|Puella Magi Madoka Magica Original Soundtrack I
|Puella Magi Madoka Magica
|ANZB-9124/ANZX-9124 (Bundled with DVDs)
|May 25, 2011
|01. Sis puella magica!
|02. Salve, terrae magicae
|03. Gradus prohibitus
|04. Credens justitiam
|09. Puella in somnio
|10. Umbra nigra
|11. Terror adhaerens
|12. Scaena felix
|13. Pugna cum maga
Review: At first glance, Madoka Magica seemed like an odd anime for Kajiura to be scoring. Her past works are marked by music that invoke the arcane and foreboding, making Madoka, with its typical magical girl premise involving the usual teenagers, magical powers, cute costumes, saving the world, and happily-ever-afters, a total mismatch. In hindsight, the choice of Kajiura as composer was, in all likelihood, a pronounced hint of the dark events that would unfold during the next few months. The hint proves to be true; Kajiura reaches into her magic hat with a flourish, pulling out another of her trademark soundtracks with aplomb. The trick remains immersive and enjoyable, but some of the novelty is lost in the repetition nonetheless.
The plot commences in a fairly orthodox manner. Madoka and Sayaka become entrapped in the demented twists of a witch’s alternate dimension and are overcome with horror as the once-familiar surroundings mutate into a terrifying amalgamation of bizarre images. Fleeing the inexorable clutches of appallingly macabre mustached cotton-balls, their salvation comes in a form they least anticipated. Mami, a veteran magic wielder, descends upon the scene to annihilate the hate-filled witch. Her unexpected but graceful entry fills them with wonder, and her noble bearing presents her as a miraculous agent of light and accomplished antithesis of evil. This imagery is captured perfectly in the joyous chorus heard in “Credens Justitiam”, or in English, “Trusting Justice”. The voices are exultant, as if the gods of victory are proclaiming triumph for the virtuous, reveling in the banishment of the foul demons endangering the innocent. It’s a rather standard Kajiura vocal work that wouldn’t be out of place alongside previous pieces like “Elenore” and “Mezame”, but its uplifting verses and animated tempo allow the similarities of tone and melody to be forgotten, forming the perfect representation of the awe induced by the seemingly pure and incorruptible power that mamifests in Mami.
Credens Justitiam[audio:04 Credens Justitiam.mp3]
Through this, the protagonists begin to realize the myriad possibilities that magic offers them. The choice isn’t an easy one; “Desiderium” presents an apt portrait of the girls’ contemplative states as they inwardly reflect over whether the benefits of becoming a magical girl are worth the duty of battling evil for eternity. The delicate notes borne by the piano flit around, meandering like the deliberations of an introspective mind. Quickening in pace and fading in unconfident conclusions, they swell again in intensity as new paths are pursued. To the listener, it feels as if the smallest disturbance would shatter the fragile phrases, scattering ephemeral notions in all directions. Unusual in its restrained delivery, “Desiderium” loses nothing in its subtle performance, proving itself to be one of the more unique tracks in the album.
It isn’t long before Madoka and Company are drawn into the conflict between magical girls and witches as they are forced to confront more of the multi-themed malevolent beings. “Pugna cum Maga”, appropriately meaning “Fight with a Witch”, is one of several combat themes present. The violins play heavily into their strings, eliciting wails that border upon shrillness, akin to the unearthly wails the witches shriek in their merciless and mindless rampages. Meanwhile, the chant that’s nearly omnipresent throughout the album takes on a more sinister quality, recalling the unearthly realms in which the witches are deeply ensconced. While the track is prone to being a bit static, it adeptly captures the thick despair that permeates the atmosphere surrounding the insidious witches.
Pugna cum Maga
[audio:13 Pugna cum Maga.mp3]
It’s soon apparent that taking on the mantle of a destroyer of evil is more than it is at first glance. The shroud of mystery that obscures the mechanisms behind puellae drives most of the sentiments behind the soundtrack. This aura materializes in “Sis Puella Magica!,” the album’s mascot track – a song that expresses the unanswered questions the girls have about their existence while simultaneously lamenting the burden they bear. The ethnic influences that can be heard also lend the music a feeling of age, as if the protagonists are only the latest to encounter these cloaked secrets. The various nuances of the occult and the unknown that this piece exhibits make it a lovely listen, recalling all of the key aspects of the anime in its melody.
Sis Puella Magica!
[audio:01 Sis Puella Magica.mp3]
The whole anime might have revolved around how being Meguca is suffering, but it did have the decency to give the characters a bittersweet ending. “Clementia” captures the sentiments felt after all has been said and done. Neither euphoric nor despondent, the piece is characterized by a peace and reserved affection that echoes with hints of heartache. The sweet notes of the oboe as it sings in a duet with a harp are a poignant musical manifestation of the acts of compassion that end the harrowing struggles the protagonists endured.
While the Madoka OST is a decent soundtrack that meshes nigh perfectly with the animation, it is weighted with the flaws that most Kajiura soundtracks suffer from when subject to a stand-alone listen. Foremost amongst those flaws is – well – that it’s yet another Kajiura soundtrack. If the Madoka BGM were swapped with the music from some other anime scored by her, things would fit together just as well. Other issues present in the soundtrack include that directionless ambience, one of my biggest pet peeves. Selections like “Umbra Nigra” and “Puella in Somnio” have either generous helpings of echoes applied to ominous noises or repetitive patterns that remain tediously unchanging. These problems don’t present themselves nearly as obviously as in some of Kajiura’s other work, but it’s noticeable enough to knock the rating down a few notches.
As a whole, the Madoka OST isn’t Kajiura’s best or worst, but it is certainly an enjoyable album that’s enhanced by the experience of watching the fantastic anime (which practically everyone has at this point).
Rating: Very Good