Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the best anime I’ve seen, a serious and intelligent subversion and homage to the mahou shoujo genre. Naturally, you’ll have a richer appreciation of the work if you understand the genre and its tropes, and the many visual allusions to other series (Bokurano, Evangelion, Nanoha) reward a wide background in anime.
The usually self-indulgent Shinbou Akiyuki knuckles down and keeps his wild artistic seizures in service to the story. The writing is fast-paced and full of innovative twists that keep even a jaded viewer like me intrigued, and directly confronts the philosophical questions raised, not content to lean on easy answers.
The plot is clever and thought-provoking, and I was impressed by how swiftly and comprehensively loose ends and potential plot holes were addressed. I’m going to watch for other series written by Urobuchi Gen: to start with apparent an apparently mahou shoujo situation, deconstruct it, and then restore it is brilliance.