We certainly got to see a different side of Homura-chan in this episode – different sides, in fact, the stages in the transformation from a shy, sickly, lonely girl to the cold and mysterious macgical girl we knew. Episode 10 is dedicated to Homura’s background, and explains her attitude and her obsession with Madoka in the timeline we follow.
Homura’s reason for being at this point is Madoka, full stop. We see that she has been friends with people like Mami – apparently not Sayaka! – and has lost them and grieved before. They aren’t important compared to Madoka. Upon losing her, the last and best of shy Homura’s friends, Kyubey grants her a wish: to see Madoka again –
This wish Kyubey grants, apparently literally; if Homura can’t protect her charge, her time powers kick in (it seemed to happen against her will) and take her back for another chance. Repeat as necessary. Losses are inevitable, but with every attemot Homura’s focus becomes clearer: save Madoka. Nothing else matters. She doesn’t even mind if Madoka likes her, in this case, as long as she’s safe.
The Madoka who inspires this loyalty and devotion is not the scared, irresolute, wimpy Madoka we know. This Madoka has watched other people take the fall, make mistakes, transform and die – she has been protected. The Madoka that Homura first met was a strong, brave, confident magical girl, a protector.
She doesn’t need to do anything in this life; Homura is already indebted to her.
Despite her mysterious Dark Magical Girl appearance, Homura has taken a long, rough road as a magical girl. She has no magical weapons other than the ability to manipulate time, so she steals guns and make home-made bombs (to keep in her awesome mallet-space buckler). What kind of magical girl has to do that kind of thing? She is naturally closer to reality when it comes to fighting, and yet she tries hard to contribute. She wants to be useful to people – the same wish Madoka has voiced. Mami and Sayaka wanted to save people; Homura wants to belong, to have friends, to be part of something.
What really struck me about this episode (my partner also voiced the thought) was how much the early parts of Homura’s story felt like a typical magical girl anime. Shy, friendless girl meets bubbly, friendly girl at school; encounters magic and finds out girl’s secret; joins the band and fights evil, making friends and gaining confidence along the way. This is the story the opening sequence is about, and always has been. Unfortunately, the story gets tainted – repeatedly.
Leenina at Sea Slugs! has stated that this show is Sayaka’s story, given the focus on her in the past. I don’t think it is, nor do I think it’s truly Homura’s story, although this episode made it feel like it (everyone else fits into her story). The title is true; this is Madoka’s story. This time through Homura’s purgatory, we get Madoka’s perspective, all her insecurities, all her weaknesses. Homura hopes to spare her from making a choice out of necessity, but this is still the same Madoka from Homura’s past who has the potential to be this brave, self-sacrificing magical girl. She still has her choice.