Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica ED Single – Magia – Review

Album Title: Magia
Anime Title: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Artist: Kalafina, Yuki Kajiura
Catalog Number: SECL-941
Release Type: OP/ED Single
Release Date: February 16, 2011
Purchase at: CDJapan

Track Title Artist Time
1. Magia Kalafina 5:13
2.Snow Falling Kalafina 4:42
3. Magia (Instrumental) Yuki Kajiura 5:09

Review: Those who found “Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa” too bland, too lackluster, or simply too Kajiura for their tastes can rejoice in Kalafina’s comeback in “Magia.” While the Arabic style is far from masking the overwhelming scent of Kajiura, it is nonetheless in a class of its own, set apart from all the singles released by Kalafina thus far. (Though it may feel right at home in the album Red Moon)

The most commendable aspect is the fusion of folk and rock, which I confess is my favourite genre, and with that, the likelihood for a biased review. Still, who can argue that the A-side is unbelievably refreshing, with an uncharacteristically energetic and almost aggressive performance from the girls? Though Hikaru’s performance is still a little rough around the edges, the mood she puts forward fits in perfectly with the instrumentals. Keiko’s entrance also provides an excellent contrast to the intense delivery earlier, and is probably one of the few times where her stanza actually adds to the overall enjoyment rather than providing mindless fanservice for her large fanbase.

The B-side, unfortunately, does not deserve much praise. The last few B-sides have generally been sorely lacking, either due to the failure in delivery (“Adore” comes to mind) or a half-hearted effort from Kajiura’s compositions (“Sapphire” and “Utsukushisa” anyone?). “Snow Falling” encompasses both faults; it’s a victim of both poor composition and an even worse delivery which actually gives the composition something to be proud of.

I can think of only a small handful of artists who can bring across the theme of winter properly, given that it requires great gentleness of expression. Here, Wakana’s delivery is too overpowering, Keiko’s is far too harsh, and Hikaru’s is overtly cute. The only one who seemed to capture the feeling of snow is, oddly enough, the accompanying vocalist. The great differences with the way the song is performed further add to the overall messiness, making “Snow Falling” a poor complement to the marvel of “Magia.”

But for “Magia’s” sheer audacity, this single is worth it. Though by all means, skip the B-side. There is nothing there which captures the usual goodness of Kalafina.

Rating: Good

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica ED – Magia

About the author

Jen A loyal follower of Japanese music and soundtrack, I have been a contributor to Anime Instrumentality since late 2009. Being a crappy musician trained in cello, keyboard and voice, I feel obliged to censure the other amateurs who have the cheek to release their rubbish to the world, and to affirm those who actually deserve their salary. Nothing gives me more joy than listening to good music, though I admit that writing scathing reviews on bad ones comes close.

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13 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Tsuki says:

    In terms of feeling, Magia follows what Kajiura and Kalafina tends to be good at doing; more darker in tone yet evocative songs (though I’ll admit I’m generalizing a bit too much here). A lot of Kajiura’s compositions sound similar, and Magia isn’t terribly different in that regard. You can instantly tell it’s Kajiura from the start; whether that’s because of a lack of creativity or a sign of consistency depends on what the listener thinks of her works.

    Anyways, I don’t know about the B-side, but Kalafina does a really does good job at complementing the darker tone the Mahou Shoujo Madoka series has been taking, and Magia serves as a rather nice contrast to the more traditional J-pop opening theme.

  2. Yi says:

    Agreed about Magia. It has a very clear Kajiura flavor, but doesn’t become just another “generic” Kajiura piece. It’s lovely to listen to.

  3. feal87 says:

    I love it as most Kalafina songs. (the best is likely Oblivious from Kara no Kyoukai)

  4. I’ve been in love with Magia since the first time it played. Of course I’m a bit of a twit sometimes, so I sat wondering why the artist sounded so familiar before facepalming at my moment of, “Oh, right Kalafina. Lacrimosa. Duh.” I love the Arabic feel, I love the violin, I love the vocals, and just the entirety song in its entirety.

  5. You’re the Kalafina expert amongst the staff, so I figured I’d ask: doesn’t “Magia” have a lot of similarities to “love come down” (at least, the Arabic feel) and “Mata Kaze ga Tsuyoku Natta” (that song’s level of aggressiveness)? At first, I was ready to call “Magia” something kinda new from Kalafina, but when I listened to Seventh Heaven (talk about overdue! :p) those two songs immediately jumped out at me as having stylistic similarities to this song.

  6. lelangir says:

    I love how the verse modulates to the chorus. Such an abrupt key change, but the color it produces is so fitting. Using challenging modulations so lyrically is really, really tough.

  7. Aftershok says:

    I took a real liking to Madoka’s ED and actually sat down to crunch out some of the chords and melody. I came away pretty impressed. She uses a lot of diminished, upper-interval stuff to give that dark, “Arabic” color to the backgrounds (mostly the use of b9′s over harmonic minor chords, I think; cue Rhythmroo).

    What surprised me the most was the unusual modulation right before the chorus like lelangir pointed out. It moves by a major third from Eb to G. What’s interesting is that most of the chorus is actually in F or a mode thereof. Most impressively, the key changes never come off as gimmicky or jarring; I never even noticed the modulations until I sat down to play it out. One key smoothly transitions to the next, gives the intended effect, and gets out of the way. Very cool.

    One thing I noticed about Kajiura is her use of tubular bells in the chorus to give that “epic” effect zzeroparticle is so fond of. When people are really good melodists/harmonists they usually aren’t as good as scoring for percussion parts (unless we’re getting into Frank Ticheli/Alfred Reed territory), but I think Kajiura really excels in writing for auxiliary percussion instruments on top of her awesome melodies. I’m liking her more and more.

  8. Jen says:

    @Tsuki
    I do agree that almost any Kajiura piece has the very distinctive Kajiura character. In a way, the consistency is good. But when we talk about her recent FictionJunction works, they are way too uniform. Kalafina thus far is still ok. They are distinct Kajiura, but vary enough to entertain.

    @Yi
    “Kagayaku” was clear Kajiura flavour and nothing else though. Came as a bit of a surprise (and disappointment) cause Kalafina has not been going down the standard Kajiura path…

    @feal87
    Oblivious took me a while to get used to, but I agree its good. Mine would probably be the whole Fairytale single. Amazing A-side and a B-side to match.

    @Arianna Sterling
    Yea, I really like how “Magia” turned out too. Can’t wait for Kalafina’s next release.

    @zzeroparticle
    You’re quite right about “Mata Kaze ga Tsuyoku Natta”, but I’d say that “Magia” is still a tad bit higher in the level of aggressiveness. But “Mata Kaze” was a wonderful rock song in its own right. Was hoping for more of that from Kalafina, but it came in the form of “Progressive”…

    As for “love come down”, I didn’t draw the link at all, mostly because Red Moon was half filled with Arabic songs… So in terms of style, “Magia” isn’t something completely new. But at least its not something that is regular Kajiura. =)

    @lelangir
    So that explains why the music has such a distinct character. =) I’m a noob at music theory so I can only judge by feel and sound, not by the way the music is put together.

    @Aftershok
    My friend did point out the augmented intervals, but I never would have guessed there were so many “tricks” she used. XD

    Yea, Kajiura likes to use percussions (most notably, as seen here, bells) to build up the mood. But after you listen to a lot of her works, it does get a little dull seeing as its mostly the same things over and over…

    I’m also one who places a lot of emphasis on percussions, and there are a number of the composers on the top 15 list who are excellent at scoring for percussions. The one I remember off the top of my head is Yasuharu Takanashi. =)

  9. Mushyrulez says:

    Hrmm, seems much more ‘Middle Ages Christianity’ than Arabic, especially with those bells.

    I just can’t place it, it’s not an Arabic feel, it’s more… gypsy-like? Occultic? I don’t know ._.

    But Magia’s definitely an awesome song.

  10. lelangir says:

    I dunno if I would call it arabic. The only thing she used was a sort-of-common bII chord in the very first riff and interlude violin melody. You might think of it as having a slight phrygian tint; and while it’s not a mind-blowingly genius way of framing what is, harmonically, another typical Kajiura IV-V-vi song (the verse and chorus is mostly a minor pentatonic melody too), a few colorful harmonies here and there really do add a lot.

  11. Jen says:

    @Mushyrulez
    Haha seeing as I know next to nothing about Christianity and middle ages, I can’t really comment. XD But if it really is, I guess Kajiura really has more versatility than I give her credit for.

  12. Rhythmroo says:

    That was fascinating. Honestly I was really disappointed at 0:41 when that guitar kicked in to what I wish was 4th/5th gear but just went bland. I wanted it to really go nuts…. just wishful thinking. Trippy none-the-less ed.

  13. pentatonic, that’s the key.
    Shared by Gregorian chant, Buddhist chant (salveme…noir), Keltic esp. highland bagpipe (Escaflowne), and all Oriental music.
    Ariette’s Theme was how I discovered it…..written by the most Keltic Cecile Corbel for Studio Ghibli

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