I’ve heard vague recommendations for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, that really it’s good, that it’s something different, but at first I had a hard time believing it. Looking at the cover, these magical girls have the generic cute appearance, and the plot doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. Madoka Kaname is a normal girl, nothing special about her, blah blah blah, until one day a mysterious girl named Homura shows up in her class, warning her to never wish to be different. Then a cat-like creature named Kyubey shows up, telling Madoka and her friend Sayaka that he can grant them one wish, anything they desire, in exchange for become magical girls and fighting witches.
For the first two thirds of volume 1 I felt like I was reading a cheap, if interesting, version of Cardcaptor Sakura or Sailor Moon. Then the story turns gruesome as Madoka and Sayaka witness a brutal death at the hands of a witch. The story takes even more twists as the price for the wish turns out to be steeper than Kyubey implied, and the wish itself is a monkey’s paw, sometimes bringing even more grief on the magical girl than she meant to even heal.
Throughout both volumes Madoka struggles to come up with her wish, but as time goes on Homura’s warning seems more and more like the wiser choice. Of course, you know that she’ll become a magical girl — Kyubey seems determined to get a wish from Madoka, and it would be disappointing if, in the end, she didn’t become the heroine of the story. At the end of volume 2 it’s still unclear what the deceptively cute critter’s ultimate goal is, but I’ve tossed out all my misgivings. The candy-cute covers hide a dark story, and I’m anxiously awaiting the last volume.
Review copies were provided by Yen Press.