I’m a little tired of this angle.
Nastier takes on familiar genres are all well and good. I liked Uta Kata, for example. But claiming that the nastier take is somehow more real, or naturally better, or is how the genre somehow should be is going a bit far (and riding the motorcycle of criticism over the double-decker buses separating is and ought). For at least two reasons.
First, because anything which is obviously trying to be more grown-up usually isn’t.
Second, because the base genre being nastified remains essential to our enjoyment. Whenever we’re saying ‘This is so dark! So real!’, our pleasure piggybacks on our knowledge of the light, unreal thing, with its fluff, frills, lack of character death, &c.
* * *
While we’re on the subject, why’re we all talking about Faust? He walked eyes open into his bargain, having deliberately (though possibly unsuccessfully) tried to summon something infernal. Mephy isn’t an unsettling and suspicious mascot, he is a servant of the Devil. The horror of Faust’s deal, once you accept the story’s premises, is that he and we both know its consequences, and we know he knows. Whereas in Madoka‘s case, with the story we have so far, everyone’s talking about possibilities and dark hints: its darkness comes from our lack of knowledge about its exact mechanics.
Oh, granted, some text from one of the versions of the Faust legend might have appeared in the show itself. But I don’t remember anyone deciding pre-emptively that Geass R2 was Dantean because of the text from the Purgatorio it showed us. In fact, the only person I remember writing about it concluded that it had very little significance. Maybe Geass had the wrong staff? (More likely it was the fact that it wasn’t very good, but I feel snide today.)
EDIT: Landon grasps and expands on the inadequacy of the Faust connection.