Yeah, anime tends to do that nowadays. But hey, if it means the show is a huge success in its own country, than all the power to 'em. I finished this show back in January so my memory is a little fuzzy, but I'll give you my two cents.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a dark show. It explores self-conflict and human desperation while still offering a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not crazy about this show, but I can still appreciate it, as will you when you're finished watching. Madoka is all the rage as you said, and for good reason. It sets the standard for animation - not just anime. You can judge it however you like, but if you take the time to analyze it, you'll discover why it's become such a cultural phenomenon.
Yes, this early in the game there does not seem like too much going on to really analyze it(as I do with all my anime), or, at least, maybe when I get to the end it will tie it all together, however, I've seen clips of later scenes and I await when this series reaches that level of intensity. I can give it points for some innovative aspects, but when you say "standards" in animation, I do hope you don't mean every show being like this, as mentioned earlier, some of the intense scenes look and work very well, but some, honestly, look like someone threw up on my screen. Maybe it'll get better.
Speaking of great shows, and it has to do with the reason I replied, my computer started up by itself from sleep mode(weird) while I was watching Fractale - now that, is an awesome anime, I'm only 7 episodes in and I want to watch it again already, I mean, just, wow, that's all I can say, the character dynamic, the society, the visuals, the animation style and character design, just breathtaking, it keeps you wondering and eager, you can't take your eyes off it.
Anyways, there I go rambling away again.