Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 06: The Yoko Factor

It's lucky Madoka is making her mistakes while she's a child, when the consequences won't be too severe, don't you think?

Sayaka’s attitude throughout this episode suggests a weakness which Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer identified as the Yoko Factor. Turn the heroes against each other, and they will be easier to destroy. Already, Sayaka has decided that all other magical girls are her enemies. Kyouko is outright aggressive; Homura has been mistrusted from the start, and Sayaka blames her for Mami’s death (wrongly). Mami is the only magical girl Sayaka absolves of ill intention, but she’s not here to help the fight. If the Walpurgisnacht that Homura warns of is a threat that magical girls need to battle (the first scene of the series comes to mind, no?), these girls are not in good shape to meet it.

Even way back then, Kyubey was insisting, "you can save her!"

Of all of them, Madoka is the only one who seems to want to work together. Sayaka, Kyouko and Homura all have different views, but they share a conviction that magical girls are not or cannot be allies. Madoka desperately wants to them to be friends, and she herself, the innocent and unstained one, either is or wants to be friends with all of them.

Despite the divisions between them, this episode revealed something which might have a chance to unite the girls: the nature of the Soul Gems. [Spoilers – although you really can’t discuss this show without spoiling major plot points, when this much has happened in six episodes.] Not just a pretty name, a magical girl’s soul gem is actually her soul, torn from her body and kept in a “safer” container – which makes perfect sense in terms of the creepy ritual scene from earlier:

KoreZombie is no longer the only zombie anime this season.

Judging from Kyouko’s shocked reactions, this detail is generally kept from girls making a contract (which makes it rather ethically questionable, but then, this is Kyubey). Homura was not only not surprised, she jumped into action and possibly saved Sayaka’s life (what happens if you’re seperated from your body for too long?). I wonder what else Homura has learned in the past that set her against Kyubey? Stubborn Sayaka missed the revelation, being otherwise occupied; it might not even shake her conviction, since she willingly sacrificed herself for Kyousuke’s benefit. In previous episodes she seemed to feel it was well worth his happiness whatever happened to her, but it is starting to become evident that he doesn’t return her feelings to the same degree.

Leaving speculation for the moment, let’s discuss the purity of the magical girl. Generally they’re as pure as you get: sweet, good-natured virginal girls who face dangers to protect the world and its order (see Kylaran on mahou shoujo and the status quo). Their powers come from things like the powers of love and friendship, and they frequently purify impure objects (think Shugo Chara or Sailor Moon). By contrast a magical girl’s power in this show is polluting, not purifying; it dulls the soul gem. Their soul, remember, their actual soul is dirtied by magic! Kyubey also assures Sayaka that with a clean gem she can use as much magic as she likes without worrying, implying that over-use of magic could otherwise have consequences. Naturally he didn’t elaborate…

That thing's polluted and dangerous. Here, let me look after it for you...

Further evidence for the popular ‘Kyubey is evil’ school of thought in his ‘eating’ of a used grief seed. These remnants of witches are too dangerous to leave in the hands of magical girls, but he seems positively eager to absorb it. Whatever Kyubey is, I don’t think he’s a force for good, purity and light…if he’s a force for anything but himself. I can only hope we get to see something of his motives eventually.

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One Response to Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 06: The Yoko Factor

  1. BlueJay says:

    Whilst Homura seems fully aware of the coming threat of whatever Walpurgisnacht turns out to be, she doesn’t seem to be in any sort of hurry to band the magical girls together against it. I’m somewhat curious about this. Does she believe that she can prevent anything ghastly happening on her own or perhaps that when the time comes the other girls will reconsider their animosity and work towards something. The final togetherness would be an appropriate theme for a mahou shoujo but I won’t be surprised if a character or two needs to bite the dust before they get their shit together.

    And on the subject (the much debated subject) of Kyubey and his purification of the Soul Gem I have a theory. What if the Soul Gem is a way of shackling the girl’s soul to the shell of her body? Use of magic or simply the inevitable decay of time would errode this connection and thereby dirty the Soul Gem.
    The other question around the Soul Gems is about Homura, who seems to have been battling witches for a while now. What does she do with her Grief Seeds? Presumably she cleans her Soul Gem and then… What? I somehow doubt that you can just throw them in the garbage at the end of the day and Kyubey isn’t around to eat them with his back.

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