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.
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…
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…
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.