Plenty of spoilers ahead, but unless you’re living under the most darkest shadow on Pluto, I assume you have already watched the final episode and are still scrambling to put the exploded parts of your brain back together.
Everyone knows the run-down : Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the best shows this season, if not this year, if not even in the past few years, Evangelion vibes here, the show was great, and unlimited amounts of heaping praise from all corners from the aniblogosphere with not one blogger flaming the show or calling it bad. We all got that, so hence, no generic review praising the show. Praise has already been given. What I’m here to write about today, is once again, the theme of despair and hope in PMMM as well as PMMM’s final message, as I interpret it to be.
PMMM has shown us multiple times that in hope, despair still lurks about. Just as how there can never be complete despair, there can never be complete hope. In their hopes of fulfilling their impossible dreams, the girls unwittingly trade their souls – and ultimately their lives- to the marshmallow devil, only for them to die and suffer horrible outcomes, just as how Kyubey puts it (I paraphrase), ” The more impossible your wish is, the worse the outcome.” Flashbacks hint at famous heroines being magical girls (oh, the massacre of history ) such as the Joan of Arc (executed by burning at the stake) and Cleopatra. (supposedly died of an asp bite, which isn’t too bad when you think about it) In chasing that small glimpse of hope, they ultimately fall into despair.
Yet, we see that even in their despair, there is hope. On the surface level, their deaths ‘contribute to staving off the heat death of the universe‘. But for ultimate despair, let’s talk about the Walpurgisnacht.Undoubtedly the most powerful witch to have ever appeared on the show, the Walpurgisnacht was capable of surviving thousands of what looks like RPGs and rockets and bullets and what seems to have been equivalent to the power of an entire nuke, yet seemed unaffected. At the crucial moment, as the skyscraper struck Homura, Homura slowly fell into despair, into despair that despite her countless times trying to save Madoka, it was her time loops who made Madoka even more powerful, it was her fault that Madoka was now being targeted by Kyubey in every timeline and it was once again, her failure to stop the Walpurgisnacht, and as her soul gem slowly became tainted with despair, out of nowhere Madoka appears and comforts her. (The building is an entire highway away from Madoka’s shelter and at least 60 storeys high, by the way.)
What we see here is Aristotelian tragedy in action. Characterized by the peripeteia (reversal of fortune) and the harmartia (tragic flaw). Homura’s harmartia is how she cared so much for Madoka, and this would only lead to Madoka becoming even stronger and stronger as Homura tried to save her. The peripeteia, I think, would be the part where Kyuubey reveals the result of her actions to Homura, making her fall slowly into despair. And from the falling action, we all know what happens in the end : as Homura remains severely injured from the Walpurgisnacht, she lies there waiting for death –
Even at the brink of despair, a glimmer of hope shines in and saves her.
Madoka appears, clears up her soul gem and makes the contract, the wish to be able to completely eradicate any witch when they are born, from the past to the present to the future. In other words, kill all witches that ever and ever shall exist. Madoka’s wish effectively made her god, as she became an entire different concept in another dimension, doomed to floating about in eternity and erased from existence. Leading to of course, this scene:All the accumulated despair was enough to engulf and effectively, erase the entire Earth from existence. As Homura survived the ordeal, she was too, sentenced to the endless fate of floating about in eternity with Madoka……nude. (Couldn’t help it.) Enter subtle yuri, and since Madoka was godlike, another universe was created, and all the wishes were ultimately fulfilled, as she even showed Sayaka (who was already dead) her crush’s performance. It was an effective closure to the whole magical girl vs witch scenario. When Homura awakes in the world again, Madoka is gone from existence. No-one remembers her, not even her family. Homura wears a ribbon in the same way as Madoka to remember her, who , when floating about in the other dimension, told her that she would always look over her. (Here comes the Church of Madoka.)
Even in this ending, where hope triumphed over despair, where good beat evil, the show doesn’t end. For there aren’t any Magical Girls anymore save for Homura (as far as we know), and while Kyubey might have changed the way he does business (now he’s just a regular mahou shoujo pet.) Homura is doomed to fighting demons forever (a play on the phrase, maybe?) and in the ending scene, we see her in the middle of scenic nowhere, slowly walking towards an army of demons with her having some kind of new ability (wings that look like those of a witch, really.) What we see is her having to continue her life-long struggle. No end, no hope, no companion. Despair once again.
And here is the final glimmer of hope : as she prepares to fight the demons, she hears a whisper- Madoka – telling her that she had done a good job, and with new-found energy, she flies towards the demons, preparing to take them down. And thus is the entire scheme of PMMM: an endless cycle of hope and despair, of good times and bad times, of life and death.
I believe one of the messages of the show is eloquently expressed in the above shot, that we are not alone, and we can always rely on others to help us, that we should not give into despair as hope is easily in our grasp. One other message, I believe, is that life is like PMMM (or is it the other way around? ) , an endless cycle of hope and despair.
After the bad times, there will always be the good times. After suffering, there will always be happiness. After the rain, the sun will shine, and hopefully, there will be a rainbow.
Ghostlightning talks about the importance of world building in PMMM
Yumeka’s take on the final message of Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica: The Ending – Scamp’s take on it.
Surprisingly, nothing on the yuri-like scene : Yi talks about Buddhist elements in PMMM