Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013 -- Beyond Time and Space

This is it. The last two episodes. This month has been a heck of a ride, but we're about to hit the final stop on this tale of hope and despair.

By the way, those Crunchyroll guest passes are all gone. There's always next time.

I get the feeling there's only one way this story can end, but before I begin I feel obligated to once again point out that I will be GOING STEADY WITH SPOILERS FOR THE DURATION OF THIS POST so if you haven't finished off this series, maybe you should. I would highly recommend it.

Let's finish the fight after the break.

We begin the home stretch with a fairly huge revelation. Kyubey confronts Homura in her swank apartment and questions her about her time-travelling mission. He reasons that Madoka's potential for becoming a magical girl is so great not because she's inherently special. She's just an ordinary girl who otherwise would have been destined for ordinary things.

The reason she's so special is because Homura made her special. Miss Akemi's meddling in the time stream has centered at least five otherwise unrelated timelines on little Madoka Kaname, the potential energy from which has elevated her latent abilities as a magical girl. In trying to save her only friend, she may have inadvertently made the situation even more difficult to overcome.


Meanwhile, Sayaka's body was finally discovered in whatever hotel room Kyoko was keeping her in, and Madoka is attending the memorial service.

She returns home to find her loving mother waiting for her. She doesn't much want to talk to Momdoka, and lies to her about not knowing anything about Sayaka's death. She just wants to be alone in her room and

Oh for the love of-- Who keeps letting this guy in the house?

Kyubey arrives once again to harass Madoka and show her that even though he's only lying to people and turning their goodwill into despair for use as cosmic fuel, it's actually something really cool that she should be happy about.

Look Madoka, you can't look cool AND get good gas mileage!
In order to show her how much the MagiGirl program has helped her world become what it is today, he telepathically beams images of all the past magical girls into her mind grapes. You might recognize a few of them.


Anne Frank.

Oops. How did that one get in there?

Anyway, Kyubey's point is that she should be thanking him for allowing the human race to advance beyond dragging their knuckles in caves. Hey, Momdoka? There's a small demon fox harassing your daughter with the secret history of the human race. You feel like showing up and doing some parenting?

I'll allow it.

Yes, Momdoka went out to discuss her worries about Madoka and Sayaka with the Madoka's teacher. Apparently those two are very good friends. It's a very interesting scene that gives us a look at two characters we actually haven't gotten to see very much of outside of a couple of minor/comedic scenes. We get a sense for how worried Junko is about her daughter and how much she wishes she could just talk about whatever it is is on her mind. She acts aloof and above it all, but she's a good mom at heart.

Madoka goes to Homura's flat to talk to her about Walpurgisnacht. It's an extremely powerful witch, one not bound by the labyrinths like the other witches they've encountered so far. Most people can't see or directly perceive Walli, so to the world at large it will look like a tornado or other natural disaster leveled the town.

 Homura lies by telling her that she's more than capable of fighting Walli on her own in order to prevent Madoka from getting any crazy ideas about becoming a magical girl to help in the fight. Madoka sees right through the lie, and causes Homura to break down, embracing Madoka as she tells her all about her trip through time and space as well as her self-imposed mission to save her.

Throughout the city, strange weather patterns are showing up on radar. They question the nature of the events until they receive a clear sign that they need to send out the evacuation order.

Right back at ya, Walli.

The townsfolk move to the storm area that looks like a middle school gymnasium while Homura gets ready for the final battle.

And she brought friends.
What happens next is an approximately three minute long sequence that would make Micheal Bay blush. In the span of a few minutes (not accounting for Homura stopping time), she fires several dozen rocket launchers and RPGs, drives a tanker truck off a ramp, hijacks a missile defense system, and knocks Walli into a mile-deep pit lined with remote detonators in hopes of annihilating the alpha and omega of the witches with sheer concussive force.

As she stands like a badass, content in the damage that she's done, she's horrified to find out that it's not enough as Walli still has a lot of fight left in her and plenty of minions to spare.

The fighting escalates, and the storm shelter doesn't seem to be holding up very well. Madoka takes a walk to try and figure out her next move. Obviously, she doesn't want to give in to Kyubey's wishes, but she can't sit by and do nothing while the world falls apart around her.

Kyubey remarks that if Homura fails, she'll likely reset the timeline to try again, because if she ever gives up on her mission to save Madoka, the despair will corrupt her soul gem and turn her into a witch. In effect, she's cursed herself, condemned to either endlessly fight a losing battle or give in to despair and become the thing she's been fighting against for months upon months.

It seems like there's just no winning for anybody in this world of magical girls. The longer you hope, the more damage you're inflicting upon yourself.

Madoka tries to leave, but her mom stops her. As Madoka protests, refusing to listen to anything Momdoka has to say, she employs a tried and true parenting practice to make Madoka listen.

Oh, how I've missed you!
Madoka understands how important her family and everyone who loves her means to her, but accepts that she has a responsibility to protect everything she cares about. Even though it seems like an unreasonable request, she wants Momdoka to trust in what she's doing and that she'll be okay.

Homura continues to gun down Walli's minions, but is finally overwhelmed when a building is thrown at her. I'm not going to fault her for that. That sort of thing can ruin your day. She tumbles limply through the rubble, eventually coming to rest with her leg bloodied and pinned under a rock. She's now physically unable to put up any more of a fight.

She makes the move to turn back the timeline again, but stops herself as she realizes that the more she goes back in time, the greater Madoka's MagiGirl potential is. If she continues the way she has, she'll only make Madoka's destiny worse. She lowers her arm, resigned to the fate she was unable to prevent as the despair begins to pollute her soul gem.

Just as she's about to succumb, she's saved at the last minute by the warm touch of her only friend.

She's decided to take Kyubey up on his offer so she can defeat Walli and save Homura.

This episode serves as an essential bridge to connect everything we've learned so far in an effort to give the audience an idea of just how far reaching the influence of Kyubey and his race have moved into our world. In the process, it also gives us one last chance to take a guess at how all of this will end. How do you think this will all play out? Will it end with some kind of artistic catharsis, like Christopher Nolan's Inception? Or will it simply stop and offer no meaningful conclusion, like the disappointing finale of The Sopranos?

At first, things seem pretty bleak. I'll be the first to admit that. The city is being destroyed, Madoka is about to give up her soul to Kyubey, and it looks on the surface like all of Homura's struggles will have been for absolutely nothing as she is forced to watch Madoka make the contract.

Madoka apologizes to Homura for what she's about to do, thanking her for making her into the person she is in the current timeline. She knows that what she's making Homura face is uncomfortable, but asks her to trust in what she's about to do.

Let's review what we know so far: Homura's meddling in the time stream has made Madoka into one of the most potentially powerful magical girls to ever exist. That potential energy is so great that just about any wish Madoka makes will come true. All of this was born as a result of Homura trying to alter the past so that Madoka isn't tricked by Kyubey.

Yet here she is about to make the contract. On the surface, Homura has failed.

But this time is different. Madoka hasn't been tricked by Kyubey. Homura's intervention gave Madoka all of the information that she needed to use the contract in a way that works in her favor, information that she couldn't and wouldn't listen to in other timelines. She has seen for herself just how terrible a burden the magical girls bear, lost so many important people to an entity that hungers for energy it can't even comprehend.

No more.

The wish that she's willing to trade her soul for is to stop all witches before they're born. Past, present, and future, she wants the power to erase the despair of all those who would do battle against witches and keep hope alive. It's a wish so powerful that it would rewrite the fabric of what they know as reality.

The next scene may have confused some people at first. Madoka shares a relaxing metaphorical tea and cake with Mami and Kyoko. This is just my interpretation, but I think it was a sort of last farewell from Madoka to two girls who found vindication in death. Mami and Kyoko didn't die in despair, they died full of hope. Kyoko hoped that Sayaka could be saved after her metamorphosis. Mami found hope in new friends, that she would never have to fight alone again.

Her wish is a testament to their dying hope.

They talk about the implications of her wish, how it means that she'll be fighting throughout eternity, and that she'll likely lose herself in the process. Kyoko gives her blessings to Madoka, encouraging her to give it all she's got in order to see her wish fulfilled.

Back in the real world, Madoka has transformed into a magical girl, and fires a mighty arrow of light into the sky, which rains down a brilliant shower upon the city as it clears away the dull, grey sky.

Throughout time, Madoka appears to purify the soul gems of magical girls on the brink of corruption, giving them a dignified death rather than force them to face a fate worse than death.

The arrows fire across time and space, ripping through Walli as they fly, destroying her once and for all.

With Walli destroyed, Homura wakes up in a sort of no-place as she witnesses Madoka's universe being born. She's just in time to witness what sort of end she's destined to meet, as just overhead is the biggest effing soul gem to ever exist.

Visual Approximation
Which means it's time for the Final Choose Your Own Joke time!

Joke A:

The soul gem, a colossal comet screaming through the sky, is filled with the despair of all the MagiGirls throughout time and space.

Which means that there's about twenty copies of this game
tucked away somewhere in that rock.

Joke B:

The soul gem, a colossal comet screaming through the sky, is filled with the despair of all the MagiGirls to ever exist.

Which is interesting, because I only think of Tokyo Mew Mew
when I hear "Magical Girls" and "despair".
Joke C:

The soul gem is really big.

"Like your mom's ass!"
Submit your answer by yelling it really loud in a public place. And if you chose joke C, please also repeat the punchline loudly. Preferably near young children and the elderly.

In any event, the soul gem is quite corrupted from taking on all that despair, and it gives birth to the most wicked witch of all.

Oops! How do those keep getting in there?

That's the one! Things look pretty bad, but Madoka's wish defies reality, and she's even able to stop her own despair before it destroys the world. She assumes a new form, a form befitting the goddess of a new universe, and destroys her own despair, freeing the world of this vicious cycle once and for all.

In this new universe, Madoka doesn't exist as a physical entity. She has no birth or death. Nobody will remember her and she'll never be able to interact with anyone in the physical world again. Even though she's condemned to a lonely existence, it's not a sad moment. Madoka will continue to exist everywhere and at every moment. In a way, nobody ever has to be truly alone ever again.

Homura is scared at the prospect of forgetting about Madoka, her very best friend across time and space, but is reassured that she might still remember her. She gives Homura her hair ribbon to remember her by before the two part ways, presumably forever.

This is rapidly turning into that scene from Mega Man Legends 2 where The Master gives Trigger his final mission before fading into oblivion while sad music plays.

Speaking of sad music, we rejoin Madoka sitting in a concert hall with Sayaka as Kyosuke plays Ave Maria. She explains that she couldn't save Sayaka without rewriting reality to the point where Kyosuke never recovered from his injury. She figured that even though it wasn't the ending either of them had hoped for, the selflessness of her wish was too important to give up.

It's heavily implied that Sayaka might possibly exist in the same plane of existence as Madoka, so in the end perhaps Sayaka got the vindication that she was denied in her death as a witch.

So even in the ideal universe, Sayaka couldn't escape the fate of her death, but at least her death was given some meaning. It also shows us that in this universe, the girls can still die, but compared to what they faced in the other universe, it seems a generous alternative.

Homura meets up with Madoka's baby brother who is drawing a picture of his sister in the sand. In this world, Madoka seems to be an imaginary friend whom he plays with whenever he's alone. Homura knows this isn't the case, that lingering memories of Madoka have survived the transfer.

The penultimate scene shows Kyubey and Homura having a civil conversation about the other universe. Kyubey doesn't remember any of it, but remarks at how much more efficient it would be for gathering energy than the way things work in their universe. Now that the girls can't be directly harvested like livestock, it seems like he doesn't have to lie to the girls the way he had to, nor does he feel the need to pursue the angle of the other universe.

In fact, he acts like he doesn't really believe the universe of grief seeds and witches exists. Though he does remark that the grief seeds would be a much more efficient way to collect energy. Instead, they collect these small, dark cubes from their new enemy, called wraiths.

So the ugliness of the world hasn't completely disappeared, but much like in Kino's Journey, that, in a way, makes it all the more beautiful. Even though the mistakes of mankind will never disappear, she will never stop fighting for the world that Madoka traded everything to save.

And that's Madoka Magica! Thank you for sticking with me through this month of crazy highs, and depressing lows. I wasn't entirely sure I'd make it through, but ultimately I think it was a positive experience.

I know it's been a lot of plot synopsis and visceral reactions, so allow me to try something resembling an actual review of this series.

This is a show that uses tropes and concepts that are fairly common in anime and uses them to present a philosophical look at the nature of the conflict that we face every day: hope and optimism vs despair and cynicism. On our best days we shine brilliantly, while our worst days see us turn into the things we hate the most.

This isn't really a magical girl show, it's a show about magical girls, if that makes sense. I'm a sucker for magical girl stories, which I owe to a healthy diet of Sailor Moon between first and fifth grade. That said, I can understand why MagiGirl fans would be split on this series. The Magical Girl Confessions Tumblr (which I recommend reading any time you feel like lowering your IQ a few points) often does not have very nice things to say about Madoka Magica. Then again, there are people on there who thought that Tokyo Mew Mew was a good show. It takes all types, I guess.

The ideas this show presents are huge, and even though this is shorter than most anime series, it is able to pace itself and address all of its key themes with tact and grace, not unlike a certain someone we know and love.

That brings me to the second strength of this series: It's characters. Rarely do I get to watch a show that is able to give every character a satisfying arc that is as expertly paced as the ones in Madoka. They ended tragically, but true to the message of the show, each character who met with an untimely end received some sort of vindication for all the suffering they had to endure. Whether it was Kyoko rediscovering selflessness, Mami realizing that she found friends worth fighting for, or Homura's time-meddling giving Madoka the strength she needed to best Kyubey and end his game once and for all, there was hope in all of these endings.

That being said, I would've liked to see more of Momdoka. Again, there's a character dynamic between Junko and Madoka's teacher that is left completely unexplored but for one scene at a bar at night. You mean to tell me you couldn't make this a standard 13 episode season and give me one episode that focused on Junko's character and how she perceives what Madoka is going through despite having no knowledge of what her daughter's internal struggle entails. Missed potential. It's a shame.

The art style, while simplistic, was heavily stylized. The sense of dread and despair that filled the witches' labyrinths contrasted brilliantly with the often childlike imagery presented within. A good example of this is Charlotte's labyrinth, which looked like a tea party of the damned. Though the art was simplistic, the animation was anything but, delivering top-notch production values and consistently well-blocked fight scenes.

The acting is phenomenal, and I would refer you to my thoughts on episode 10 as evidence for why this is. Again, I don't speak Japanese, but there was a raw emotion behind the performances in this show that really moved me. I seriously damn near cried with Homura as she shot Madoka's soul gem in one of the other timelines.


Seriously, this is a very good show. Not perfect by any means, but I would definitely feel comfortable putting this in my top ten favorite anime. In fact, I think I'd really like to own this show. I know for a fact that it's out for purchase in the US. Let me take a look.

WHAT!? 70 bucks for four Zogging episodes!? Screw that! I don't give a Fresh PreCure how much I love this series; putting gas in my car is more important. Hell, paying for my car is more important. Just because I spent over a hundred dollars on Madoka merch at a local anime convention doesn't mean I can throw my money around wherever I want.

Who the HeartCatch authorized that business model anyway?

I don't know. Maybe there's some other way I can enjoy the series...


Hey, wasn't there a movie?


  1. As a Madoka fan who found your blog purely by accident a few days ago, I must say, I very much enjoyed these posts. Your sense of humour and commentary go extremely well together, and I think you just gained yourself a reader.

    1. Your comment has literally made my day. This is my first ever attempt at a full series review, and I've worried all month about how it was ultimately going to turn out. I may do another themed month in the future, but I hope you'll continue reading as I move back to my regular schedule at the end of the week.

      Until then, I have a modest archive of other posts that I hope you'll also enjoy. Thank you for your support. :)

  2. You finished, yay!

    Yeah, I'll be picking up MM in a year or two, when it's inevitably dropped from a couple hundred to like $30. :P