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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica's Ending Explained!

It's really been a while since I last posted but with the hustle and bustle of university assignments coming to a close with exams approaching, I finally have it in me to get back to blogging. I haven't neglected it for so long since my O' levels(or was it AS levels? I forget) but even then I had daily manga reviews lined up for automatic posting for a whole month. Hopefully I'll really be able to get things back on track soon and renovate this place because change is in order, starting with the shoutbox since spambots have gotten into it somehow. I've got a whole bunch of new website designing skills at my disposal so I'll be experimenting with what I can get away with on blogger. Look forward to it to whomever's actually following my words.

Now onto the subject of this post - Madoka's ending. An ending with such a huge shift in tone when compared to its prior episodes that one would think this was a last minute change to the story due to executive meddling or something. I myself would have held fast to that theory but it seems that Urobuchi Gen, the writer behind the series, intended on this all along since he wanted to make a "healing" anime, which the ending actually pulled off. Seriously not what you'd expect from the guy who came up with Fate/Zero and Saya no Uta.

For its ending, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica chose to go out with Madoka wishing so that she personally sees to it that magical girls in all of time and space never become witches. By doing this she ends up recreating the entire universe and ascends from a mere human being to an omniscient, omnipresent sentient concept surpassing time that governs the end that magical girls meet. Essentially a god as Kyuubey predicted but in my opinion a "god" isn't quite right as she's more of a "rule" now. No one but her little brother and Homura remember her ever existing and the Incubators' magical girl powered entropy fixing system has changed for the better. This seeming "way out there" ending really gave Madoka Magica the last touch it needed to be called the Evangelion of this generation. I doubt it'll spark as many heated debates as the super controversial mecha series though. Pretty every loose thread's been taken care of so there's not much left to discuss except how much people like the ending and why.

In spite of the page on wtf endings that SHAFT and Urobuchi seem to have taken out of GAINAX's book, Madoka Magica's ending was actually quite well done and had little to no mindfukery to dick the fans around with. Sure, it does give off the impression of being an all too convenient suspension of disbelief shattering deus ex machina that was way out there and far more than a bit "much" but once you get past all the weirdness, you'll find that everything worked right within the established bounds the series set up beforehand and that had it been handled a little bit better, it wouldn't have come off as such an underwhelming finish for roller coaster ride that was this series. Let's review the main issues people seem to have with the ending:

Madoka's Wish
If it was as simple as wishing for no more witches why didn't anyone wish for it before? Simple, because no else but Madoka could have made it work. From what I can tell, Kyubey's wish granting system works based on how much potential a girl has when they go magical and the extent of their wish depends on that potential as it is implied that there are limitations to what can be wished for when Kyubey questions if Madoka's wish can even be granted. Her potential as a magical girl built up over the countless loops that Homura's been through and judging by the fact that she managed to oneshot Walpurgisnacht by the fourth iteration, there was just no way anyone but her could have pulled off that wish. Madoka also had what most magical girls seem to lack, a thorough understanding of what becoming a magical girl means.

Scene at the End
We see Homura walking all alone in a dessert with dark murky ethereal wings and we hear Madoka cheering her on. I've seen speculation on this taking in the far future where human civilization is mostly gone and that those wings are signs of her ready to witch out but I highly doubt that(though I really wouldn't put it past her). The most likely explanation behind this scene is that the demons raised up a barrier and Homura just happens to be fighting them alone because she's gotten THAT good with her powers. Right after the Sayaka scene we see a demon burning up and the scenery around it depixelating. Given that there had to have been a good deal of damage done to their surroundings had they been fighting the 3m tall demon in the train station, the lack of any visible damage to the station indicates that they fought inside a barrier like they did with witches. As for the wings... the power of eternal love between Homura and Madoka?

The New System
Under the new magical girl system, the girls no longer turn into witches and instead disappear when they were supposed to. Curses now manifest in the form of the giant robed demons for them to fight and generate emotional energy in the soul gems for improving entropy instead of collecting. The Incubators directly have to function as grief seeds for them to unload all their grief so they no longer have to fight each other for resources or be "cannibals" by slaying witches. It's now in QB's best interests to keep the girls safe since they'd just lose all the potential grief they could have reaped from the soul gems meaning that the girls won't get actively screwed by the ones playing the role of their magical pet.

However, I feel I do have to point out that the girls are generally still just as expendable and renewable as entropy staving resources as they were when witches existed. Not quite back to the traditional models of magical pets but still pragmatic enough to leave QB the same as ever, just no longer as a potential enemy. I also have to wonder about the curses manifesting as demons. As shown in the episode with Sayaka, Madoka's basically collecting grief energy and allowing magical girls to die in peace but what does she do with that energy? The Incubators don't seem to be capable collecting it once the soul gems are gone and curses never manifested as demons in the former universe so the only logical conclusion is that Madoka's causing that grief to turn into these demons. I'd even go as far as to speculate that she's converting them herself and that the demons are her familiars in order to maintain universal balance. Madoka having to endanger the girls herself certainly adds a seemingly sinister consequence to her wish but it's still objectively better for the girls this way and I do like how much more bitter this theory makes the ending. Sorry if this ruins your happy impression of the ending but you should know that out of all the characters, QB the pseudo-schadenfreude was the only one I could relate to.

mfw when I wrote the previous paragraph. Also happens to be a few of my display pics.

In the end, I must say that Madoka Magica's ending is not an easy one to appreciate with just one sit through. They pulled a Decon Recon Switch in the span of one episode and the result is a very difficult finale to process properly. Too much was done in the last installment and all the developments overwhelm underlying emotion behind the scenes. It took me a rewatch to genuinely like the ending for the emotions in it and not just the consistency of the writing. They also really could have stood to tone down the cosmicness of Madoka's and Homura's farewell scene so it wouldn't have come off as more supernatural than touching and cut down the epilogue time so that it doesn't take away the power of the epic first half of the episode as much. While the finale did let me down by not ending as strongly as it the series was built up to be, it didn't detract from the show's overall quality. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica was not quite a masterpiece in my opinion but it came really close.

[EDIT] Okay then... We now have a Church of Madoka. Should have seen it coming but I really didn't. I can't imagine how ridiculous this is going to get.



    Meh. Let me just summarise what I was supposed to say.

    - I LOVE Homura's and Madoka's voices, never had any affect by seiyuus before this.
    - I like your interpretation about Madoka endangering the girls herself, it lives up to the Equivalent Exchange they've had going on between the wishes and curses of the magical girls.
    - While I liked that it wasn't a total decon, I still kind of wanted a darker ending, like a never-ending cycle, perhaps, just because I figured the creator would really be cruel enough to do that.

  2. You mean like this?


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