Puella Magi Madoka Magica 09: Deux Ex Machina

We finally have answers regarding Kyubey’s motivations, and they are… a bit underwhelming, actually.

It’s evident from episode 9 that Kyubey’s reasons for essentially breeding witches are not supposed to be the focus or the turning point of this story. If they were, they wouldn’t be expounded in a couple of minutes of uneventful monologue which the protagonist doesn’t even understand. Far more attention has been paid to the nature of the soul gems and how that changes magical girls’ sense of self – or to the value of wishes versus sacrifices – or the relationships between competing magical girls.  The reason for this situation feels like a necessary extra bring thrown in here; it is the girls’ reactions to their situation which make up the story.

It’s starting to seem that Mami’s fate was the best that a magical girl can hope for – saving a few lives, then dying in battle before she could harm anyone as a witch. This is not a particularly comforting thought. Kyouko’s recent attachment to Sayaka leads her to her own noble death in this episode, leaving only Madoka and Homura to face the mysterious Walpurgisnacht. It’s possible that Homura knew this would happen all along, and that’s why she has always been so fixated on Madoka. In fact Kyouko’s sacrifice can also be seen as largely for Madoka’s benefit: she brought Madoka to the witch in the hope of saving her, but when that failed, Kyouko seemed to feel it was her responsibility to get Madoka out safely.

I think this show is coming back to why the title has Madoka’s name in it, despite her having done absolutely nothing nine episodes in. She has watched, seen others’ mistakes; she has learned more about what magical girls are and what becoming one means than most magical girls probably would in their lives. Madoka will probably only make one real, effectual choice in the show – to become a magical girl, or not; to fight, or not. The examples of Mami, Sayaka, Kyouko and Homura will all inform her choice, in fact every episode up until then is background leading to it. Will she sacrifice herself help others, knowing exactly what she is giving up? Will she crack under pressure and become the greatest threat the world has seen? Or will she break Kyubey’s game, freeing herself and others from a terrible dilemma?

Mystlord at THAT Anime Blog has expressed his dissatisfaction with the sudden turns and shifts in character that he sees as happening without development, but I think that deception – most of all decieving oneself – is significant for all the characters in Madoka Magica. Sayaka tried to convince herself she was acting selflessly and didn’t care about her own desires, but her insecurities came out in the end. Kyouko’s tough girl shell was a defense mechanism in someone who has been alone a long time. Homura’s cold, emotionless manner broke down in front of Madoka; even Madoka, the innocent heart of the show, is torn between the brave heroine she wants to be and her paralyzing fear (cowardice, even). In the short time we knew her, Mami showed a confident and friendly exterior that masked her intense loneliness and detachment from the world.

Perhaps Madoka’s true self will come out when she is finally forced into action. Even now that Kyubey has bared all, Homura’s motivations and goals remain mysterious. The next few episodes, which will shortly be the last few, are certain to hold more revelations as well as the final battle which will decide our titular heroine’s fate.

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