Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – Final thoughtsPosted: July 22, 2011
Way too long since I wrote something here. Procrastination is largely to blame for my long absence, but I do have some other excuses as well: I’ve been in study mode, preparing for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and then spent about a week migrating to a Linux system. Turns out my sound card didn’t like the kernel that comes with most flavours of Ubuntu, I got some really weird sound issues. But enough computer geekery for now, time to return to otaku mode ^^;
By the way, this post is a mess. I’ve written it piece by piece between bouts of procrastination, studies and computer issues over the last three weeks, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I contradict myself somewhere. I should actually proof-read it now, but the clock just passed 23:00 on a Friday night and parade floats equipped with taiko ensembles are performing outside (Can’t hear my own thoughts!), so my ability to concentrate is rapidly approaching zero. I’ll just throw it up and hope it’s bearable. Though, I think most hits on this site is from spam bots, so it probably doesn’t matter ^^;
I actually finished watching Madoka Magica quite a while ago, but it definitely merits an article anyway. It is a great show, no doubt about it, but there are some things that doesn’t sit quite right with me. These are mostly things that I have noticed while thinking back on the series, things that I didn’t notice while I was watching it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the show and I’m a big fan of Homura, I just can’t help pointing out its flaws and over-analyse the whole thing.
Take Homura’s behaviour towards Madoka. She wants to protect her from Kyubey, and at the same time not tell her anything about mahou shoujo, witches and all that. To some degree I can accept that she want to shield her from the evil and sadness, but wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to protect her if she is aware of the situation and can cooperate? Shouldn’t Homura have realized, during her many time travels, that perhaps she’s incapable of keeping Kyubey away from Madoka, that no matter what she does the truth will reveal itself eventually? If the problem is Madoka not believing her she could just find out a personal secret of hers – first love, biggest fear, three sizes, favourite food; anything that she couldn’t possibly know when meeting Madoka for the first time – and then use that during the next iteration to gain her trust. To be fair, building up Homura as a fake villain adds to the series many surprises, and I might just be trying to push my own logic onto her, but I still can’t fully accept it.
Another thing about Homura is her magic. Okay, she momentarily stops time to simulate teleportation which is cool, and she arms herself with firearms and explosives, quite a heavy arsenal. (Yay for girls with guns^^) Then there’s her looping back in time to save Madoka. She doesn’t just travel through time, she resets the entire universe to an earlier period in history. That’s one hell of an ability. If kyubey can grant that power, can’t he and his kin use that somehow to reach their goals? If not, then what about one of the other abilities they no doubt have the capability to grant?
What I’m trying to say is, the Incubators have seemingly no defined upper limit for their powers, and yet the best energy source they can find is the despair of young girls? Access to time travel means that they have all the time they will ever need to scour every single corner of the universe, to do research, run simulations, whatever they might need to find the ultimate power source. There’s no need to hurry and start using whatever source they van find, since they should be able to jump back through time as many times as necessary.
Speaking of the Incubators though, why did they want to prevent the heat death of the universe again? I mean, they have no feelings, so they can’t really do it out of love and passion for all things alive, or because they find the universe itself mysterious and beautiful. Which makes the most plausible option their own survival. That, in turn, doesn’t make any sense if they are not bound by the shackles of time – they will never have to experience the end of the world if they don’t want to.
Now for the ending. Just how powerful is Madoka really? Homura’s trips through time seems to have charged her up beyond even the Incubators’ wildest imaginations. So what does she wish for, what is the best thing she can come up with tio save the situation? Sacrificing herself in order to keep mahou shoujo from turning into witches. Feels like she doesn’t utilize her full potential, since the Incubators remain on the Earth and will most likely find some new way to abuse poor young girls in the name of good. Since she can change history, wouldn’t it make more sence to wish that the Incubators never had come to Earth? “But then mankind wouldn’t have evolved to what we are today!” you say. OK, just add the evolution part to the wish and voilà. If needed, Madoka herself could travel throughout history and instruct the people herself, like she actually did to save all mahou shoujo. As a finishing touch she could tack on her survival to the wish, that shouldn’t be impossible to do.
There is an even better alternative though: wish for an undepletable source of energy for the Incubators. Seeing as she bends and breaks all sorts of laws of time and space with her wish, crushing the second law of thermodynamics should be piece of cake. She could even place the source in the Kyubey’s home world around the time they first start getting concerned about the end of the world – problem solved.
This is just personal preference, but I don’t really like Madoka. Sure, she seems like a sweet girl, and she has a rather genuine feel to her – she gets afraid and depressed from time to time, she cares for her friends and she is both excited and hesitant about the world of magic that Kyubey offers to open up for her. Then comes the ending. Okay, let’s accept that she has to sacrifice herself to save the mahou shoujo. Let’s also overlook the fact that she just kind of knows what she has to do without having tried much else really (remember, if she cooperates with Homura she’s got infinite extra lives…) Let’s also not argue about Kyubey not at least trying to stop her when he clearly must understand that her actions will make it harder to gather energy. I can forgive all that, it works if you don’t analyse it too deeply and take into account that they can’t cram anything and everything into a 12-episode series. What kills the end for me, is how Madoka handles the whole thing: she just easily accepts her fate and becomes content and happy. Show some emotions for gods’ sake girl! You should be sad that you’ll be separated from your friends – shed some tears! Be angry at Kyubey for putting you in this situation – hell, get desperate and plead to him for mercy! Get depressed and lament about the unfairness of the situation! And at the end of all that, realize that you have known all along that you have to sacrifice yourself, and leave in tears and handle your duty with the help of your immense willpower and unconditional love for your friends, family and the whole of mankind. And finally, still with tears in your eyes, a faint smile towards Homura. Give me something epic! (*breathes in, breathes out* OK, I’m calm now.) I feel this could have been a great sad, or perhaps bitter-sweet, ending, but somebody said “This is too dark, what can we do to lighten it up a bit?” “I know, let’s scrap the sad end angle and make Madoka into a happy hippie instead!” “Great idea!”. I feel cheated on my tear-jerking ending!
To summarize: a good series, just don’t over-analyse it.
Bonus trivia: Walpurgisnacht, the name given to the extremely powerful witch at the end of the series, is the German name of a traditional spring festival in northern and central Europe. Since my home country is located in northern Europe I celebrate it as well, so seeing mahou shoujo fighting a living holiday felt a bit odd. Not as bad as Bible Black: La Noche de Walpurgis though…