Fate and Destiny in Madoka Magica : Homura may never score a homerun

(Reader’s Choice: Part 2 of 2 [As per DoctorDazza’s request] )

Not exactly post 250 , is it?

If you’ve seen the latest episode of Madoka Magica, you’ll come to terms with the fact that not only is Homura the most tragic heroine of the series, but also that she has been travelling endless back and forth in time in her attempts to rescue the magical girls. Now you know why she tries to stop Mami from fighting Charlotte and the girls from ever signing contracts.

But as one blunt observant soul pointed out, with every repetition she goes through, Homerun seems to not only not solve the problem, but in fact , find that each repetition she goes through only reveals a even darker world : with repetitions that involve Mami going insane and Madoka turning into a witch, it would seem that Homura’s attempt to alter their fates and destinies seem to be failing. That said, what does this show about fate and destiny in PMMM?

For one, it only shows that not only have their fates been decided from signing the contract, that it becomes an endless fight against their own fates and destinies. Notice that with every repetition, Homura’s reasons for wanting to go back in time change: first to prevent Madoka’s death, then to warn the others, then resigning to her fate and wanting to die before being revived by Madoka’s last Grief Seed. With every repetition Homura is on the losing end: reminiscent of the twisted outcomes of making a wish with Kyubey, that the endings would be horrible to witness. Kyoko wished for people to believe her father’s teachings, and for a while they did, until her father realized it was magic and went insane, killing everyone in the family except her. It was speculated that Mami wished not to die alone, and died once she made a friend. Sayaka wanted to save Kamijou out of love, only for Kamijou to ignore her completely and her friend Hitomi to date him.

It seems that their fates and destinies are irreversible no matter what they do, and as a result of trying to fight fate, they all are left to horrible demises. Sayaka turns into a witch, Kyoko’s family dies and she commits suicide to kill Sayaka, Mami gets decapitated and Homura’s stuck in a endless chase to stop Madoka from dying. For SHAFT’s first original series, this is much better than I could have ever anticipated: the endless, despairing resignation to fate.

This theme of our inability to change fate is also reflected in other manga and anime too. Takahashi Rie’s work, ‘Hole’, tells of a secret hole in a shrine that lets the person who drops in go back in time. In all three stories in the shoujo manga, the heroine goes back in time to prevent a death of a loved one: be it a sibling, a friend, or a mother – yet it is in fact, due to their very actions of travelling back in time that these loved ones die nevertheless: the brother is killed by a car instead of drowning; her friend plunges off the building in an attempt to retrieve the necklace she gave her; and her mother dies to give birth to the heroine who confronted her, out of her own will. And in all three stories, the heroine accepts her fate and lives on with it.

This theme of fate and free will isn’t exactly unheard of, it’s been around for centuries , IHE Litfags like me would have spent an entire term discussing the themes in Oedipus Rex and drawing parallels between crossroads and fate. However, in this case there are two kinds of fate and free will themes: One involving fighting against the gods, and one involving signing a pact with the devil.

It is impossible to fight against the gods’ will, and those who fall into the trap of making a pact with darker forces find themselves inextricably chained to it ; as with the original story of Faust, upon which PMMM seems to have been influenced by: Faust dies and goes to hell in the end, unable to fight his fate for signing a pact with the devil. It would seem that Homura will be forever unable to fight her fate ; that Madoka will die, and the Earth will be destroyed, yet there forever remains a tiny, ever-flickering glimmer of hope, that everything might just turn out fine, that she might be able to save everyone after all.

Forever.

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43 Responses to Fate and Destiny in Madoka Magica : Homura may never score a homerun

  1. Lenneth says:

    This episode kinda reminds me of Endless Eight…except its more tragic.

    The whole story is like a visual novel, you choose the wrong options, and you get a bad end, which in this case is Madoka dying and becoming the strongest Witch that will destroy the world. Sadly for Homura, even a slightest error will result in the bad end, making the good end seem impossible to reach. But I still believe that she can do it…maybe…

    And Homura is like a time controlling terrorist, being able to stop time to steal guns, fire bullets at the target while it is stopped by time, throwing hand-made explosives into the Witch’s face and such.

    • Valence says:

      Not exactly a visual novel, since Homura does whatever is needed of her in each timeline but the ending always sucks.

      One question though: Could she not stop time and fire so many bombs and bullets and kill the Walpurgisnacht?

      • Lenneth says:

        thats what I been asking myself…but my theory is that she requires concentration to stop time…and the Walpurgisnacht is not allowing her anytime to use the machinery to activate the time control…and also maybe the Walpurgisnacht nullified the time control…so many questions…only the producers know the answer…

        • Valence says:

          It’s all too confusing for me. Ah well, we still have 2 weeks to go until we find out.

        • afkeroge says:

          I would like to think of it this way: Homura just cant get close enough to get her grenades and pipe bombs to reach Walpurgis. If you look through her battle with it, while the Walpurgis continues to attack Homura, she can, in fact, still stop time.

          We can argue that Homura can still use her guns. But judging from how much firepower is needed to defeat it, I don’t think an MG42 is enough.

          • Lenneth says:

            maybe she needed more firepower…or that mortal weapons cannot harm the Walpurgisnacht…maybe she really needed the help of the other girls…

            • Andyzero says:

              Oh, she definitely tried with human fire power. It wasn’t enough. No human could kill the Walpurginacht; or rather, what it became after the despair Homura kept fueling it with each jump.

              It would take an act of God to stop it.

  2. afkeroge says:

    While I do like your pessimistic view on the possible end of all this, I am in fact, hoping for a good ending for our mahou shoujos. If you look at it differently, this time around, the events show a more positive light among the tragedies we see. Mami dies in ignorance of the truth about Soul Gems and does not have to face the awful truth. Sayaka found comfort and maybe salvation in Kyouko. Kyouko then found the one she wants to protect at the cost of her life. All that is left to be seen is how Homura and Madoka find their own “hapiness” in this world gone wrong.

    Even Urobuchi himself said that he intended to end the story with hope and happiness, if I can remember correctly.

    • Valence says:

      Urobuchi also called PMMM a ‘cute healing anime’.

      I can’t see things optimistically though, it’s my own fault.

      • afkeroge says:

        I really do think that it is a “cute healing anime” though. Kind of a reality treatment. Heals you from the illusions of this rotten world. It also has cute characters. 😀

        Haha, I think I’m being defensive of Urobuchi.

        • Valence says:

          Heals us from the illusions of this rotten world? Urobuchi was trolling us straight-out, man. It has cute characters, who all die horrible deaths. It’s like K-On but with each character killing ,lacerating and ripping the flesh off each other , and eating it.

          • afkeroge says:

            Real people die more horrible deaths, man. They even die like animals. Babies, kids, teenagers and adults alike. There are lots of cruel deaths in this world that we would rather not know about. PMMM’s death scenes are more on the “literature tragic” than on real life tragic. For example, that recent earthquake. I can only imagine how morbid and cruel some of the deaths there may have been. I see PMMM as a cute, twisted, healing anime because of said reasons.

            • Valence says:

              Literature tragic, but tragic nonetheless, am I not right? Decapitation by beasts, endless fall into despair, turning into monsters, what worse demise can there be?

            • afkeroge says:

              Yes, you’re right. It’s tragic, yes.

              However, do consider that how bad a death is relies on what standard of what an acceptable death and what a horrible death is. Some people would prefer a physically painful death while remaining ignorant over discovering the horrible truths of the world and then resorting to worse “solutions” like suicide, while some people wouldn’t really mind if their bodies were used for something like a grand scheme to bring an end to the world or anything of a smaller scale.

              On a note: I’m really enjoying this “conversation” we’re having. 🙂

              • Valence says:

                Nevertheless their very deaths are tragic enough, regardless of the circumstance.

              • afkeroge says:

                The bigger the tragedy, the more rewarding a good ending is. It’s the case for some of the great works of literature if I’m not mistaken.

                Or is it just I like good endings better than bad ones, after all?

              • afkeroge says:

                If I were to give an unbiased opinion, School Days was something of a “love story gone wrong because of stupidity and carnal desires”. It’s totally different from Madoka’s tragedy. Homura’s love for Madoka goes on a different level. Maybe it’s more of a platonic love than a romantic love or simple physical attraction. It goes on a more emotional and deep feeling to it, as Homura sees Madoka as one that she can rely on, making the story as tragic as it is.

              • afkeroge says:

                Now why do I say that there is hope at the end of the tunnel?

                It’s because as we know Kyuubee, he cannot grant wishes that can’t come true. This means that there is a way that Homura’s wish can come true.

                Also, If you’re interested, I tried to explain Homura’s time manipulation and item storage using quantum physics and the existence of the fourth dimension. I hope that you’ll find it interesting, being a man in pursuit of knowledge like me.

  3. That episode was just downright depressing. I feel terribly for Homura. And strangely, I like Mami even more after seeing the version where she went crazy upon finding out they turn into Witches. That was pretty awesome. I feel I made a wise choice in declaring her the one I’m going to cosplay.

    I’m hoping for an okay ending. Not something significantly happy–there’s been too much death for that already. But something where Madoka doesn’t turn into a Witch, at least. Like, without dying to avoid doing so.

  4. LoliHat says:

    Again, I am reminded of Madoka’s mother’s speech. Her mother said that it is better to make mistakes when young then as an adult. In the previous loops, Madoka acted like and adult…and things did not end well. In this loop, she is acting like a child. This suggests that her not being a strong adult in this loop will be a game changer…that is *if* she doesn’t start acting like a strong adult…

    Also:

    QB said that humans could somehow reverse entropy, and that his race is just using the girls for that end. Considering that conceit, traveling back through time as a (unintended?) side effect related to that isn’t much of a stretch.

    I don’t get out of shape about the entire entropy thing since QB’s explanation came across as not so much violating the laws of thermodynamics, but of humans, and teenage girls in particular, being some type of energy accumulators that the QB race is just harnessing.

    • Valence says:

      I think you’re actually on to something golden here.

      But the show hasn’t resolved several matters as well. QB’s entropy solution isn’t really. . . sensible. Nor is there any explanation how he got here in the first place, or how there are so many of him.

      • afkeroge says:

        I think you guys are experiencing a very serious case of bad subs. Kyuubee does not have the ability to reverse entropic effects, rather, he can convert emotions of teenage girls going through the development of their secondary sex characteristics to internal/potential energy for the universe. This is in fact, as Kyuubee says, deviates from the law of thermodynamics as one cannot increase the potential energy of the universe, but apparently, he can do this by gathering emotional energy. That is the Sci-Fi aspect of Madoka Magica.

        I know, I also argued about this case when I still didn’t have a yesy-subbed Madoka episode 9, but now, with a little research, I can see what Kyuubee is trying to say.

        • Valence says:

          Solution as in, how he converts emotions to energy. It makes no sense. Seriously.

          • afkeroge says:

            Of course, I can just say it’s because of magical technology, but what the heck, I’ll try to explain it in a more Sci-Fi like manner.

            Emotions, in science, is said to be results of hormonal imbalances or neuron impulses in a certain part of our brain or both. However, we still don’t have a full understanding of the nature of emotions. A highly advanced civilization (aka Kyuubee’s race) apparently discovered that energy can in fact be extracted from the chemical reactions in the brain. Which can be also why humans can achieve seemingly impossible feats when in a state of strong emotions, like fear, anger, or extreme euphoria. This is just a theory, though. But I think it makes sense.

            • Valence says:

              Theory-wise yes, but it’s still unconfirmed. I mean, there’s no basis as to how to extract this energy from their souls and witches, seeing as how he’s after the Grief Seeds. It’s presumed that these Grief Seeds are like batteries : if so how do they store their emotions as energy? Or rather, how do they extract energy from the chemical recations?

              Furthermore, it is shown that Soul Gems, upon corruption , turn into Grief Seeds. If so, how does this emotional energy corrupt the Soul Gem if a Soul Gem is essentially a Grief Seed without emotional energy? What’s so corrupting about emotions?

              Lastly, how did they extract the soul and toss it into a gem anyway? Where does the gem come from? Is it formed out of nothing? Is the soul tangible? Ah shucks.

              • afkeroge says:

                I think that’s where the iction part comes in. May it be hard science or pseudo-science, the incredible dedication of the writers in creating such a daring system just means that they can take it farther. So far, most questions have been answered by the show itself. I believe that they will answer the rest in the last two. Official documents regarding Madoka challenge the viewers to “raise the bar higher. The show would definitely surpass that.”
                It’s quite a confident claim, and it seems that they aren’t bluffing, too. We may just get something that will completely blow our minds.

  5. ~xxx says:

    Homura is changing history…
    That is cheating…
    but if it’s for humanity, one should make mistakes for the betterment of the mankind.

    • Valence says:

      Cheating? I don’t know how to classify cheating against being cheated by QB.

    • afkeroge says:

      She’s just having her wish being granted in exchange for a life of battle. I don’t see Homura cheating. I can also say that her burden as a magical girl equals the weight of the wish she made.

  6. Azure Hoshizora says:

    Homura’s wish was rather vague though: she wished to be able to redo her meeting with Madoka and to be the one protecting Madoka instead. It doesn’t really cover Madoka’s request in timeline 4 to prevent Madoka from making a contract…

    Homura seems to be getting cooler and cooler from timeline 1 to now; Madoka is doing a reverse; so her wish IS coming true, sort off…

    My current biggest what if is IF Homura becomes a witch… Her time travelling powers sort of causes a loop to the entropy thing and she’s probably the oldest Magical girl amongst every single other character we know… I believe she’d make and awesome witch…

    • afkeroge says:

      Madoka sort of still protected Homura in that timeline seeing that Madoka was the one who finished off the witch before it could kill Homura. I don’t know, this might just be the case.

    • Valence says:

      I don’t know, I have the weirdest feeling that the wish’s outcome ends up with Homura having to protect Madoka endlessly.

      • Azure Hoshizora says:

        I was kinda hoping Madoka would make the exact same wish as Homura did, and to redo her meeting with Homura. Then we can have a brilliant loop back to timeline 1.

  7. baka~ says:

    I guess Homura’s growth in character somewhat reflects the natural growth of teenagers. I mean, have you ever thought when you were younger what you wished to be when you grow up only for your career path to slowly change as you experience adolescence? There are many options in life and for all we know, Homura may even be regretting that she asked for a vague wish but I guess her tragedy teaches us (painfully?) the responsibilities that we have to handle as we grow up. When Homura wished to protect Madoka, it was very general yet during each iteration, her wish to protect her transformed, becoming more and more specific.

    While I am doubtful if Madoka will indeed be saved if Homura succeeds in preventing her to form a contract, one of the fruitful insights of this episode, imo, would be Homura’s growth overall. The way she narrows her choices and adapts to the situation made it more interesting when compared to how Kyon (or the characters overall) reacted during Haruhi’s Endless Eight.

    • Valence says:

      Only that we don’t risk our souls as we grow up. Surely, our paths change and diverge, but can it truly be as depressing as Sayaka’s? What she did was the equivalent of selling her soul and working forever to get closer to her loved one, only for him to spurn her and her good friend to get closer to him instead. Imagine! All that for nothing! What’s even more depressing is that we never knew what Hitomi told Kamijou. For all you know, she could have been telling him about Sayaka…which makes her death all the more tragic.

      Madoka won’t be saved, probably. Seeing as how it seems impossible to prevent her from forming a contract. Maybe she has friends outside of the city who can fight? Who knows.

      • baka~ says:

        well, let’s take for example the two guys that Sayaka killed on the train and their discussion about bitches. I don’t know how devoted maidens in-love are but we can assume that in reality, there are people out there who would be willing to give their all for their love and as with how the irony of “Equivalent Exchange” works, not everyone is repaid “equally” by their efforts. It’s as if saying that no matter how hard you study, sometimes, you’d still fail exams. Of course, we’re not risking our souls there but sometimes, by preparing for our examinations, it’s as if we’re putting, betting our soul in order to pass the test only to end up failing.

        • Valence says:

          Sayaka killed on the train? Wow, I seem to have not noticed that completely.

          I mean, this is the cliche maiden-in-love scenario: someone willing to do anything in the hope of gaining love. Only that in PMMM it isn’t exactly a happy ending for those who choose to do so, since it successfully subverts this Disneyesque trope.

  8. Duqs says:

    I’d be really shocked as crap if Walpurgis Nacht turns out to be Homura’s witch form (with all those gears).

    Funny thing about Homura’s time travel hijinx is that she doesnt go back in time per se Its the universe that goes back in time relative for her it seems. Its either that or her consciousness goes back in time to a parallel earth which should explain why she ENDS UP IN BED and she remembers everything without causing (?) anyone to remember.

    Parallel earths might explain why each scenario is different compared to the rest.

    • Valence says:

      I don’t know, if her ability is as it was portrayed, she should have reversed time, but why 5 weeks? Why not just 2 hours and get this over with?

      She remembers everything, because only she teleports back in time.

      And also, I doubt the Walpurgisnacht is her witch form. After all, she was fighting it in episode 1, so I doubt it can be her.

  9. Nopy says:

    All your talk of fate and destiny reminded me of my Greek literature studies in school, then you mentioned Oedipus and now I know where you got the idea from 🙂

    Classic themes are classic for a reason, you just need to know how to use them. SHAFT certainly has proved that they are fully capable of making a great anime based on those themes.

    • Valence says:

      SHAFT has succeeded in using those themes, but we still have 2 more episodes to go to see if PMMM will be enshrined in history as one of the better anime out there. I can’t wait. But alas, episodes 11 onwards are delayed, so we’ll just wait to find out.

      In the meantime, God bless Japan.

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