The story starts with the strange dream of a normal girl who is also the main protagonist, Kaname Madoka. The next scene shows the normal beginning of a normal day… with the exception of the appearance of a girl transferring into her classroom – a girl who had appeared in Madoka’s dream. During a break, the girl gives Madoka a cryptic warning about not changing who she is for the sake of the people who love her, and then walks off, leaving Madoka wondering who exactly she is. Later, during a mall visit with her best friend Miki Sayaka, Madoka meets a mysterious messenger of magic who calls himself Kyubey who is being hunted by the transfer student. Once they save Kyubey, they’re pulled into a witches’ labyrinth, only to be saved by another girl, Tomoe Mami. Mami is a magical girl who formed a contract with Kyubey to fight witches in exchange for one wish. Kyubey extends this offer for a contract to be a magical girl to Sayaka and Madoka.
This manga’s origin was the multi-award winning anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. As this one 100-paged book combines episodes 1-4, it doesn’t have the same pacing that two hours of anime allows, and that’s its main shortcoming. The manga was written at the same time the anime was being produced, causing small plot detail differences. Those things being said, the script of the manga is almost identical to the script of the anime, minus the lines changed during the anime’s production. The character development is logical given the events happening in the book and the characters’ own attitudes towards said events.
As the artists for the anime and manga are different, expect differences in art style. For example, the artist for the anime had a unique style that made heads wider than normal proportions. Because the manga was written during anime production, there are some art differences just like there are some minor story differences. Unfortunately, there are some shortcomings in the art; including the simplification of designs of the ‘witches’ and ‘familiars,’ the simplification of magic effects, and the simplification of the backgrounds.
Yen Press has this rated OT (Older Teen, 16+) for good reason. (A quick warning: There will be spoilers starting now.) A major character is killed by having her head eaten, and then the rest of her body soon after. Another major character uses guns constantly instead of traditional magic. A character who makes a one time appearance attempts suicide, and due to witch’s influence, a group of people attempt a mass suicide.