Exploring Madoka Magica: Producing Narratives in Japanese Media Franchises

The Madoka Magica franchise and its related texts, a prominent example of the mahō shōjo (magical girl) genre, provides a key site for examining both how the genre is being adapted and negotiated in contemporary Japan, and how media franchising practices are adapting to new technologies and means of cultural production. This thesis examines how a media franchise such as Madoka Magica utilises multiple media platforms in parallel to cultivate and encourage ongoing engagement with the intellectual property by producers and consumers. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theories of deterritorialisation and the rhizome, and the media and narrative theories of Azuma Hiroki and Ōtsuka Eiji, amongst others, informs my understanding of the Japanese anime media environment, and how this environment facilitates complex relationships between consumer and producer. I challenge an assumed dominance of a specific text, and its associated contexts, as generating an officially-controlled “grand narrative” which sets the boundaries of legitimacy in the production and consumption of media texts.

I include a range of content for analysis: anime, manga, and miscellaneous goods created by both official and unofficial producers, all of which constitute a broader assemblage. I negotiate the confluence and distinctions between the chronologically-prior anime series Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica and other connected texts through a textual analysis. From this examination, the Madoka Magica phenomenon represents multiple understandings. Rather than centralise one understanding of the fiction as the “real” context of the fictional elements, contained within a contextualising “grand narrative”, the official franchise’s owners have cultivated the potential for individual interpretations, by allowing the production of both official and unofficial products with varying storylines and contexts. I argue that Madoka Magica demonstrates a particular system of media production within Japan, one inclined towards incorporating a freedom of navigation across the elements without inhibition, limited only by the imagination and perceptions of the individual consumer.