Posts Tagged ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’

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Not long ago, Nick Calibey at A Rather Silly Blog posted a two-part response in the ongoing Madoka and Jesus as Saviors discussion. While the posts that started the discussion at Alex’s Ashita no Anime blog were written from an atheist/agnostic perspective, Nick attempted to show the themes of Madoka Magica from a Buddhist perspective, then compare them with his own Christian beliefs. I would like to offer some of my own musings on the issue, presented as a response to Nick’s claims. My upbringing and theoretical background are purely Christian (Roman Catholic, to be precise), but I consider myself a practicing Buddhist. My comments will therefore be the reverse of Nick’s – with the Christian constructs based on a more technical understanding, and the Buddhist elements coming from personal experience.

Nicks’s posts can be found here and here. As both are very long and detailed, I will offer a summary of the point discussed before offering my thoughts on it. I will strive to offer as fair a summary of the points as my understanding of Nick’s post allows (and inevitably fail to do him justice), so you may read through his posts first, or go straight to my response, as you see fit.

Nick: Madoka herself is not the locus of salvation. Madoka’s own transformation is because of the karmic power of the universe, something that while humans interact with, ultimately lays external to them, and as such it is that karmic power that is the actual saving factor and not Madoka. Unbeknownst to her, Madoka had to wait for karmic time lines to build up in order for her transformation to occur since it is karma and not herself that is the locus of salvation.

As a side note, I cannot exactly agree with Nick’s notion that karma is external to the being it belongs to. Enlightenment signifies the individual cessation of karma, and the Buddhist endgame equivalent to the Christian Judgment Day is the universal cessation of karma, neither of which would be possible if karma were external to the beings of this world. To begin with, if we assume karma to be an external force, it necessarily follows that it holds little bearing on achieving enlightenment, as most variants of Buddhist thought hold that external factors are illusionary, and the way to enlightenment is through dispelling that illusion. Thankfully, this point is not actually that important for analyzing Madoka, so there is no need to argue this.

The reason why Nick thinks that Madoka needed to wait for karmic lines to build up is that he equates her wish and ascension/transformation with her act of salvation. This does not, however, make much sense from a Buddhist perspective. We may of course choose to view Madoka’s wish as the moment where she makes her Bodhisattva vows. We may see her ascension as the point where Madoka leaves behind the mortal part of her journey and gains eternity. Viewed like that, the event is certainly not without meaning to many Buddhist interpretations of the story. But if we are truly concerned with a Buddhist interpretation, then the crux of salvation must be enlightenment.

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Enlightenment cannot be granted by space squirrels (we are already born with the potential to reach enlightenment). Enlightenment is not concerned with power levels. Enlightenment is seeing things for what they are by conquering one’s attachments and aversions. Madoka was technically capable of achieving enlightenment in each and every timeline, as was every other creature existing in those timelines.

What was it then, that caused a change profound enough for Madoka to succeed in the last timeline, when she failed in every other? Certainly it was not the fact of her karmic burden and the potential power of her wish increasing – Madoka learns of her potential mid-series, long before she becomes capable of making her ultimate wish. In fact, Madoka’s impulse upon learning of the potential of her wish is to undo Sayaka’s transformation into a magical girl – a wish which would have surely ended in despair for everyone involved. No, the reason for Madoka’s change had to come later, and trying to grasp it means creating a new interpretation of the entire show for every answer proposed. Let me discuss just one possible answer.

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From the beginning of the series, we can see that Madoka holds a deep love for others. As she gets dragged into mortal peril again and again throughout the story, the only thing that allows Madoka to overcome her natural fear of death is her dedication and loyalty to her friends. Multiple times, Madoka is ready to sacrifice her happy and stable life and become a magical girl to help out the other girls – a decision always prevented by Homura in the nick of time. The flashbacks of the original timeline show that Madoka’s love reaches even further, as she immediately extends a helping hand to the stranger-in-need Homura, and takes on the responsibility of a magical girl to save the life of the cat Amy. A deep love and compassion for all beings is one of the ideals often associated with those who achieved enlightenment, yet the Madoka of previous timelines always ended up a step short of reaching salvation. The reason for that is simple. That Madoka loved all those around her, but she did not yet love herself.

Throughout the show, basically any comment Madoka makes about herself is full of self-deprecation. She says she is clumsy, stupid and has no redeeming qualities. Upon seeing the flashback episodes, many people were shocked – how did the cheerful and confident Madoka from the past timeline turn into the frightened little girl we see in the final timeline? But it is not to be underestimated how world-changing the experience of becoming a magical girl was to Madoka – in saving Amy, Homura and the people of Mitakihara, Madoka received undeniable proof of her worth for the first time in her life. This new awareness turned Madoka into who would become Homura’s savior. But from a Buddhist perspective, there is a tragic element to the hero Madoka born that way – she chooses to sacrifice her safety for others not only because she sees how precious their lives are, but also because she considers the risk to her own life a cheap price in comparison. She gains confidence in herself when fighting as a magical girl, but that confidence is largely dependent on the new powers and abilities she gained. Even as she grows as a person, the magical girl Madoka is still limited by her aversion towards herself and her new attachment to power.

Nick thinks that Madoka became ready for her act of salvation because she had stacked up enough timeline power. I believe that Madoka became ready the moment that Homura, always bearing her burdens in silence, broke down before Madoka in a display of emotion so raw that it could not be doubted. Before the impending Walpurgisnacht, facing a battle which could only end in failure, Homura states that she will go and fight and lose everything if it means saving Madoka, because it is Madoka alone that is worth the whole world to her. And it is not the cool and powerful Madoka affirmed this way, it is the clueless and ditzy middle school girl who is powerless to help her friends. Through this display of pure love and devotion, Madoka is forced to consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, her own existence is equally as precious as the lives of others. Madoka gains the confidence she had in some of the previous timelines, but does so without becoming a magical girl. Sacrifice and power are no longer necessary for her to establish her self-worth, and Madoka is finally awake.

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Countless times in the previous timelines, Madoka had been badgered into selling her soul cheap. But Homura teaches Madoka that her life is worth the world, and when Madoka next offers up her earthly existence, she will ask for the world in return.

The time-altering, dimension-smashing and world-rewriting fireworks Madoka shows us are impressive, but not key to her nature as an enlightened being. The fact she can formulate a karma-destroying wish in the first place is enough to show that she had fully awakened to her Buddha nature before making that wish. Madoka merely used the Magical Girl System in the most beneficial and efficient way possible – just like a farmer uses his plough to ready the field.

Christian readers might be puzzled – if I claim Madoka’s transformation was not key to her act of salvation, what would she have done if she had achieved enlightenment before a world-changing wish was within her grasp? Simply enough, she would never become a magical girl. She would go on living, saving people in the little ways that all of us can. And one day, she would die like everyone else. This is the humble Buddhist savior, working not with divine power and miracles, but with what she has at hand.

(Further reading: The Buddha and Miraculous Power)

Other points might be discussed in future posts, if time allows.

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The Madoka Magica card sets (Base + SP + Promotional Cards displayed at the official site) are all ready for your Precious Memories Lackey plugin. You can download them here (or the Mediafire mirror).

If you’re updating, replace your “purememo” plugin folder with the new version above – just make sure to make a copy of any decks you have already made before overwriting the old folder. (Decks are stored in the purememo/decks folder.)

If this is your first time downloading, just install Lackey and unpack the plugin into the plugin folder.

Current plugin contains card images and translations for:

  • Girls und Panzer set
  • Yuru Yuri set (+Promos)
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica set (+SP, +Promos)

If you are only interested in the translation/card data, download and unpack the plugin, and look for the .txt files in the “purememo/sets” folder. Drag-and-drop the files into your Microsoft Excel (or equivalent) for easy access.

Credit for the Puella Magi Madoka Magica and PMMM Special Pack card translations goes to Marlin-sama at Approach Phase.

Yuru Yuri set card translations based on the work by Bakkin Translations.

Comments and corrections are welcome in the comments below or at preciousmemoriesplugin@gmail.com We will gladly accept help with text editing for future sets, so drop a line if you are interested in helping out. You can also request sets you would like to see out before others.

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Kanji:            不撓不屈

Hiragana:     ふとうふくつ

Romaji:         fu – tou – fu – kutsu

Literally:      never – bend – never – yield

Meaning:      Indomitable, unbroken regardless of the hardship encountered.

Akemi Homura, representing Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is the one to open the yojijukugo series. With her indomitable spirit, she sets out on the quest to save her only friend, never giving up or slowing down regardless of the pain and hardship she has to face along the way.

Time travelers often shoulder a burden heavier than a single human should ever be allowed to, and so other candidates might include a certain mad scientist of Steins;Gate fame, or maybe a small miko trapped in the eternal June of Showa 58.

But the strength to conquer any and all adversity is of course not limited to those jumping across different timelines. What characters does this week’s yojijukugo make you think of?

Yojijukugo are four-kanji idioms representing some of the most important ideas and concepts in the Japanese language.

In this weekly series, I see how those ideas are represented in the anime world, and invite readers to share their own examples of series, characters and scenes best illustrating those concepts.

For other posts in this series, look for the Yojijukugo Series under the Category section on the right.

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As you might have heard from other sources already, Madoka got its hands on the Animation Division main prize in the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival organized by the Japanese government’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Previous award winners in the category include such titles as Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) and Sen to Chihiro Kamikakushi (Spirited Away).

What hasn’t been translated yet is the reasoning behind the award, something I decided to fix:

Reasons for award

Continued from last year, the winner of the main prize is a television series. It is highly regarded for being an anime-original concept, not a manga or novel adaptation. This ambitious work subverts the well-established concept of mahou-shoujo. It is a skillful trap that shakes the viewer’s beliefs about the genre to the very core with its critical approach.

The cute-looking creature called Kyuubey offers a contract where girls can have a wish granted in exchange for becoming magical girls and fighting against witches. The horror hidden within human ‘desire’ and the powerful emotion behind a still greater ‘miracle’… both of them are born in the human heart, like two sides of the same coin.

The anime takes full advantage of the nature of a TV show, keeping viewers guessing for a whole week after every episode. It brings the escalating clash of beliefs and the beautiful imagery accompanying it to the highest possible standard. The work is overflowing with energy coming from the desire to create something revolutionary.

We award the prize full of expectation that the work can become a catalyst to bring about a new age.

Congratulations, yet again, to the staff behind Madoka.

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Continued from Part One, my true favorites of this year.

#6 Nichijou

There are times when Nichijou is hard to watch, when the near-lack of linear plot progression (something the director has admitted to doing intentionally) leaves the viewer vulnerable to the disappointment of an unfunny gag. Or, worse yet, two unfunny gags in a row. But on the other hand, I can easily get stuck on youtube rewatching the ‘best of’ moments of the show.

As bumpy a ride as it is in terms of story, Nichijou never fails to be spectacular one way or another. The three-seconds rule scene is probably the most over-the-top presentation of the concept we’ll ever see, despite nothing physically impossible happening there. The hallway chase, the Mio vs Police fight, the card tower silent cartoon homage…Nichijou is ripe with scenes to be remembered, a virtual handbook on animation tricks prepared by the folks at the Kyoto Animation studio.

Inexplicably, when the last episode ends, you realize you’ve grown attached to those characters and the time spent with the series feels all too short…

#5 K-On the Movie

The series which has made itself a fair share of enemies through sheer popularity. K-On is not particularly revolutionary nor ambitious in terms of plot, setting or characters. Nevertheless, it has captured the hearts of countless fans of all over the world. It is also questionable whether the form of a feature-length movie is suitable to a franchise which has so far worked best with short, fluffy pieces. But rather than climbing to new heights, what the series is doing here is making a statement. As box-office come in, fans jokingly note that the late night anime franchise easily surpasses the numbers of Spielberg’s Adventures of Tin Tin

But the movie which will mostly be remembered for its extensive advertising campaign and the varied audience it has managed to bring to the cinemas is not a bad piece of work in itself. Surprisingly subtle on some occasions, the movie paints the bonds of trust and reliance between the light music club members with fresh and vivid colors. At the same time, it never stops being that light-hearted comedy fans have come to love. I’m looking forward to when this new installment becomes widely available to western viewers.

#4 Hayate no Gotoku -Heaven is a Place on Earth-

As a comedy series about a butler struggling against the never-ending string of misfortunes in his life, it would seem Hayate no Gotoku would be no less of a challenge to adapt for the big screen than K-On. But the actual result is very much a pleasant surprise.

It turns out any problem can be solved with enough fortitude and effort. Hata Kenjirou, the author of the original manga, poured out hectoliters of sweat to prepare this all-original story and overlook its transition into an animated movie. It all pays off in a single piece of brilliantly balanced work. Humor, action, romance… even a wistful moment or two, everything has its own place in this tightly-paced theatrical release.

People who have never had contact with the penniless butler and his companions can watch this as a easily digestible story. Loyal fans of the series will enjoy the rich attention of detail that comes from having the original author on board all through the creation process. This is not a movie that will change how the franchise is looked at, but it does not waste even a second of the viewer’s time either.

#3 Tamayura -hitotose-

There are two types of anime slice of life series that stand out: the Azumanga Daioh type which includes large amounts of comedy, and the Aria type which just aims for a soothing atmosphere. While comedy shows can keep on coming out year after year and still feel mostly fresh, the latter type always has to struggle with the great series of the past, Aria itself being the most likely culprit.

Tamayura at first feels like it will also be weighed down with such comparisons. With the setting being ‘merely’ a coastal city in Japan, and the main characters being quite ordinary high school girls, it can’t quite match the fantastic setting of Neo Venezia, and the scope of stories it can present is also limited to what can imaginably happen in our own everyday lives. There doesn’t seem to be much a series like this can surprise us with.

But then the writers reach for something Aria never would – themes of death, heartbreak, rejection and fears about an uncertain future. Handling those in your average show requires a fair share of skill. Making them work in a slice of life show intended to bring a smile to the viewers’ faces requires true mastery. Thankfully, Tamayura was blessed with staff talented and experienced enough to handle the task, many of whom have previously worked on Aria itself.

The main lead is cute and ditzy and all you could expect from a slice of life protagonist. Oh, and she’s trying to regain her love for something which only brings back painful memories. As the young girl slowly comes to terms with her past, the people around her struggle with their own ambitions and tragedies. Often, they do not speak about them openly, trying to deal with everything by themselves. But humans can only take so much without the support of another.

Tamayura is never exploitative or artificial in its presentation of human drama. It’s the show’s subtlety that makes its blows so heavy when they strike home. But miraculously, this is still a healing-type show that makes you feel better after every episode. It accepts life as it is, sprinkling just a bit of hope on every image it portrays.

As Tamayura is still airing, I thought it reasonable to give it third place. But it was competing head-to-head with another, no less impressive show:

#2 Hourou Musuko

This series came out of nowhere with a large cast of characters with convoluted relationships already in place (it adapts the original manga starting from chapter 30!), making the first episode more than a bit confusing. Some characters apparently decide to change genders mid-episode to add more flavor to the bewilderment. But as soon as you have time to sort things out, this series starts hitting, and hitting hard.

Hourou Musuko is not a series that meets viewers’ expectations. I doubt anyone watches anime expecting serious stories about transgender kids. But that is good, since the series doesn’t even have to make it clear that it will not follow standard otaku checklists and plot developments. Those would be impossible in the first place with the characters involved.

And what characters they are! The side characters in this show are more intricately developed than most leads in average shows. It should be difficult not to find somebody you can empathize with, even with the very specific problems most of the cast is dealing with. Everyone has their flaws, but there are no villains either, just imperfect, difficult human relationships.

The story details the everyday lives of the main characters, focusing more on their internal turmoil than any outside developments. But every episode is filled to brim with content, directed expertly by Aoki Ei and easily surpassing his current work at fate/zero. The cliffhangers here are all emotional and, as much as they whey the appetite for the next episode, they never leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.

Recommended watching for anyone with enough attention span to work out the relationship net between all the characters. Interest in the subject matter of gender identity is not required to enjoy the great drama Hourou Musuko offers.

#1 Puella Magi Madoka Magica

This series has a 200-page literary review on it entitled “A Cage Named Maturity – On Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. I doubt most people had the opportunity to read that analysis, but it presents the show as coming from a long tradition of Japanese alien-type horror, where the terror is born not from the incomprehensible, but from the understanding of a horrible, horrible truth.

Regardless of whether one agrees with that particular statement or not, Madoka’s horror roots were not everyone’s main concern when the show was still airing. There is the genre subversion, Shinbo’s artistic presentation, the references to other animated and literary works, the Ume/Urobuchi conflict, the religious references in the finale, the charade and its breakdown… If it takes two hundred pages to analyze just one aspect of Madoka Magica, think how many pages it would take to do the show justice.

But one of the beautiful things here is that Madoka is in no way difficult to understand if you want to enjoy it on a basic level. The emotional roller-coaster the series offers is enough to satisfy those just looking for a ride. And this is how entertainment should be, accessible and challenging at the same time, possible to be enjoyed by almost anyone.

Madoka also did a lot for the medium in general, showing the potential of an original story that doesn’t have to stretch things out with filler and proving the expressive power of an individual (Shino, Urobuchi, Ume, Kajiura) where we are used to discussing things in terms of studios.

But personally, I can only thank Madoka for twelve episodes’ worth of unforgettable fun.

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Inside my heart, I desperately try to recall Mami’s smile

The kind smile which has always given me courage and comfort

But what comes to mind

Is only the cruel image of a yellow dress torn into shreds…

Mami’s body with nothing above her neck…

Character relationships and scenes that benefit from insight into characters’ emotions are the novel’s strong points. But what the novelization cannot escape are the comparisons to the anime scenes made memorable by Shinbou and Inu Curry. The battle against the TV witch which takes advantage of Madoka’s guilt over Mami’s death is no less engaging in the novels thanks to the psychological aspect. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other scenes involving battles and magic. Descriptions in those scenes tend to be underwhelming, too short and simple to paint a vivid image. Mami’s “Gate of Babylon” barrage from episode one, for example, is described as follows:

“Suddenly, she released a great number of rifles into the air and fired them all at once. The projectiles rained mercilessly outside the ring of light enveloping us, blowing away all of the eerie things surrounding us.”

While there is nothing wrong with the description, it probably doesn’t measure up to the image conjured in the anime.

The battle against the garden witch, seemingly a golden opportunity to play around with the concept of a magic battle without the time restrictions of an anime episode, feels more like a laconic summary of the moves exchanged in the anime and does not attempt to create a true feeling of tension. Charlotte’s transformation scene also doesn’t live up to its full potential.

It could be argued that the simplicity and brevity of those scenes are a conscious decision on the author’s part, necessary to stay true to Madoka’s voice as the narrator. But it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the author takes magic, something incredible and unfathomable, too much for granted.

Other scenes where the anime remains ahead of the book are those where Shinbou shows us the power of detailed visuals. The restaurant scene where Homura recreates Mami’s final moments by twisting off the cover of her coffee, the incredible clash of the mundane with something cruel and macabre, is missing from the novel. Similar details in other scenes are also lost in the transition. Of course, those scenes are more proof of the anime’s quality than any particular fault of the writer.

Yet another similar issue arises with the lack of voice acting. While it is the advantage of a novelization that it allows the reader to find a new voice for the characters, this doesn’t work as well for characters we aren’t supposed to understand in the first place. It is a shame there is no way to transplant Katou Emiri’s stellar performance as Kyuubey into written form.

As the novelization is made up of two volumes, I’d like to applaud the way the material is divided. The first volume covers events up to episode six of the anime While this may appear as an obvious solution, splitting the story cleanly in half, the trick here is that the events of the last minute of the episode are left out along with everything Madoka doesn’t see for herself. Separated from her soul gem, Miki Sayaka collapses lifelessly to the ground. Akemi Homura disappears without a word. And finally, Kyuubey opens the jar of truth, his words slipping out like maggots starved for food, corroding hope with despair. The book closes with Kyuubey’s exasperated question “I don’t get you. Why do people care so much about the whereabouts of the soul?” This is the moment which transforms a world filled with danger and adversity into a cruel farce where despair was the only choice to begin with. A great way to end the volume.

On a technical note, this volume contains 291 numbered pages, including ten pages of full-color illustrations. There are also some extra pages with advertisements for Madoka goods and some other books. While text density per page is the same as in an average pocket-size light novel, the format is bigger and allows for a bigger font (making it easy to read, but difficult to carry around.)

The story uses little flowery language (due to Madoka’s narration), making the reading difficulty level quite low. On the other hand, it uses very little furigana, requiring a very solid grasp of kanji to be enjoyed.

The removable cover is beautiful but dark, showing the main characters on a black background with looks of worry, anger and yearning on their faces. This is a more honest approach to what’s actually inside than with the anime… but the contents page is as pink and kawaii as it gets. The inside cover is dark purple with a subtle pattern of Kyuubeys, soul gems and other symbols, and it displays the title proudly with large letters. Again, not something easy to walk around with and read on the train, but it looks great on the shelf.

Bottom line: The strengths and weaknesses of the novel are different enough from the original to keep things fresh and interesting throughout. While the novel can’t replace the wholesome experience the anime offers, it is not a bad read in itself.

(Review of the second volume to come sometime in the future. Also to all of you who have made it this far… have some chibi Saya and Madocchi. Sorry for the quality ;])

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Do you remember this girl? This is a story about Kaname Madoka

A story that tells of her undeniable existence

How much of the impact of the explosive mixture known as Madoka Magica should be attributed to each of its components? Urobuchi’s devilish story, Shinbou’s artistry, Kajiura’s captivating compositions, Ume’s deceptively cute character designs… all of them fit together like puzzle pieces to form a single, bigger picture. But now, the novelization of the record-breaking anime series gives us the opportunity to isolate one of those pieces and judge it on its own merits.

The name behind this book is of course not Urobuchi himself, but one Hajime Ninomae, who’s famous enough not to have his own page on the Japanese wiki. The afterword says he is the author of Yuushiki and Kukurikuri, neither of which gives any good hits on Google… Research shows that the former is a fairly typical romance-and-ghost story, while the latter a love story between a stalker guy and a suicidal girl too unlucky to succeed in her attempts to ‘reach the other side’. Wait, that actually sounds kind of interesting!

So the quality of the writing is a complete mystery. Well, make way for the trailblazer!

It is so delicious, it makes me feel guilty…

And I realize once more that I am alive.

That I can taste something delicious…

What I took for granted was actually such a blessing…

The fundamental difference between the anime and its novelization is perspective. While the anime could be considered a recording of events revolving around Kaname Madoka, the novel takes things a step further by retelling those events through her eyes. This decision brings with it a challenge that needs to be overcome by the writer.

Copying the anime scene for scene would require a third-person omniscient narrator, as some developments take place without Madoka’s knowledge. One example is the entire Sayaka-Kyousuke subplot with its numerous hospital scenes. The novel deals with that part of the story through Madoka’s guesswork and observations, and sometimes even strays slightly from the anime script to add new conversations or slip the pink-haired heroine into some scenes she does not originally appear in. Ninomae manages to weave a sensible narrative without losing any key information in the process, and we get a fresh look on some of the scenes.

Once that difficulty is resolved, it is time to enjoy the benefits this kind of narration bestows on the story. With direct and constant access to Madoka’s thoughts, we always know when she notes a minute change in a friend’s expression and we can follow the reasoning leading her to make particular decisions. The author is granted the license to add any kind of new information at the drop of a hat, as long as it is at least peripherally related to Madoka. This is not to say that Ninomae goes crazy with reinventing Madoka, but neither is he afraid to develop some of the ideas presented in the anime.

Some of the themes Madoka’s narration allows us to better understand include:

  • The importance of Mami as Madoka’s role model. Madoka creates the magical girl version of herself in Mami’s image. But to Madoka, the magical girl persona overlaps with her vision of who she wants to become as a person, her ideal self. Fearless, invincible and infinitely kind to those around her… Through her meeting with Mami, Madoka finds a goal to strive for. The confident Madoka we see in the original timeline is probably the result of that pursuit.

  • Madoka’s relationship with Homura. The weak crybaby that Madoka is, she can’t help being afraid of the cold and silently angry Homura. But because she thinks about others more than about herself, there are also some things she notices. She doesn’t know why, but she realizes that her words often seem to hurt Homura, filling the girl’s cold eyes with flames of pain, anger and regret. Madoka helplessly tries to break through to the person she sees in those fleeting moments. In a way, Madoka sees a reflection of herself in Homura – it is revealed Madoka had had to transfer schools in the past, experiencing the feeling of being all alone in a new place.

  • Madoka’s relationship with Sayaka. Sayaka was Madoka’s savior when the latter transferred schools. And when the two became friends, Sayaka would always stand up for and protect Madoka. But Madoka’s gratitude is mixed with feelings of inferiority and guilt. If there is nothing she can pay Sayaka back with, can Madoka really call herself Sayaka’s friend? Madoka’s burden only grows heavier when Sayaka becomes a magical girl. Madoka’s greatest fear is coming true. She will be left behind, alone, because she isn’t strong enough to stand by Sayaka’s side when Sayaka needs it most. Because she never had the right to call herself Sayaka’s true friend to begin with…

(Continued in part two…)

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Gen Urobuchi has recently given an interview to Asahi Shimbun (Japan’s second most circulated newspaper), where he talks about Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica in context of recent real-world happenings, making some daring statements in the process.

The following extract was copied directly from the Anime News Network site:

Asahi: Madoka Magica is an original story. Where did the idea come from?

Urobuchi: I received a request to write a bloody story where magical girls appear, and then drop out one by one. I paid attention to the aspects that are troubling or overlooked in the traditional magical girl genre. I’ve been thinking that magical girls who have acquired superhuman abilities will find themselves removed from the world, which would cause contradictions and reactions.

Asahi: Magical girls, who are full of hope and who strive to save the people, soon suffer from hatred and jealousy, which turn them into the enemy witches. The change from good to evil left an emotional impact.

Urobuchi: For example, Al-Qaeda brought down the Twin Towers due to their self-righteousness. Justice for some people is an evil for others. Good intentions, kindness, and hope will not necessarily make people happy.

The following is my translation of the remaining part of the interview.

Asahi: In the climax of the series, witches bring a disaster upon the city. Isn’t it that in modern society, people’s negative emotions are what destroys the world?

Urobuchi: One curse brings about another, creating a cycle of hatred. That’s what I find the most terrifying. Positive words like happiness, victory and glory are only spoken after being thrown into the same trash can with their opposites. Even if it starts smelling or maggots get out, we pretend not to notice and paint the world in bright colors. America, for example, could be seen as having gained and maintained its prosperity by forcing its own negatives on Third World countries.

Asahi: In the face of the disaster, one of the characters repeats the same time period in a loop several times. Her struggle to stop the event fills the viewer with pity. The usage of such loop has become a common form of expression since the last decade.

Urobuchi: I think it’s a useful way of conveying the feeling of entrapment. The panic of 1999 didn’t bring the end of the world. In the 80’s and 90’s there was a lot of shouting and worrying that the end might come, and many images of the apocalypse, like the nuclear war fallout, were created in the public mind.

Asahi: The end didn’t come, but it’s not like the situation has improved. Is seems those troubled days will never end.

Urobuchi: There is no absolute justice and no absolute conclusion. In the anime series, there is a scene where one magical girl argues that “By trusting in hope, you only bring about equally strong despair. The world is made to keep its final balance at zero.” Even if we chase after hope, despair is sure to follow. We must be willing to accept this from the beginning. To make some tempura, we have to throw out the oil used. It is impossible to create something beautiful without producing waste matter in the process.

Asahi: The nuclear reactors which were supposed to bring us abundant life now spread radioactive material. “Desires which go against logic bring about distortions”, this anime line sounds like a fitting aphorism for this situation.

Urobuchi: Now everyone goes on and on about saving electricity, but we should have thought about a world which doesn’t require such dangerous things to be built in the first place. I thought we were aware of the risk of radioactive pollution when we wished for the brilliant Christmas illuminations.

Asahi: But isn’t it that humans cannot live without desiring something?

Urobuchi: Getting back to Al-Qaeda, the desire to lead the world in the right direction is not wrong in itself. The decision Madoka, the main character, makes at the end of the series is the result of her not wanting to deny the fact that the magical girls held hope.

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