If you like what Puella Magi Madoka Magica is doing to the mahou shoujo genre, you should take a look at 2002’s Princess Tutu, which remembered the grim in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
The sweet appearance, the goofy cartoon duck, the pratfalls, Neko-sensei, and the ballet poses are a deceptive gloss on the dark forces, tragedy, and suffering that lies buried underneath. A bittersweet tale that doesn’t cop out — it obeys its internal logic to the end, when Ahiru makes the choice presented her by Drosselmeyer and is fully aware of what her choice means.
The series is also memorable for the surprising development that its major characters go through. The attitude you have three episodes in will not be the attitude you have at the end.
Oh, and director Juunichi Sato grew up to do Aria, so of course we’re fans.