Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
“Anime April” may be over, but I’ve still got a few articles in mind.
If that’s not your thing, never fear: my next batch of reviews will be ready soon, featuring coverage of the most recent Horror-themed titles including Silent Hill: Downpour, The Walking Dead: Episode One, and Lone Survivor.
Also, as someone who eventually conforms to every Internet trend, I also created a Tumblr. Check it out, why don’t you.
Until then, here’s another article about that series that features little girls crying all the time. Totally not creepy, honest.
I couldn’t tell you if Madoka Magica holds some kind of record for fastest-growing amount of fan-art, but the limitless amount of quality-made artwork on a series barely over a year old is still impressive….even more impressive is how much of it is both A) well drawn and B) not porn. Usually with Anime fans, the two go hand-in-hand.
But the Madoka community have gone far beyond Pivx or Deviantart, creating videos, games, comics and other works both complimentary and parodic, and nearly all of it of an exceptional quality.
So exceptional, in fact, that I’ve taken the liberty of categorizing some of the best stuff out there. Just goes to show that sometimes a great series can inspire great work.
The comedic collaboration of TeamFourStar’s Youtube videos have resulted in an alternate (and hilarious) take on Dragon Ball Z, to the point that even longtime haters have come to embrace the episodic series for its numerous references (both new and old) and good-natured riffing on the classic source material.
By comparison, Madoka Abridged is not quite as expertly crafted, but the humorous outtakes to some of the bleakest moments in the series serve as sufficient therapy for newly traumatized viewers.
It doesn’t truly hit its stride until around the fourth episode (ironically, much like the original series itself), but by then you’re bound to become an ardent fan of Sayaka as a simpleminded stoner, Kyouko’s continuous food puns, and Kyubey’s trolling antics as a demonic Pokemon from hell.
YouTube-hosted fan arrangements of popular theme songs and music is nothing new, but Miku_Tan’s interpretations of Madoka’s opening and ending themes deserve special mention, not just for their acceptable singing prowess but for their localized lyrics.
Rather than offer a literal translation, Miku-Tan and friends have gone one step further and re-written the lyrics to both “Magia” and “Connect” for an English audience. The results are so good that it makes one yearn for more dubbed Anime theme songs. It’s just too bad that so far only the TV-edited version of Magia has been dubbed, making one hope for an eventual recording of the full theme.
Few fans have argued that the characters of Madoka Magica would have suffered less had Kyubey been more straight-forward with them about the unfortunate consequences of forming a contract with him.
This doujin (fan-comic) series rewrites the entire series with this specific change in mind. Right from the beginning, the Incubator details all the pros and cons of his contract to the girls, with no secrets withheld. With such an honest and friendly demeanor, even the concept of having one’s soul put into a gem sounds inspiring coming from the earnest Kyubey.
The results are a humorous but ultimately more positive take on the series that puts the much-hated alien (see below) in a more positive light, as well as circumventing (as well as mocking) the most shocking tragedies in the series.
Never before has there been this much controversy surrounding an inhuman talking mascot from a Magical Girl series. Even after his first appearance, viewers around the world felt a collective uneasiness toward the enigmatic Kyubey and his one singular expression.
After the (demonic) cat is out of the bag, many debates continue to this day on Kyubey’s justifications for deceiving and tormenting the innocent cast of Madoka Magica. Even though he claimed that his actions were necessary in saving the universe from destruction, fans have formed a united stance on the Incubator, deeming him as both the biggest troll in Anime history as well as one of the most evil and despicable creatures in any fiction….think Joffrey, only much more adorable (which, depending on whom you ask, actually makes him worse).
Fans absolutely hate Kyubey….or rather, they love to hate him. Like any memorable “villain”, the community has reviled him almost as much as they have idolized him. From an entire gallery dedicated to giving Kyubey some much-deserved payback to deceiving a new generation of innocent young girls with his huggable appearance, there’s almost no part of the internet that is safe from the unblinking gaze of
But my personal favorite fan-art revolves around the multiple interpretations of what Kyubey’s “true form” looks like, be it a form fit for a final boss, an unholy abomination, or the most frightening of horrors from both Anime and Film.
Anime Music Videos (AMVs) have been a long-running fad among fans, even before the advent of YouTube. In theory, it’s a simple enough process: combine your favorite song with the fast-paced animation and action that the medium is known for.
The reality is that many AMVs are absolutely terrible. Most of them, in fact, which is why special attention should always be given to submissions that were made with more effort than randomly tossing Naruto clips to an Eminem song.
AMV member Shin’s Madoka tribue was immediately hailed as the best AMV of 2011, and it easily shows. The expert editing mixed in with a thunderous melody resulted in a video that effortlessly captures the stirring emotions of the entire series in under five minutes.
Madoka Magica isn’t the first Anime to get a free PC game made in its honor, but the team behind this 2D action game deserves props for creating the first Madoka game that’s actually fun to play. While the officially licensed PSP game features an intriguing story mode with branching paths and alternate outcomes, the dungeon-crawling action feels ho-hum compared to the frantic battles of the series.
Grief Syndrome is a basic idea that completely nails the concept of the Anime, allowing players to select any of the five Magical Girls (including the bespectacled version of Homura, before having her innocence stripped away by repeatedly failed timelines), each possessing a unique series of attacks and special moves that they must utilize to fend off waves of Familiars as well as a Witch boss at the end of each stage.
The game can be completed in under an hour, but also imposes a harsh penalty; once a character’s Soul Gem becomes fully tainted (either by running out of time and/or sustaining repeated damage), they’re gone for good until you start a new session (something you’ll have to do anyway if you lose all five girls). Losing Sayaka prior the final battle also opens up an additional level that recreates a certain tragedy from the series….
It’s a simple game to pick up and play (even with the Japanese language barrier), and feels like an SNES title from yesteryear, even going so far as to feature gamepad support and online multiplayer (so long as you can find other players willing to jump the necessary hoops to get it working). The final boss battle is particularly impressive, featuring a towering sprite that is every bit as ferocious as its Anime counterpart (which makes defeating it for good using Homura especially satisfying).
Much of the fan-art I’ve seen for Madoka Magica has been of an exceptional quality, but the really inspiring pieces of art are the ones that bring out the various themes of the series through unique visual interpretations.
One commonly recurring theme among fan-artists centers around Sayaka during her tragic transformation into a Witch. Instead of merely replicating the menacing figure of Oktavia Von Seckendorff, artists have instead chosen to depict Sayaka in a sort of “Half-Witch” form, wearing the pieces of Oktavia like a set of armor. Coupled with expressions of pain and sorrow, these pieces appear to symbolize how the Witch armor itself is like a penance suit that Sayaka must endure.
The notion that the once kindhearted girl lies trapped within Oktavia paints an even more depressing picture, coupled further with a mermaid’s tail that further symbolizes the original source of inspiration for Sayaka’s story, The Little Mermaid (not the Disney film, but the far sadder original novel). Many of these pieces also offer a bittersweet touch by including Kyouko or Madoka comforting their tortured friend, hoping to free her soul from her bound fate (more on this below).
Usually when fans make a movie-quality trailer based on an Anime, they do so with the intention of creating a parody of an existing film. In a unique spin, however, the following video is indeed a fan-made trailer meant to promote the actual Madoka Magica series.
When Madoka was being advertised in Japan, it had been billed as a “traditional” Magical Girl series that was intentionally “deceiving” its unsuspecting viewers of its darker nature. Many American fans claim that the same effect should be given to new viewers. But then again, how many people would even bother watching the Anime if they thought it was “just another Magical Girl show”?
This fan-made trailer by Reversed Studios takes the opposite approach in advertising Madoka, but also holds back enough to intrigue people with its foreboding (and spoiler-free) imagery and ominous dialog. It shows just enough to give people the message that there’s more to this series then meets the eye, and has ultimately proven to be a more effective advertisement than even the official North American trailer.
If there is any truth to the rumors, the next series based on Madoka Magica may end up being a slice-of-life alternate retelling, placing the principal characters in a more lighthearted setting that doesn’t result in traumatic deaths and emotional anguish.
Though the tragic storyline and dark twists are what got people hooked to the series in the first place, recent material such as the “Sunny Day Life” Drama CD has proven that the cast of Madoka Magica are likeable enough that they could work in a such a setting, especially considering their tight-knit relationships with one another (including the ones not shown in the official series, such as Kyouko and Mami, or Homura and anyone besides Madoka).
Japanese artist shino_(ponjiyuusu) has taken this concept into doujin form, releasing several short fan comics centered around the girls having fun and getting into wacky situations. Being a major Mami fan, many of the artist’s stories revolve around the blonde beauty, often achieving comedic levels at the expense of her crippling issues with loneliness.
On the surface, the hijinks that Team Madoka get into nearly conform to the very Magical Girl cliches that the original series has avoided, including delivering Christmas presents at night or joining a rock band. However, one cannot help but smile at the adorable artwork, clever humor and all-around feel-good interactions between these group of devoted friends. Plus, Shino isn’t afraid to toss in some of the trademark action and angst that made the original series such a hit, such as this doujin that features an alternate outcome to Episode 9. Between Kyouko’s determination to rewrite the Incubator’s laws and the previously unseen thoughts of her former teacher urging her on, you can’t help but cheer Kyouko on, especially as the end result is much happier than what we originally got.
But for a doujin that perfectly combines Shino’s wacky situations along with heartwarming moments, look no further than Mami-San’s Manga, a short story where the group plans a surprise birthday party for their big sister teammate. Currently, it is the only one of Shino’s doujins to get a full English translation, but it’ll be enough to warm your heart without the added bits of depression that you would get from the original source material.
Plus, it has the most adorable version of Homura ever conceived.
But ultimately, the saddest stuff is usually the most memorable, and these series of fan-made music videos are bound to get your emotions stirring as they relive some of the most iconic tragedies from the series.
What sets this apart from other AMVs is that rather than taking footage from the series, the creator instead created CG sequences from the ground up, using simplistic character models mixed with artistic pastels and lighting that effortlessly captures the solemn and sorrowful mood of the series as its beloved cast dies one by one.
Even more impressive is how each video tells a specific story based around the characters and their inner torment. The above video perfectly symbolizes Madoka’s deep sorrow at the loss of her friends, dressed in mournful clothes while holding a bouquet of flowers as she weeps bitterly. The red-eyed shadow of Kyubey looming above her compliments this hauntingly beautiful sequence.
Three videos have been made in this fashion, including a Homura-centric video depicting the character’s struggle to keep hold of her past, which has been overwritten countless times in her quest to reverse time in order to save her precious friend.
But if Sayaka is your favorite character (raises hand), then this will be the most memorable video of the three.
Essentially taking place after her tragic death, the broken Magical Girl tearfully laments on her failures, soon transforming into a hybrid of mermaid and Witch, a similar theme used by the fan-arts listed above.
However, this video takes the concept one step further, introducing the idea that in death, a Magical Girl who has turned into a Witch must endure this form during what can be called “Witch Purgatory”, where they must remain as a slave to their own self loathing. As the video continues, Kyouko attempts to free Sayaka from her eternal torment, attempting to break through the confines of her imprisonment in order to save her soul. When an old friend appears to lend a helping hand, I dare you not to choke up.
Even if you aren’t a fan of yuri pairings (raises hand), the relationship between Sayaka and Kyouko in this video is touching enough to receive merit on its own, and the overall message suggested by this story gives further clarity to the importance of Madoka’s sacrifice; though she was not able to save Sayaka’s life by the end of the series, she accomplished the much more important task of saving her best friend’s eternal soul, as well as the souls of all Magical Girls past, present, and future.