So, that’s all folks (for now at any rate). Madoka made her choice. She did sacrifice herself for all of her friends and loved ones, as we knew she would, no matter what she decided.
The show is called Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and sure enough, despite all the tangents into friends and traumas and motives, this is the story of Kaname Madoka, and how she became a magical girl.
Madoka as we met her at the beginning of this series was timid, uncertain, lacking in confidence and unable to find the strength to face up to the problems in her world. She always seemed weak and inactive. In episode 10 we got a suggestion that this wasn’t the ‘true’ Madoka, though – it was what this world had made her. The Madoka that Homura knew was a strong, selfless girl who stepped up to the occasion and vowed to protect what she loved even if it meant giving her life; in short, she was everything a magical girl is meant to be. By protecting her, Homura shields her from challenge after challenge and allows her to see how she could end up, overwhelming her until she feels completely helpless. Like this, Madoka is no good to anyone. All her friends want to defend her innocence, and throw themselves in harm’s way to do it. She is left alone, and even more paralysed in grief and fear.
But I’ve discussed already how Homura is destroying what she wants to protect. What’s interesting about episode 11 is that, out of the scared shell of our current protagonist, the Madoka that Homura loves re-emerged. Homura is Madoka’s only friend left, the depths of whose friendship she can only begin to appreciate having heard Homura’s story. To protect her, Madoka steps up, finally, to the challenge. There is an irony, of course, that Homura chases Madoka time and time again because she owes her; Madoka saves Homura now because of the debt she feels towards her protectress.
A nice little twist which hadn’t occurred to me what the avoidance of Homura simply resetting a reality she isn’t satisfied with. Kyubey hypothesises that with every re-run, Homura is making Madoka more and more subject to karma with every rescue. The more this burden weighs on her, the greater the energy she will unleash as a magical girl – and as a witch. Realising this, Homura freezes, unable to see a way out, unable to protect her friend, and she despairs.
And then, her angel appears.
Madoka puts herself forward to save Homura, as she always does. She has her wish, and she’s willing to sacrifice herself to make it come true. She’ll be removed from the world, from her friends, from her body, but that’s ok, because Madoka really is that selfless (unlike her friends, I would say) – if it protects her loved ones, anything’s ok.
You can tell this is the right time, because Madoka speaks with confidence and command when she makes her wish. She’s demanding this, she knows she has the power, and she’s aware of what she’s doing but truly doesn’t care about the consequences. Kaname Madoka changes the world. Even the Incubators themselves are swept up and changed by her wish.
The implication is that such a wish could never have been successfully made by anyone else. This relies in the inference that the power available to grant a wish is proportionate to the potential of the girl, that is the amount of energy she can contribute and, apparently, how loved and protected she is by others – her karmic burden. Because of Homura’s obsession, the sacrifices of the other girls, and maybe even Madoka’s wonderful mother, Madoka is able to prevent anyone ever becoming a witch.
Such a wish has far-reaching consequences. Kyubey is understandably dismayed, since this will rather hobble the entropy trade. The lives and deaths of magical girls are altered backwards and forwards in history. And, like Homura before her, Madoka becomes the fulfilment of her own wish. She is transformed into ‘a force of nature’, a goddess in Kyubey’s terms, who watches over magical girls and saves them from despair at their ends.
Selfless Madoka chooses to give up her humanity and become something greater instead, not for her own sake (she has no high ambitions) but for the sakes of others.
So the world is re-made, this time without witches. Magical girls still exist, and so do the Incubators who create them. The two seem to be on much friendlier and more open terms, though, and one assumes the Incubators still use magical girls as an energy source of some kind. Madoka’s darker nature shows in these last scenes, because it’s rather unclear what the new situation is. Magical girls fight ‘magical beasts’, which presumably prey upon humanity as witches did, and they can still fall in battle. On the bright side, they no longer risk becoming witches and performing the curses they fought against until another, equally doomed girl slays them. On the shadowy, uncertain other side is the nature of the new foes. Magical beasts are vaguely humanoid, and their origins are unknown. Could they be just as bad?
In the final scene, we see Homura going into battle in an empty landscape, a scenario that feels an awful lot like a Walpurgisnacht of a different kind. Once again, she’s to face this on her own – but not alone, really, because she remembers Madoka, and as her eternal protectress, Madoka watches over her. It’s a happier battle than the one we started the series with. At the same time, what it means and what might happen are unknown; Homura’s witch-like wing manefestations are of unknown significance. All we have is Madoka, apparently unworried, watching from outside the world.
This has been a summary post. There are a lot of things I’d like to discuss about this show, both from these two final episodes and from the series as a whole, but they can wait for other posts. Let me finish by saying that I have really enjoyed this series, and although it ended with a typically anime burst of dreamlike sequences and transformation, I am satisfied with the ending. It showed how every character who had come before had a story that was vital in shaping Madoka, even if her time to transmute it all only came at the last minute.