Friday, 21 January 2011

Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Episode 3

From an episode of Sayaka and Madoka pondering over their potential choice of wish were they to make a contract with Kyubey and become magical girls, episode three seems to begin with obvious candidate for taking up Sayaka's choice, and perhaps the reason why she's seemed somewhat keen on the whole thing from the start.

Indeed, the question of what kind of wish to ask for weighs quite heavily over the first half of this episode, with Sayaka questioning the possibilities of whether she could wish on behalf of another while Madoka looks towards her mother as inspiration as she slowly moves towards her decision - the real item of interest here is Mami however, as Madoka's query as to what she wished for brings back a quite surprising answer; that Mami's wish was simply to stay alive after a car accident, meaning that her contract with Kyubey was effectively a last resort life or death decision.

Our two potential magical girls thoughts about what to do with their wish (and by this point it does seem a case of "when" rather than "if" they cash in on it) is interrupted as they come across a Grief Seed that's about to burst into life - a potentially dangerous occurrence that leaves Madoka to go and find Mami while Sayaka stays behind to keep an eye on it - a decision that soon sees her (alongside Kyubey) trapped within its psychedelic clutches.  Of course, Mami and Madoka turn up soon enough, as does Homura, who remains as determined as ever to stop Madoka in particular from signing a contract to become a magical girl.  With Mami finally tiring of this interference and literally leaving Homura tied up while she heads off to deal with the witch, it's her alone who take on this new thread - a decision which proves to have shocking consequences, and one which leaves us with an incredibly surprising ending.

If I still had reservations over Puella Magi Madoka Magica and where it was going with its story (and I did, to be honest), then this third episode has blown effectively all of those concerns out of the water.  The juxtaposition of characters and backdrops which initially felt jarring now seem perfectly coherent together, the action sequences in this episode were excellently realised and, at times, stunning, and the plot progression... oh, the plot progression.  Everything here has been fantastically handled as questions begin to spring up in our heads about exactly what was going on - Kyubey's initial friendliness is now seeming to appear decidedly pushy as he nudges Madoka and Sayaka towards making a contract with him, Mami's admission of her situation and her later behaviour could easily have a couple of thousand words dedicated to it alone, and Homura is as intriguing as she ever was in her own actions.  Hell, even those surreal maze-like backdrops suddenly seem like something that needs to be investigated and imbued with meaning. 

So where does that leave us?  With the most jaw-dropping episode of the winter season so far, and with Puella Magi Madoka Magica now looking like it could turn out to be one of the best anime we'll be treated to this year - and it's only January.  Let's just hope that thought doesn't come back and bite me, like some kind of surreal stretching face thing.

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