Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 2013 -- Walpurgis;Nacht

Maybe Madoka Month would have been more clever to have in April. That way I could time the release of this post with the actual Walpurgis Night festival, which is traditionally held on April 30 (or May 1).

Also the title is a reference to Steins;Gate. You'll understand why I felt the need to do that after you watch these last three episodes, which you should totally do because I become intimate with spoilers in this post. So don't read it unless you don't care about spoilers/ are only looking for free Crunchyroll guest passes.

This post is only about episode ten, just to give you a heads up. I'm doing this because it is easily, easily, the most important episode in the series. I'll see you after the break.

Told you! Spoilers! Should've listened!

Okay, that might be a bit of a deceptive way for me to begin. See, Mami is still very much dead in the story that we're familiar with, but there's another story that we're slightly less familiar with. I'm going to try to write this in a way that preserves my initial reactions to Episode 10.

Again, there's spoilers in here. Please please please do yourself a favor and get caught up to at least episode 10. There's still time. People act like episode three is the big one, but I would argue that episode 10 is the best episode to date. If episode 3 is the turning point in the series, then episode 10 is the Mobius strip that flips you upside-down to the point that you don't know which way is up.

Admittedly, we sort of knew this type of episode was coming. The reveal that Homura is from the future meant that we at least kind of have to explore the issue of time travel. Now that Sayaka, Kyoko, and Mami have finished out their character arcs, it's time to finally explore what makes Homura tick.

The episode starts with Homura transferring into Madoka's school, just like in episode one, only something's a little different about her.

This version of Homura is shy and awkward, a far cry from the Debbie Downer that we're used to.

Bespectacled and beheartconditioned, Homura is having trouble getting along with others in the school. She has to take time during breaks from class to take medicine in the nurse's office, and due to her condition, she is unable to play with the other kids at recess and gym class.

The only person who's really nice to her is Madoka, but unfortunately it isn't enough to save Homura from wandering into the waiting arms of a witch on her way home from school. As the scribbled abominations loom over her trembling frame she is saved at the last minute by Mami and...

MAMI!!! Oh I thought I'd never see you again! Run away with me! I'll take you to a safe place and raise you as my own daughter so that we can kick serious ass together.

*Sigh* It's probably not meant to be. Particularly because Homura didn't seem to care much for Mami in the future, signifying some unfortunate event. Anyway, also appearing to save Homura, making her network television debut...


Holy goodness, I can't believe I'm surprised to see the title character of this show. Granted I'm not happy about it considering that Homura's sole motivation later on will be to prevent Madoka from ever taking the powers of a magical girl. As usual, this probably won't end well.

After dispatching the witch, the three girls return to Mami's apartment to discuss magical girl issues. Mami shares that she intends to train Madoka to become an experienced magical girl so that the both of them can battle Walpurgisnacht as it attempts to destroy the city.

Flash forward a few days and we see Mami lying dead on the

Oh come on! I just got Mami back and you take her away from me almost instantly. I know her character development is over, but you could at least keep her around for a bit.

Madoka now understands that only she can defeat Walpurgisnacht and that it's likely going to cost her her life in the end. It does, and as she shares her final moments with Homura, Kyubey appears to offer her a contract. See, she died without becoming a witch, so naturally Kyubey has to move on to the next mark in order to get his free energy.

HA! A thermodynamics joke! See, because Kyubey's hunting down the power to combat entropy, and Gibbs Free Energy is a function related to the entropy in a system. I've still got it!

Homura makes a wish to go back to the moment she met Madoka so that she could make things right. Kyubey grants her wish in exchange for her soul, and before we know it The Girl Who (will soon have) Leapt Through Time wakes up in her bed to find that time has reversed by several days.

She got her second chance. Her introduction to the class is much more forward this time around, as she enthusiastically introduces herself to Madoka, explaining that she is also a magical girl.

She's still struggling to fight efficiently with her new time powers and decides she needs to find something to give her the edge in combat. Fortunately, she's quite bright, and teaches herself how to make her own explosives. Madoka, Mami, and herself find great success fighting a witch using a combination of time powers and high explosives until eventually they face Walpurgisnacht again.

And it goes about as well as you'd think.

Even worse.

Yeah. Madoka becomes a witch in this timeline, and this is about the time that Homura figures out what it means to be a magical girl.

Realizing that they've all been duped, Homura resets the timeline once again to warn everyone that Kyubey's playing at a great big con. Unfortunately, when she tries to tell everyone, they don't believe her. Sayaka accuses her of being in cahoots with Kyoko to try and get them all to fight each other.

Homura, realizing that fighting only with bombs is dangerous, uses her powers to break into someplace that looks very illegal to stock up on guns.

I love how comically large the guns are and how tiny they make Homura look in comparison.

We also learn that her gauntlets have access to hammerspace, as she can fit the entire arsenal inside her sleeves. Mami could do the same thing with her hat, so I'm perfectly okay with this.

Their next fight is against a witch you may recognize from our previous run-in.

Looks like no matter what world line you're in, Sayaka is destined to become a witch.

Homura and the girls are able to win the fight, barely, but unfortunately not everybody came back from that fight with their minds intact.

Now you're going to make me watch Kyoko die again, too? AND you're going to break Mami psychologically as well? Yes, Mami has just learned the truth and thinks that the only way out is to commit group suicide. Remember, back in the timeline we're familiar with, Mami died without ever having known that magical girls eventually succumb and become witches. She's been doing the MagiGirl thing for a while, too, so the news probably hit her pretty hard. Since they all must become witches and it's her job to hunt witches, killing the magical girls should be one of her objectives, she reasons.

Before she's able to kill Homura, Madoka scores a wicked headshot on Mami, putting her out of business. Her head has the worst luck.

Homura and Madoka resolve to fight Walpurgisnacht together...

...and it ends about as well as you'd hope.

Madoka heals Homura's soul gem with her last remaining grief seed and then asks her to go back in time and prevent her from making her botched deal with Kyubey. This next scene is heart-wrenching and extremely emotional as Madoka, faced with a fate worse than death, asks Homura, her close friend, to kill her so that she doesn't have to become a witch.

I actually cringed. I almost couldn't watch as Homura pointed that .44 at Madoka's soul gem and pulled the trigger.

It was astounding. I don't speak a word of Japanese, but this scene was phenomenally acted and the sheer emotion behind the performances of Madoka and Homura's seiyuu transcended the language barrier and spoke to me on an emotional level. It was a powerful scene, to put it mildly. I would definitely put it in my all-time top five most emotional scenes in anime/manga (though Angelica's death in Gunslinger Girl will likely never be outdone. I wept buckets after that scene).

Time is reset again, and Homura isn't screwing around anymore. In order to save her only friend, she resolves to become a lone wolf, fighting to her last breath to save Madoka at great personal risk.

She uses magic to fix her eyesight, steals an entire arsenal to stuff into her gauntlets, and kills Kyubey as much as she has to to keep him from Madoka, fighting witches to keep herself alive for as long as it takes her to save the girl.

This next scene should be familiar to those of you who've been playing along the whole time.

Recognize this? It's the opening scene from episode one. The dream sequence. Only now we've reached another startling revelation. That wasn't a dream sequence. It actually happened.

As Madoka, whom Homura prevented in this timeline from making any contact with Kyubey, watched the fight, she had no idea what was going on. Walpurgisnacht, the great witch did battle with Homura, who wasn't faring too well in the fight. Kyubey took advantage of Homura's battle to trick Madoka into making the contract. This means that despite Homura's best efforts, she wasn't able to stop Madoka from transforming into a witch.

Just as Kyubey predicted, she's become the strongest witch ever conceived. In a matter of days, she'll destroy the world completely. Unfortunately for humanity, Kyubey's collected all the energy he needs for his benefactors so it's not his problem anymore.

Homura isn't hearing any of it, though. As long as she's alive she'll always have another chance. See, she doesn't just act like a badass; she actually is one. Just as Kyubey realizes what Homura's powers are, she leaps through time once more to try and keep Madoka from dying, to save her only friend.

She fights in the name of hope. Because Steins;Gate has chosen her.

Better stock up on those 23 flavors. You're gonna need them.
The episode ends with the opening title sequence, and this is where everything came together to make the impact of the episode even greater. If you speak Japanese, I'm sure it's to even greater effect, but as I read the English translation of the lyrics, I mean really read them, I had an epiphany.

It went something like this:

Oh my god. These lyrics are about Homura. They've always been about Homura!

Damn you, Madoka Magica! You planned this from the very beginning, didn't you?

Immediately, it all began to make sense. When I started watching this, I knew something about this song didn't quite make sense. It's like I was watching a music video where the song didn't quite match up. Now that I've watched episode 10, certain things have started to make more sense:

I won’t forget the promise we made.
I close my eyes and ascertain it.
Shaking off the darkness that drew close to me, I continue forward

Madoka never made a promise; Homura did. She promised to keep Madoka from being tricked by Kyubey.

Will I one day be able find
the future I’ve lost?

Homura works to reclaim a future where nobody has to succumb to despair.

I’ll shatter the shadow of anxiety no matter how many times it takes,
I’ll continue to walk in this world.

She continues to turn back the timeline to save Madoka. She doesn't care how many times she has to do it. She'll find a way to outwit Kyubey and save Madoka. Everything else is secondary, and even though she's still the same timid girl from the first timeline, she'll suppress those feelings in order to achieve her goals.

Well done, Madoka. You've really outdone yourselves. Mami's death in episode three was shocking. Sayaka's fall from grace and Kyoko's subsequent vindication in episode nine was also a beautifully handled conclusion to a character arc. When people ask me what I remember most about this show, however, I'm going to answer "Episode 10" without hesitation. The whole package perfectly puts the events we've experienced so far into perspective and shows us just how much further everything in the show goes.

It's easily the most important episode of the series. After you've watched it, pay close attention to the lyrics and you'll understand why. I can't wait to see what the last two episodes bring.


  1. I ended up spoiling myself about the rest of the series. And a few details from the PSP game. That's what I get for browsing TV Tropes without my Dr. Pepper to keep the sleep away. I use Nightmare Fuel instead.

    Anyway, best joke goes to the thermodynamics one IMO.

  2. Yeah, I would argue in terms of total impact, this is the worst episode for Mami. She just couldn't take it. But yeah, the Higurashi-esque time travel/rewinds in this plot twist add a lot. Love this show.