Magical Girl Martyrs: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Purity, Beauty, and Passivity
In this paper, I discuss whether or not Akiyuki Shinbo’s 2011 anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is an effective critique of the magical girl genre. Many critics have claimed that the show is progressive. They cite the fact that the show blurs the line between innocent young girls and evil old women, which have historically been dichotomized in magical girl shows, as well as its handling of complex female characters as evidence for a positive reading. While Madoka Magica does make important headway in the realm of dismantling harmful female archetypes, however, the moral judgments the show assigns to those archetypes problematizes such a positive reading. I examine the magical girl genre’s history as well as Madoka Magica’s treatment of nonlinear storytelling, female agency, and purity in order to assess the effectiveness of its critique. The result, I argue, is that Madoka Magica is not especially progressive compared to other magical girl shows.