One of the things I’ve liked about Puella Magi Madoka Magica has been the whole mystery aspect. We’ve been following Madoka, an outsider to this isolated realm known only to Puella Magi, around for most of the series, and together, we’ve steadily been learning about these magical girls, their lives, and their morals. And through this process, we’ve seen great transformations in character.
However, the series is still young and many mysteries remain. Nevertheless, more questions are being answered than asked now, especially with the developments in this episode. We’ve learned some things about Homura and Kyubey (including another new name, Incubator) and the process of ‘witch-ification’. It’s been gradual but the series is picking up speed and the conclusion is in the headlights: the fateful night when Walpurgisnacht appears.
Most of the remaining mysteries spiral around the motivations of Homura and Kyubey, the actual circumstances of the upcoming fights, and Madoka’s untapped and unrivaled potential. Instead, let’s take the time to step back and look at how the characters have changed, especially since theses mysteries have been more or less solved.
The most considerable changes have been the shifts of the originally considered good and originally considered bad characters to their opposite sides. Homura and Kyoko initially came off as being evil, with Homura’s attitude and personality toward Madoka and her friends and Kyoko’s arrogance and brutality toward Sayaka. We now know both are doing the right thing, or at least that’s the way they are perceived. They’re doing what they think is right, but then again, so is everyone else in the series. It’s difficult to tell for sure, but the way things are going, they just seem to be doing the right thing.
There’s also been the shift from good to bad, too. Kyubey (I wonder if the name Incubator will stick) was originally a cute mascot/contractor but now he’s eternally viewed as a soul-stealing and manipulative spawn of wickedness. Mami, not so much, but her partnership with Kyubey could be viewed as her being guilty by association. After all, her saving Kyubey has essentially doomed Sayaka and probably Madoka. Hitomi began as just an outsider/human friend but has since shown she is selfish and impatient which indirectly crushed Sayaka’s soul. But the transition of Sayaka’s is the most notable.
Sayaka started off as a protective tomboy and compassionate friend but her pride has darkened her soul beyond the point of salvation. She wanted to be a Puella Magi like none before her, using her powers to protect society and serve justice. But upon realizing this path had a meaningless pursuit and no favorable ending, she began to lose herself in this perplexing world. Already shown to be an animated corpse, Sayaka has shown the greatest slide of all the characters. Her humanized and energy are no totally depleted with only a shell of her former self still wandering the streets.
Madoka’s transition, however, switches from happiness to hopelessness. Originally wanting to follow in Mami’s footsteps and protect society, Madoka fails at even protecting one friend, the one who needs her the most, which is causing her the greatest pain. Madoka continuously dwells on the fact that she considers herself as unwanted and unhelpful, causing her myopia in her search for purpose. Additionally, the doomed fates of Mami and Sayaka have shown her that even if she were able to help her friends, that she would be taking on an unbearable burden of sadness and hardships. Her overall cheerful demeanor, full of smiles and sunshine has slowly progressed to a constant depression, complete with tears and misery. It’ll be interesting to see if this changes after her contract. Or maybe her family can provide her support and encouragement to get through this suffering. After all, Homura keeps telling Madoka to avoid contracting for the sake of the people that care about her. You’d figure that the people who care about Madoka would be helping the poor girl right now when she needs it the most.
If I had to pick a favorite aspect of Madoka, it might be the art and the way everything looks. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, the color and light are absolutely stunning and complement the world. The way the witch’s worlds look is thorough and spectacular, a blend of brilliance and craftsmanship, which makes it a shame the series has transitioned from witches to the situation with the Puella Magi. The architecture of buildings and the design of rooms is remarkable, considering the amount of detail in the backgrounds and scenery, which often go unnoticed with the onscreen action and dialogue. I have to applaud Shaft for doing such a fine job with the art, animation, and special effects in this series. They deserve it.
And there are dozens of other aspects that I love about Madoka, but the art is my favorite. Madoka is pleasing visually and I’d hate to think what it would be like without the unique presentation that Shaft has come to be known for. I’ve wondered what Madoka would be like if it were produced by another company like Madhouse, Kyoto Animation, Bones, or Gainax. It’d be interesting to see but I’m entirely satisfied with Shaft and the quality job they’ve done.