Madoka Magica and the Weight(lessness?) of Expectations

By TheBigN

Given the amount of coverage this blog has had with this show, this won’t be the last you’ll hear from us for sure. Spoilers obviously abound here.

I was pretty satisfied with the ending to Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Really enjoyed how Madoka rewrote the rules of the Magical Girl in the universe she lived in such that in the new universe, the rules of the Magical Girl were for the most part ones that we already knew, loved or grew tired of (i.e. a “regular Magical Girl anime”). Taking into consideration that when Madoka first suddenly came into the world of magical girls, her impression was that of what you would normally see in anime and manga, for this new universe to literally take that initial expectation to heart is a great touch. And if I was more of a dick than I am, I would be laughing at how it seems like you could say it’s a little wave in the face of people who liked PMMM for the fact that it supposedly deconstructed tropes that you would see in magical girl shows. To have the show end in a world that seems like it would reinforce those tropes makes it feel like things come full circle.

I also enjoyed that in order to even manage this, Madoka breaks the rules of the system set in place by the Incubators.  She was always willing to become a Magical Girl for other Magical Girls (although Homura kept trying to disrupt those plans), despite learning about the many different piles of crap that one who took up the mantle went through. And even when she didn’t know, she was still willing to do so in the beginning of the series, as her willingness to help ease Mami’s burden was evident. Not to mention the beginning, where we see the many iterations of epic Madoka in episode 10. It was always for the other Magical Girls in her eyes. Always. So her wish desiring destroying any witches every, thus protecting the sad fate that was supposed to befall all Magical Girls anywhere and anywhen made sense given her character. That it destroyed Kyubey’s plan to stave off entropy using despair (I still lol at that) was a bonus. That the “simple wish” ended up creating a new universe which adapted that idea of staving off entropy without feeding off of the pain of Magical Girls is a little revelatory. But given Madoka essentially becomes a God now, that makes sense.

Kyubey’s “wait. WHAT?” response to that wish was also fun to watch. Obviously such a selfish and selfless wish that essentially nullifies that system wasn’t in Kyubey’s plans, and to him would probably be as surprising as if Madoka wished he fight in their stead. As SDS would probably put it, based on his expectations, this wish was totally unreasonable and illogical. Judging by the people who comment or complain that the wish and resulting actions were “too easy”, “too much”, “too happy”, “too anti-climactic” or “too something that wasn’t what they completely wanted”, that wish was also unreasonable and illogical to them as well. Maybe we’re more like Kyubey than we realize. 😛

Spinning off on that, the fact that I see a lot of reactions from people on what they expected the ending to be rather than the ending itself is a little telling. If you know me, one thing I claim to notice a lot is that people end up paying more attention to what a show can become rather than what is, and that too often, how a person rates a show is based on that ideal (maximizing a subjective “potential” for other involved) compared to that reality. It’s a fruitless argument to determine which is better, but when someone says that they stop caring about PMMM following that “lol entropy” moment, I feel like that person has let their expectations take over their enjoyment (yes, the same old refrain again – I care too much about what others say for sure).

In regards to PMMM, I feel like a lot of these expectations comes from ideas such as “deconstruction of the idea of magical girls”, “transcending normal trappings normally found in magical girl-focused anime, much less anime”. “having a downer/depressing/everyone dies ending”, “doing something different” and things like that. The speculative nature of the show fed on that (what will happen next?!?) very well. But because we didn’t see things coming from the start, did it mean that we weren’t supposed to see things coming at the end? Does it mean that it’s a bad thing if we can see what’s coming at the end? If people answer those questions in the affirmative strongly enough that they dislike/hate PMMM because people could “predict the ending” (about 3 episodes before it ends,  but acting like they did it at the beginning, yeah.), it’s around the same sort of mindset as people who try to seriously apply Faust, Evangelion, religion etc. to the show and hope that the show overall reflects those demands placed onto it from those fans.  In these types of cases, we’re way too serious and need to slow down and chill.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a pretty good show and in my opinion, one of the show’s strengths was that it almost always managed to keep up our interest throughout. It was very fun wondering what would happen next, and theorizing how things might go. But I would hope that enjoying the speculation about the show didn’t become the main focus over the show itself. Since if it gets to that point, thinking in that way makes us as misguided as all of those girls who made wishes that Kyubey easily took advantage of. :3

Maybe we just need Madoka's support as well.

Maybe we just need Madoka's support as well. By 3no_:

As a side note, having a full-page ad on one of the most circulated papers in the world shows that it probably has some staying power, and some transcendence above the “typical fanbase” for the show. I guess.

18 Responses to “Madoka Magica and the Weight(lessness?) of Expectations”

  1. 1 Kurogane Shiroikaze April 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Our Goddess has sacrificed herself for our sins.

    We must keep faith and remember Her.

  2. 2 dm00 April 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Maybe it’s too much Catechism class as a child, but watching angel Madoka vacuuming clean all those soul gems my second thought (after first thinking of Rei appearing to people as they turned into Morning Rescue in End of Evangelion) was of the Latin Mass: “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi” — “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”.

    My gosh, anime’s answer to Narnia.

  3. 3 omo April 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I must be a dick.

    Post incoming…

  4. 4 ubiquitial April 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I rewatched those last 2 episodes.

    While I don’t agree that Madoka wasn’t at least partially intended as a subversion of traditional MS shows (it was) I do agree that the intention has nothing do with the final quality of the show, and that viewers are overinterpreting it way WAY too much.

    Of course, that’s mostly because I subscribe to the Sontag school, where a work must stand on it’s form (execution) rather than it’s content (themes). But I do believe that the fact that people are putting so much thought into it is a testament to Madoka’s quality. To me, interpretation is born out of anxiety. All the speculation was because the show was just too engaging, and you try to find a way to explain it and/or justify your enjoyment. Of course, this is in no way helped by Shinbo, whose style shows both an understanding of film techniques (enough to subvert) and a genuine love of anime. Like in Bakemonogatari, where he stylistically paid homage to Ozu right before going into a panty shot. LEAD BALLS.

    I also liked how the show had you guessing till the final episode. Really, it points to talented writing. It wasn’t like say, Code Geass where they stuck a plot twist at the end of every episode. No, the twists here are more articulated, and given time to sink in and allow for character development. The plot had excellent pacing but an unpredictable rhythm, or at least that’s the impression it gave me. I’ll have to rewatch the show to look for examples.

    PMMM will have a lot of staying power, I’m sure. It’s not anything revolutionary but it sure is a gem. Even disregarding the subject matter, the art is interesting (though the background often contrasts with the characters, it has a nice effect), the music fits well, and the last few episodes are spectacular, IMO. I might also represent SHAFT’s transition into a different type of show, or them branching out. It has little of that trademark Shinbo stylization, and where it does it’s very subtle. Plus, virtually no fanservice. Yet, it still FEELs like Shaft, mostly in the odd angles and the strange imagry.

    • 5 TheBigN April 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      >>While I don’t agree that Madoka wasn’t at least partially intended as a subversion of traditional MS shows (it was)

      You misunderstand me. I agree that it’s a subversion. What many wanted it to be was a complete and total destruction of what makes a magical girl show such. It not only doesn’t do that, but reaffirms it at the end. That’s what I was trying to say there.

      And thanks for taking the time to write this lengthy comment.

      • 6 ubiquitial April 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

        Nah, writing comments like this helps as a form of catharsis for this show, to get a sense of closure. I’m sure that’s why you do this blog too, to get closure.

  5. 7 TheBigN April 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Kurogane: Indeed. Not going to lie, was almost brought to tears by her magnanimous benevolence.

    dm: Indeed. Hence, the Church of Madoka. Though people are arguing whether or not she’s actually a god, or more of a bodhisattva. But when it gets to that point, you could probably only say that she’s essentially divine. :3

    omo: だろう? 😛

    • 8 omo April 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      The message of Easter is the resurrection, the overcoming of death.

      The message of Madoka is to pass away in bliss, the overcoming of grief.

      Indeed, injustice is a state of mind, it is not a physical manifestation (I mean we’re not talking asymmetric things in Quantum Chronodynamics or why matter won and antimatter lost. Or, maybe, how laws of thermodynamics is UNFAIR). QB’s magic is not much more than a headtrick. Which is why people can be taken by surprise when Urobochi grafts all these historically significant women to his little magical fiction. Because it’s besides the point and seems more like a visually impressive patchwork to cover up a hole that gets opened up if we poke too much (see my post for this hole).

      I like dm’s idea that this is akin to Narnia. But it lacks that resurrection portion which is what you are talking about, N. It is not a reset, nor is it contrary to the underlying theme that SDS is complaining about.

  6. 12 JimJim April 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    After you’ve mentioned Code Geass, I have to say this: I shed much, MUCH more tears at the end of Code Geass than PMMM. While both shows have their main character ‘die’ to make a better world, I personally ‘feel’ much more for Lelouch than Madoka…

  7. 16 Yi April 24, 2011 at 4:06 am

    People usually like to be right, and when something fall from their expectations, it makes some feel cheated.

    It’s kind of fun to go back and read some past speculations littered everywhere, and see how often people claim this anime to be too predictable. I suspect most of them never saw this ending coming. I love the last two episodes for that. Forget those Faustian references, religious comparisons… etc. The anime does what it wants.

  1. 1 Agreeing To Disagree « Midnight Equinox Trackback on April 23, 2011 at 10:49 am
  2. 2 Agreeing To Disagree: Aftermath Of Madoka Magica « Midnight Equinox Trackback on April 25, 2011 at 4:12 am

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