Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica 9 and 10: No End In Sight

Literal in two senses! (Since Madoka Magica is cancelled for the month at least)

I realized over the past few weeks that episodic blogging is like one of those beasts where it’s impossible to truly do it unless you really don’t say all too much. So I’m going to self-impose a word limit to all future episodic posts. 1000 words. That’s it. It might focus my ideas and thoughts better as well, since it was pretty evident by my Madoka 8 post that I didn’t reflect on what I was saying as I was actually typing it out. On the other hand, I still stand by what I said in that post, but I won’t get into that.

So what in the world happened after episode 8? Well we had a decent episode with a good ending, and then we had something else come out of literally nowhere that totally caught me by surprise. But it’s probably more logical to actually start with the decent episode (aka episode 9) first.

This episode essentially tried to inject moral ambiguity back into the show. After the supposedly complete and utter destruction of our sympathies for Kyuubey back in episode 6 with the “Zombie” revelation, here Urobuchi tries to stick Kyuubey back into the neutral realm, and I would say for the vast majority of people, Kyuubey still remains this sort of evil force. After all, what he does violates every human principle out there.

Yet being as adorable as a stuffed animal while doing it!

But what Urobuchi is trying to do here is undermine the idea that this sort of “amorality” as demonstrated by Kyuubey is even close to acceptable. After all, there must be a reason why this reveal of “entropy” in the universe (which is either a mistranslation or Shinbo/Urobuchi really need to read the Wikipedia article on entropy) comes so late in the series. The point is that we as the audience have already been exposed to the worst of what it means to be a mahou shoujo. We’ve seen Mami die, Kyouko’s world view, and finally Sayaka’s decent into madness. At this point, the pendulum is firmly swinging into the human side of the balance, and there’s really nothing that can be done to change it.

I am, however, a little bit jaded by this sudden sci-fi introduction into the show. On the one hand, what we’ve seen up until now is essentially a completely fantastical and magical world. The only real sci-fi elements that we’ve seen have been only in the realm of the world of Madoka Magica (i.e. virtual blackboards, the architecture, etc). But with this sudden introduction of space-faring, highly civilized races, suddenly the show is placed in this strange vortex. Now we discover that the show is at once about this strange entropy thing, but it’s also about both the positives and negatives of human emotion… But mostly the negatives.

Like this!

After all, the eventual fate of all mahou shoujo, according to Kyuubey, is that they become witches. If mahou shoujo are born out of the power of emotion, then there’s something fundamentally fragile about the human condition that makes emotions on the one hand a powerful force, yet on the other hand an ultimately evil force. Because apparently the point of Madoka Magica is just that human emotion is essentially destabilizing. I’m not really sure if I buy Kyuubey’s explanation about the energy of the mahou shoujos somehow stabilizing the universe or whatever, but when the mahou shoujos let their emotions get the better of them, it destabilizes the human world, and that’s the central focus here. The consequences of this “entropy” thing have really been played down, and as a result we only truly care about the human world.

And in our world, because of human emotion manifesting themselves as witches, people commit suicide. Cities are destroyed. The human world literally implodes in on itself after a while. And there’s apparently nothing we can do about it. Because we’re fundamentally unable to control our emotions when push comes to shove. Is it a liability or a weakness? Yes. It’s kind of disappointing to see emotions only framed in this context of weakness. After all, you can just as easily frame this situation in a positive light as our emotions essentially identify us as actual humans in this infinite cosmos. Maybe we do have an actual identity in the universe as opposed to just some other random species.

Of course this concept isn’t explored at all in the series. But I think that the main problem with this sci-fi thing is that suddenly the focus is taken away from this picture of human emotion, and the conflict in Madoka is framed instead in terms of greater good vs lesser good. This is just my opinion, but it almost seems to trivialize what happened in the past 8 episodes. The point of the past 8 episodes was for us to commiserate with these supposedly normal girls, which I would say the show did fantastically. But to just paint Kyuubey as this amoral force sort of takes away from any sort of commiseration. Any sort of argument about how what he’s doing is “inhumane” falls apart when you try to apply it to what Kyuubey is doing. I think Madoka Magica is essentially wasting its potential here in adding this entropy business into its plot.

Well calling every other galactic civilization insignificant and crazy…

But aside from the plot business, the other major development in episode 9 revolved around Kyouko. I couldn’t really find any logical sense in Kyouko’s development from seemingly crazy psycho bitch to a tame person, but episode 9 just upped my confusion even more. I think what made me initially confused is how she’s completely changed her background story. In episode 9 she says that the reason why she became a mahou shoujo is because she liked those “stories where love and courage win out in the end”. Yet in episode 7, a fair chunk of time was devoted to her lamenting the fact that no one listened to her father, and that was the reason why she became a mahou shoujo.

Wait what happened to this?

Perhaps Kyouko is over rationalizing like Sayaka did. I don’t really know. I can’t even pretend to know how these girls work anymore, because either Urobuchi really doesn’t know how to properly develop characters, or I’m just supposed to accept that these are irrational teenage girls. Either way… I’ll just leave this as is. I tried to synthesize these two views in my head, but considering the vitriol and tone of her voice when she told her background story in episode 7, I can’t possibly consider that Kyouko and this one the same person. Maybe it’s just me.

Oh, and I suppose that I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Sayaka and Kyouko ending. I thought it was a fitting end for both of them. But then I waited a week. And then I saw…

Episode 10.

Then I realized that Homura killed Sayaka with literally one bomb. And why she couldn’t do the same in episode 9? I don’t even know… Then why did Kyouko die?

So Kyouko died in vain? NOOOOOOO ;____;

I’ll just say this straight: I didn’t like episode 10. First, it came out of absolutely nowhere. There’s no transition at all between episodes 9 and 10. All they did was throw this gigantic Homura flashback right in our faces, which was extremely disappointing to see. I also view a flashback episode as a giant cop out as a storytelling device, in that the creators really couldn’t think of a better way to fit this background in, so they just throw one in. I consider that single flashback episode to be the only scar marring Baccano!’s otherwise incredible storytelling. But I digress.

I did like the parallels that the opening of episode 10 made with episode 1. Except… Oh God. It’s coming. That one force that somehow manages to ruin it all…

Yes you.

Madoka’s personality flip in this episode was just absolutely confusing. How in the world did she change from being such a confident young girl to… umm… well basically a useless PoS to put it in very blunt terms. I mean in this timeline, she became a mahou shoujo and is self-confident in everything that she does. She even sacrifices herself to save Homura. I mean this, of course, can only mean one thing: Homura traveled back in time and totally screwed with Madoka’s personality. I really can’t explain Madoka’s personality change any other way. But if this is true, then that leads to a rather strange conclusion.

In essence, she’s completely destroyed what she was trying to protect in the first place. What Homura respected in Madoka was her confident image and her self-sacrificing attitude. Now she’s taken both of those things away from her. In essence, she’s stripped Madoka of her identity. This jumped out at me even more primarily because of Sayaka’s entire identity zombie crisis thing. Sayaka felt that her identity was irrevocably changed because of this event, and look what happened to her in the end. I really view what Homura is doing here as a similar sort of thing. She doesn’t really admire THIS Madoka in THIS timeline. She admires the Madoka in her head, and that doesn’t really correspond with reality any more. I suppose that it plays out more as a bittersweet victory in my mind. I guess a close analogy would be that she managed to save this piece of jewelry from a thief by pounding it into dust. Well… That’s great and all… But the jewelry is gone.

Then what is Homura fighting for? For some shell of a girl she once knew? Someone needs to give her a reality check because to see someone as great as Madoka fall as low as she is in this current timeline… It’s pretty pathetic.

Right now I see this.

And now she has become this.

At this point, I won’t even question some of the inconsistencies that pop up over the timelines shown in episode 10. The only one that I think I’ll mention is just why Homura feels the need to repeat the Kyuubey chase twice, since back in episode 1, she certainly didn’t recoil when she first found Madoka, indicating that what’s going on in episode 10 is in a different timeline… Then why did she try to kill Kyuubey again in episode 1…? But whatever.

I think that what has happened in the past few episodes of Madoka Magica is that it’s a show that has thematically lost its footing, or at the very least it’s giving out mixed signals. Star Driver has had a theme that it’s been blatantly screaming out since episode 1, while Madoka Magica seems to like to change it every other episode. Initially the theme of the show appeared to be this sort of “subversion” of the mahou shoujo genre, and then it quickly became less about the genre and more like a character analysis. Now it’s suddenly introduced this morality question into the show and along with it this idea of the power of emotions.

And suddenly I’m not even sure where I can possibly place this show in terms of the mahou shoujo genre. Madoka Magica seems to have stepped out of the bounds of the genre in recent episodes, to the point where it’s essentially a mahou shoujo show in appearance only. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who thinks this too, considering that I don’t remember reading anything about a “deconstruction” or “subversion” of the mahou shoujo genre in quite some while. In that case, maybe we all got trolled really badly by Urobuchi. Sigh.

By the way, if you didn’t know already, Madoka Magica is cancelled on all TV channels for this month. There were whispers of how SHAFT failed to meet a deadline and stuff, but apparently episode 11 has been confirmed to stream on Nico Nico next week, so I’m not sure what to make of that. We’ll see what happens… Worst comes to worst we’ll have a Bakemonogatari situation. I would laugh really, really hard if that happens. Really. Hard.

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118 Comments

  1. Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    P.S. You need to pause that scene with the pipe bomb, as Homura planted MULTIPLE bombs on Octavia. Seriously.

    I found the insertion of Entropy and Kyubey’s apparent ‘mission’ to be, quite frankly, a bit of BS on the white furball’s part. It came off to me that, once more, it was trying to appeal indirectly to Madoka’s self-sacrificing nature. I mean, when compared to the life of everything ELSE in the universe, what’s one eventual transformation into a witch anyway? You’re helping everyone! It’s a NOBLE thing to sacrifice yourself! Sign a contract already!

    Of course, episode 10 pretty much reveals this for the lie that it is. I think this point in time no one would question the right of the aggrieved party’s (humanity) right to judge Kyubey according to its moral standards, because in the Human perspective, what its doing is VERY evil. Genocide after receiving one’s assigned quota my foot…

    As for Homura’s situation, I thought it was apparent that the multiple repeats has desensitized her to the point where she doesn’t care about *anything* else anymore, and is so focused on Madoka it borders on obsession. The fact that Madoka is transformed into a crying, Ikari Shinji-esque wreck is inconsequential: all that matters is that she doesn’t contract, and doesn’t die. Anything else counts as a failure.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Ah well. One pipe bomb, 20… It doesn’t matter. She can stop time right? >.>

      I don’t see how Kyuubey could possibly be lying since there were several times in private with Homura that he brought up the exact same story. Aside from that, you get trapped in this sort of circular logic where you have to throw away everything that Kyuubey says, which basically leaves us nowhere. And if it was a plan to appeal to Madoka, it sure failed miserably.

      And well, the series has now introduced this idea where humanity now is pretty much a cow of the universe. That’s pretty much what we are. Cows in farms, waiting to be slaughtered for the “greater good”. Do you consider that evil? Genocide? Pffft. We’ve killed off numerous species of animals ever since we dominated the world. What’s the difference?

      *Shrug* I just wanted to point out that Homura is failing in the first place by reducing Madoka to this quivering trainwreck. Exactly how much can she be called “Madoka” anymore after Homura is done with her? In my opinion, she can’t.

      • Emperor
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        There is a difference, it;s just current logic cannot comprehend with such unknow phenomenon. At least I consider it wrong. And seriously cows in farm …

        • Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure what “There is a difference” is referring to. And just because you considers it wrong or humanity considers it wrong doesn’t mean a thing when taken in the context of everything else. That’s essentially what revisionism is. Perhaps the egos of humanity have gotten inflated to the point where we think we’re above everything else.

          And I think the cows in farm analogy is rather apt. Unless you have a better one.

          • rincewind
            Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            Cows? The farmers doesnt going and make contract with the cows. Its different. The QB race is evil, like a used car seller or a lawyer…. truly evil indeed!!

  2. Son Gohan
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    In episode 9 she says that the reason why she became a mahou shoujo is because she liked those “stories where love and courage win out in the end”. Yet in episode 7, a fair chunk of time was devoted to her lamenting the fact that no one listened to her father

    It can be both. Kyouko accepted the contract to help her father but maybe she also enjoyed the idea of becoming a hero of justice like Sayaka.

    I didn’t like episode 10. First, it came out of absolutely nowhere.

    I disagree. It was heavily hinted that Homura’s wish was related to time travel. She had knowledge of the future. She had the power to stop time briefly, and QB said that the ability of a Mahou shoujo is related to her wish.
    Actually I found episode 10 brilliant. They managed to fit 4 timelines worth of events in 20 minutes. They explained Homura’s behaviour convincingly.
    I thought that episode 9 was a letdown because I didn’t like the sci-fi turn and Incubator’s motive is ridicolous because the heat death of the Universe won’t happen for trillions of years. Episode 10 rekindled my love for this series.

    Then I realized that Homura killed Sayaka with literally one bomb

    Actually if you watch the scene in slow motion you can see that Homura threw a dozen bombs to Witch Sayaka, but it doesn’t matter. I agree that she should have insisted more to save Kyouko since she was her only possible helper to fight Walpurgis. I think Homura wanted to respect Kyouko’s decision to sacrifice herself, a noble intent but it certainly wasn’t for the best.

    Madoka’s personality flip in this episode was just absolutely confusing

    It’s implied that she became more confident after making the contract and helping Mami in the battle against witches. Homura blocked the contract and as a result, Madoka remained indecisive and weak.
    I think that many viewers are too harsh on Madoka. She is a normal girl, what can she do to help her friends without any power? It’s understandable that she cries and becomes depressed after witnessing the death of two friends.
    I agree with you that Homura can obtain at best a phyrric victory. Homura must stop Madoka from contracting because every time she contracted bad things happened. OTOH Homura cannot defeat Walpurgis on her own. A possibility is that Homura self-destructs to kill Walpurgis as Kyouko did to Witch-Sayaka. I hope Urobuchi has something else in store for us because this would be a rather gloomy ending.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      It can be both. Kyouko accepted the contract to help her father but maybe she also enjoyed the idea of becoming a hero of justice like Sayaka.

      The problem with it being both is that while they aren’t contradictory goals, the mind set that she had at the time when she contracted suggests that this “fairy tale” thing didn’t cross her mind even one bit. She has this unbelievably strong conviction that “if anyone listened to him for 5 minutes, they’d know that he’s right”. It seems to me that she’s attempting to project something that happened ex post facto back into the past.

      I disagree. It was heavily hinted that Homura’s wish was related to time travel. She had knowledge of the future. She had the power to stop time briefly, and QB said that the ability of a Mahou shoujo is related to her wish.
      Actually I found episode 10 brilliant. They managed to fit 4 timelines worth of events in 20 minutes. They explained Homura’s behaviour convincingly.
      I thought that episode 9 was a letdown because I didn’t like the sci-fi turn and Incubator’s motive is ridicolous because the heat death of the Universe won’t happen for trillions of years. Episode 10 rekindled my love for this series.

      Sure, but that doesn’t mean that they needed to resort to a flashback episode to address these issues. It breaks the organic story growth that’s been happening thus far. Sure, they went back and explained Homura, but it brought the plot progression to a grounding halt while they did it. I just find that distasteful. It’s more or less the same as the flashback in Baccano! Sure, I understand the background, but it’s basically like throwing the story at us in disjointed chunks.
      And it’s possible that both Kyuubey’s species have extraordinarily long life spans, considering they considered that humans breed like rats apparently, and that there’s something that’s causing the heat death of the universe to approach much faster, such as an intergalactic war. Or maybe Kyuubey’s species actually has foresight as compared to us. You never know.

      Actually if you watch the scene in slow motion you can see that Homura threw a dozen bombs to Witch Sayaka, but it doesn’t matter. I agree that she should have insisted more to save Kyouko since she was her only possible helper to fight Walpurgis. I think Homura wanted to respect Kyouko’s decision to sacrifice herself, a noble intent but it certainly wasn’t for the best.

      Meh she can plant 50 bombs when she stops time anyway. I find it kind of strange that someone who essentially stated again that she has no heart (except for Madoka) earlier in the episode now lets someone sacrifice themselves in vain, especially when she really needs her for Walpurgisnacht if she’s to save Madoka.

      It’s implied that she became more confident after making the contract and helping Mami in the battle against witches. Homura blocked the contract and as a result, Madoka remained indecisive and weak.
      I think that many viewers are too harsh on Madoka. She is a normal girl, what can she do to help her friends without any power? It’s understandable that she cries and becomes depressed after witnessing the death of two friends.
      I agree with you that Homura can obtain at best a phyrric victory. Homura must stop Madoka from contracting because every time she contracted bad things happened. OTOH Homura cannot defeat Walpurgis on her own. A possibility is that Homura self-destructs to kill Walpurgis as Kyouko did to Witch-Sayaka. I hope Urobuchi has something else in store for us because this would be a rather gloomy ending.

      I don’t know… Seeing her so willing to sacrifice herself for her friend when she didn’t even know what she was going to do back in episode 2 and 3 (before Mami’s death) is still so weird. And I’m not taking into consideration Madoka after she got hit by event after event. She was still pretty indecisive and timid before seeing Mami’s death.
      Haha or perhaps he’ll actually just leave us with the fact that what happens is fate. You can’t really change it, and that time travel is pretty much useless :P

    • Da5id
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Psssh, whatever. You couldn’t even beat Cell without your dad’s help. We all saw this week’s Dragon Ball Kai, Gohan.

      We. all. saw.

  3. Fencedude
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Something that needs to be kept in mind regarding Kyouko.

    Kyouko was never the horrible bitch she first appeared to be, it was an act, a way of protecting herself from the trauma she’d suffered. She lost everything she had, and the only way she avoided succumbing to despair was to swear to never do anything for anyone but herself ever again. Of course, deep down inside, she was still the kind girl who made a wish to help her father and wanted to be a hero of justice.

    Oh, and she loved Sayaka.

    Kyouko wanted to save Sayaka, for reasons even she didn’t entirely understand, but when it became clear that Sayaka, Oktavia, was beyond saving, she did the only thing she could for the girl who helped her rediscover her humanity, she made sure that she did not die alone.

    And in the process she removed herself and Sayaka from the game completely. Their Soul Gems and Grief Seeds were destroyed, Kyuubey will collect no energy from them, they will not perpetuate the cycle. Kyuubey may claim its a net victory for him, due to the effect on Madoka, but it was Kyouko’s last “Fuck You” to the white furball.

    I am amazed that Kyouko held together as long as she did. Do you remember what her father accused her of being, right before he murdered the rest of her family and then killed himself? He said she was a witch. And it turns out that he was right. Kyouko could not let herself turn into a witch, and in the end, it would happen, or she would die a senseless death like Mami did. At least this way her death meant something, even if only to herself.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I think this is the first time where I’ve seen someone actually wanting to kill someone be used as a defense mechanism against the world. Maybe I haven’t watched enough shows about crazy people…

      And yes, I did get the yuri subtext at the end. I suppose that throws Kyouko into the camp of rationalizing her past?

      I’m not sure I disagree with anything you said, except for the small quibble that I believe that Kyuubey gets the energy when the mahou shoujo becomes a witch, but I might be wrong on that. And also I really don’t think that Kyouko was even thinking about Kyuubey when she sacrificed herself for Sayaka.

      It’s a testament to her tenacity that she was able to hold together, though we’re not exactly sure why she was so tenacious in the first place as opposed to Sayaka. Ah well.

      • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Puella Magi Oriko Magica should explain things.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        As far as QB getting the energy, I do believe it’s both when they become a witch, and after the witch is destroyed. Becoming a witch is clearly an exothermic reaction, and even after that he encourages the magic girls to destroy them. He is clearly doing something with the used grief seeds.

        The waste comes in that Kyouko never became a witch, and perhaps that there was no grief seed from the witch.

        • Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          It doesn’t seem like he needs the grief seeds to obtain the brunt of the energy though, seeing as how when Madoka turned into a witch, I believe her grief seed was crushed (at least it was in T2), yet I think we can safely assume that Kyuubey got the energy anyway. Furthermore, Kyuubey said that he met the energy quota in T4, despite Madoka still being in Witch form (thus she still has her grief seed).

    • EvilDevil
      Posted April 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      I am not going to lie, ep 9 blew up my yuri goggles. Now I consider KyoukoxSayaka as OTP (which I rarely do)

  4. Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    I don’t have much to add that wasn’t already said by the above commenters.

    This episode really emotionally affected me (I felt more traumatized than when my lung collapsed and had to go to the ER), especially Mami’s reappearance and break down. And I forgot what else I was gonna say @.@

  5. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Episode 10 was great in my opinion, but I agree with you on Madoka’s personality… In the flashback, Madoka is this very cheery person who always seems to be happy. Compared to Madoka in the 5th timeline, she is very emotional with all the bad things happening around her. In a way, she is a completely different person.

    Also, the change of Homura’s personality is interesting as she used to be a timid girl that lacked confidence. With each time loop, she had to become stronger since most of the outcomes are going to be more tragic than the first. In a way, its like Endless Eight, but the solution to break the loop is 1000000x more difficult than just the obvious.

    Then again, I don’t expect Madoka to be 100% perfect since it’s an original piece. By all means, original works are going to have flaws, as long it’s consistent it will work out fine unlike Angel Beats. Maybe expectations were too high that minor flaws might disappoint us from the whole picture.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      When we’re talking about a show where people cross reference a set of runes whenever they show up and where people literally pick through every episode to find stuff, minor flaws are probably going to make a big difference haha.

      • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know. Both me and Yssa aren’t as OCD as a lot of the other viewers in trying to apply Semiotics to each episode, but finding these little tidbits sometimes is fun. That said, it’s not really all that new, as visual easter eggs is SHAFT’s du jour.

  6. Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    > In essence, she’s completely destroyed what she was trying to protect in the first place. What Homura respected in Madoka was her confident image and her self-sacrificing attitude. Now she’s taken both of those things away from her. In essence, she’s stripped Madoka of her identity.

    I took this as the essential point of ep 10. (Also, did you notice how Walpurgis Night seemed to get stronger and stronger, and the ending brutaler and brutaler, with each iteration?)

    The mahou shoujo powers are poisoned gifts – monkey paws, genii, deals with the devil. They always come out bad in the end, and usually in a deeply ironic and tragic way. Homura may initially seem to have escaped this fate: if she doesn’t like what happens, well, she can just reset everything and start over! But she hasn’t, she hasn’t escaped at all. She makes her problem worse every time.

    It’s a tragedy in several parts. I suggest that your confusion about genres is because you don’t read much tragedy.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      My point is that Madoka is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you consider it a tragedy, then it’s a tragedy in mahou shoujo clothing. Also, the jury is still out on whether Urobuchi will somehow give it a somewhat happy ending :P

      • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        I really want Urobuchi to defy all the BAD END predictions, but it’s oh so hard… I mean, this was the guy who wrote a ‘happy ending’ where humanity was pretty much completely transformed into Shoggoths, just because the eldritch abomination wanted her beloved to be happy (and because it’s the only way for him to see the world ‘normally’).

  7. David
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    There are so many points where it seems like you’re blind to what’s going on, or just making a troll post to get more responses (perhaps to make up for the general lack of blogging on the site of late), but I’ll just address one.

    Where did that confident Madoka of the first time line come from? It’s always been there. Go back to episode one where Madoka wakes up her mom, and it’s clear to see. You could even see it with Madoka refusing to hand Kyubey over to Homura when she first found him injured.

    When Madoka contracted in T1 she was given an outlet and justification for that confidence which carried over into her daily life, whereas in T5 she was first warned away from the contract, then had to deal with increasingly traumatic events that she’s helpless to prevent. If you can’t see the different effects that would have on a person psychologically, you’re just not looking.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Ad hominem attacks really aren’t the best way to get your point across. All they do is weaken your case.

      I’m assuming that the warning happened in T1 as well, except there she actually accepted the contract, and Mami didn’t die or something before it happened. And confident Madoka hasn’t always been there, considering that she’s been hesitating to contract even before Mami got killed. That’s a far cry from the Madoka that sacrificed herself to save Homura.

      • David
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps had a bit of extra frustration leaking through there, sorry. However…

        I’m assuming that the warning happened in T1 as well, except there she actually accepted the contract, and Mami didn’t die or something before it happened.

        Why in the world would you assume the warning happened in T1? Homura didn’t become a magical girl til the end of T1, didn’t find out about the problems MGs have til the end of T2, and didn’t start preemptively warning Madoka away til T4.

        If you’re talking about Mami’s cautions about choice of a wish, Mami was not actively discouraging her from being a MG (assuming it progressed similarly to Madoka & Sayaka’s talks with her), but making sure she gave her wish proper thought before accepting (but ultimately expecting her to accept). Also, given the lack of Sayaka in T1, Madoka didn’t get into those philosophical debates about whether to accept the wish, and would have been going purely on her own desires and Mami’s and Kyubey’s encouragement. In other words, there were virtually no counter-MG elements present in T1, aside from the risk of death (which is all part of the heroic aspect of things anyway).

        And confident Madoka hasn’t always been there, considering that she’s been hesitating to contract even before Mami got killed.

        Of course Madoka has been hesitating. Homura (admittedly obliquely) warned her specifically against accepting well before she ever encountered anything to do with Kyubey or Mami. Homura was also actively attacking the creature offering her a wish. Aside from the perfectly normal and rational hesitation about getting involved in a dangerous line of work that she never even suspected might exist before, Sayaka has also been involved this time around as well, which leads to both concern about how a close friend might view her if she accepts, and the very valid questions that Sayaka brings up in her own consideration. All that combined together means, Surprise! She’s a little more cautious this time around. Imagine that.

        That’s a far cry from the Madoka that sacrificed herself to save Homura.

        Meanwhile in T1, she:
        1) Encountered Kyubey without interference
        2) Wasn’t warned away beforehand
        3) Wasn’t dealing with the philosophical problems that Sayaka brought up
        4) Wasn’t dealing with the expectations of close friends around her during her choice
        5) Was given an opportunity to use her power to protect her friend
        6) Did not encounter the downsides of being a magical girl (aside from death at the end, which was a known quantity), and thus her normal confidence and sense of duty was allowed to grow with her experience in fighting witches, leading to the final (standard) heroic sacrifice.

        • Dee
          Posted March 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          I agree with this.

          There also seems to be the fact that Homura is getting some sort of residual memory from the other iterations that Homura has gone through. Maybe that also affects her confidence level, in some subtle and unconscious way that she doesn’t really notice. On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t, and the only thing influencing her character is what you’ve mentioned.

          • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

            Don’t you mean MADOKA? Obviously Homura is going to remember, as she’s the one doing the mental timeslip. Madoka, however, is a different case, where she seems to be experiencing a Higurashi-style memory leakage from her previous iterations.

          • Dee
            Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I meant Madoka. Brain fart :(
            Thanks for pointing that out.

        • Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          I did mean the Mami warnings. Although now that you point out the lack of Sayaka in T1… Where did she go? I mean I was working under the assumption that everything that happened in episodes 1-3 (except Charlotte for whatever reason), happened in every timeline, but I guess that’s wrong since Sayaka never appeared in the first time line. I’m still wondering why things happened differently in each time line, and I’m not sure if that might be affecting my decision calculus in a different way.

          This also ties into your second point, in that I assumed that Sayaka was around in every time line as well to balance out Madoka’s decision making. I mean in the end, Homura shouldn’t have factored into Madoka’s decision calculus at all since she was rather clearly painted as a magical girl who “competes” with Mami, and Sayaka was clearly rather anti-Homura.

          I suppose though that this point is impossible to argue because we really don’t know what exactly happened in any time line that would lead to Madoka being more confident. All we’re doing is speculating about why Madoka somehow changed personalities. You can say that the series “implies” this, but from the view of Madoka that we get in 1-3, you can’t say anything. We can’t know how the apparent lack of Sayaka in T1 affects her, how that compares to the presence of Sayaka in T3, why she seems just as confident in T3 as opposed to T1 and T2, etc.

          As a small aside, Son Gohan further up argued that Madoka’s confidence stems from the fact that she contracted. Did she always have the confidence, or did she get it only from contracting? Or is it both? The problem is that we don’t know because we can’t evaluate T1 Madoka based on the picture we get from her in T5, thus making this line of argument rather meaningless.

          • Son Gohan
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:27 am | Permalink

            In the first timeline Sayaka is present in the classroom. I suppose that QB simply didn’t show himself to Sayaka and contracted Madoka alone. After all, he just wants Madoka’s power.
            I think that Madoka originally was a cheerful girl with a bit of an inferiority complex. Whenever she contracted she gained confidence, following Mami’s example. When she doesn’t accept the deal she becomes increasingly distressed and pitiful.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

            I suppose then that raises the question of why Sayaka is present in T3. Why would Kyuubey make different decisions?

            She is definitely a cheerful girl. I mean she has no problem interacting with her friends. But I suppose that we can’t truthfully make a proper judgment of Madoka’s character though, given that we don’t have a before and after of Madoka for T1-T4. Granted, that does also mean that I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions on her character either. I guess that it’s just jarring for me to see this weak Madoka who didn’t contract to help Sayaka when she contracted, versus this strong Madoka who is willing to sacrifice herself for her friends. Sure you can theorize as to why Madoka changed, but it’s just two really, really different pictures.

          • David
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            Although now that you point out the lack of Sayaka in T1… Where did she go? I mean I was working under the assumption that everything that happened in episodes 1-3 (except Charlotte for whatever reason), happened in every timeline, but I guess that’s wrong since Sayaka never appeared in the first time line.

            I suppose then that raises the question of why Sayaka is present in T3. Why would Kyuubey make different decisions?

            T3 is the only truly troubling timeline. It’s important for the events that take place, but it’s difficult to work out the decisions that could have led to the setup.

            T1/T2 – No one else interfering meant that Kyubey could approach Madoka unhindered. A quick introduction to Mami for guidance, demonstrate fighting a witch, and they’re off. Homura encounters Madoka later on. There’s no reason for Sayaka to get drawn in at all.

            This also ties into your second point, in that I assumed that Sayaka was around in every time line as well to balance out Madoka’s decision making.

            If you recall the CD shop in T5, Sayaka only got drawn in because of following Madoka; she couldn’t even hear Kyubey until after Mami healed him, and he decided to add her to the project. Kyubey was never originally targetting her, so there’s no reason to expect her to become an MG except through an accidental incident. For that same reason, there’s no reason to expect that Sayaka would have had any effect on Madoka’s decision in T1/T2.

            Also, there’s no reason to expect that they didn’t encounter Charlotte in these timelines. However if Madoka contracted after that first witch hunt, there would be two MGs against Charlotte, and Mami would have backup/support fire at the critical moment that she otherwise would have died.

            T4 – Homura explicitly prevents Madoka’s first encounter with Kyubey, and does all the work such that Madoka has minimal contact with the magical world. Unfortunately that limited contact meant that Madoka had no real reason to refuse when she thought Homura needed help.

            T3 – Somehow Sayaka got involved this time. I can only see events happening thus:

            Homura makes some half-hearted attempt to prevent Kyubey from contracting Madoka. Homura’s still insecure about herself, and likely isn’t willing to go Rambo on Kyubey to stop him (plus she didn’t start using guns til later in T3, and explosives are a bit more difficult to pull off in the middle of a shopping mall). The interference attempt allows Sayaka to get drawn in and contracted along with Madoka.

            Mami possibly warned Homura off in a manner similar to T5 on their first encounter (or Homura just never directly confronted them during that event), and lacking the pre-warning that Homura gave in T4/5, and the peer pressure of Sayaka (who was gung-ho about the whole thing) and Mami, Madoka was probably still willing to accept the offer. Sayaka, not having to worry about Madoka’s hesitation, likewise joins up in short order.

            Homura, giving up on the failed attempt to prevent the contract, instead tries to warn the group of the dangers involved. Her own fears and lack of confidence makes her hesitate to bring up what she knows (plus probably wanting to do so when Kyubey isn’t around), and leads to a weak persuasion attempt that ultimately fails.

            Kyouko got pulled in for some reason for which there is no real explanation. She may have heard about the gathering of a (relatively) large number of MGs, and come in to stake her own claim in what probably appeared to be a territorial dispute (Sayaka clearly still viewed Kyouko as a threat at that first meeting with Homura).

            I mean in the end, Homura shouldn’t have factored into Madoka’s decision calculus at all since she was rather clearly painted as a magical girl who “competes” with Mami, and Sayaka was clearly rather anti-Homura.

            The Homura of which timeline? Homura clearly matters in T5 due to a large number of events (all well before Charlotte). T3 likely had little to no impact (as described above). T4 had an impact, but insufficient information to change the decision.

            As a small aside, Son Gohan further up argued that Madoka’s confidence stems from the fact that she contracted. Did she always have the confidence, or did she get it only from contracting?

            I believe it was amplified by her contracting. While some have argued that the wish itself was for more confidence/etc, I’m not inclined to agree with that. In T5, while giving serious consideration to contracting (just before the Charlotte fight), Madoka still doesn’t know what she wants to wish for. While the wish was likely spontaneous and/or silly (eg: cake), asking directly for a boost in her confidence seems unlikely.

            Her strong desire for being a magical girl, rather than for any specific wish, lends itself to implying something along the lines of “I wish I could be the best magical girl ever.” rather than “I wish I could be more confident about myself.”, though I could almost see that being asked when phrased in that way, as an annoyed throwaway line when she couldn’t decide on anything better than cake (or perhaps, “I wish I wasn’t always so indecisive.”, as that also lends itself to her actions when Mami broke down and started killing people).

            As I said before, the confidence was always there, just lacking a supporting outlet.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

            I suppose then that a lot of this argument would hinge on what truly happened in T3 that would lead to this mass congregation of mahou shoujos, and the circumstances leading up to it.

            You really can’t draw conclusions about any other timeline from T5, since Homura chasing Kyuubey down is definitely specific to that time line alone. I don’t think that Homura at any time before (except maybe T4?) would have the confidence to hunt Kyuubey into Madoka’s hands.

            And what you says about Charlotte makes sense, especially if Sayaka truly wasn’t there as a balancing force in T1 and T2.

            I still disagree that the confidence to the extent that we’re seeing post-contract Madoka was there. Just considering T5, Madoka consistently labeled herself as feeling rather useless in life, as evidenced by her discussion with Kyuubey in episode 3. I can believe that the confidence could have been gained from the contract, but it’s the level of confidence gained that I find rather unbelievable. I think that we’re arguing on a rather moot point though. It’s rather hard to make a proper qualitative assessment of Madoka when we really don’t have too clear of a picture of her possible transformation from pre-contract to contract to hunting witches to meeting Homura.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

            MY BRAIN HURTS DAMMNIT. The gist of everything overall is that HOMURA wants to save Madoka and failed on each iteration and because her actions differ on each iteration, the scenarios also differ. So in the end its just like this:
            T1:Homura does not save Madoka
            T2:Homura does not save Madoka
            T3:Homura does not save Madoka
            and the timeline continues.

  8. Merq
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I liked it. I felt that KB’s entropy explanation was underwhelming, but I think what we are supposed to get from that is that the problem is more involved than just saving earth. I think we are supposed to examine our own attachment to life and our “souls”. Is KB evil because he sacrifices a planet for the universe or are we selfish and irrational because we can’t see past the death of our loved ones for a greater cause?

    Which brings me to episode 10. Had Homura been able to see past the death of Madoka, she would have realized that Madoka died as a hero with no regrets. It wasn’t her place to “save” Madoka, she should have moved forward in Madoka’s memory to do what she could to live on. This was why Madoka died, so that Homura and the rest of humanity could LIVE ON. It was a sacrifice for something bigger than herself. Homura couldn’t accept this and messed with time. Homura’s time travels made the endings become more and more disastrous. Now, Madoka either becomes a witch or dies full of regret. She no longer has the option to pass away with grace and dignity. Homura can’t see past her own mission to “keep Madoka alive” even if every time she tries to “save” her, Madoka falls further and further away from being the confident and heroic girl she was when she first died and the world is put in more and more danger.

    So who’s the evil one here? KB with no emotion and too much rational though, or humans with little rational thought and way too much emotion. Either way, earth is getting the short end of the stick.

    • Emperor
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      This question you ask is kind of twisted.Don’t feel like writting essay about moral aspects of show, just hate the idea of aliens simply harvesting humans for their purpose. If you rethink the overall reason of whats happening there something noble like saving universe is not the cause.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      That’s certainly a great way to look at episode 10 in context of the revelation in episode 9. I think the series is firmly in the camp of the “Kyuubey is evil” sort of thing, especially after episode 10 made us sympathize so much with Homura.

      I suppose that my beef with episode 10 doesn’t necessarily lie in its content, but rather in both the rather cop-outish method of storytelling and the extra layer of complexity that it adds to the show in terms of stuff to keep track of. The timelines presented in episode 10 are different enough that it’s really strange why, for example, Sayaka didn’t show up in T1 or T2, or why Mami never gets chomped by Charlotte, or why the presence of Mami and Homura as support for Sayaka doesn’t change the fact that she becomes a witch in T3, etc etc. The series gives us a tantalizing look at how different events would have played out, then just leaves us hanging.

      • Darkfireblade25
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        there is probably some variable factors that play in. I suppose things aren’t up to fate and all the 50/50 decisions add up to sayaka being there, or not. also, u have to consider that charlotte may not even be formed in the timelines.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

          Certainly possible, but we’ll never know exactly why T3 was the one where suddenly all these mahou shoujos came together, when we only saw Madoka and Mami in T1 and T2. It’s a pretty interesting mystery actually.

          • Onion
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:35 am | Permalink

            People keep forgetting that Homura, even though she wasn’t a magical girl yet, did have a presence in the first timeline. Her NOT being somewhere or NOT having a conversation that she did in T1 should be enough to significantly alter a timeline. And with her changing and increasingly hostile personality you get what amounts to a different character each time she goes back.

      • Merq
        Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        I don’t know if the “show” is trying to make Kyuubey evil or not. I tend to think they aren’t forcing the issue. Whenever something potentially decidedly evil comes along (soul removal, sacrificing magical girls) he has a pretty logical explanation for it that’s not wholly selfish like other villians. He doesn’t say “I want to rule Earth” or “I want unlimited power”. He says “I want to save the universe.” At this point in the story I am not sure whether to decide if Kyuubey is evil or not just like I’m not ready to decide to sympathize with Homura or think she’s a selfish idiot. I’m reserving my judgments until further notice. Anyways, I think it’s hard to judge an alien’s morality by human standards in the first place. Can someone with no moral compass and not subject to our laws be immoral?

        I will say, though, that Homura’s and Kyuubey’s actions are pretty similar. They both are trying desperately to save something. In the process they realize there will be sacrifices. They withhold information that may potentially hurt their chances of reaching their goal. They are just on a different scale. KB is willing to sacrifice a planet for the universe while Homura is willing to lose a couple magical girls to save Madoka. Her wish wasn’t to save the world, or to protect both Mami and Madoka. It was to save Madoka. When all the other magical girls died she took the L and kept right on trucking because she was still winning as long as Madoka was alive. So why is one better than the other?

        I usually would tend to agree with you on the flashback, but in this case I think it was justified. Yes, it’s kind of annoying how it all came about, especially with the break in the story, but I can’t think of another way to really flesh out Homura’s history in a way that would make so many people sympathize with her. It’s one thing to hear it, and another thing to experience it. We really got to experience her development. Do you have an alternative method in mind that you would have liked better? Do you have an example?

        • Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

          Ah I see what you mean. What I meant by the fact that the series is firmly in the “Kyuubey is evil” camp, is that it has spent 10 episodes making us emotionally invested in these characters. I can’t even imagine the amount of heartbreak that happened when Mami died, or when Kyouko and Sayaka died, or when Homura’s past was revealed. Thus the show is telling us that Kyuubey CAN be judged by human morals, at least in the sense that human lives really aren’t something expendable. This is just my opinion though.

          I don’t think that Homura was ever willing to sacrifice mahou shoujos to save Madoka, or at least I don’t remember any example of her doing so. Homura is just driven by this desire to save someone, but this desire is fundamentally emotional as compared to Kyuubey’s rather pragmatic view about saving the universe. There are similarities between Homura and Kyuubey, but I think they’re rather superficial.

          As for your last question, see http://www.thatanimeblog.com/index.php/2011/03/mahou-shoujo-madoka-magica-9-and-10-no-end-in-sight/#comment-111602

          The number of comments on this post is really ridiculous…

  9. kaei
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t Madoka make Homura promise to “save the foolish her from making a contract with Kyuubei”, right before she has Homura blow her brains out after one incarnation of the Walpurgis Night? So the reason Homura is fighting, and the thing she is protecting, is the promise made with Some Version of Madoka.

    Besides it looks like Walpurgis Night was going to majorly eff up the world, as we know it, so we could argue that Homura is inadvertently postponing Earth’s demise with every backwards time jump – a handy side effect!

    • Merq
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      “Besides it looks like Walpurgis Night was going to majorly eff up the world, as we know it, so we could argue that Homura is inadvertently postponing Earth’s demise with every backwards time jump – a handy side effect!”

      The first time Madoka fought Walpurgis Night she defeated it. Then she died. Earth was already saved.

      • Darkfireblade25
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        And then Madoka turned into the new Walpurgis Night. Oh Joy.

        • amado
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          uh no.
          she died in that timeline.

          she only became one in T2 and T4.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Earth wasn’t saved at that point. QB was only going to leave Earth once a certain amount of energy was collected. If Madoka doesn’t go witch, that energy isn’t going to be collected yet, so more witches, more magical girls.

        Also, don’t forget that there are still a bunch of magical girls around. Kyouko specifically comes to that town because she learns the MG that “owned” it, Mami, was gone. So yah, more witches.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      But the question is whether that promise is actually worth it. And so far, the answer is no. Perhaps T1 Madoka was the best. She didn’t turn into a witch (supposedly); she just died. But T3 Madoka’s concern is primarily with not being a witch. T1 Madoka had no regrets about dying for Homura. And yet Homura went against Madoka’s wishes there. So I suppose you can view Homura as kind of selfish for wanting to save Madoka. And look at the results of her selfishness…

      Perhaps there is a rather strong moral story to be said for Madoka Magica… I’ll be waiting for episode 11 :D

  10. South
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    “Initially the theme of the show appeared to be this sort of “subversion” of the mahou shoujo genre, and then it quickly became less about the genre and more like a character analysis. Now it’s suddenly introduced this morality question into the show and along with it this idea of the power of emotions.”

    What..? Seriously? The idea was up from episode 1. We just didn’t know what Kyubei wanted. And that is making the series so good, the plot twists that keep popping up, and not from nowhere. We knew Homura was a special kind of Mahou, we just got to know what was so special about her. It has ALWAYS been about the characters. Madoka wanting to be braver/more confident, Mami’s character and her not being able to think her choice properly and the consequences, Sayaka’s wish and the truth behind it, Kyouko’s personality as a whole after her tragic past, and Homura being one of the best characters portrayed when we come to development. It has always been about the girls and their actions, and the moral behind their actions. Emotions have been implied since Sayaka’s transformation, about how stronger you get the less happier you are or something. The fact even Kyubei brings more moral issues on the shows shouldn’t be a complete surprise. The Magic Girl show was obviously a tease, but it was implied it was not a normal show when the mascot character is being chased in such a shadowy way and Homura’s words to Madoka. Don’t change or everything is doomed.

    “This is just my opinion, but it almost seems to trivialize what happened in the past 8 episodes. ”
    And I think that was the point of it. I mean, it gave the show more tragedy than ever…

    I have to agree with almost everyone who have written.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      Really? I’d suggest look at the initial posts of a lot of different blogs, because the speculation was widespread that Madoka Magica was a subversion of the mahou shoujo genre. The opinion was that these characters are essentially your archtypical mahou shoujo characters, with, for example, Madoka mapping to Nanoha, Homura to Fate, or however you want to play it.

      And then what happened is that after the death of Mami, we realized that this wasn’t a normal mahou shoujo show and that this was probably some sort of character analysis. And your post pretty much supports this. Yes, it’s been about the characters for most of the show.

      This morality question of whether Kyuubey is right to sacrifice humanity for the “greater good” has only been brought up in episode 9. There’s no way it can have possibly popped up any time before.

      The emotions thing has never had a conclusive link to power, because Madoka seems to have little in the way of the emotions as opposed to Sayaka, at least in terms of how the audience perceived her, yet she’s supposed to be ridiculously strong.

      • South
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I meant when the series started, not what was speculated, which was either on purpose like a tease for the cutesy characters or not the show’s fault. I thought your initially was about the first episodes.

        And yes, only in episode 9 because they have built Kyubei’s “secret” since episode 1. In fact the secrets kept popping around every now and then, becoming witches, zombie-girls, etc-. I don’t think it would have been fun if they shove us the moral issue all at once…each episode had something new or old moral thing to question, but maybe it’s a matter of taste. First we have the is he good?, then he is bad!, then why is he doing? then what is he doing, and then is he that bad then? I don’t think we needed 9 episodes for that question to be around after all the troubles and moral issues the girls had been having.

        Eh, I think Madoka being super strong has to do with her wish, yet we still don’t know, and her being timid and not as out-spoken as Sayaka doesn’t mean she has more or less emotions, it’s just another way of things. We might get an explanation or not, but emotions and personality are linked to power IMO…such as the time warp Homura wanted, and the fact Sayaka going to extremes made her more powerful and less humane.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          I mean when the series started, it really did start off really similar to how Nanoha started, at least superficially. So a lot of people jumped on the “mahou shoujo” analysis boat. It was probably a tease, but we didn’t realize it at the time, although speculation on the contrary was rampant because of Urobuchi’s involvement.

          Ah I see. I suppose for me what separates the moral issues of episode 9 from the rest is that episode 9 brings “the big picture” into the morality talk. Before it was mostly about whether what Kyuubey is doing is moral in terms of humanity itself. From the visuals, we got the feeling that the witches represented the dark side of humanity, and that Kyuubey is just trying to fight that. Now, it’s less about the subversion of humanity as opposed to the universe itself. This expansion of the moral picture is what I don’t like. I suppose it’s just a personal thing though.

          I mean the Madoka-is-powerful thing is still something that’s never been fully explained. When Kyuubey explained his reasons for being here, it sounded like it was just the power of emotions that correlated into great power. By that logic, Sayaka probably would have been the most powerful out of everyone in the Madoka world. Madoka probably should have been lower down on the list, just in terms of how her emotions manifest outwardly. Perhaps she has really strong feelings on the inside, but then if she really is strong on the inside, why haven’t those feelings manifested on the outside? As an analogy, someone who is REALLY angry almost always has the anger manifest some way on the outside, whether it’s by killing someone, crying into a pillow, just smoldering in a corner, or what have you. It really isn’t apparent for Madoka, at least to the extent that some of the other characters have manifested their emotions.

          • David
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

            I mean the Madoka-is-powerful thing is still something that’s never been fully explained. When Kyuubey explained his reasons for being here, it sounded like it was just the power of emotions that correlated into great power. By that logic, Sayaka probably would have been the most powerful out of everyone in the Madoka world. Madoka probably should have been lower down on the list, just in terms of how her emotions manifest outwardly.

            While this is only my personal interpretation (though others have had similar ideas), that’s actually quite easy to explain.

            Our only detailing of how things work comes from Kyubey. Kyubey has also admitted that his race simply doesn’t understand human emotion; it’s just a black box to them. They know it exists, but the subtler workings don’t make sense.

            Well, as humans, we -do- understand emotions fairly well. So when Kyubey references emotions in the general sense, we interpret that as emotions in the general sense, and as illustrated by your own response, tend to expect it to relate to the outward manifestation of any and all emotions.

            However Kyubey *wasn’t* referring to emotions in general; it’s just that he has no understanding of or words for the actual relevant emotions and their varying ties to others. Therefore in all probability the actual relevant elements tie to a specific emotion or emotions, and likely the broad-based target links.

            Now add in the factor that the best power sources are young teenage girls. Consider the types of emotions they are likely to carry compared to, say, average teenage boys, groups of delinquents (outwardly very emotional), elementary school kids, college students, parents, salarymen, etc. It all ties back to the emotion most epitomized in the mahou shoujo genre: love.

            Finally relate it back to the emotional characteristics of all our known MGs.

            1) Sayaka – Infatuated with violin boy (can’t remember his name offhand), but not necessarily love (as demonstrated by the various debates on the issue). A fairly weak MG.
            2) Homura – Obsessively in love with Madoka, and -only- Madoka. Could care less about anyone else. Extremely strong in her unique talent, but extremely weak everywhere else.
            3) Kyouko – Loved her father and family, and at least somewhat caring of the general congregation (assuming she thought her father’s teachings were beneficial to people in general). Fairly strong MG.
            4) Mami – Limited info, but clearly cares a lot about protecting the city. Fairly strong MG.
            5) Madoka – Cares deeply about everyone. Willing to put herself in danger to help support Sayaka and Kyouko even without contracting. Seems to have an instinctive understanding of/sympathy for Homura, despite the others’ misgivings. Doesn’t even hate Kyubey, even if he has become her/humanity’s enemy. Epitomizes the stereotypical magical girl lead’s willingness to love -everyone-. Ridiculously strong MG.

            That may not be the only explanation, but it’s the only one I’ve come up with so far that so easily incorporates all current explanatory evidence.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            I’m not exactly sure if “love” necessarily explains Madoka’s power. I suppose then it depends on what you consider love. If it’s a feeling of strong attachment, then I disagree with what you say. If it’s a feeling of empathy, well that’s not really love, but it seems to tie in better with your explanation of why Madoka is powerful. Perhaps it’s just that I’m a bit troubled by your rather vague conception of what “love” is. Because if you’re looking specifically at the subset of teenage girls, this sort of vague “love” that gives Madoka her power doesn’t seem to be specific to teenage girls, and it doesn’t explain why Kyuubey would target teenage girls in particular.

            Also, I thought it was a point that Kyouko’s power stems from her experience as a mahou shoujo and therefore the fact that she’s a “veteran”, as described by Kyuubey, and not necessarily her innate talent. At the very least there’s no evidence directed towards the idea that she’s innately powerful.

            Also, Sayaka didn’t seem to be that weak of a mahou shoujo after losing herself to despair. She seemed to get pretty strong even, indicating that perhaps it may not rest on love alone. However, that same power, like Madoka, means that it’s easier for her to become a witch as well.

          • amado
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

            kyouko is great because of both experience and hunting only witches and thus has lots of power.
            mami is still good because of her experience and the town does seem to have lots of witches.
            sayaka is also strong, she just needs more experience in fighting and also gathering grief seeds.
            madoka was pretty much good and has gotten better as stated by mami in T1.

            according to kyubey, the wish also helps in their powers.
            sayaka has regeneration because of wishing to heal someone.
            kyouko might have charismatic powers, would explain how she easily gets food despite not having money.
            homura has time stopping powers due to wishing to go back in time.
            madoka… well assuming she wished for “cake” as mami suggested earlier might not really give her much powers but still powerful enough to beat walpurgisnacht. in T4, madoka might have wished to defeat the witch after seeing homura fall and it resulted to her having enough power to beat it in one hit or her wish itself made the witch die but made her a witch almost instantly.
            it would explain why madoka’s power level is inconsistent.

          • David
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

            I’m not exactly sure if “love” necessarily explains Madoka’s power. I suppose then it depends on what you consider love.

            Well, I’ll admit to being somewhat deliberately vague there, partly to avoid getting into a rather difficult and lengthy post on the exact definition, and partly because the mahou shoujo genre itself tends to be rather vague on its definition of the term.

            Also, I thought it was a point that Kyouko’s power stems from her experience as a mahou shoujo and therefore the fact that she’s a “veteran”, as described by Kyuubey, and not necessarily her innate talent.

            True, I’d forgotten about that scene. That shifts the overall innate balance, but in a way that I’m rather more happy to accept, since my hypothesis as it applies to Kyouko and Mami is actually a bit weak without that adjustment.

            Also, Sayaka didn’t seem to be that weak of a mahou shoujo after losing herself to despair. She seemed to get pretty strong even, indicating that perhaps it may not rest on love alone.

            No, she was still fairly weak (for a rather vague definition of ‘weak’ which encompasses everything from combat abilities to raw magical power, and is lacking an explicit metric). She just refocused her combat priorities from a mix of offense and defense to pure offense and no defense. By focusing exclusively on offense she gained a bit of ‘strength’, but didn’t really shift her overall power.

          • Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:54 am | Permalink

            I don’t even think it’s called “love” in the mahou shoujo genre. It’s just… This really strange and vague concept.

            If we’re attributing Mami and Kyouko’s power to “experience” now, then also can’t consider Homura weak anymore, since she definitely has experience. In that sense, if experience is also tied to power, then it becomes harder to pin down a definitive link between this “love” thing and power, because the only two true greenhorns that we have are Sayaka and Madoka, and there can be a range on interpretations on them.

            I don’t know if she was fairly weak, because I’m not even sure how to properly define a “strong” and “weak” mahou shoujo any more. We only really know that Madoka is a super strong mahou shoujo, but there isn’t really a way that we can compare Sayaka post-despair to Sayaka pre-despair. She doesn’t fight a mahou shoujo, and later on she pushes herself so hard that she’s just constantly tired.

          • David
            Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

            I don’t even think it’s called “love” in the mahou shoujo genre. It’s just… This really strange and vague concept.

            I tend to associate it with the agape form (see wiki) for convenience, as that’s the only type that really lends itself well towards matching the somewhat abiguously presented concept.

            If we’re attributing Mami and Kyouko’s power to “experience” now, then also can’t consider Homura weak anymore, since she definitely has experience.

            Not quite. It’s working in the other direction.

            We can already see that Homura is a ‘powerful’ MG, as she can be extremely effective due to her tactics and tools (see T4). That, along with her experience, makes her a dangerous opponent. It does not, however, make her innately powerful as an MG in terms of her actual strength, speed, resilience, or just general raw magical power. Basically, her experience allows her to boost her innate power level up to her effective power level.

            Mami and Kyouko should have the same considerations, which I had left out in the original synopsis. That is, I was considering them as if their effective power level was their innate power level, while I was looking at Homura at her innate power level only.

            Therefore we should consider that Mami and Kyouko’s innate power level is actually lower than what we have seen, and it’s their experience and (in Kyouko’s case) prolonged grief seed accumulation that boost them to their current apparent level.

            Meanwhile, it’s implied or directly stated that Madoka’s innate power level is significantly higher than the others, to the extent that Madoka’s innate power is stronger than Kyouko’s effective power.

            I will grant that Sayaka’s actual power level has a certain degree of uncertainty associated with it, and would not be easily agreed upon without extensive debate. For now I’ll just let it drop as a not terribly important factor.

          • amado
            Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

            actually, its been stated somewhere(I think in the original site), that homura is weak in magic power but makes up for it by using modern weaponry and her time stop. if we take away her weapons, she doesnt really have anything except for the shield(and the bow if she does have it and it isnt just character design). stopping time is very powerful but if she can barely damage a witch, then its near useless except for escaping.

            as for sayaka, she might have gotten better in fighting if she had more time. like what mami said in T1, madoka has gotten better since their first meeting. so sayaka would understandably gotten better if given time, she did beat a witch earlier without trouble in ep 4 and only failed to kill the familiar because kyouko intervened. she might have beaten elsa maria if she wasnt clouded by her feelings after learning about the truth and hitomi getting kyousuke.

          • Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            Hm actually agape might actually be a perfect description of what I’m thinking of. Thanks, I actually forgot about the term :P

            And since there is a separation between effective and innate power level, then it gets even harder to determine the relation between the power of Kyouko’s and Mami’s “agape love” in comparison to their actual power as a mahou shoujo. It’s also hard to compare their power levels to begin with, since there really is no firm level of comparison aside from just conversations that the characters have with Kyuubey :/

            The only thing we really know is that Madoka is extremely powerful compared to the others, so maybe it’s best to just leave it at that.

      • David
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I’d suggest look at the initial posts of a lot of different blogs, because the speculation was widespread that Madoka Magica was a subversion of the mahou shoujo genre. The opinion was that these characters are essentially your archtypical mahou shoujo characters, with, for example, Madoka mapping to Nanoha, Homura to Fate, or however you want to play it.

        And then what happened is that after the death of Mami, we realized that this wasn’t a normal mahou shoujo show and that this was probably some sort of character analysis.

        Wait, wait.. what? We find out MM isn’t a ‘normal’ mahou shoujo show after speculation that it’s a subversion of the genre, when ‘subversion’ almost by definition means things are *not* going to be ‘normal’? And this surprises you?

        It sounds like someone complaining that a romantic comedy that started out with comedic elements and then added romance suddenly can’t be a comedy anymore. It’s so nonsensical it’s hard to even come up with a valid response.

        This morality question of whether Kyuubey is right to sacrifice humanity for the “greater good” has only been brought up in episode 9. There’s no way it can have possibly popped up any time before.

        Except that there has been massive, rampant speculation about exactly that ever since episode 6, and lighter speculation in that regard going back to episode 2 or 3. It’s not new, it’s just laid on the table explicitly rather than implicitly.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          I think you might be misunderstanding what I’m saying. What I said in my original post was that Madoka has thematically lost its footing. What was once a great, pure character analysis of how these different characters react to what’s going on around them has now been somewhat supplanted by these morality issues that are popping up. The show might be trying to tackle a bit too much at once, and it’s therefore shafting some other elements in the process. Madoka is already on a tight enough time line that they had to use a flashback episode to explore some elements. It was thematically interesting, but when you consider the structure of the anime, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Now they have to clean up the plot line and several major thematic issues in two episodes. I’m still wondering if they’ll be able to do it.

          And as for your second point, I addressed that in another comment above.

          • David
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            I think you might be misunderstanding what I’m saying. What I said in my original post was that Madoka has thematically lost its footing.

            For this, I must ask you to clarify what you mean. What did you interpret the theme to be initially, and in what way has it been lost? Having not reached a conclusion, we cannot yet positively identify what the central theme is intended to be, whereas many of the underlying themes seem to still be holding up quite well.

            For myself, the primary themes I see are, “What does it mean to be a magical girl?”, and “Is it worth it?”. While the answers to the first question have pretty much been fully laid out, the answers to the second question are still being puzzled over.

            What was once a great, pure character analysis of how these different characters react to what’s going on around them has now been somewhat supplanted by these morality issues that are popping up.

            The character analysis continues, but less on the surface (reacting to what goes on around them), and more internalized (that what’s going on around them implies deeper meanings within themselves that can’t just be pushed away with a trivial answer).

            The show might be trying to tackle a bit too much at once, and it’s therefore shafting some other elements in the process.

            Perhaps. However from my viewpoint they’re packing in a great deal of very compelling work in a way that requires the viewer to actually focus and think, rather than just a typically trivially fluffy one-dimensional show. To me it’s not “too much”, it’s “enough to actually be worth putting real thought into”. But I suppose everyone has different thresholds for that.

            Madoka is already on a tight enough time line that they had to use a flashback episode to explore some elements. It was thematically interesting, but when you consider the structure of the anime, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

            Granted the timeline is indeed tight. I actually appreciate them making a show with virtually no filler whatsoever; nothing is wasted.

            You also seem to have a particular agrievance about the flashback. While it is certainly possible to use flashbacks badly, that doesn’t make a flashback itself bad (cf: Kyouko’s tale). The flashback compacted everything we needed to know together in a streamlined manner, and seemed very much in keeping with the mood and presentation of the show. It blended together everything we know about the show with all the questions we have about Homura, and it lined up perfectly.

            Personally (caveat: not a scriptwriter or TV show producer), I can’t think of any way to provide the episode’s information in a non-flashback format that wouldn’t have either killed the momentum of the show (another Kyouko-like tale from Homura to Madoka would be very out of place at this point, not to mention out of character for Homura), or changed the entire tone of the show (if the flashback events were presented before episode one), yet still allow the viewer to actually see Homura’s character growth and changes, which was one of the primary remaining mysteries at this point.

            I suppose one could argue the opinion about whether the flashback killed the show’s momentum. That would be a subjective issue, and colored by the airing delays. I would ask, though, that if you think it could be done better, you explain how.

          • Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink

            Perhaps you’re misunderstanding my idiom. What I’m saying is that the focus was initially on a certain theme, and now it’s being branched out into multiple different directions. Consider the questions that are now being asked:
            What is a mahou shoujo?
            Is it worth being a mahou shoujo?
            Is Kyuubey evil? (aka can we place ourselves at the center of the universe?)
            Is what Homura doing right?
            Is ignorance bliss? (going back to Sayaka ep 2, made all the more relevant by ep 10 in that the girls were happiest in T1 and T2).

            And so on. We’re being pulled in multiple directions, when really the most pertinent question is pretty much just 1, but now people are focusing more on 3-5.

            And yes, the character analysis continues, but it’s being overshadowed by the other questions.

            Yes I agree. But there are a lot more shows out there that aren’t one-dimensional. What Madoka has yet to prove is that it can tackle the stronger themes that were present in other shows, but I’m not sure if it has the time to truly delve into some issues that it presents.

            There really are a lot of shows with no filler. My favorite Madoka comparison right now is Baccano!, just in terms of the energy of the series and the fact that they’re both 13 episodes and try to jam as much as possible into a short time frame.

            I don’t have a problem with flashbacks in particular. Like with Kyouko’s, it made sense in that it was her basically telling her story to Sayaka, but SHAFT always makes those segments interesting with visuals, unlike other shows that just have it regurgitated with words. It’s not the case w/ the episode 10 flashback. It pops out of nowhere in relation to the overall story line.

            And honestly, I’m not someone with the perfect solution to things, but at the very least I would have liked to see the flashback integrated into the story more, like for example instead of putting episode 10 where it is, have it as like part of Homura’s realization that her work was ultimately meaningless/justified. Alternatively, you can build it in as a series of dream sequences like they did with the “dream” sequence in episode 1. There are definitely other ways of doing it. It’s just an aesthetic thing for me. I know that when I watched Baccano!, I had to make sure that I didn’t open up the wrong episode or something haha. It really cut into the momentum of like the fighting, the chasing, (being intentionally vague here), etc. It’s the same deal here with Madoka Magica. For me at least.

  11. Darkfireblade25
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with everybody above also. I think the stress of college life is taking a toll on your thinking skills :/ not to be offensive or anything. Might wanna seriously consider reading the comments before arguing back though. If you ever get to them anyway.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Well I have gotten to them. Go take a look and refute away, since I can tell that’s what you’re probably going to do.

  12. Anon
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Um…Kyoko could have easily killed witch Sayaka with little injury to herself.

    She deliberately destroyed her soul Gem because she didn’t want to leave Sayaka alone.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Debatable. Interviews indicate that Kyouko was all offense, no defense (in the same way that Homura was all skill, and weak in Magioc). Against the continuous attacks of Octavia (which, mind, she was only defending against in the hope of convincing her), she’d cave in eventually.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Well we’ll never know if Kyouko could have truly beaten Sayaka with little injury to herself.

      I am rather surprised that Homura let her kill herself though if that’s the case. You would think that if she’s trying to save Madoka, she would want Kyouko’s help in dealing with Walpurgisnacht. But that’s just speculation.

      • amado
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        if you remember right, kyouko put a barrier to stop homura from interfering and help them escape.
        even with time powers, she wont be able to get in easily and she also had madoka to take care of.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          There’s still no appealing to Kyouko to, for example, let her help so that she can help save humanity by defeating Walpurgisnacht. There are still other options available to Homura than just getting in her way.

  13. DE
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I like this post except for one major thing. Timeline #1 was correct in that it’s ending was the one that made everyone happy. Madoka was happy. Mami was probably happy. Homura would have gotten over it and would have learned to go on in life.

    The major problem? It was all a BIG FAT LIE. Yes, what they were fighting for was a LIE. With that being said, I think the big moral lesson here is the truth hurt. The truth is ugly, gritty, painful, sad, and lonely. Look at Homura’s time jump back, every time she tried to mention the truth, the girls would gasp and not believe her. In fact, it made some of them more uncomfortable fighting with her. As more of the truth was relieved, the more the characters started falling apart. In fact, Homura could just recreate Timeline #1 again by lying her way through there by recreating the events again but something about that doesn’t seem right.

    The question is, what is truth worth if it only leads to unhappiness and sadness? Is truth worth the pain and suffering it causes? In the end, will the truth win out over the lies being permeated in this series.

    I think the big lesson learned is that people don’t like hearing the truth. They would prefer living a big fat lie in a dream world if they could. That is a pretty harsh lesson for a young kid after all the adults tell you to always tell the truth.

    P.S. As for entropy, I’m not expecting the author to be a great scientist. It’s a pretty tough topic. Everything here is fiction so I can live with their version of entropy being fictional too. Imagine the stuff goofy we would have believed if Wikipedia wasn’t here to help us learn. It might have been better though if the author used something “magical” or imaginary instead of something we knew something about so that paragraphs and paragraphs on entropy wouldn’t have been written.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m going to assume that you mean that the lie that you’re talking about is that the mahou shoujos are actually just helping Kyuubey when they think they’re saving mankind.

      In that sense, yes, there is an underlying question of whether the truth is worth it. At the same time though, I think that the series is firmly into the camp of the “truth is good, no matter how much it hurts”. If you just go back and look at Madoka’s conversations with her mom, the general theme is that “you better learn to make your mistakes now, because being an adult is hard.” And learning the truth is part of growing up, and you need to learn how to accept the truth as an adult. No longer can you make those mistakes as an adult. Reality is harsh and you have to adapt to it. I really hope Urobuchi doesn’t make those conversations that Madoka had with her mom worthless by the end though. That would be a downer.

      And as for entropy, I really don’t think that any of us know entropy. But honestly, even someone who learned about entropy in high school would be able to realize that this description of entropy is wrong. There’s a blatant contradiction in the subs when they first say that “energy is lost” (violates the first law of thermodynamics), then “we tried to find a source that isn’t bound by the laws of thermodynamics”. Well that’s great, but you already broke the most important law to begin with. So if Kyuubey is trying to explain this to Madoka in terms that she would understand, he really sucks at it >.>

  14. InstantNoodles
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I think it makes sense that Madoka went from a confident magical girl to the wreck she is now.

    After all, Homura’s wish was for her to protect Madoka like Madoka has protected her, the weak, powerless, and insecure Homura.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      I’m more in the favor that it’s an unintended role reversal as a result of Homura’s increasingly obsessive need to see Madoka remain a normal girl instead of going through hell as a Puella Magi.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Wait so you think that Homura’s wish made Madoka weak? Then why wasn’t she weak in any of the time lines we saw? I think I’m probably misinterpreting what you’re saying, so mind elaborating a bit more?

      • jonjonaug
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

        There’s over a week difference between when Homura is normally released from the hospital and when she normally goes back to school. Timelines 4 and 5 have her stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl, while in the first three timelines Madoka is already a magical girl before she meets Homura.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          I’m still not sure how that clarifies InstantNoodles’s comment, at least in the way that I interpreted it.

          • InstantNoodles
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            I think even in the first timeline, where Madoka is much more confident about herself, she still has doubts on her worth and contributions. These doubts were overcame when she found strength and purpose as a magical girl. Also she is the type who wants to help and protect. I believe by protecting Homura, she got stronger. Also in the first timeline, she died not knowing about QB’s machinations, not knowing about the displacement of her soul, the nature of magical girls and witches. She died believing she did so to battle evil.

            Once Homura actually stopped her from becoming a magical girl, and more and more dark secrets about QB and the contracts are revealed, it prevented Madoka from gaining self confidence by feeling she is being useful, torn her apart as she saw friends fall one by one, and Homura’s sheltering did not help.

            Madoka’s current state may not be the direct result of Homura’s wish, but it is certainly a byproduct of it, kinda like the deadly byproducts of a monkey’s paw wish.

            Don’t know about you guys, but I feel each time Homura went back in time, and Madoka learned more about the truth and got more passive, the timeline got worse and worse, at least from Madoka’s point of view. Now all we need is for Madoka to wish for the power to protect Homura, and start an endless cycle of pain.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

            Right. And this is partly why what Homura is doing is so tragic, as I pointed out in my post. I don’t disagree with you.

  15. BlandUserGsEf
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Regarding episode 9, didn’t Kyoko block Homura from helping her with her barrier? Homura could plant bombs to blow up the barrier, but that would be hindering Kyoko from finishing Sayaka and not showing any awareness that Kyoko made her decision (plus she could just set up another one as well) and just make the situation messier than it needed to be.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Homura didn’t even protest though. After going through 4 different timelines and failing to save Madoka each and every time, you would think that she would logically want all the help she can get every time. Aside from that, she had no qualms about killing Sayaka in T3… Though maybe the yuri subtext didn’t happen in that timeline :P

      • Anchen
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Part of it was probably just story/writing based. Gen need Homura to be alone in the end. The other side if trying to rationalize it was that Homura basically concluded that Kyouko, especially after she put the barrier up, was full intending on killing herself. Maybe she could stop Kyouko but there is a decent chance of Homura did the killing blow/otherwise stopped Kyouko that Kyouko would either snap and turn into a witch, commit suicide anyway, or be completely useless for Walpurgis Night anyway. My opinion on the matter was that Homura basically decided that Kyouko at this point could no longer help her anyway and probably despite Homura’s best efforts is still not completely ‘hardened’ and could at least understand Kyouko’s sacrafice.

        As for the no qualms about killing Sayaka in T3, are you referring to Kyouko or Homura? If it was Kyouko, albeit brief the scene was, basically was the one that called out to Sayaka about what she was doing? And if you mean Homura, I believe she apologies to Sayaka before killing her (“Sorry Miki” with a bit of tears, which is about the most Homura has ever said nicely it seems to Sayaka). As for gathering help, I think that is what she tried to do in T3, but nobody believed her. So in T4 she decided to go with no help at all. In T5 (current) she tried to get selective help but only allying with Kyouko.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

          If Urobuchi really wrote the story this way because Homura needed to be alone, then he’s failed as a story writer. That’s not what you do when you write plot.

          And I highly doubt that Kyouko would snap. Homura saw the effect that Sayaka’s death had on Kyouko in T3. Honestly, Homura has to realize that if she wants to stop Walpurgisnacht, she needs someone else’s help. She couldn’t do it alone in T4. She knows that. What makes her think that T5 will be any different in this regard? That’s just poor thinking on her part.

          And I meant that Homura had no qualms about killing Sayaka. And yes, I do remember now that she said “Sorry Miki”, though she still did it, which is more of the point that I want to make.

  16. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t say emotions destabilise the world – it’s more about perspective. The witches are bad for humans, but ultimately good for the universe. Emotions are the magic here – it is emotion (hope, angst) which surpasses physical laws, according to Kyubey, allowing him/them to reverse the supposedly one-way decay of cosmic order.

    You say that the ‘sci-fi thing’ draws attention away from the human aspects, but I thought that the bland, matter-of-fact way that Kyubey delivered this information made it seem as though it wasn’t really supposed to be a focus of the series. Madoka never even understood it. It’s an explanation of issues way above her head, because like the viewer all she sees is the human level.

    As a final point (I’m writing this comment as I read above!), I think you’re right in saying that Homura has basically ruined the Madoka she loved and is devoted to protecting. That’s a big part of her tragedy. After all that, her one focus is that Madoka lives – even if she hates Homura, even if she has a crappy time. Homura’s that single-minded. Well, she seems to have had an obsessive streak all along…

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Well TECHNICALLY, emotions do destabilize the universe, since Witches cause widespread destruction, thus causing the heat death of the universe faster. Technically. Whether that’s outweighed by the energy created by their creation is something that’s never addressed. But whatever.

      I disagree. If the sci-fi elements weren’t there, I wouldn’t have needed to even ask the question of whether what Kyuubey is doing is good for the universe or not. Instead, that same space probably could have been used to examine, for example, the context of Madoka’s conversations with her mom in context of everything that’s been happening, or something like that.

      When you begin adding different themes into stories, the readers attention is inevitably pulled into different directions. As evidence, I’d recommend just reading through some of the reactionary posts to episode 9, and see just how much space the sci-fi elements took up in these posts.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s quite obvious that the energy created by becoming a witch is greater than any universal destabilization that might occur. That is QB’s whole purpose. He specifically says he doesn’t care if MadokaWitch destroys Earth – he has his energy, smell ya later!

        • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          It depends on how much destruction the Witch causes. If it destroys enough, eventually the “energy loss” will be great enough to speed up the heat death of the universe. What I’m saying is that by becoming Witches, they naturally cause destruction, which is obviously bad. Considering that emotions aren’t bound by thermodynamic laws, I think it’s safe to say that Witches aren’t either. But this is just theorizing on my part.

  17. Chronolynx
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Madoka. I think the reason she’s so confident in “T1″ (god I hate this nomenclature) is because she finally feels like she’s being useful, which you might recall has been a good part of her motivation thus far. Without that, she feels useless, and thus the unending angst we see from her in this timeline. I like your point that Homura so far has mostly only succeeded in destroying the Madoka she admired, but if we get Happy End there’s nothing to say that the confident Madoka won’t return once everything’s said and done. You know, that whole “you don’t need to be a magical girl to be useful” moral. (This has some interesting implications if we go back to the whole grief seeds = drugs metaphor people were tossing about way back when.)

    An interesting point I haven’t seen addressed yet (not that I’ve really been looking) is the other result of Homura’s meddling. The first few timelines had Madoka be a magical girl. Yet it seems once Homura starts interfering with Kyubey Madoka becomes more and more special. The first few iterations have her die/become a witch post-Walpurgis night, but suddenly she kills it in one shot the fourth go ’round. Perhaps, magical girls being powered by emotions, Madoka’s emotional traumas she endures from not making a contract increase her potential. But then didn’t Kyubey say she was special from the get-go? (Or was it only post-Mami. Can’t remember.)

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Possibly Homura’s meddling with time has had some effect on the whole entropy situation. Current-time Kyubey didn’t seem that aware of the time manipulation… maybe the potential he percieved in Madoka was related to her life being so manipulated. Or maybe Homura’s grief every time she fails Madoka is a useful emotional outpouring. Who knows?

      If the energy released increases with each iteration of Homura’s quest, then Kyubey was once again rather clever in getting Homura to make that wish in the first place, even if current-time Kyubey doesn’t know it.

      • Chronolynx
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        I was thinking something along those lines, but couldn’t phrase it in a way that made sense/didn’t sound stupid. So thank you.

        But yes, that would be very fun to see in the case of a bad end, where Homura learns too late that her meddling has only made things worse, etc. And it further solidifies Kyubey as manipulative bastard numero uno.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Also, a race so advanced as to actually worry about the heat death of the universe in a bazillion years, and find a way to potentially reverse it, probably thinks of any implications of time travel, especially if they are able to grant it, albeit in a random manner. Perhaps every time Homura goes back, the QB’s get that energy again and again. The individual QB’s wouldn’t note it, but maybe they have some mechanism to deal with it.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Like I said above, there’s no true way of knowing without a proper comparison. And we just don’t get that in episode 10. Also reiterating my previous comments, what I find jarring is the crazy disparity between the Madoka that won’t contract to help Sayaka once she contracted, and the Madoka who sacrificed herself to save Homura. You may be able to explain it, but they still feel like two different people, at least to me. I was struggling through half of episode 10 to figure out why Madoka would have such a radical personality shift. Not really something that I would leave to the viewers, especially with just vague evidence pointing in one direction.

      The fact that she OHKO’d it in T4 doesn’t necessarily mean that she got more powerful. It’s possible that she just decided to suicide with everything she had in T4 to save Homura or something, which caused the OHKO. Like Kyouko. Makes as much sense as Sayaka and Kyouko suddenly popping up in T3.

  18. amado
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everyone else.
    the problem I think is that you dont really think the characters will change or at least not quickly. the thing is, its not really the fact that they changed, its that it was always in them and the current revelations helped pull it out. your not considering the fact that there might be more to the characters than what they appear to be.

    your thinking that kyouko was always a mean person and never a good one. her history was shown that she did but it ended up bad for her so she decided to change her personality. wanting to help your family and also wanting to save people is quite close to each other so its not that strange for her to want to be like a hero. the reason for her change is not only on the revelations but also on sayaka.
    sayaka was like kyouko in the past. she wanted to be hero and also does it to help someone she loves. kyouko, wanting her to see the harsh reality, tried to drive it home to sayaka. but instead, sayaka kept her resolve and still tried to be a hero even though the odds were against her. this made kyouko remember back to how she was and now she pitied sayaka for having the same situation as she did but much worse because of the truth. and thus she decided to try to help her by showing to her her past, saving her from elsa maria and later homura. and when it became clear she couldnt save sayaka from her fate, she decided to put her out of misery and also not leave her lonely so she also killed herself.

    basically put, you have to consider that they’re not what they look at first glance. its like saying a kind person has never done anything bad or is not actually a despicable man.

    kyouko might not be as evil as she seems.
    madoka might not be as helpless as she is.
    homura might not be as stoic as she looks.
    sayaka might not be as selfless as she seems.
    mami might not be as sane as she looks.

    not everyone is what they seem at a glance. you need to expect that they might not be as good or bad as they are.

    • einnashe
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Bingo. None of the characters have changed. Kyouko has a mean bark, but never strikes the first blow physically. Sayaka acts altruistic, but it’s really just a cover for her selfishness. Mami pretends to be a cool and confident senpai but is just as conflicted and emotional as her protégée, if not moreso.

      Homura is better looked at as the traditional magical girl heroine: the shy, awkward young woman who finds her courage in the magical world through the power of friendship and grows as a result. She isn’t Fate, she’s Nanoha. But because the magical world in MadoMagi is cruel, that growth is a amalgam of the other characters: like Sayaka, she doesn’t protect Madoka out of altruism, but her own selfish desire. Like Kyouko, she acts cold and callous, to defend herself and Madoka. Like Mami, despite her aloof attitude, she’s just a weak girl, weaker than Madoka.

      And then there’s Madoka, whose fundamental character hasn’t changed, but having been exposed to the truth told Homura to go back again and stop her.

      Kyubey’s contract doesn’t change people; it draws out the darkness already inside them.

      (Speaking of the little bastard, I think some people get too hung up on the sci-fi thing sometimes. I can’t remember the last time I saw a magical girl series that didn’t involve aliens or sci-fi in some way. Sailor Moon, Nanoha, Pretty Cure… if Kyubey said he was from the Garden of Light and needed Madoka’s power to fight the Dark King nobody would bat an eye.)

      I unfortunately have to agree with David–I think there’s a lot slipping under your radar. It isn’t meant as an insult, simply an observation that there’s so much subtle thematic and narrative interplay at this point in the show that it’s hard to even know where to start.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        (Speaking of the little bastard, I think some people get too hung up on the sci-fi thing sometimes. I can’t remember the last time I saw a magical girl series that didn’t involve aliens or sci-fi in some way. Sailor Moon, Nanoha, Pretty Cure… if Kyubey said he was from the Garden of Light and needed Madoka’s power to fight the Dark King nobody would bat an eye.)

        This, this, THIS! Damn some people are pretty butt-hurt about it, especially about the inaccuracy of the science. Even in straight sci-fi shows like Star Trek or whatever that actually have science consultants and stuff do junk FAR worse than this, and fandom (other than the few obsessive-compulsives) just chuckles, rolls their eyes, and then moves on. But when Madoka does it, OH NOES, TEH SHOW IS RUINED!!!1!

        Though perhaps Madoka fandom pretty much are those obsessive-compulsives.

      • Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

        @einnashe: … Kyouko actively seeked out Sayaka and challenged/prompted her to a battle. Twice. And I think based on your descriptions you mean to say that their appearances aren’t what they seem, not that “the characters haven’t changed”. I’ve tackled every character in some other comment here, so go search for a specific issue that you have if you still want to argue this point.

        And Kyuubey’s contract doesn’t change anyone. At all. It doesn’t do anything, really. However, what it does is allow for the possibility of darkness creeping into hearts.

        And yes, that’s exactly why I dislike the introduction of the science part of it. It’s completely unnecessary, and only draws attention away from the more important issues in Madoka Magica.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      What I have trouble with Kyouko is that her “defense mechanism”, if you want to call it that, is insanely brutal. Wanting to kill Sayaka? Wanting to “knock off” other mahou shoujos for their territory? What a far cry from this supposedly tameish Kyouko.

      Perhaps my real issue with the characters in Madoka is that there doesn’t seem to be a given explanation for why characters act the way they do. A lot of the comments in this post seem to deal with sort of “theories” that explain why the characters in Madoka Magica are the way they are. But the show never truly explains their actions in a fashion that cleans up all of the loopholes, and that doesn’t force the audience to make an interpretive jump from one thing to another. That’s still a theory of mine though.

  19. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow I think we have the exact OPPOSITE reaction. I thought episode 9 was a bit weird because of the weird injection of Sci Fi but episode 10 was somehow LEGENDARY for me. Actually Madoka’s personality changing is because of Homura I think. In the first iterations, Homura is actually kind to Madoka making Madoka have a little bit more confidence in herself. But then Homura gave her a cold shoulder so she can’t be confident. . . and Madoka isn’t that much of a PoS but she’s just uninteresting. I don’t think the personalities are changing at all.

    Well opinions do vary I guess but its really rare for someone who watches Madoka and not love it like we all do.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      I never said that episode 9 was fantastic. Just decent. And as I explained above, my beef with episode 10 is largely because of how it mars the overall narrative more than its content, although it also brings up a lot more questions than it answers, which I also dislike.

      You contradicted yourself when you say that “Madoka’s personality changing is because of Homura”, and at the end you say “I don’t think the personalities are changing at all”. Could you please clarify?

      • Posted March 27, 2011 at 3:35 am | Permalink

        Lol what I meant was how she would react to Homura. If Homura was a kid shy girl then Madoka would react in a positive way and not how she reacted back in episode 1 wherein Homura was cold. I meant how she would react to Homura to that situation. She still has the same personality and what I meant to say was the writers are consistent and they weren’t making mistakes with the characters. Imo though.

  20. Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    I think the writer misinterpret the changes in Madoka’s personality in the different timelines. What I just read is all rant and bashing. Their are bloggers who despite not liking the series they are watching could still create a good blog to read that wouldn’t alienate fans of the said series despite having a negative opinion of the show, this site doesn’t catch it.

    And of course this comment of mine could also be interpreted as rant.

  21. Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    First off, I don’t see any conflict between Kyouko in her two stated motivations. We know her wish was to get people to listen to her dad. In 9 she said she was into good-and-justice and all that. What if, perhaps, she thought that her dad’s message WAS that stuff. Or, perhaps, that she wanted to be a magical girl to protect people and whatever, but she just needed a good wish, like Madoka in Ep.3? In any case, when Kyouko warns Sayaka against her attitude, it was because she knew what that got her – just misery – from personal experience. I thought that was pretty clear way back then, but I guess not.

    Also, while the science itself was…questionable, QB’s motivation isn’t strange. Trying to save the universe from a natural death in the far, far future isn’t new in science fiction. A sufficiently advanced race might worry about that stuff, and think on that kind of time-scale, especially if they plan to be around by that point (and don’t forget that the end of any life would come LONG before the actual heat-death of the universe itself). Hell, we have theoretical physicists out there working on it now (well, more like an escape plan, heh). Perhaps the QB’s need a looong time to implement their plan. Who knows. For an example of this, check out Fredrich Pohl’s Heeche/Gateway saga.

    Also note, when Madoka goes witch that one time, QB says he’s met his quota (for the earth). I think that rather heavily infers that there are other QB’s out there, on other planets with emotional, young races, doing the exact same thing.

    I’m not going to get into the themes of all this. Not only do they not terribly interest me (as you can see above, I’m much more interested in the sci-fi specifics, heh), but this is Urobachi we’re talking about here. He’s twisted. And SHAFT is doing his story. If this has any more redeeming value than a dark entertainment, I’ll be surprised.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think her dad’s sermons were about fairy tales where the good guy always wins. That makes little sense. And I highly doubt that she “needed a good wish”. She was clearly expressing anger while recounting her background. And what you say at the end is contradictory with what Kyouko says, in that at first she was pretty much a bitch (more or less what she says in ep 9), but she changed because of Sayaka.

      I don’t recall ever questioning Kyuubey’s motivation. In fact I try to justify it in one of the above comments.

      Yes that’s possible.

      That’s a discredit to Urobuchi by saying that his shows have little value other than dark entertainment. Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom was hardly just dark entertainment.

      • Anarchy
        Posted March 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        I think her comments about believing in stories of “love and courage winning out in the end” go perfectly well with the fact that she contracted in order to help her father. Look at it this way: Why does she become a magical girl? Because she loves her father and wants to make him happy. What’s involved in fighting witches? Courage. Her love gives her the courage to fight, and to contract in the first place. She believes that, like in the stories of “love and courage winning”, that her love and courage will lead her father and her family to a happy ending. Remember how she talks about herself fighting witches while her father fights social ills? That’s very much a picture perfect example of a story where love and courage (her father’s love for humanity and courage to go against doctrine, coupled with her love for her father and courage to risk her life to fight witches) wins in the end. That is what Kyouko wants, and why she contracts. So, no, I don’t see a contradiction at all. This was never an issue for me when I was watching because it naturally made sense to me.

        Re: Entropy

        Energy can never be destroyed, but it can be converted into a state where it becomes unusable for any kind of “work”, and so eventually the universe will become nothing but a mass of useless energy lying around. Is what I understand of entropy anyway. So theoretically, even though energy is not literally, physically lost, you can call it lost in the sense that you can’t use it to do anything useful anymore.

        I also thought that the entropy thing was absolutely brilliant (I apparently have a higher tolerance of genre blending than most) precise because of the reason you hated it: the fact that the moral issues have been expanded to the absolute maximum. What could be a bigger issue than the death of the universe itself? I love the moral ambiguity it injects into the series: like you very rightly pointed out, we’ve followed these girls’ individual lives, seen them live, love, and die, we empathize with them, we hate Kyubee for causing all this pain for them, and then we learn that what’s at stake here is not just the lives of these characters, or even the lives of people on earth, but the universe and everything that lives in it. I do agree with you that the show seems to critique the idea of sacrificing individuals for the greater good, just because we’re being shown the side of the individuals being sacrificed, but at the same time, there’s also a critique of selfishness and self-centeredness and the assumption that the universe revolves around you and your loved ones. Kyouko wishes for her father (and subsequently, herself and her family) to be happy and successful – her entire family gets massacred. Sayaka wishes for Kamijou to be healed because of her love for him – she turns into a witch and is killed. Homura has gone back in time again and again in order to save the girl that she loves, but every iteration has just gotten worse and worse. Moreover, she’s gotten to the point where no one else but Madoka matters. Sayaka gets killed. No problem as long as Madoka’s not hurt too much by it. Kyouko gets killed. That’s all right too, nothing worth resetting time for. Mami is killed. Surprising, but she should have listened in the first place. All these other girls that we care about are dying and suffering, and Homura does not care because she’s so single-mindedly, selfishly focused on well being of the only person she cares about, not even when her attempts to make Madoka happy result in worse fates for the other characters.

        I think there are parallels with the selfishness of the characters with regards to their wishes and the selfishness of humans with regards to the universe. Because of the selfish, self-centered position that the characters take, because of the inability to see beyond their own interests – which is of course justified from the characters’ and audiences’ point of view – they cause even more suffering in the long run. The same way that the self-centered human-centric position is not going to help the universe in the long run.

        But I do agree that even with these complications, mainly the show is criticizing utilitarianism and how individual lives do matter (at least to the individuals in question). This would be a good show to give to people who are sending other people off to sacrifice themselves in the name of the “greater good”. Soldiers, for example. People have done the exact same thing Kyubee is doing for far more trivial matters (temporary occupation of a few scraps of land, natural resources, honor, glory, revenge), compared to the survival of the entire universe, and I just find it ironic that as soon as Kyubee does something similar, he’s evil. That just goes to show how successful the show’s emotional manipulation of the viewers is, as you pointed out.

        • Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          I’ve repeated this point quite a few times, but I’ll just summarize it again: The tone that Kyouko tells her story originally just doesn’t match up with the idea that she became a “mahou shoujo because she loved those stories”. When she originally told her story, the tone certainly wasn’t one where you could tell that these stories of “love and courage” ever crossed her mind. She doesn’t even make a reference to these stories. But this might just end up being a rather moot point to argue over. Overall, it doesn’t impact Kyouko’s characterization too much.

          Yes your description of entropy is accurate. However, there are ways of getting energy back into a usable form, so you can’t say that the energy is truly lost.

          I think you end up falling on the opposite side of the spectrum compared to me for this issue, but that is an interesting case for the side of “sci-fi is good”. Although you make some great points, my worry is that because of these greater morality issues, some other elements of the show might not see the proper development that they need to see. For example, the context of a “greater morality” has no relation to any of the talks that Madoka had with her mom, and those played a very important role earlier in the series. Where will the material in those talks end up being discussed for the final two episodes of the show? Will they end up competing with the morality issue for the airtime? These are issues that come up in my mind, and I can’t really give a proper judgment on Madoka Magica until I see how the final two episodes are handled. I do hope that a satisfactory ending is achieved though, and that my worries end up being unfounded, but I just have this nagging suspicion…

          • Anarchy
            Posted March 26, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink

            I feel the stories thing is more of a shorthand for “Kyouko believes in love and courage in general”, not “the only and main reason Kyouko contracted was because she is a fan of a specific set of stories that have love and courage winning in the end”. Which is why she doesn’t bring up any of those stories; the stories aren’t the direct cause of why she contracts, they are the cause only in the sense that they influenced her general attitude and beliefs about love and courage.

            You know, I’m a huge fan of condensed works and tight pacing, but if I understand you correctly, you’re more worried that they’re trying to pack too many ideas and themes into a single show, and that they’re moving away from what you perceive as the original themes. Personally, I enjoy the tackling of the wider moral issues; I feel that they’re more important and central to the show compared to some other elements of the show that, as you rightly point out, have been abandoned, such as the issues surrounding Madoka’s family and friends. For me though, from the very beginning, there was always this insistent, nagging question of “Why are these witches there? Why must there be magical girls to fight them? What the hell is up with QB?” And the entropy episode solved all those mysteries for me and changed the significance of the deaths and sacrifices and suffering we see in previous episodes – in a way that simultaneously added depth and meaning to their deaths (you’re helping to save the universe) and horror and despair (all this time you thought you were saving your fellow humans from monsters – now it turns out all of it is a lie and all your struggles weren’t for what you thought they were for). The entire paradigm or worldview from which we interpret the events of the show change, and I really like this added dimension. Whereas Madoka’s family and friends felt more like incidental background dressing with minimal function; they were there more to add flavor and show what Madoka’s stakes are, than anything else. But I do think that in a show as condensed as this, every single detail counts, and the background dressing was given a lot of attention, disproportionately so in relation to their actual function and significance in the overall plot. Perhaps that kind of proportion was deliberately chosen in order to lull the viewer into thinking that this was going to be a regular slice of life-ish magical girl anime? Highlighting the tropes of the genre in order to make it even more obvious when the show takes them apart?

            I do agree with you that we need to wait for the last two episodes and see the work in its entirety before making any final judgments on how well the themes and ideas work together. It seems somewhat unlikely that ideas brought up in the earlier part of the show will be addressed in the context of all that has happened, but who knows?

            Re: Entropy

            Perhaps it might be more useful to just accept that that’s the way things work in Madoka’s universe (which, somehow, also allows for energy to be generated through some mysterious combination of magic and emotions, completely bypassing the laws of physics), because the revelation of the heat death combat plan seems to have less to do with a hard sci fi exploration of entropy and its possible effects on the universe, and more with the introduction of moral ambiguity, the critique of the typical good (magical girl) vs evil (monsters) set up, the thematic exploration of you own well-being vs other people’s well being, the critique of the typical magical girl altruism and self-sacrificing attitude, and so on. In any case, it seems that entropy, as Kyubee describes it, is true for Madoka’s universe, and if that’s the case, we can criticize Urobuchi’s lack of scientific understanding all we want (the heat death theory is rather problematic with our current understanding of physics, is the impression I get), but that won’t help us in terms of actually analyzing the show itself. Of course, this handwaving, don’t look at it too closely attitude is a cop out, but we can only work with what the work gives us, I guess.

  22. Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Just a note for everyone, this is quickly turning into a gigantic melee where I have like 5 highly detailed and long comments to deal with on a consistent basis, and because I have other outstanding commitments, I don’t think I’ll be able to answer them all with as much detail as I want to considering my limited time, so some of my responses might be strangely short and non-explanatory. Sorry. I really don’t want to leave comments hanging or anything like last time, so I’m opting for this instead >.>

  23. Marcomax
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your episode reviews. It took me a while to find a reviewer to look would look at the show critically. While I’m still enjoying the series, it’s always great to hear another persons point of view. Don’t really have much else to say but keep up the good work.

    • Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Ahaha yeah, but there’s just too much to say about Madoka Magica, so I’m cutting off a lot of stuff, and it’s coming out all wrong. I need to work on that… Plus I’m glad to have all these people to talk to! It’s softening my view on Madoka Magica a bit :P

  24. Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    The two things that really annoyed me was when Homura left Kyouko to die and when Kyuubey started talking of entropy. I guess you could say Homura was blinded by her obsession with Madoka too much to care about Kyouko, but that doesn’t explain why she saved Sayaka after being thrown off the bridge. As for the sci-fi, it felt like Scrapped Princess and Utawarerumono all over again. Two perfectly good fantasy anime turned sci-fi just for the sake of having some sci-fi in there.

    • Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      I would assume that she probably saved Sayaka because she’s seen the effect that Sayaka’s downfall has had on mahou shoujos before… But that raises the question of why she didn’t keep a solid tack on Sayaka in T5… Sigh another mystery I guess!

      For the sci-fi, I haven’t watched either series, but I’m annoyed with it for reasons other than just the fact that it’s sci-fi in fantasy. I think my comment here would clear that up a bit. http://psychopompblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/genre-flexibility/ (It might still be awaiting moderation)

  25. Posted March 25, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    A few random points on the episodes:

    I don’t think it’s a given that the girls that Kyubei approaches are “normal” in an emotional sense anyway. While he may be able to suspect dormant abilities like he does in Madoka, I wonder if he can also detect their emotional level too. We see in Ep. 10 that he’s just trying to meet a quota for the amount of energy that he collects, and doesn’t care if Witch Madoka destroys the world in the end, so who’s to say that he isn’t also targeting girls that he thinks are particularly emotional as it could yield him more energy to meet his quota faster. Granted there’s no mention of this in the show, but such actions would meet his MO.

    In terms of why Madoka is different in the time line that most of the show takes place in, I can only assume it’s because Homura finally managed to keep Kyubei away from her so she couldn’t make her contract. Kyubei told Madoka she’d be strong and confident if she became a Puella Magi (maybe it was just a ploy that acted as a placebo to boost Madoka’s confidence, who knows), so if she made the contract prior to meeting Homura in all of the other time lines, that would explain the difference in behavior compared to what we’ve seen in the series.

    “In essence, she’s completely destroyed what she was trying to protect in the first place. What Homura respected in Madoka was her confident image and her self-sacrificing attitude. Now she’s taken both of those things away from her. In essence, she’s stripped Madoka of her identity.”

    Why would she do this? In one of the latter time lines Madoka asked Homura to prevent her from becoming a Puella Magi. Even if Homura respected the brave Madoka of these time lines, perhaps its this respect that drove her to fulfill Madoka’s wish to not become a magi in the first place. It may be a strong sense of duty in this regard that overrode any desire to simply bring the Madoka she knew back in a better time line.

    • Posted March 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      That’s certainly possible. I mean if he can detect Madoka’s potential, it stands to reason that he can do so for the other girls as well.

      The issue concerning Madoka’s personality change is addressed in some comment up there, and I think the issue you brought up was raised up there as well.

      Your final point is also addressed somewhere, and I really wanted to find it, but after scrolling up for a few minutes and having my eyes glaze over amid a sea of text, I really lost my motivation to find where it is. Sorry >.>

      But a quick summary of what I would say is that even though Homura may try to save Madoka’s life, ultimately this Madoka won’t be the Madoka that Homura knew and respected. When Homura first contracted, her explicit wish was to save Madoka’s life. However, what made Madoka such a great person to begin with was the fact that she was willing to sacrifice her life to save her friend. Homura is doing both herself and Madoka a disservice by trying to void that self-sacrificing ideal that Madoka held onto.

      • Dawnstorm
        Posted March 26, 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

        However, what made Madoka such a great person to begin with was the fact that she was willing to sacrifice her life to save her friend. Homura is doing both herself and Madoka a disservice by trying to void that self-sacrificing ideal that Madoka held onto.

        Well, yes and no. It’s the hero’s dilemma. Two people would each give their respective life for each other. A situation arises. Who gets to be the hero?

        Madoka has self-esteem issues. Risking her life gives her confidence in a way nothing else does. She’s protecting the ones she loves, and if she doesn’t she’s useless. It gives her the power to act confident and cheerful. That, in turn, attracts Homura. The irony is that Homura, because of her heart condition, also feels pretty inferior. So there’s brave, bright, cheerful Madoka encouraging her and fighting for her. Homura must protect her. After all, a world without Homura isn’t that bad a thing, but a world without Madoka?

        They basically suffer from similar self-esteem issues, and both find the same source of confidence. Homura is more limited – only wanting to protect Madoka. Madoka’s more general, wanting to protect everyone. But, even if it’s more personal for Homura, both are willing to go down fighting for the other. So, who gets to be the hero?

        Homura and Madoka aren’t the only pairing, though. It’s a side-theme to Sayaka, too. Remember the talk between Madoka and Sayaka at the river bank, where Sayaka appologises to Madoka for contracting, even though they decided together not to? One thing Sayaka brought up was: now that Sayaka’s contracted, Madoka doesn’t have to. Madoka, however, doesn’t really respond with gratitude. Rather, she starts worrying and tagging along. This will eventually lead to Sayaka snapping at Madoka: if Madoka knows everything better, why doesn’t she contract herself? It’s not what Sayaka meant to say, really. But she was on a downward spiral of self-destruction; her confidence ebbing away. She’s basically looking for a reason to go on, and a simple “thank you, Sayaka, because of you I’m free to live a normal life” from Madoka would have probably done the job. But silly little Madoka is worrying and tagging along and putting herself in danger…

        And for a fun thought experiment: do you think Kamijou would feel grateful to Sayaka for throwing her life away to heal his arm? I’d feel guilty, actually.

        And what about Kyouko? She’s saccing herself to take out Sayaka: has a huge symbolic meaning for herself, and potentially saves people from her witch-form. Pointless? Maybe. Maybe not.

        So, if it’s heroic to sacrifice yourself, why isn’t it heroic to go on living in honour of someone else’s sacrifice? You can clearly level that at Homura. But you can also level that at Madoka: honour Sayaka’s magical-girl-dom and be Madoka for those who rely on her (such as her family). What qualifies you to die for someone? What qualifies you to be died for?

        IMO, what makes Madoka stand out in the series isn’t that she’s willing to sacrifice herself. With the exception of Mami, pretty much all the girls went into mg-dom with that sort of ideal. Madoka stands out because she’s the only one who’s asked for help with her head bowed: Homura to save Sayaka. Part of it was certainly that she was scared to contract and do it herself. And no doubt she’s beating herself up over it. Still, to me, that scene stands out more than any of the self-sacrificial fighting. Madoka’s got the power to connect to others. She has enough courage when it matters (grabbing buckets while facing the anger of a horde of fanatics and the background threat of witch, for example), but she’s the one in the show who’s best at connecting to others.

        Pity she’s got self-esteem issues. She’d definitely agree with your posts, and that’s why she’ll make a splendid witch. Because, ultimately, the issue doesn’t go away (unless Madoka dies, of course, as in T1).

        [Aside: I'm probably one of the few people who actually had a penny drop when the entropy thing came up. Something doesn't quite fit, but basically I think a soul gem is soul energy made into physical energy. In Buddhist terms, I'd say the soul gem is the literal form of attachment: metaphorically, to your wish, and literally to the material world. Now the soul's subject to entropy: energy only flows from hope (hot) to despair (cold). Despair will never energise hope. So what ultimately remains is a grief seed... ultimate emotional entropy. If it comes into contact with other emotional energy sources, though, it might suck up some energy from those... and spawn a new witch (as we've seen with Charlotte). But as I said, something doesn't quite fit. (Btw, I think Kyubey's wrong, and ultimately this won't decrease entropy. It'll just lead to more emotional entropy, which will lead to a lower birth rate through despair, apathy and premature death... And finally the physical-emotional system will balance out with no interaction left - 2nd law applies, just on a higher level than the universal, but Kyubey's folks won't get it until it's too late, unless someone manages to teach them about emotions.)]

  26. Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    That’s a great point about the different Madoka’s in different timelines. Even if Homura does manage to save the current Madoka, what does that mean for Homura? And for the Madoka that died? The first Madoka and the current one are so different, they’re arguably two different people. Homura is simply holding onto an illusion and a false sense of responsibility to a past promise… It’s kind of sad really.

  27. EvilDevil
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to say that I read your review and read the comments. I disagree, but comments have already been done so I wont repeat what it was said. All I can say is that I dont think we will ever agree regarding the series, some see it as a work of genius while others have handed their criticism. Whatever the case I dont think we are ever going to agree at this point.

  28. Kobukson
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    The interesting part that I think we need to have answered is why Kyuubey needs the permission of these girls. To me this either shows that the making of the wish is either a critical part of making a witch and thus you can’t start making any girl into a witch without it or that Kyuubey’s kind may still have similar ethical or moral boundaries that Kyuubey is purposely messing with a bit in order to meet his quota.

  29. Juno
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Forgive me if you detest posting on old blog posts, but I found your opinions on this anime to be one of the most intriguing I’ve seen so far. They aren’t perfect by any means, but in a way, reading your blog posts about the show are like watching a new show in itself, full of questions and mysteries, as well as irony in your assumptions compared to what we all know happens later. Now that episodes 11 and 12 are LONG past released, and I know what happens… I feel like I’m missing the last two episodes of your blog posts (literally?). And I can’t rest until I see them.

    If you HAVE already posted about them, forgive me. I have trouble surfing blog websites and I always miss SOMETHING. On the other hand, if you haven’t posted about them yet, would you ever be willing to do so? …And if you’re not, then just say so, but I at least want to know if your opinion had faltered in any way–Would you personally consider it a masterpiece in any way? Or would you say it’s a fallen masterpiece (lots of potential –> poor execution of such potential)? Did you enjoy it thoroughly or did the conclusion want to make you rot your eyes out for the plot crack it is? I’m genuinely interested in that, at least. =)

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  • By Genre Flexibility | Psychopomp on March 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    [...] was reminded of this frustration while reading about Madoka Magica this week. Mystlord’s continuing disappointment with the show has been the source of much interesting discussion, which after all is what blogging [...]

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