SD Alternative

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” - Dr. Seuss

Magical Girl Madoka Magica

The writer needed to bend the rules of space and time to overcome the show’s premise that all hope eventually turns to despair, that the amount of hope and grief is fixed in the universe, and that the universe is gradually running out of energy. (Well, that last part is true.)

The show’s Happy Ending is that when the Puella Magi/Magical Girls are worn out from fighting endlessly against grief, they are able to quietly disappear without adding more grief to the universe.

The Puella Magi inhabit a different reality from other people, fighting grief only they can see – or rather, that other people can see only when events in their own lives draw them in, as when Madoka’s teacher joined the cult.

Lastly the show’s trippy imagery – being trapped in mazes, falling into holes only to be torn apart by anthropomorphic television screens – pretty clearly says “depression”.

I thought for a while that the show was going to go in a different direction. When Kyubey reveals that he’s been recruiting girls to fight against grief because the fluctuation between hope and despair is a power source for aliens at the end of time, it’s incredibly creepy. Madoka and the other major characters aren’t happy to hear that their sacrifice will serve a greater good, they’re disturbed.

Previously, however, when Madoka and Sayaka are considering whether they should essentially give up their lives to become Magical Girls, the sacrifices they are considering are more personal and immediate – healing that guy Sayaka likes, saving each other or a mutual friend. The personal and immediate sacrifices seem reasonable, the abstract sacrifice seems unreasonable. I thought the show was going to examine where, exactly, the line might fall, on the way to ultimately concluding that the urge toward martyrdom is a kind of distortion of reality.

Speaking of altruism, because all of the main characters are girls it’s pretty easy to read this show as a feminist parable about how girls are trained to sacrifice themselves for others. None of the major characters use their “wish” for their own benefit. Considering the way the show ended, though, I’m going to go with my original interpretation (circa the first episode) that the reason all the major characters are girls is because the creator and target audience wouldn’t be comfortable watching a show like this about boys.

I mean, at one point the show even says that when powerful women achieve greatness, it’s because they’ve sacrificed themselves to make a wish, and the power of that wish creates a miracle that distorts the fabric of the universe. This isn’t even an equal gender, Jesus-and-the-Buddha-were-Shaman-Kings kind of retroactive myth-making: it explicitly only applies to women.

Boys aren’t supposed to be touchy-feeley with each other, to struggle with feelings of worthlessness or helplessness, or to sacrifice for each other (except on a battlefield). So those feelings are transposed onto girls so that they can be safely explored, similarly to how feelings of sexual desire are transposed onto boys in shonen ai.

There’s also a bit of idealization going on, where girls live in a kind of paradise of mutual support, without being subjected to the same kinds of pressures to hold it together and succeed in the outside world that boys are.

Anyway, to get back to the show’s major theme: if you were suicidally depressed, the bargain offered by Kyubey really wouldn’t seem all that bad (especially after Madoka alters space and time). You have to fight endlessly against despair, but in return you get a wish, and you are given special powers. Compare that with just being depressed, and having to fight endlessly against despair without any special powers.

I think the show’s major messages are “even if it it hopeless, keep fighting anyway” and “you might think you are worthless, but your life is WORTH SOMETHING and if you throw it away to no purpose you are only going to hurt other people who care about you” and “grief begets more grief until something happens to break the cycle”, which aren’t bad messages either.

Links to previious discussion welcome pleeeeease.