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Madoka, Sayaka, Mami, and Kyouko are magical girls. They attend school by day and fight supernatural manifestations of their classmates’ nightmares at night. When a new student, Homura, transfers to their school, it quickly becomes clear that she is a magical girl too. She brings her own special powers to the team—and her own agenda. Homura knows that something strange is going on; the world doesn’t quite make sense, doesn’t quite feel real.

This story, based (as the title suggests) on a Puella Magi movie, is a departure from the norms of the Puella Magi universe. In the main Puella Magi Madoka Magica storyline, magical girls fight monstrous creatures called witches, and each magical girl is destined to eventually become a witch herself. This volume takes place after Madoka’s sacrifice has changed the rules, saving all the other magical girls from that awful fate. Yet in this volume, Madoka is alive and well and distinctly un-sacrificed. How can this be? And why are the girls fighting nightmares instead of witches?

Homura suspects they may all be trapped in their own alternate reality. She doesn’t know who would do that, and for what purpose, but she is going to find out.

Like other Puella Magi stories, this volume balances fantasy battles with scenes of the girls hanging out, going to school, and doing other normal things. Though the nightmares are creepy, the fights in this volume are more whimsical than violent. In each of the two big battles we see, the girls use magic to trap the nightmare in a cheery, cute, dreamlike world and trick it into being harmlessly dispelled. No one is hurt.

Meanwhile, Homura’s suspicions—and the mounting evidence to support them—lend an eerie “what’s wrong with this picture?” feel to the volume. It makes for a compelling mystery, especially when it’s hinted that the alternate reality may be the work of a witch.

The girls’ characters don’t get deep exploration in this volume, but their personalities do begin to emerge: Mami as the responsible leader, Sayaka as hard-working and academically-minded, Madoka as cheerful and friendly, and Kyouko as obstinate and touchy. Homura remains a bit mysterious, though fans of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica franchise will be familiar with her and the other girls already.

The artwork is intricate and full of fanciful detail. From the girls’ elaborate outfits and hairstyles, to the bizarre appearances of the nightmares—think patchwork dolls gone horribly wrong—the volume is visually rich. A variety of different screentones adds texture. There are a lot of cute touches, like the catlike creature Kyubey.

Readers already familiar with other Puella Magi Madoka Magica series will quickly recognize what is different about this reality (e.g. nightmares vs. witches), but that won’t spoil the mystery of how and why things have changed. They’ll also know a lot about elements that are only glimpsed in this volume: soul gems, for instance, and Kyubey. Still, this knowledge isn’t necessary to enjoy the story, and readers new to the franchise won’t have much trouble picking it up.

While this first volume feels fairly light—there are humorous scenes, and the battles aren’t scary or bloody—if the series goes on to follow the movie on which it’s based, then sadder and grimmer things lie ahead. The Puella Magi franchise puts an ominous spin on the typically fun, bubbly magical girl trope. It’s still very much a magical girl series: friendship, saving the world, and sparkly powers abound. But readers should know that these stories can get bleak, and not everyone may get a happy ending.

That said, it is the interesting and unexpected treatment of the magical girl story that has earned Puella Magi many fans. Readers who appreciate a twist on a familiar genre will likely enjoy this volume as well as other Puella Magi stories.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, vol. 1
by Magica Quartet
Art by Hanokage
ISBN: 9780316309387
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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