world around her. At the pinnacle of her depressive state, Sayaka recklessly attacks (and defeats) a witch.
During this particular fight, she reveals just how unhinged she’s become, crying out, “I don’t feel anything!” as she attacks the witch.
When Sayaka does become a witch, the scene itself changes, with the lighting darkening, causing her soul gem to shatter. It’s a dark and dramatic scene.
Madoka Magica isn’t just flowers and roses. But it’s a good example of the choices you have to make when they are thrust upon you. If you like anime, and if you like anime that will surprise you, Puella Magi Modoka Magica is for you.