12 Days of Anime – Day 11 – March 10th to April 21st

When you’re watching an anime you love, you experience a range of emotions depending on the delay between episodes.  A standard week between episodes is manageable but sometimes it feels too long.  When an anime takes a week off, it’s normal to replace the length of the episode with sufficient raging and ranting but then you go back into ‘standard week’ mode again and return to normal quickly.  Waiting a month between episodes lies somewhere in the fuzzy area between punishment and torture, but it just feels that much more satisfying when you finally get the episode.  So what of the 43 days that separated the exceptional, spellbinding tenth episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the indescribably anticipated two episode finale that would air together?  That topic will be the focus of Day 11 in my 12 Days of Anime series.

Like any other anime, Madoka aired every seven days and things were fine.  Since the start of the season, Madoka had established an impressive and impressed following and was, without a doubt, one of the most popular anime of recent years.  Then, on March 10th, episode 10 aired.

We had become accustomed to a darkening and depressing adventure for nine consecutive weeks but instead, we got something completely different.  Madoka reverted to an entirely unique perspective, exploring the history and transformation of Homura while providing innumerable surprises and even more answers to the hottest of questions.  Plus it was the first episode to actually feature Puella Magi Madoka.  Everyone was completely stunned, then euphoric, then yearning for next week’s Madoka.  The episode was a legendary success and it became a brilliant reinforcement for the anime that would set the stage for the grand finale in episodes 11 and 12.

But then in the midafternoon of March 11th, disaster struck off the coast of Japan in the form of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.  While the earthquake only lasted a few minutes, the catastrophe had just begun.  The following tsunami caused unimaginable death and damage to Japan’s eastern coastline and the nuclear disaster that lingered for months afterwards proved to be incredibly costly, both in terms of costs and reputation.  The entire nation, nay the world, was alarmed at such a calamity and an international recovery effort began to aid Japan in reconstructing itself.  Going back to anime here, the stations and studios began to delay some episodes in the days following the earthquake which was completely justifiable.  But Madoka ended up being delayed for more than a week and the air date for episode 11 was unknown.  Other anime aired and concluded and even the Spring anime season started up.  When would we get the continuation of the beloved episode 10 and see the awesome finale to Puella Magi Madoka Magica?

The fanbase for Madoka stirred with speculation, rumors, and most memorably criticism.  Fans remarked: ‘This is a mistake!’, ‘It will have lost its magic.’, and ‘This wait is completely unnecessary and retarded.’ Others, with a more positive outlook commented: ‘It will be worth the wait.’, ‘They’re just making the finale that much better with this extra time.’, and ‘You’ll love it again once you start episode 11.’  Theories arose that the series was going to wait until the actual holiday of Walpurgis Night (April 30th) which would overload the series with some form of inexplicable but heavy and undeniable symbolism and meaning.  Others proclaimed the creators were using this time to reevaluate and recreate the ending to Madoka and use the current energy and enthusiasm to their advantage.  And again, others took this time to bash the series for making a mistake of putting the anime off for way too long.  And then an announcement came with a set air date and another surprise, too: episodes 11 and 12 would air together on April 21st.  Another wave of excitement and anticipation reverberated through the Madoka fandom.

The 43 days between episodes 10 and 11 of Madoka ended up being one of the biggest memories of the year for me.  The main reason is because the anime began to grown larger than life, full of diverse emotions, ideas, and speculation.  The waiting for Madoka even became bigger than other anime that were concluding or airing, too, for that matter too.  During that lengthy duration with everyone discussing, debating, theorizing, and arguing over Madoka.  And not just the anime, too, there were numerous topics about the waiting for Madoka, talking about people were coping or their plans for once the finale aired.  Everywhere you looked throughout the Winter, there was something on Madoka.  But during the prolonged delay, there was a sense of passion, eagerness, and electricity behind these words.  Madoka had become emotional for many and had similar but lesser effects on countless others.  The month-and-half long wait built up so much energy and emotion that it had become something itself.  And it was made possible by the series as a whole, especially starting with the awe-inspiring and magnificent 10th episode.  As the days grew closer, the emotion and excitement grew steadily closer, almost like spark heading along a cartoon trail of gunpowder toward a comically tall and unnecessary pile of dynamite.  And then, on April 21st, Madoka 11 and 12 aired.

And boom goes the dynamite.  The rest, from that point on, is history.

There were so many, almost too many, moments in Madoka this year that could’ve been used in place of this post, from Sayaka’s battle with Elsa Maria, to her eventual death, to episode 10 itself, to the two episode finale pack, to a half-dozen other minor but impressionable scenes.  But this waiting is unique for all anime and was made into a success through its influence and its fans.  I doubt any other anime would’ve been successful through this lengthy of a wait besides Madoka, dominating the anime community as a topic of interest throughout the entire time and then becoming as celebrated and renowned as it is.  It’s something only Madoka could’ve pulled off and it did it magnificently.  Or, think about it this way: one of my top anime moments of the year wasn’t anything from the anime of Madoka itself but the time between episodes of Madoka.  That is how magical this moment was.

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  1. #1 by Joojoobees on December 25, 2011 - 9:06 AM

    I know what you mean. The normal wait when you are watching an anime you enjoy can sometimes seem unbearable. Madoka was an extraordinarily long wait for an extraordinarily good anime. Nevertheless, I think some of the public hand-wringing and moaning was off the mark. The event (as you mentioned) that caused the interruption was a horrific tragedy. Partial cause of the disruption was the damage to infrastructure in Japan. No doubt the main reason for the lengthy delay was concern that images of Walpurgisnacht could resurface trauma.

    Public wailing over what the delay would do to Madoka, or what anime viewers were enduring, seemed to me to be callous in the face of the abundance of real human suffering that was going on at the time. Needless to say, there are many whose lives never returned to normal, because of the nuclear disaster that followed the tsunami.

    I agree with you, however that the wait between Madoka episodes was a very important memory of anime from this year. To me it really drove home how this medium I enjoy such much is dependent upon the activities (and well-being) of a little island nation.

    • #2 by avvesione on December 25, 2011 - 6:55 PM

      My original version of the post had more of a focus on the whole earthquake/tsunami/nuclear aspect of the delay but I donned it down and went more of a non-Japanese fan’s perspective on the matter, which was more toward the anime than the disaster.. I do understand the reason for the delay because of the trauma or uncomfortable memories watching further destruction in the days following such a devastating disaster and to respect those who had lost anything or everything. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad all the anime took a moment to pay tribute to the disaster. The delay by Madoka is something I thought was appropriate… to an extent.

      Obviously the whole catastrophe takes more precedence than any anime but Madoka was delayed further than all other anime and I don’t think the fans gripping was an affront to the disaster but rather poor management of showing Madoka after the disaster. Every other anime resumed before Madoka, concluded, and the Spring started up before Madoka resumed and while Madoka did have a darker and most destructive message than any other anime, it felt longer than it needed to be. That is my take on why people were complaining about the delay, that they understand the significance of the disaster but did not agree with the length and handling of the delay. I also realize they could’ve censored some scenes and aired it, kinda like what they did with Softenni when they took out a scene for 2-3 minutes when a tsunami hit the tennis courts but that might’ve caused even more outrage (imagine having to wait for the BD to see the complete finale).

      Thanks for your input and taking the more somber/serious perspective since that was something I shied away from in my post.

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