Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki are your typical middle school girls, but one day they encounter a cute creature named Kyuubey that offers to grant them one wish. In exchange for their wish, they must become magical girls and protect humanity from witches. While Sayaka accepts right away, Madoka is more hesitant, not knowing what she would wish for. However, her decision is even further delayed when the mysterious Homura Akemi, a transfer student, begs her not to accept.

While ostensibly bright and cute, Madoka Magica is not what it seems. It has a dark twist as you delve deeper in, something that turned the moe-saturated anime market on its head at the time. If you like horrible things happening to cute girls, give these anime recommendations a try.

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For Fans of Moe Mindfuckery

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School Live!

Yuki Takeya loves her school so much that she never wants to leave! To that effect, she joined the small School Living Club where students live at the school. However, her blissful life is just an illusion. The real purpose of the School Living Club is to keep spirits up among the young girls trapped there in the zombie apocalypse.

For many, part of the fun of Madoka Magica was seeing your traditional moe girls suffer horribly. School Live takes the same stance. It puts them in a horrible situation and then examines them from a psychological stance. While School Live has some more casual slice of life, happy moments and comedy, it can flip the switch and turn on the darkness with the best of them.

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Charlotte

Yuu Otosaka has the ability to slip into other people’s mind and control them for five seconds at a time. He has been using it to get good grades, but after he is caught by the enigmatic Nao Tomori, he is forced to transfer to a special school with his sister. At this supernatural new school he is forced to use his powers to hunt down other students who are abusing their own powers.

Charlotte, like every Key series, starts off happy enough and then begins to head towards its, often forced, tragic ending. However, Charlotte goes deeper into the psychological side of it all. Without spoiling it, those at Key also seemed to grab a lot of the plot points from Madoka Magica as well.

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Selector Infected WIXOSS

Struggling to make friends at her new school, Ruuko’s brother gives her a deck of the popular trading card game WIXOSS to help her forge new friendships. However, she soon discovers she is a Selector, a special girl that has the opportunity to make a wish come true through the game, but if she loses enough, she will become cursed.

While WIXOSS is about a card game, it, like Madoka Magica did with magical girls, takes a genre and kind of turned it on its head. While some card game anime series can get dark, like non-dubbed Yugioh, they don’t quite capture the same despair as WIXOSS.

For Fans of Time Travel / Alternate Timelines

Steins;Gate anime

Steins;Gate

In a rickety old building in Akihabara, mad scientist Rintarou Okabe and his lab assistants work on so-called future gadgets. However, their most successful contraption to date, the Phone Microwave, a machine that can turn bananas into gel, also has the added function of sending emails into the past, thus altering the flow of history.

Both Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate are a rollercoaster ride of plot twists and dark mishaps. While Steins;Gate features more realistic characters, they both feature intricate and well thought out plots that are some of the best ever made in anime.

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Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

Subaru Natsuki is a truant and slacker, but one day while on a late night snack run, he finds himself dropped into a fantasy world. Bewildered and armed with only a grocery bag, he quickly gets beaten by thugs, only to be saved by a girl that is chasing after a thief that stole her insignia. In order to thank the girl, he helps in her search, but the end result is them both dying horribly. It is just at the moment of his death that he finds he has the ability to turn back time.

At a glance, Re:Zero and Madoka Magica aren’t terribly similar, but their similarities lie in the details. Both start off somewhat happy, but go dark very, very quickly. In the later bits, they explore some dark themes and turn out to be much different than what people expected.

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Black Rock Shooter

On the first day of school, Mato Kuroi runs into Yomi Takanashi, and they become fast friends after bonding over a phone strap. However, in an alternate universe, the two girls exist as parallel beings. When the two worlds begin to overlap, the pair becomes entangled in the threads of fate.

Black Rock Shooter lacks the magical girls genre and moe art style of Madoka Magica, but both embrace bright palate juxtaposed with darker stories. If you like girls fighting and trying to endure through the power of friendship, there is no finer follow up to Madoka Magica.

For Fans of Magical Girls

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Yuki Yuna is a Hero

As part of the Hero Club, Yuki Yuna thinks she knows what it means to be a hero – Helping others. However, when the Hero Club begins to manifest actual powers and has to fight a mysterious force, the girls will learn what being a hero really means.

Let’s be honest here, Madoka Magica and Yuki Yuna is a Hero are pretty much the same anime, minus the Kyuubey figure and time travelling. Essentially girls get tricked into becoming fighters by another, are upset about it when things get violently tough, and then try to persevere through. While Madoka Magica is darker with people that actually die and higher intellectual ideas, while watching one or the other, you definitely feel like you are watching the same show.

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Day Break Illusion

Since ancient times, the world has been ruled by tarot cards. Now 22 girls have been chose to wield those tarot cards and plunge themselves into deadly battle in order to maintain the balance.

Like Madoka Magica, Day Break Illusion is a show in the magical girl genre that isn’t so happy-go-lucky. With a bigger cast, you don’t get the same in-depth examination of each character, but both shows feature similar high concepts and examines how darkness will always come from happiness.

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Princess Tutu

Sweet and clumsy Ahiru is a duck that was transformed into a human girl whose existence is revealed to be to use her dancing to relieve people with turmoil in their hearts. It is the struggles of this Princess Tutu who will decide if fairy tales can find their happily ever after.

The synopsis of Princess Tutu always turns a lot of people off, but this was the anime that was shocking its audience by going from happy to dark before Madoka Magica was ever a thing. It is one of those shows that makes itself out to be cute, but then somewhere along the line becomes haunting and thought-provoking.

Do you know any other series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica? Tell us about it in the comments section below?