When Puella Magi Madoka Magica was first released, it quickly became a sensation. Its stylish and dark subversion of the magical girl genre created a whole new generation of magical girl fans. However, the franchise is more than a single show. The Puella Magi franchise is massive, featuring several different timelines and settings. These settings are all explored across anime, manga and video games -- Madoka Magica was just the beginning.
But which one tells the best story? Here are the five best Puella Magi series.
5. Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice
Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice was the first Puella Magi spin-off. It introduces a magical girl named Kazumi. Kazumi was kidnapped, but when she escapes her captors, she realizes she has lost all of her memories. After some time, she reunites with some of her friends and her magical girl group, the Pleiades Saints.
The Pleiades Saints start to fight witches again, thinking that everything is normal. However, a mysterious magical girl named Yuuri lurks in the shadows. She wants to kill Kazumi because of an event in their past, putting her is in a race against time to recover her memories and learn Yuuri's true identity. Kazumi Magica is a gripping story. However, it feels very similar to Madoka Magica in places. This feels like a transition point for the franchise, with series heads Magica Quartet trying to work out how they want to turn Puella Magi into a franchise.
4. Puella Magi Oriko Magica
Puella Magi Oriko Magica was the second Madoka spin-off and one that has been revisited several times. Oriko is a magical girl with the gift of foresight, and due to this, she knows the fate of all girls who take Kyubey's offer. When she has a vision of the future, one where Mitakihara City is devastated by a powerful witch called Kriemhild Gretchen, she decides the only way to stop it from happening is to prevent girls from becoming magical girls.
Oriko teams up with another magical girl named Kirika Kure, and the pair comes up with a plan to distract Kyubey by drawing it towards another girl, Yuma Chitose. At the same time, Mami and Kyoko try to solve a series of grisly magical girl murders. Like Kazumi Magica, Oriko Magica feels a little close to Madoka Magica at times. However, it is the start of the franchise diversifying its stories, and the handling of Kyubey in this series is fascinating and adds a whole new dimension to the character.
3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
The original Puella Magi Madoka Magica tells the story of Madoka Kaname. When she encounters a strange cat-like being called Kyubey, she learns about magical girls and their eternal war against witches. When she sees her friend Mami Tomoe turn into a magical girl and battle witches, Madoka debates whether she should follow in her footsteps. But when Mami gets murdered by a witch, Madoka realizes things are not as they seem. On top of this, an exchange student, Homura Akemi, is working to stop Madoka from taking Kyubey's offer of becoming a magical girl.
This story is a perfectly paced spiral of despair. Watching Madoka learn about the horrors of being a magical girl is harrowing, and each new twist feels like a punch in the gut, especially as each of the core cast feels so relatable and understandable. It is hard not to be drawn into the tale and get invested, even if you already know how it ends.
2. Puella Magi Tart Magica: The Legend of "Jeanne d'Arc"
The fifth Puella Magi manga, Puella Magi Tart Magica, tells the story of Joan of Arc. This Joan is still the hero of the Hundred Years War, but she is also a magical girl due to Kyubey sensing her potential. With her group of French magical girls that includes Melissa de Vignolles and Riz Hawkwood, Joan must fight both a group of English magical girls and threats that are far more powerful and far more sinister.
The story is a unique take on the magical girl genre due to its setting. While Joan of Arc has appeared in manga before, series like Fate/stay Night often bring her into the modern world. However, Puella Magi Tart Magica keeps the story in the past. This leads to some unique visuals and contrasts as the horrors of magical girl life clash with the horrors of religious warfare during this brutal and bloody time in history. The antagonist designs are also fantastic and will stick with you long after you've finished the manga.
1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record started life as a mobile app game. In 2020, an anime adaptation of the game's main storyline was released, with a second series on the way. The story follows Iroha Tamaki, a magical girl who made a wish to heal her sick sister. However, her sister has vanished, and no one seems to remember her. After hearing a rumor that magical girls be saved if they head to Kamihama City, Iroha sets off to find her sister there. In Kamihama, she meets Yachiyo Nanami, a veteran magical girl who teaches Iroha about Uwasa, creatures that look like witches but are actually local rumors solidified into powerful creatures. As Iroha investigates these creatures, she finds that Kamihama is a city full of magical girls, including a shadowy group called the Magius.
Magia Record is a fantastic story that builds on everything that has come before it. The city of Kamihama really is the star as it feels like a living city, full of girls all trying to make sense of their world. The Uwasa concept is also a unique idea that leads to some very memorable monsters.
These five Puella Magi series are just the tip of the iceberg, but each series mentioned is legally available in English wherever manga are sold.