How much is too much? Years ago when I first started watching new anime episodes as they aired in Japan, one of the things that surprised me the most was learning that the first airings of anime weren’t the finished products. It shocked me actually to think that what was being put on television wasn’t the final product and additional changes were made before it went out onto DVD or Blu ray. Why would anyone put a product on television only to make revisions to it later? I’ve since grown a little wiser and stopped asking that question but now I’m left with another question, how much change is too much?
The reason why I’m asking this question is due to changes I’ve seen from the Madoka Magica Blu ray release (which admittedly has gone on to sell record numbers). It’s also worth admitting that probably the only reason why I’m bringing this up now and asking the question is because of how much I loved the series. The series itself I considered an incredible work that deserves all of its success and only goes to solidify how I feel about the work of Akiyuki Shinbo right now.
However, with the release of the first volume I’m seeing a number of comparison images pop up that are making me question how I will react whenever I see the series again on DVD. In these images, it’s clear that Shaft has fixed plenty of the lower quality animation but have also made changes that could completely alter how one views the characters.
For example, in the series, I really connected with Mami partly because of how she lived. When Madoka and Sayaka appear at her place for tea and cake, Mami is living in a sparsely decorated apartment on her own. There are hardly any pieces around that indicate someone is even living there beyond the simple cups and plates. If she were take those away, there would be hardly any reason to think that anyone had lived there at all. To me, this indicated that Mami was so dedicated to what she does that she didn’t have time to decorate. She was the character who would go to school, do her job and then come home to nothing. An empty dull life that was completely different from all of the magical girls we’ve seen trying to live normal lives at the same time.
In the new animation however, Mami’s apartment is filled with little decorations and treats. She has a lovely apartment that has plenty of personality behind it. Now my image of her has changed, is she the lonely girl who wanted Madoka to become like her just so that she can have a friend? Maybe instead she’s actually an exciting life filled with danger but doesn’t get in the way of her real life that much at all.
For me, part of what made Mami so sympathetic and moe was that feeling of loneliness and vulnerability that she was barely letting show. On the surface she was trying to train Madoka to become the most powerful of magical girls but deeper down, you knew there was an ulterior motive. Perhaps a part of her that only wanted a new friend to go on missions with and share the hardships of her life. Someone that she could take under wing. Now she’s one of the ones who is romanticizing the hardships of war the girls that take on Kyubey’s contract must face. When I watch this again, will her cold words still have that same impact they once did?
It’s entirely possible that by the time I get to watch this series on DVD these concerns will have long passed and I’ll have forgotten about the ways that the early part of this series made me feel. What about those who are seeing the series for the first time? Will they feel that same way when they watch Mami throughout the first 3 episodes? Will there be a sense of apathy when she meets her cruel fate in episode 3 since that’s the life that she chose to lead? It’s hard to imagine that something so simple as knick knacks on the shelf could make that much of a difference to my viewing experience but I know that in the future, I’m always going to wonder how my perceptions would have been had I watched the series before and after it got all of its DVD changes.