So my quick impressions wouldn’t be the only thing that I had going for the Madoka Magica finale, here’s my rather lengthy final impressions post. If you have anywhere to be in the next 20 minutes or so, I suggest skimming through. Otherwise, grab a snack and read on.
So… yeah. My Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica review.
Okay okay, no point in drawing things out further. I just really haven’t been able to collect my thoughts on it. So in the meantime, for what it’s worth, here are the episode summaries (I apologize for the grainy screens):
Madoka Magica Episode 11
Episode 11 started off ominously, having harkened back to Episode 9 and the unfortunate events contained therein.
With Walpurgis Night rapidly approaching, Kyubey informs Homura that she’s left with no other option than to fight off the powerful witch than to recruit the aid of Madoka. Clearly, Kyubey masterminded this entire thing, and this is when his plastered on smirk looks the creepiest. Seriously, even just his shadow is used to disturbing effect.
He goes on to say that because of Homura’s meddling in the space time continuum, she’s inadvertently made Madoka much more powerful than anticipated. Because each of the timelines meets up with one common factor, Madoka, they’ve imbued her with power enough to warp reality if she sees fit.
While Homura prepares and hopes against hope that she’s able enough to take on the witch so it won’t be necessary for Madoka to become a mahou shoujo, Kyubey gives Madoka a speech about how his species has viewed humans: Pawns, with a modicum of control over their lives, little better than cattle; sentience being their only redeeming factor aside from their despair. He also tells her that several girls through history have been magical girls (Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, etc.), that it isn’t just an isolated incident with Madoka and her friends. Once again, this scene proves very unsettling, and further cements hatred towards Kyubey and his kind.
Walpurgis Night (Which looks more like a pretty intense storm to me, but whatever, I’ll roll with it) arrives, plunging the city in a typhoon of epic proportions. While Homura begins the fight against the witch, Madoka sits uneasily in a shelter, eager to help out. After a confrontation with her mother, she gives a tearful goodbye and runs out into the fury of the storm to follow Homura.
As can be imagined, despite her best efforts, Homura just isn’t up to par with the witch, and gets trashed easily by her ungodly powers.
The credits roll, and Madoka begins to say the big reveal… which is spoiled in the next episode. Thankfully, with both airing at once, waiting isn’t necessary. On to Episode 12, away!
Madoka Magica Episode 12
So our episode opens with a battered and beaten Homura leaning against a wall, concussed and out of the fight. Madoka and Kyubey lean over her, with Madoka finally dropping a huge bombshell: She’s decided to become a mahou shoujo, to combat Walpurgis Night and end the whole magical girl curse.
I don’t want to give too much away, because the ending was truly satisfying, but long story short, Madoka makes a contract with Kyubey. Her wish? To destroy all witches before they become witches. Because of her amazing potential being unleashed, she’s turned into a reality-warping god. Let’s just say that Kyubey’s expression here, despite being unmoving, took on an air of panic for a split second as Madoka’s wish was granted.
Taking a page out of End of Evangelion, she finds all magical girls throughout history who’re suffering and takes their lives through the magic of hugs and a montage.
With this power, she ends Walpurgis Night with one fell blow, contrasting with the sadness of the previous encounters with it, and she transcends space and time. And that’s just the first half. Madoka spends the rest of the episode making amends with all those who’ve ended up unintentionally harmed around her in the course of the series, including Sayaka (Who’s finally come to terms with her crush being with her best friend), and we follow Homura as we examine the universe that Madoka made. Again, major Evangelion flashbacks.
One of my favorite moments of the episode was when Homura comes across Madoka’s family in a park, Madoka’s former younger brother drawing sketches of her in the sand, much to his parents’ bewilderment. I don’t know, just the idea of the little brother remembering his older sister despite her ascension to godhood warmed my frigid heart a few degrees.
Finally, after Homura remembers the implications of Madoka’s wish (All magical girls die before they can truly despair over their loss of a future), she sits on top of a building, overlooking the entire city. Around her appear the true manifestations of despair: Giant, ghostly Buddhist monks. I don’t get it either, but SHAFT’s done such a wonderful job so far, I’m willing to let it slide.
Homura vows to continue fighting to honor Madoka’s sacrifice, and the episode ends on a surprisingly satisfactory note.
Even after writing this, I still haven’t quite gathered my thoughts. So to give myself an excuse to waffle on, I’ll ask the question that’s likely cropped up: Did the last episode make the month-long wait worthwhile? The answer is a definite yes.
As an ending, it provided the perfect amount of closure, while walking a delicate line between an over the top, sunshine-y, cheerful gecko ending, and a gloom and doom ‘I think I need to sit in a corner for a little while’ ending.
Again, at least nobody turned into Tang.
What I liked most about how they ended, was they didn’t compromise the mechanics of the Puella Magi universe: Girls still make contracts to turn into mahou shoujo, and they still have an enemy to fight and protect the rest of the world from… Buddhist monks. I’m sure this is a metaphor for religion being a wellspring of despair, but… why Buddhism? Nevermind, I’m not going to get hung up on it.
Balance is still imperative to maintaining order in the universe. With Madoka’s blinding radiance, an all absorbing Umbran gloom must come into being. Mahou Shoujo are still the order against the embodiments of despair and chaos. With a second chance at life, there must follow an inevitable and ultimately tragic death. With Madoka attaining the burden of being an eternal guardian of hope, so she must fade from human memory.
Finally, entropy must still be countered with incoming energy, except in different ways.
It’s the breathtaking, yet compromising ending that couldn’t have been improved in anything but delivery (It was all kind of piled at the beginning of the last episode, and for a minute I was afraid that it’d turn out to be a jumbled mess beyond repair). The future is still uncertain, but we know that Madoka is free from Kyubey’s cold tendrils for the rest of her existence.
SHAFT really did well this time around by producing such a wonderful magical girl series that turned our ideas of the genre conventions on their heads and made us question the genuine way the adorable magical girl sidekicks seem to eagerly want to help out their contractors.
To me though, the most masterful part of Madoka Magica was the way Kyubey’s expression was perceived differently at different points in the series. At the very beginning, I saw him as a slightly unnerving creature that, while a bit too happy and eager to make the girls into Mahou Shoujo, was somewhat likeable. As the episodes progressed, he seemed more and more diabolical. His cold, yet always cheerful way of speaking belied his true malevolent and lying nature.
By the end, Kyubey was utterly frightening, and his expression only changed once… when eating in one of the early episodes. It takes real mastery to make an otherwise static face go from pretty adorable, to pants shittingly terrifying.
Anyway, back to the SHAFT praising. From the cutesy regular character design and backgrounds to the, yet occasionally trippy stop motion artwork of the witches’ worlds, they really outdid themselves with the artwork and animation. Not a single element felt out of place in all twelve episodes, and the same can easily be said of the sound.
I must say, it’s been wonderful following Madoka Magica from the beginning, and reading the different theories posed by bloggers everywhere that followed each episode. Seeing this series get so much coverage gave me the inspiration I needed to get into anime blogging, honestly. If so many interesting discussions could be raised just about a character’s place in the story, what other enlightening conversations would lie ahead? Actually… probably something like this.
To top things off, I’m glad it’s over, and we can finally look at it as a whole. It was one wild ride, full of expectations and speculations. But it was wonderful.