Honestly, I never expected to see a magical girl mecha anime. And it appears that Xebec won the quality coin toss this time, so we’re getting a Mnemosyne rather than a Rio: Rainbow Gate!
By far the best thing about the show is the main cast: Madoka, Lan, and Muginami. Madoka is the most adorable Genki Girl, whose charm can best be illustrated in the very first scene of the show; on her way to school, Madoka sees someone drowning, and proceeds to strip down into the swimsuit she was wearing under her school uniform, just in case something like this happened. Later on, when she is in the middle of losing a mecha battle, she uses her extensive knowledge of the town to manage the fight so that she only gets knocked down into empty lots and abandoned buildings. She is so over the top that the entire show feels happy and silly and fun. Except for Lan, who feels like a black hole of gloominess compared to everything else in the show. Muginami comes off as the resident Cloud Cukoo Lander, and serves to make Lan seem even more dour. But Madoka brings out the best in the rest of the main cast, and their interactions are a joy to watch.
Unfortunately, far too much screen time is given over to side characters, who are almost entirely generic and boring. The commanders sit around being completely ineffective, and all the other schoolgirls are swept up into Madoka’s energy. Madoka’s cousin is the exception, as she seems to be a window into what Madoka will be like in another decade. And the villains have their own secrets and motivations, but they are mostly indistinguishable from the villains in any other mecha show.
The quality of each episode so far has correlated directly with how often Madoka is on screen, so the best thing I can hope for is that the writers start ignoring all the side characters in favor of Madoka’s overabundant energy and the beautiful mecha fights. And oh god there is too much fanservice for a show that is otherwise this good, although it’s not likely that the main cast’s magical girl outfits will become less revealing.