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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

February 3, 2012 by  



“Maho Shojo” (Magical Girl) anime series in Japan tend to be cute and sugary sweet but with the release of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” on Blu-ray/DVD, audiences will quickly discover that this magical girl anime series incorporates that cute/sweet storyline with dark, tragic undertones as well.    And because of that, this award-winning anime series is not only unique, it’s also creative and exciting!  And for American anime fans, Aniplex Inc. absolutely delivers in swag with the Limited Edition Blu-ray release.  Definitely one of the best limited edition anime box sets to come out in the U.S.  Highly recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2012 ANIPLEX, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 4 Episodes: (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9LB Wide Screen), Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Linear PCM Stereo, English subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex, Inc.

Release Date: February 14, 2012

Series Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Series Composition: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Kunihiko Inaba

Chief Animation Director: Junichiro Taniguchi, Mika Takahashi

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Director of Photography: Shinichiro Eto

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft

Featuring the following voice talents:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname

“Has a loving family and best friends, laughs and cries from time to time…” Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader at Mitakihara middle school, lives such a life. One day, she has a very magical encounter. She doesn’t know if it’s by chance or by fate yet, but this meeting will change her destiny. This is the beginning of a new story of magical girls…

This limited edition combo box set includes the first soundtrack CD, an exclusive collector’s box, a double-sided poster, a Kyubey sticker, collectible postcards, and a deluxe 24-page booklet with character designs, a special short manga by Aoki Ume and more!

“Maho Shojo” (Magical Girl) anime series in Japan tend to be cute and sugary sweet but with the release of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” on Blu-ray/DVD, audiences will quickly discover that this magical girl anime series incorporates that cute/sweet storyline with dark, tragic undertones as well. And because of that, this award-winning anime series is not only unique, it’s also creative, fresh and exciting! And for American anime fans, Aniplex Inc. absolutely delivers in swag with the Limited Edition Blu-ray release. Highly recommended!

For anime fans who grew up with magical girl anime series, from the “Magical Sammy” series spun-off from “Tenchi Muyou”, “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Akazukin Cha Cha”, “Fancy Lala”, “Creamy Mami” to name a few, most of these anime series tend to be so sweet and sugary and cater to a niche group of anime fans.

While the series featuring older girls such as “Sailor Moon”, “Cutie Honey”, “Project A-Ko”, “Magic Knight Rayearth” had a bit of edge to the series and were known more for their action and characters which were designed as being a bit older than the “Maho Shojo” characters (which are typically young girls).  And one thing about Maho Shojo anime series is that it tends to stay within the confines of storylines and characters that are typically safe, cute, bubbly and sweet.

Once in awhile, you do get the melding of cute and sweet with an atmosphere of edgy and darkness.

A 2011 anime series known as “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” took things in a much different direction that the past magical girl anime series because of its edginess and tragic elements.

Produced by Shaft and Aniplex, the 12-episode anime TV series would feature a talented working staff which included director Akiyuki Shinbo (“Hidamari Sketch”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and series composition by Gen Urobuchi (“Fate/Zero”, “Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom”~, “Blassreiter”).

Music composition is by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Noir”, “My-HiME”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Fate/Zero”), character design by Takahiro Kishida (“Noein – to your other self”, “Macross Zero”, “Durarara!!”) and background art by Kunhiko Inaba (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “C-Control – The Money and Soul of Possibility”).

The series was so popular that it won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, won 12 NewType Anime Awards and won the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Awards.

When the series streamed on the Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga in June 2011, it surpassed the previous record held by Lucky Star (at 570,000 viewers) with around 1 million viewers.   Also, the first Blu-ray for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” broke the record of “Bakemonogatari” by selling 53,000 copies in its first week, 22,000 copies on its first day.

The popularity of the series eventually led to a manga series, a Sony PSP video game planned for release on March 2012 and also, a three-film project which was announced late last year.

And on Valentine’s Day of 2012, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” will be released on Blu-ray in the United States courtesy of Aniplex.  The first volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” features the first four episodes on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a series about a young teenager named Madoka Kaname.  She’s 14-years-old and comes from a loving family and hangs out with her best friend Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.

But lately, Madoka has been having nightmares.  A dark world filled with destruction and she watches these girls in battle.  As she watches and wishes they would be stopped, she is told by a cat looking extra terrestrial known as Kyubey that Madoka can stop it if she makes a contract with him and become a “Magical Girl”.

Meanwhile, a new girl named Akemi Homura has transferred to Madoka’s school and during her introduction in class, she gives Madoka a hateful glance.   Homura quickly becomes popular in school and excels in academics and athletics.

When she meets Madoka, Madoka tells her about her love for her family and friends and Homura responds by telling her her not to change.

One day, while Madoka and Sayaka were at a music store, Madoka hears a plea for help and she is led to a dark warehouse and finds a Kyubey that is hurt.  She then sees Homura and is frightened that she is about to hurt it.  Immediately, Sayaka comes to Madoka’s aid.

As the two are running away, both are whisked into a magical world where they meet a kind magical girl named Mami Tomoe who begins fighting against a witch in the magical world and defeats it with ease.

The Kyubey asks for both Madoka and Sayaka to sign a contract with him and become magical girls.

Magical Girls receive a soul gem which gives them their power.  The contract of becoming a magical girl states that a girl will get one wish in exchange for her using magic to fight against witches (which are evil entities born from magical girls who have fallen into despair and failed to purify their soul gem).  Each battle features a large amount of risk and during these fights, typically one dies.

Homura for some reason is trying her best to prevent Madoka from accepting the contract in becoming a magical girl.  But will Madoka and Sayaka want to become one?

VIDEO:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is presented in 16:9 LB.  I have to admit that Shaft and Aniplex have done a fantastic job in this series.  For one, the amount of detail for the art backgrounds is incredible.  A lot of time obviously went into creating the atmosphere of this TV Series.  Typically, most TV series tend to focus on trees, skies, clouds and buildings but with “”Puella Magica Madoka Magica”, a lot of thought went into the series from objects, wallpaper (even Mami’s wall-paper was designed and not just a straight painted background).  You see the changes during the day and night, you can see sunset with the orange sky illuminating the area,the magical world with its creative and artistic design.

And overall, these colors really pop via HD. Reds and pinks, greens…they come are absolutely vibrant.

As for character designs, the character designs manage to keep with the “majo shojo” theme of characters looking young, even the older characters looking young.  But they are nicely drawn, good amount shading and also at times showing a sketched look.

Blacks are nice and deep, the series features colors galore.  If anything, the picture quality for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is very good considering this is anime TV series.  Artistic backgrounds, creative magical worlds, cool character designs… “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo.

While I would have hoped for a 5.1 soundtrack (as I would have loved to have more immersion with the surround channels and LFE), most anime TV series aren’t and are presented in stereo.  Still, fans should be happy that two linear  PCM tracks are included.  They are front-channel driven and for the most part, dialogue and sound effects are quite clear and understandable.

The voice acting on both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.  I was expecting the Japanese soundtrack to feature high-pitch voices considering this is a magical girl series, but they kept the voices to the ages of Madoka and friends as 14-year-olds and older.   English voice acting was well-done and if anything, it’s great that Aniplex is including both Japanese and English soundtracks to this anime release.

But what stands out the most in this soundtrack is Yuki Kajiura’s music.  Each time I see her name associated with an anime series, if you are familiar with her work, you immediately know that the soundtrack is going to be wonderful and beautiful.  With “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, once again Kajiura’s music is captivating and it really enhanced my enjoyment of the series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” comes with the following special features:

    • Ending Theme: “Magia” Music Video – (5:18)”Magia” music video featuring Kalafina.
    • Textless Opening – Textless opening by “ClariS”.
    • Trailers – The original Japanese TV commercials and trailers for “Puella Magica Madoka Magica”

EXTRAS:

Aniplex is a Japanese company that is well-known for their anime but also known for their releases which come with a lot of swag.  And it’s one thing that I love about Aniplex because not many companies do that anymore and it’s something that fans in America tend to wish for, getting these limited edition art booklets, soundtracks, etc.

Well, with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, I can gladly say that this is possible one of the most impressive anime sets to come out in the United States.

This exciting limited edition set includes the Blu-ray and DVD of the first volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” but also featuring the original soundtrack which comes with a 2-sided cover, a deluxe collector’s slipcase, reversible 2-sided DVD cover,  a 24-page booklet featuring staff and voice actor interviews plus character designs and a 4-panel manga by aokume, a 2-sided poster, postcarts of “preview illustrations” from episodes 1-4 and exclusive KYUBEY stickers.

This is a very impressive release and it’s important for fans to know that the booklet is English translated and the CD soundtrack features a total of 13 songs (soundtrack duration is 28:06 minutes) and features the beautiful music by Yuki Kajiura.

The soundtrack comes with the following tracks:

  1. Sis puella magica!
  2. Salve, terrae magicae
  3. Gradus prohibitus
  4. Credens justitiam
  5. Clementia
  6. Desiderium
  7. Conturbatio
  8. Postmeridie
  9. Puella in somnio
  10. Umbra nigra
  11. Terror adhaerens
  12. Scaena felix
  13. Pugna com maga

I have watched a lot of magical girl anime series and there are some that are just too sugary and sweet and some that are just flat out, bad.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is one of the better anime series out there and for one, not only do you have a few very well-known anime industry talents from Japan working on this series, the production and look of the series goes far beyond what one would expect from an anime TV series.  From the moment you watch this anime series, the first episode shows us the amount of detail that goes into the art backgrounds, the artistic creativity that goes into the making of the magical world during battles, the character designs and experimental ways of presenting it onscreen and of course, the fantastic music by Yuki Kajiura in combination with a storyline that is not only cute, but also dark and tragic.

You don’t usually see this in an anime TV series, let alone a magical girl anime series.  “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” features wonderful production values and I can see why this series has won so many awards in Japan.  It’s quite unique and creative in presentation and as for the storyline, what I enjoy is how things go from cute to dark really quickly.

And for American fans, once again, Aniplex has done a wonderful job by providing possibly one of the best anime box set releases that I have seen released in America.  When you think about it, the days of the box sets have come and gone in the U.S., and although we see these limited edition sets for video games, I’m quite thrilled that Aniplex has chosen to release this Blu-release with a limited edition box set with so many cool swag.  Soundtrack, booklet, postcards, stickers, etc.   Possibly the icing on the cake for the near future for anime fans would be the inclusion of nenodroids and action figures, which hardcore anime fans are known to spend money on.

But there is no denying that this is a wonderful Blu-ray release and a limited edition box set worth owning.  And it’s important for people to know that Aniplex releases are highly desired, not many are made and when they say limited, these are truly limited editions, so you may want to try your best in getting this release if you can before they run out!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, production quality is fantastic, colorful and picture quality is very good for an anime TV series.  The lossless soundtrack is Linear PCM Stereo and most series in Japan are released in stereo and while I would love to hear a lossless immersive soundtrack for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, dialogue is still crystal clear, as are the effects but most notably, for its wonderful music soundtrack.

Overall, you don’t usually come across an anime series especially a magical girl anime series that has wonderful anime production, doesn’t look rushed or simple. “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a creative, unique and captivating series that is not too banal or too sweet and shows that the character’s choices can lead to tragic circumstance.

As for the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set”, it’s one of the better anime swag-filled limited edition box sets to come out in the United States and for the anime fans who are collector’s, you definitely want to get this limited edition release.

Definitely recommended!

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