Madoka has pretty much a perfect life: good friends at school and a perfect, loving family. One day, a new transfer student enters the school: Homura, who appeared to Madoka in a dream the night before. She is quite cold towards Madoka, insisting that she 'stay as she is'.
Later that day, Madoka and her friend Sayaka witness Homura hunting down a white rabbit-like thing -- which a senpai, Mami, saves from her. This creature, Kyubey, grants girls magical powers if they make a contract with him. Their most important wish is granted, but in return they have to fight against 'witches': beings of pure hatred who spread misery around. Defeating a witch will cleanse your own 'soul gem', making you a more powerful magician. Sayaka and Madoka join Mami for her hunts, and Kyubey seems really keen to make a contract with Madoka.
In reality, Kyubey is an alien (his real name is "Incubator"): member of an emotion-less race who need vast amounts of energy to fight against entropy. They found a good source: the emotions of humans. And of course adolescent girls have the highest peaks and valleys in emotion, making for good energy. However, there are various catches: their soul is extracted and turned into a gem, they bodies converted to biomechanical machines (even though they don't feel that). And here's the kicker: at a certain point, the magical girls are overcome with grief (often when they find out what's been going on all that time) and then they turn into the witches! Which makes it an eternal cycle of misery and death, with a few granted wishes as side-effect.
And then Mami gets eaten by a witch. Another magical girl appears, and with that gang, they gradually discover what is going on -- except what is the deal with Homura. It turns out she is a time/dimension-traveller who has witnessed Madoka's death/witchness in many different timelines, and every time she jumps to another timeline in order to prevent Madoka from forming a contract with Kyubey.
In the end, Madoka does form a contract with the Incubator, but her wish makes her into some form of force of nature that prevents the magical girls from turning into witches.
It's like Bokurano, and even has a very clear reference to it in a scene during one of the later episodes. Except where Bokurano went into fucked up territory pretty fast, PMMM keeps dallying into feather-light territory for quite some time. But then, by episode 7 or 8, the full force of the girls' situation starts to hit you.
It's been one of the more popular series last season, and it is easy to see why that is so. The plot is certainly mature and there's plenty of pretty girls running around. The character designs took some getting used to, but they work in the context.
The weirdest sequences are when the girls enter the den of a witch: suddenly everything turns into a collage. The effect is both pretty and disturbing, which was the effect they were aiming for, I guess. Every witch has her own 'theme' too, which adds depth to the visuals. I liked the voice acting, and I liked the opening and ending songs.
- Multi-layered, mature plot;
- Looks and sounds very good;
- Exactly the right number of episodes.
- Pretty fucked up.
All in all, I'll give it an 8.