As many of you may have known, the Madoka Magica movie aired in five cities across America last Saturday. As a resident of Chicagoland, and a pretty decent Madoka fan, I decided I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by.
I hope you’ll forgive me for somewhat indulging myself in the full tale of my trip, as opposed to a by the numbers review. I think it’s no secret that as an Otaku from the Midwest, I really have few opportunities to see events like this. The largest anime con, ACEN, is decent in size, but never gets amazing revelations or super rare showings. I almost didn’t believe it when I heard this movie was coming out in my beloved city, so you know I jumped on those tickets as soon as possible.
After coming back to my old suburban home, I set off for Chicago in earnest. With camera in one hand and notepad in another, I was actually feeling like a legitimate journalist, until I remembered I had to borrow this camera from my mom and the notepad an old generic spiral, pages worn from usage. It’s kinda funny, I never really knew what kind of expectations to have for the showing for this kind of movie, but I guess everyone in the area had the same feelings I did. The line was so long by the time I got to it that it stretched along Southport and then curled back. I would have gotten to the place earlier, but as I got on the ‘L’ to get there, I had full on fever pains goin’, and I was not going to suffer cold temperatures well in that state. Appreciate that I suffered for y’all, y’know?
Well, to be honest, the pain allowed me to stay awake for the entire thing. I knew it was going to be a long experience, but I had no idea these movies were going to be a full two hours each, meaning we didn’t get out until around 2am, far past any means of public transportation. Taxis musta made like gangbusters once everyone left this thing, I swear. Before anything got started though, there was swag to give away. The theatre had about 15 posters to give away, first to a group of dudes who apparently felt the need to stay in line since 3pm for a 9:30 showing. After that came the most poorly managed cosplay contest I’d ever seen.
Clearly it seemed the staff of the Music Box, was way over their head with this event. Primarily the place is an art house theatre showcasing old movies and new indie hits, and that was really apparent when I walked in as everything about the venue felt so weird for an anime showing. As you can see, the movie screen was covered with a legitimate red curtain, with shallow sloping rows of old plush movie seats in front. There was even an old timey organ being played by this old kickass bald dude who seemed way too cool about his legitimate theatre being overrun with us unwashed otaku masses. The major way the cosplay contest went about was by shouting matches, which I’ve always found to always take way too much time. I had some good fun with the whole proceedings though, cheering all the way through, from a guy who apparently crossed Madoka and Shizuou and called it Thugoka to the shyest girl ever playing up a twintails Homura. Afterwards, everybody settled down and were ready to see some action.
What came up first was an introduction by the VA’s from the Japanese cast. It was a pretty interesting bit, made absolutely hilarious by the use of starwipe of all things to transition between shots. I can’t begin to describe how cheesy and low budget the effect made the entire thing look. Once we started getting to the actual movie, we were greeted with a new opening. It was pretty gorgeous visually, not that that’s a big shocker, but probably the only thing anyone would talk about were the extraordinary levels of yuri involved. I believe the exact note on the pad was “yuritastic” when the song began as Homura and Madoka lock hands before turning into
morning rescue pink lemonade, followed by intense nuzzling in a field for no adequately explored reason.
If you’re looking for anything new out of these movies, the only changes are the obvious ones: animation. Everything did look gorgeous, and backgrounds, especially the weird outdoor cathedral most of the early scenes are set in, really popped with detail. The second, more crowd pleasing addition by far were extended transformation sequences and battle animations. Mami, as the oldest and most easily sexualized character, gets a pretty long scene complete with closeups of every detail. There were also additions to the complexity of fight scenes that could only be crafted by Shinbo. I didn’t think Mami could summon guns from under her boobs, but I guess they don’t call it a rack for nothing. This was not all fluff though, as Sayaka’s transformation and fight visuals better emphasized the Little Mermaid motif that defined her tragic story.
As far as condensing about a combined 5 hour experience into a 4 hour one, I really think they did a good job. Some parts that were extrapolated were implied without losing their impact. Madoka is definitely a show that translates well to a movie experience, since it was purely about the story from episode 1. However I would caution against buying this if it ever becomes available. For an event like this, every penny was worth it. Honestly I think they could have gotten away with charging more as 20 dollars for a 4 hour movie experience was a great deal. However, on its own the minor improvements really didn’t sell me on getting this separate from the series, especially since the Blu-Ray edition already cleaned up much of the messy backgrounds and “being magical girl is suffering” moments that were the butt of jokes the first time around.
The biggest thing I took out from the show was a trailer, shown at the very end for those patient enough to stick with the blinding white credit roll. It would appear, indeed, that the third movie will be a direct sequel, chronicling the story of Homura in a world without witches. It seems that the focus will be Homura in dealing with the loss of Madoka and apparent strife between the magical girls. There was also a possible tease that worst friend of all time Hitomi will become a magical girl herself. Her involvement in the plot is yet to be seen.
I was really happy I was able to attend this event. There’s really just something about being in a crowd with people, all sharing the same hobby, that was infinitely entertaining to watch with. Like the midnight screening to a blockbuster show, people would cheer and laugh and boo at all the ups and downs. Even I got into the act, the crown jewel in my opinion a timely shouting of “biiiiitch” at the Hitomi and Sayaka confrontation scene. I also had the incredible luck to be sitting next to two of the most affable and knowledgeable dudes. My original plans were to bring people unfamiliar with Madoka to this screening, but when that plan went south I was really worried I’d be stuck with only my thoughts as company. We only got to know each other for four hours, and never even ended up knowing each others names, but I felt such a kinship with them, and it really helped add to an already fantastic viewing experience.
Going down Lincoln, cursing the CTA for stopping their lines right before we got out, burning with fever, you’d think someone would be miserable. Not I. Not that night. I arrived at my brother’s place weary and worn, but bringing with me great memories and a good story to bring home to my friends.