Ultimate Madoka, also known as Madokami, Godoka etc, was perhaps the most anticipated figure of 2012, both for me and the wider figure community. Like most of Good Smile Company's large figures, she's exceptionally detailed but difficult to assemble. Unfortunately, she was also rather expensive. AmiAmi charged me ¥10,960 for Ultimate Madoka, but due to her size and weight I was charged an additional and unexpectedly high ¥5,110 for shipping for a total of ¥16,070 or around £118.16 at the time. Unfortunately, I also got charged £32.96 in customs for a grand total of £151.12, which almost certainly makes Ultimate Madoka my most expensive figure by far! Thankfully the figure itself was a present (I know you read this, so thanks again!) and so thankfully I only had to pay for shipping and customs.
Madoka's box was huge,certainly the largest figure box i've ever had. Of course, this meant that her shipping box was even bigger. Normally AmiAmi packs their stuff well but I was surprised how loosely packed Madoka was. Thankfully though, Madoka and her box were undamaged. Unpacking her was another matter though, the plastic innards were secured by lots of sellotape and parts of Madoka were even secured by twist ties - the annoying hard to remove sort that many toys come. I'm glad that Madoka was well packaged internally but it's going to be difficult to pack her up again.
Assembly was a frightening experience, I was always scared that i'd break something. The main body of the figure, Madoka and her dress, is quite heavy and as a result difficult to attach to the base. Next, the foot wings are attached, this wasn't so difficult but still requires a fair amount of force to get them in. Then, the wings need to be attached, these slot in to holes on Madoka's back. However, Madoka's epic hair makes getting the wings in to their slots securely rather challenging. Since it'll be even more difficult to get them out and i'm moving in a few months, I decided to leave her right wing loose for now.
Finally, the most important bit - Madoka's bow and arrow. Two bows are provided, one small one and one large one complete with flames. The bow comes in two parts and you'll need to put the top part in to her hand and then the bottom part clicks in from the other side. Again, this requires quite a bit of force but at least it's secure. Once this is done just add the arrow, thankfully Madoka's hand rotates so you can add it in without her epic hair getting in the way.
The final result looks fantastic from any angle. The detailing is extremely well done and I couldn't find any defects, as expected from Good Smile Company. However, Madoka does pick up the smallest of vibrations rather well and does shake quite a bit - especially with the large bow. This should be OK, but something to definitely keep an eye on. I wish she was somewhat easier to assemble, but I expect that she would then be very difficult to package as a result. As a small bonus, the box liner is removable and helps to create some rather awesome looking pictures.
Over the past few days, I've (unusually) had a bit of spare time. Madoka had been recommended to me by several people and the premise seemed interesting so I decided to get through it.
On the surface, Madoka seems like your typical magical girl series, with girls being granted magical powers in order to fight the forces of evil. A seemingly cute critter going by the name of Kyubey is able to grant power to those girls with magical potential in return for granting them any one single wish. In return, they must then fight witches, evil creatures that are responsible for murders and suicides. However, it's at this point that Madoka splits from a traditional magical girl plot line, ending up with something very dark and emotional.
Overall, i'm extremely impressed by Madoka. The plot kept me interested and was quite complex, with certain elements only being predictable moments before they occurred and others being completely unpredictable. The series does come to a nice well-reasoned conclusion while possibly leaving room for a second season.
The animation, while detailed and intricate, did suffer from frequent mistakes. This is however rather typical of the animation studio Shaft who, are known for their frequent mistakes. However, having seen the first episode from the BluRays, a lot of the animation has been tidied up and presumably the remaining episodes will also benefit from this. Therefore, the final BluRay/DVD animation should be of a high quality. The artwork used within the barriers of the Witches was crazy (but appropriate), another Shaft speciality.
The Opening and Ending themes where radically different. The opening, コネクト (Connect) by ClariS, was fast paced but had an element of sadness/desperation in it, especially when combined with the opening's animation. The ennding, Magia by Kalafina, fitted the darker elements of the show much better. However, both the opening and ending are good choices for setting the overall mood of the series. Background music seemed to be used somewhat sparingly, but when used, such as in fight scenes, it fitted perfectly.
While most of the characters featured where girls, this is a magical girl show. However, their personalties where quite wide ranging an each had their own unique reasoning for becoming a magical girl. The series didn't constantly follow Madoka either, often we viewed events through another character's eyes or even saw a flashback of theirs, which often helped to explain current events or revealed vital back-story.
Overall, i've found Madoka to be an excellent show. While I have watched a few magical girl series, such as Nanoha which I did enjoy quite a bit, Madoka strongly differentiates itself from the typicalities of the genre. Most magical girl series are about magical girls fighting evil monsters, and winning. Madoka on the other hand has no problems with making the magical girls loose and putting them through some extremely emotionally testing events. Another difference from the genre is that Madoka had a very strong plot that was hard to predict, rather than the straightforward fight an enemy, fight a bigger enemy plot style. All of these differences really helped enhance the show and made for a very interesting viewing experience. Madoka is definitely not an 'enjoyable' series because of it's dark nature, but it is certainly extremely interesting.
Overall, i'm giving Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4.5/5. It is certainly my favourite magical girl type of show and having now watched it I can understand why it has gained so much praise. Sales figures have recently come out for the first BluRay volume, it sold 53,000 copies in the first week and now holds the record for the most sales of a TV anime BluRay in a week (the previous record holder was Bakemonogatari with 51,000). Madoka has also gained a large Western fanbase and hopefully we'll see it's eventual licencing and release here in the West.
I would highly recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica to any anime fan. It clearly demonstrates that just because a show falls into the magical girl genre, there's no reason not to have a complex, intricate plot and an overall dark feeling. Many thanks to Yesy for subbing up to episode 10, the translation was of a very high quality. Unfortunately, Yesy have not released episode 11 or 12 yet and I had to go with an alternative group in order to watch the finale.