Puella Magi Madoka Magica 05: In which Kyubey hungers for girls’ souls.

Kyubey is far too eager to create magical girls. He’s understanding about Sayaka and Madoka’s reservations, and has made very clear that he will not (or, much more likely, cannot) force them, and yet every time Madoka is vulnerable, there he is, whispering in her ear. Madoka is always concerned for other people, and Homura makes clear in this episode that this is a weakness in magical girls. Despite this Sayaka became a magical girl in order to make someone else happy, and whatever Madoka’s wish eventually is, I’m certain it will be for someone else’s sake.

Sayaka seems to have taken her friend Kyousuke’s resentment of his injury to heart. When he lost the ability to make the music she admired, the world lost out; if the world lost Sayaka, how bad would it be?

So she sacrifices herself, or at least puts herself in harm’s way, to restore Kyousuke. Sayaka tells Madoka that she’s found something she doesn’t mind dying for – her life for Kyousuke’s happiness is worth it.

Brave words, but does she mean it? We know Sayaka is still scared of being a magical girl, scared of the possibility that she could get hurt. There are a lot of occasions in episode 5 which suggest that Sayaka is being deceptive, even if it’s only to cover her own insecurity or lie to herself. When Hitomi mentions her misadventures the previous night, Sayaka puts on a show of not knowing about it. She puts on a brave face for Madoka even while admitting her fears. And, when she talks to Kyousuke, we are not shown her eyes at a key moment:

Everything's ok. Honest!

In some ways Sayaka seems to already be giving up on herself – when she hears Kyousuke playing his violin again, she thinks, “this is the happiest day of my life.” I read the subtext: “I would happily die now.” And there’s a very real possibility that she will. At the same time Sayaka can’t help but really want to continue living, and she’s grateful for Madoka sticking by her.

That’s something Sayaka has that other magical girls in this world don’t seem to have very often: a friend who knows about what they do. The magical world and the witches are, by and large, a secret, and part of the reasons magical girls are so alone is that they can’t share it with anyone. Even if Madoka never makes a wish, Sayaka can talk to her about this. She doesn’t have to give up all her friends. Mami, Kyouko, Homura – none of these girls seems to have anyone they could talk to. No one except Kyubey…and that’s possibly worse for them.

Just to make Sayaka’s new life more difficult (and emphasise her weakness when it comes to angry responses), we get Kyouko, a new character and fellow magical girl:

My fencer boyfriend got rather annoyed at this implausible excuse for a parry, and he's right - nothing in this should stop Sayaka running her through!

Kyouko adds another dimension to what a magical girl is here. Homura seems heartless, but her motivations are unclear. Mami did fight to help people, but she wasn’t as selfless as Madoka is – it was take on this life, or die. Whatever Kyouko’s reasons for contracting, she seems to really enjoy being a magical girl. To her mind, it makes her better than everyone else. Her powers thrive on grief seeds, and that’s all witches are to her; their effects on other, ‘normal’ people’s lives are more or less irrelevant. Kyouko is out for herself, and has no qualms about causing the deaths of others – even other magical girls.

Madoka’s problem throughout the series has been that if the witches are the bad guys, and the magical girls are the good guys, the girls are on the same side. In-fighting is not only distressing for her personally, it seems like a less effective way to defeat witches. Kyubey once again preys on her while Kyouko and Sayaka are fighting, suggesting that she can force them to co-operate with her own powers – but how magical girl is that? The power of friendship shouldn’t need a bow or a sword or a flinklock rifle prodding it along to work.

What I want to know is, what happens to a magical girl who doesn’t get grief seeds for a sufficiently long time? If they just lost their powers, well, they couldn’t fight witches anymore but they’d return to being normal girls. It can’t be that easy, which means something darker is probably at stake.

As an ending note, there was one moment in this episode that really made me flinch. It was a subtle yet graphic reference to Mami’s death, and I felt it was included very effectively:

Twist...and...CRACK! Off it comes.

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