Everyone has their favourite anime. And everyone’s is going to be different. Despite the ongoing arguments about what the best anime of all time is according to popular opinion, there are some that stand out as really special. These anime are both critically acclaimed and widely beloved by many fans, and even if you don’t like it that much personally, it’s hard to deny the impact these anime have. One such anime is Madoka Magica. Madoka Magica has been called one of the greatest anime of all time - and we are here to explain why.
Ever since the success of Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, magical girl anime has been popular with audiences around the world. Male and female fans across the age spectrum enjoy the genre, and magical girl anime tends to be released nearly every season. But since Sailor Moon, not a lot of these anime have had the lasting success and cultural impact - until Madoka Magica. So just what makes this particular magical girl anime so special? Why is it still being cosplayed, and why is it still being used in advertising across Japan? Why haven’t people moved on as they have from all the other one season magical girl shows?
Read on to find out why Madoka Magica is one of the greatest anime of all time! Be warned that this article is full of spoilers for the show’s many twists and turns.
What We Expected
The history of magical girl anime is quite long and full of a lot of famous anime. They all follow a similar recipe - cute or pretty girls that seem ordinary, or even socially awkward, in normal life can magically transform. In their transformed selves, these girls are anything but ordinary. They can fight, they’re strong and confident, they wield magical weapons. And most importantly, they are here to save the world. Meanwhile, they also live their ordinary lives with their friends (who usually are also magical girls) and experience slice of life drama and comedy.
There’s nothing wrong with this recipe, and it has been working for years in the anime industry. A lot of people are happy having this; they go into magical girl anime expecting it. So when the initial art and promotional posters and videos released for Madoka Magica, it was what everyone expected. The main protagonist even had cute, pink hair, and she was surrounded by all of her friends. They were all cute girls in cute outfits, all done in bright colours and white. There was even a cute cat-like creature that seemed to be their companion!
People thought they knew what they were getting into with Madoka Magica. No one was disappointed that another magical girl anime was coming out because the design was good and people trusted the studio, SHAFT, to have great art. No one knew what was actually coming.
What We Got
Madoka Magica did not meet expectations - it surpassed them, and it did this through turning everything everyone expected completely upside down.
The first couple of episodes lull watchers into a false sense of security by feeling familiar and light-hearted. Viewers believed that this was yet another magical girl anime, though with exceptionally artistic battle scenes. But then the end of episode 3 happened, and Mami, the protagonist Madoka’s friend, was suddenly and violently killed. And she never came back through some magical plot hole, she was just... dead. Viewers were left aghast and shocked, wondering just what this anime was they had signed up for.
Madoka Magica continued to turn darker and darker. The light-hearted beginning fell further and further away as the plot revealed itself. The cute cat-like creature turned out to be an alien that was taking these young girls’ souls in exchange for their magic. The girls were all tested in ways that really pushed their friendships and their own psychological health to the absolute limits. There was still a bit of laughter, but there were far more tears.
Cute magical girl anime had never done what Madoka Magica did and in only 12 episodes. What really made it exceptional is that no one expected any of it, and no one could stop watching and waiting to see what happened to the characters they were so invested in. It blindsided people and stood out from the rest of the magical girl genre, and ensured it was unforgettable.
Why That Worked
It’s no surprise that people like something new, though they also like the familiar. Madoka Magica did both. It set up something that felt familiar for fans of magical girl anime, but instead of making it predictable and the same as the usual, it really shook things up. On top of that, Madoka Magica created characters that people actually cared about and were emotionally invested it. It made viewers cry, laugh, and think about the anime after it finished.
Plus Madoka Magica had great art and a really unique style that set it apart from any other anime, regardless of the genre. All of these reasons help make Madoka Magica one of the greatest anime of all time. It’s on the favourites lists of many anime fans and will continue to be significant to the anime industry for years to come.
Humans are interesting in that when we consume media, we want something that we already know we will like, while simultaneously wanting to be surprised and experiencing something new. Madoka Magica found lasting success by providing both of those things to audiences. It set up a story that felt familiar and comfortable, drawing people in with something they thought they wanted. And then it flipped everything completely upside down and took viewers on a very different and unexpected journey. The hype that the original airing made around the world drew in people that would not normally even watch a magical girl anime, and suddenly Madoka Magica was a worldwide success. And it did it by providing a very new twist to an old story and doing it in a way that suits today’s audience. That’s why it’s one of the greatest anime of all time.
How did you like Madoka Magica? Do you agree that it’s one of the best anime ever made? Why do you think so? Or do you think it’s not worth the hype, and why? What other anime do you think are the greatest of all time? Drop us a comment below!