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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

April 2, 2012 by  



A fresh, enjoyable yet dark storyline that is absolutely captivating and addictive! “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” is another must-own anime on Blu-ray release for anime collectors and the series itself is definitely one of the best anime TV series on Blu-ray released in America for 2012.  Highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 5-8 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: April 10, 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…

At what price will one pay to become a Magical Girl?  In Vol. 2 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, Sayaka decides to become one, but at what price?

For anime fans who grew up with magical girl (majo shojo) anime series, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” combines the sweet characters that many fans expect from a magical girl series, but this time around, also a darker and more tragic storyline.

Created in 2011, the anime TV series known as “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is 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 well-received and  it won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, it won 12 NewType Anime Awards and also 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 Magica 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 released in March 2012 and also, a three-film project that is in the works.

In the United States, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Vol. 1 was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex.  And in April 2012, the second volume featuring episodes 5-8 will be released.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Summary

“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?

Volume 2 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”

In volume 2, Sayaka wants to make one wish come true and so she decides to become a magical girl.  But becoming a magical girl comes at a price and Madoka will learn how someone as sweet as Sayaka can change after becoming 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 and I have to give Takahiro Kishida (the character designer) and Kunihiko Inaba a lot of credit for the visual presentatio of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  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.

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.  Comparisons between the Blu-ray and DVD are mostly in the vibrancy of the colors in HD, while things look a bit softer for the DVD version.

Black levels are nice and deep, the series features vibrant colors galore. If anything, the picture quality for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is very good considering this is anime TV series.  Anime fans should be happy with the overall visual presentation on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magica Madoka Magica” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo and subtitles are in English.  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. Voice actress Aoi Yuki (“The World God Only Knows”, “Persona 4: The Animation”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”) takes on the more emotional role as Madoka and her voice acting is wonderful as we see her going through various degrees of emotions from happiness to sadness.  But for vol. 2, these are Sayaka-driven episodes and voice actress Ai Nonaka (“Air”, “Negima!?”, “R.O.D. – The TV”)  has to play a wide-range of emotions like Aoi Yuki but also a more twisted version of the character as well.

English voice acting was well-done.  Similar to the Japanese voices, Christine Marie Cabanos and Lauren Landa had to be much more emotional in these episodes and both voice actresses do a wonderful job for their characters.

And as mentioned in my last review, what stands out the most for me in the TV series is the wonderful musical soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening – Textless opening by “ClariS”.

EXTRAS:

Aniplex is a Japanese company that is well-known for their anime releases but also for giving fans wonderful additions with the limited edition releases.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” comes with the following: 

  • 3 Discs  – Blu-ray, DVD and the original soundtrack

This second soundtrack (which came with vol. 4 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” in Japan) comes with the following tracks:

  1. Decretum    1:49
  2. Agmen clientum    1:44
  3. Venari strigas    2:47
  4. Signum malum    1:47
  5. Amicae carae meae    2:02
  6. Incertus    1:40
  7. Inevitabilis    1:55
  8. Serena ira    2:01
  9. Anima mala    1:44
  10. Pugna infinita    1:55
  11. Vocalise Op. 34 no. 14    3:37
  12. Ave Maria    4:49
  • Deluxe Collector’s Slipcase
  • Reversible 2-sided cover for BD/DVD case
  • 2-sided cover for Soundtrack CD case
  • 24-page booklet: Staff and voice actor interviews, character designs, special 4-panel manga by aokiume and art gallery by INUCURRY! (and more!)
  • Exclusive 2-sided poster (side 2: Magical Girls Group shot)
  • Exclusive postcards of “preview Illustrations” from episodes 5-8

In my last review, I talked about how I enjoyed this series because of how different the overall storyline was compared to other mahou shojo (magical girl) anime series.

With the second volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, I was surprised how things got even darker, especially how things change with the character of Sayaka after she decides to become a magical girl.  Also, with many anime series with a cute alien or animal-type of character, these characters are most often pure and used for comedy purposes.  For the character of Kyubey, it may look cute but let’s just say that we get to learn more about this being and viewers may be a bit surprised by some of the revelations made in this second volume.

Revealing anything else would be spoiling it, so all I will say is that fans of the first four episodes will be intrigued by the introduction of a new character but also revelations of the magical girl process, which is unlike any other magical girl anime series that I have seen within the last 30-years.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is turning out to be a wonderful series with attention to character development but also a storyline that is fresh, unique and captivating.

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.

And of course, with the limited edition, Aniplex returns with as many wonderful extras that the first limited edition came with.  From a beautiful second soundtrack to cool postcards, poster and an informative booklet (and much more), fans of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” will find this second volume limited edition to be another must-own release.

Overall, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set”, is another home run for Aniplex.  The storyline is just as captivating and addictive as the last volume but also a bit more emotional and dark.  And so far, I’m enjoying every episode.  It’s definitely one of the best anime series to be released on Blu-ray in 2012.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” is highly recommended!

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