Heavier and more brooding than typical magical girl stories in Japanese fantasy, the anime "Puella Magi Madoka Magica," a multiple-feature repackaging of the 2011 television series, gives voice to the notion that superpowers aren't always a gift.
Creator Gen Urobuchi's concept begins with cheery schoolgirl Madoka offered the chance to spice up her humdrum life with otherworldly powers, as bestowed by an odd catlike creature. Less enamored with her own transformative status is the mysterious Homura, who knows about the real responsibilities in store for Madoka if she changes who she is.
Studded with colorfully trippy sequences that dramatize the battles between magical girls and doom-spreading villains known as "witches," "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" is episodic, strange, at times numbingly repetitive and, when least expected, thematically intriguing about the rules behind this all-girl parallel world of freedom and risk.
Mostly, its mix of cute aesthetics (giggling uniformed girls, furry creatures), hallucinogenic art and allegorical coming-of-age melancholy is worthy of consideration for anime aficionados who might dismiss this subgenre as so much super-tween silliness.
"Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 1: Beginnings." Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes. "Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 2: Eternal." Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. No MPAA rating; in Japanese with English subtitles. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.