It’s an understatement to say that Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica has delighted me in more ways than one. The show has met my lofty expectations of it being as enjoyable as My-HiME with its plot twists and turns. And, as I’m wont to say, the music as a whole has utterly captivated me, which is expected from pretty much anything that Yuki Kajiura lays her hands upon. Still, as good as Madoka’s music is, the torrent of positive fan reaction towards the show’s background music in particular caught me off-guard.
Normally, when you encounter anime music arrangements, you’ll tend to come across instrumental arrangements of opening and ending themes, and for good reason: those themes tend to be the most memorable musical aspects of an anime series. Rare are albums in the mold of Rozen Maiden’s Strings and Piano albums, which make such efforts feel all the more precious. So with that in mind, hearing arrangements of Connect and Magia are all within the realm of expectations. But a massive fan arrangement compilation of Madoka’s background music? Now that’s cause for excitement! Check out the embedded Youtube video after the jump:
So here we have it! The video segment opens up with the ED theme, Magia, and the instrumentals do an excellent job of channeling the intensity of the grief and pains the characters experience in Madoka. At about the 3:02 mark, the melody does a clever transition over to the OP, Connect, for a short while before going back to Magia. Keep your ears open for that as you go through it because it can be easy to miss.
5:00 mark: A pulsating rhythm leads us into “Mami’s Theme.” I’m fairly sure that years from now, when people discuss Madoka’s soundtrack, this piece is going to be favorably compared to Kajiura’s other famous choral tracks like “Salva Nos” and “Himeboshi.” Part of the reason lies in its implementation within the anime. During this segment, the titular character is engaged in a wonderfully captivating choreographic delight. The music and chorus that sounds out as she whirls around, firing off her large collection of guns, lends the scene an aura of elegance and grace, effectively ingraining it in our heads for a long time to come.
7:57 mark: For some reason, my brain is telling me this is the preview music. I don’t recall it being used in the anime proper, but that could just be my memory being off. Anyhow, I’ve always loved this melody for bringing with it an aura of mystery and, in fitting with Madoka’s overall atmosphere, a cloud of melancholia, as it makes us wonder what tragedies are in store for the characters.
9:52 mark: Tragedy seems to be the big theme in this segment. The vibraphones move slowly and deliberately in the introduction, giving way to a mournful flute melody that expresses the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that drapes over the entire setting. This track is one of Kajiura’s better melancholy tracks as it tugs upon your heartstrings as you look for that ray of hope to burst forth and relieve the suffering the characters are experiencing.
13:29 mark: Someone remind me, is this part pretty much Sayaka’s descent into tragedy? I don’t remember exactly when this gets played, but the Spanish guitar that comes in later at 14:22 somehow reminds me of the series of unfortunate decisions where Sayaka’s idealism falls to the brink of despair and… ahh but I shall keep silent here. Suffice to say, this track feels emotionally heavy. Others have called it a swan song. I’m going to say that description sounds about right.
16:00 mark: The ominous, heavy steps, emphasized through the cymbal crashes and the foreboding strings convey the monstrosity that Kyouko has to fight. So while there’s a menacing aura that’s highlighted in the continuous motive (the motive you hear in “Magia’s” introduction), there’s also a torrid downpour of tragedy, as a character who doesn’t want to kill must do so so that others may live.
19:00 mark: A variation of the theme you hear in 9:52. As I listen through this segment, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming resolve that refuses to back down, no matter how many dead-ends are encountered. The crescendo that comes in around 21:00 serves to drive that persistence home, one that continually struggles against the imminent tragedies until the person in question is all but dead from the endeavor. It’s almost heartbreaking to think of all the tragedies Homura’s had to endure as she tries to create that happy ending.
24:00 mark: A really upbeat, flowing arrangement of “Connect.” In this version, one can’t help but taste the sweet victory that the characters have achieved. The buoyant tones wouldn’t be out of place in the ending theme of an RPG. So in that vein, the energy that this arrangement exudes is appropriate. We want the characters to find their happy ending, don’t we?
Final Notes: No standalone soundtrack in sight, but I do hope that Madoka gets one since I’d hate to have to actually buy the bundled CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set just to get my Kajiura fix, especially when the music is as good as it is. Anyhow, shoutout goes to Ottocycle once more, who somehow keeps me abreast of these sorts of things.