Two-thirds of this is a magical girl show that's light, heartwarming and about the power of love and friendship. It's nice. It looks entirely generic. However the other third has Madoka-like soul-crushingly dark revelations and has a central theme of hope vs. despair. Personally I approach such shows with caution, but I think this one turns out well and I'd recommend it.
Our heroes are four or five girls aged 12-13 in their school's Hero Club. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, being in this club means doing volunteer work like finding homes for kittens and performing home-made puppet shows for little children. "Hero Club" is just a grandiose name for "lovable busybodies". In fact, though, being in the Hero Club means being a magical girl who fights world-invading monstrosities. Most of the girls don't know this yet, so they've got a surprise coming.
These girls are fantastically close friends, with Yuna and Togo being practically a married couple. Togo's wheelchair-bound and Yuna takes her almost everywhere she goes. Karin's a reluctant friend with issues, but they're determined to win her over too. Being friends is the biggest thing in their lives, probably more so than protecting the world. Much of this show, perhaps the majority, is about nothing more than girls hanging out together. It's low-urgency, but fluffy and lovable. This matters. It's at the heart of the show's themes.
Oh, and the setting's unusual. It looks like modern-day Japan. Everything is normal, down to web pages being written in standard English HTML. However everyone prays to a god called Shinju-sama that saved humanity from extinction 300 years ago after we'd nearly got wiped out.
For a while, this looks like a regular magical girl show. The most distinctive thing about it is Togo, who's a disabled main character who stays disabled even in magical form. That's unusual. (Mind you, she's also super-intelligent, spots clues before anyone else, is a great cook and a web page master, is invaluable in combat despite her assumption that she'd be useless and has the best figure. She even eats food beautifully. She's Miss Perfect. Well, until things turn insanely bad, anyway. She does have one minor quirk, though, in that she's intensely patriotic, to the point of turning herself into a Japanese history buff and avoiding Western food and English loan words. Now look at what's first on the list in ep.10 and shudder.)
I said that the show was about hope vs. despair. It plays with the Madoka "doomed" thing in various ways, the most immediate of which being Togo's condition. She's in a wheelchair. That's not something you get better from. Obviously the girls rightly wouldn't call that "doomed", but over time the show's going to be introducing other things that are bad-to-horrendous and only going to get worse. People have breaking points. Some things they can accept and live with. Other things send them over the edge. Significantly, the worst blows are psychological rather than physical, with feelings like guilt or despair doing far more damage than simple injuries.
However it also finds hope. I won't spoil it, but it's summed up in the amateur stage play at the end.
The revelations are quite clever. They're introduced modestly, with a few episodes given over to exploring something that's unfortunate, but perfectly manageable. There's also one twist that, if you think back, explains some little things you hadn't given any thought to at the time. This is a fascinating show to analyse in hindsight and I want to say more, but... well, spoilers.
It's a warmer show than Madoka and I'm quite interested in reading the prequel/sequel and light novels. In contrast, I've had the DVD of the third Madoka film sitting on my shelf for a couple of weeks now without being able to pluck up the courage to watch it. All the girls are really nice, even the one who starts out as a spiky tsundere. I laughed at the other four befriending her against her will, for instance. This show will take you to some painful places, but there's more to it than that and I think it improves with hindsight as you mull it over and put the pieces together in your head. It's impressive.
"Just imagine everyone is a pumpkin."