Parallels Between Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica – Urobuchi’s Characters, Ideals and Morality

Something has been sitting in my head even from the last season of Fate/Zero. *Spoilers from Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero*

Gen Urobuchi’s works often delve into and question the commonly accepted norms of abstract concepts like morality and justice. His works’ themes, while still very idealistic in nature, really feel disjointed from what most people are willing to immediately accept. For example, we have one of Urobuchi’s early works, Saya no Uta, where the common man’s idea of what’s right and wrong is heavily questioned through the use of an entirely different and grotesque viewpoint… something that I may tackle in another post.

His two latest works, Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, carry the same themes. These two, particularly, have a lot of things in common. Both shows highlight the clashes of ideals, Fate/Zero being more blatant in terms of exposition with its straight-played dialogue, while Madoka appeals more to one’s emotions rather than hard philosophy. But one should notice that each of the major characters that Urobuchi created in F/Z and Madoka represent a set of convictions.

There are characters that represent  the ones blinded by black and white notions like Saber and Sayaka and we have the disillusioned idealists like Kiritsugu and Homura. The former two have very solid and unshakable beliefs with regards to things like justice and morality to the point of naivete, while Homura and Kiritsugu had experiences that forced them to face a harsh reality, turning them into cold pragmatists, while still trying to achieve their impossible aspirations.

Arguably, all of them work for a good cause, which makes it all the more interesting. The clashes between deontological ethics and the morally accepted mode of behavior, consequentialism, in Madoka and Fate/Zero offer relatively fresh and cruel take on a philosophical debate. Through very specific and fantastical scenarios, like saving a very dear person from the curse of fate, or trying to save the world with the bastardization of a well-known Christian icon, we can get a taste of something that we cannot experience in real life, but relate to as human beings.

We have self-righteous characters like Kariya and again, Sayaka. Notice how both of these characters are eventually the ones that take the most punishment in Urobuchi’s works. Urobuchi himself stated that he is strongly against characters and people who think like Sayaka. It wasn’t clear why he is, but from the mood of his works, it’s probably because these characters are narrow-minded and naive, blind to their own selfish desires that they hide under the guise of working for some “greater good”. Sayaka says that she does not need any compensation for her hero work, but it is as clear as day that she is the most selfish character in Madoka Magica. Kariya is, well… as you can see.

We also have characters like Lancer and Mami. They are characters that perhaps resemble the layman. They are kind and honorable, but not without their own desires. Unlike Kariya or Sayaka though, Lancer and Mami aren’t pretentious. Mami admits that she is lonely from losing her family and wants people that she can depend on, and Lancer endures the abuse he gets from Kayneth for the sake of meeting the one he loves again.

A less obvious parallel may be between Caster and his master Ryuunosuke, and Kyubey. One rarely sees characters that outwardly express complete disregard for ANY moral code. People tend to hate characters like these because the way they act goes against all perceptions of proper moral conduct. They’re simply so disjointed from reality and human reason that it’s hard to feel sympathy towards them.

It should be noted that though Urobuchi writes depressing stories, they ALWAYS have happy, albeit bittersweet endings. His ways of getting there are just not all sugar and rainbows, but acid and broken glass. He does this so effectively because the characters at every single one of his works are different from each other on a very fundamental level, creating conflict that gives life to those boring philosophical write ups of history’s greatest moral philosophers.

But @fkeroge, between Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica, which do you prefer?

It has more yuri.

That’s easy. Madoka Magica, of course. Though Fate/Zero looks better, it’s easier to feel involved with Madoka Magica because it appeals  to one’s humanity rather than cold, hard reason. There’s also less mind-numbing debates and exposition in Madoka than in Fate/Zero, which makes for a better overall experience.

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42 Responses to Parallels Between Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica – Urobuchi’s Characters, Ideals and Morality

  1. chikorita157 says:

    Since I watched Episode 16, it actually reminded me a lot of Madoka. It’s true that Urobuchi used all the elements in Fate/zero (the light novel) and made a personal twist to them in Madoka. When I wrote my post, Kritsugu did remind me a lot of Kyubey with their goals being very simular (Kritsugu wanting to get rid of evil and Kyubey wanting to keep entrophy in balence). However, they don’t realize that what they doing might not be moral to do.

    Still, this leave us with Kyoko… where does she fits in the mess? But still, both are great works of Urobuchi that will leave an impression for a long time.

    • @fkeroge says:

      Believe it or not, I spent a lot of time trying to draw parallels from Kyouko’s character to anyone in any of other works of Urobuchi, but to no avail. Perhaps she is a new kind of character that he created. She is, like Homura and Kiritsugu, disillusioned, but only to a certain extent. She clearly still believes in humanity, admiring those magical girls on TV who fight for love and justice. Kyouko’s generally considered to be one of the kinder girls in Madoka Magica.

      • Smiley says:

        Obligatory “shallow” reply:
        Kyouko likes eating, so maybe she’s just a facet of Saber?

      • Mira says:

        Kyouko is Lancer, because being a Lancer is suffering.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Good point.If you think about it, Kyouko’s the least blessed among our Madoka Magica girls. A trait that is often exhibited by heroes that assume the role of Lancer.

      • dliessmgg says:

        I can easily see parallels between Kyouko (as she was when she appeared on the scene, before her development) and Rider. Both focus less on what’s morally right and more on what’s fun to them or interests them. Of course how that is expressed and which part of their character (as in soul, not as in person) that is is very different. For Kyouko it’s expressed as her selfish, darwinistic appearence, that is only a protective surface she has developed after the thing with her father. For Rider it’s expressed in his desire to conquer the world, regardless of all obstacles that might be in the way, and it’s the core of his character.

        As an aside, I almost thought you wrote that Kyubey and Caster don’t have moral codes. There’s too many people who actually think so, I guess. I just wish sometimes it would be stressed that their moral code (and their way of thinking) is fundamentally different, but existent.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Hmmm… I didn’t think about Kyouko and Rider that way. Very interesting. Perhaps we’ll see more of this in the later episodes, yes?

          Kyuubey does have a certain way of doing things, but as an intelligent being himself, he has standards, as much as people tend to not see it. Same with Ryuunosuke and Caster.

    • @fkeroge says:

      I think that Kiritsugu is very different from Kyubey. You see, as similar as they seem to be, Kyubey assumes zero responsibility for what he’s doing, while Kiritsugu shoulders the burden. Kiritsugu is very much aware that what he is doing is “wrong” and “evil” while Kyubey simply doesn’t care. There’s a whole world of difference if you look at it that way.

  2. Cytrus says:

    Where did you get the idea that Lancer takes part in the HGW to see the one he loves? I think it’s been mentioned both in the anime and novels that Lancer’s one and only goal is to serve a master, and NOT TO end up betraying that master. Just that. It’s the simplicity of his wish that makes his fate in the war even more tragic. (Notably, the way Lancer died in his previous life was also largely the fault of his then-master.)

    You make some interesting points,though.

    • @fkeroge says:

      Ah, I see. I was under that impression because of the original tale of Diarmuid (did I spell that right?). Anyway, I can still compare him to Mami because of the simplicity and sincerity of their wishes, only to get crushed.

  3. rds says:


    Sayaka is the “most selfish character”? Please…. check the definition of selfishness in a dictionary and don’t spew this kind of shit anymore, ok?

    Not a single Sayaka’s act is selfish – as per dictionary. Be she selfish, she would take grief seeds and apples she was offered without a second thought (and without feeling of being indebted), for one example.

    What Sayaka has, or, actually has not – is the ‘moral flexibility’, like, you know, “it’s real life here, so I have to steal and backstab and use people and such, but, honest, I do it only to survive, I know what’s good and what’s bad, but, y’know I want to eat too… if I didn’t agree to be a concentration camp guard, they’d kill me, y’know… but I don’t run the gas chambers… unless they tell me to… but everyone is like this, right?”

    Wrong! Sayaka – for example – is not like this.

    For morally flexible folks (like yourself) morally inflexible people (like Sayaka) seem to be selfish – it’s your psychological self-defense mechanism: if you don’t call Sayaka selfish, you’d have to admit your own moral shortcomings compared to her.

    To live (and, especially, to succeed) in the real world you have to be morally flexible, but Sayaka, being an ideal moral person, is like a mirror for your soul that you don’t dare to look into.

    In her acts she disregards your interest of feeling good about yourself, her behavior wakes up your guilt, you feel bad – but you’d never accept that it’s YOUR guilt that hurts you, no, “it’s Sayaka’s fault, she does what she wants and I feel bad – so she is selfish”.

    • Cytrus says:

      While I think there’s no need to make things personal here and we should keep out calm, I second most of rds’s reasoning. Had Sayaka allowed herself to be selfish, she wouldn’t have ended up a witch half as fast if at all. And yes, viewing those with firm moral beliefs as selfish is a kind of self-defense mechanism, as rds describes.

    • @fkeroge says:

      For one to be an effective person to analyze stuff like morality, you have to assume a persona that has complete indifference to them. This is what I tried to do, and this post does not necessarily reflect what my own beliefs are. Of course, I’m just another human being like yourself and I’m not above being biased – in fact, I’ve built my blogging rep as a very biased anime reviewer.

      What you have said about being “guilty” about self-gratification from seeing Sayaka’s fall into despair may be true for some people, it certainly does not apply to me. I simply do not take a stand when it comes to moral discussions. I’m open to whatever moral code people prefer, but I don’t adapt any of them.

      But I admit, I was wrong on using “the most selfish character” on someone like Sayaka. Mami probably deserves that title, or maybe Homura. Ahh, the wonders of the English language.

      • Hamtaro says:

        Hmm, well, I wouldn’t say Mami. Mami’s actually kinda caring, as she only wishes for them to think hard and long, although, then again, she’s a major show-off, and she never stops to think “Do /they/ want to think long about their wish? Am I just delaying it?” Nupe, she’s always “Think long. No second thoughts. Done. Magical girl powers go.” But I’d say she’s oblivious rather than selfish. Merrr, just me. I do find Homura rather selfish though, going back in time just for what she wants.

        Just because you have the choice, it doesn’t mean you should take it. I think that’s the case with Homura. She knows she can alter the present, and she takes advantage of it. Sometimes, she should’ve thought “I know I can, but Should I?” But it was always “I can, so I will.”. Aniwais, merrrp, herp, prolly just me and my obsession over Mami that made me reply xD

    • Carillus says:

      As much as you make a case for Sayaka being the most unselfish character here, the problem is that much of the ‘selfishness’ of her character is not visible in her actions.

      She is still the most selfish character in the show.

      Firstly, her wish was the most selfish wish. Neglecting Mami, whose wish was made under extenuating circumstances, Kyoko’s wish was made for her family’s progress, Homura’s was made for the sake of Madoka and Madoka’s wish was the most selfless one of all. Sayaka’s wish was made solely for the reason of Kamijou recovering the use of his arm so that he might be able to respond to her feelings for him as an equal.

      In her refusal to accept grief seeds, food or whatever else, she proceeds to step on the desires of the other magical girls to provide her aid and prevent her going on the downward spiral to being a witch. Clinging to her own beliefs selfishly, refusing to accept the way of the world, causing grief and distress to the people around her.

      She chose to cause herself distress and wallow in self-pity (refer to the bus stop scene between Madoka and Sayaka), despite all that everyone else tried to do to counter that, and because of that pulled other people around her down with her.

      It’s not selfish in the conventional “I want to prolong my existence” kind of way. It’s selfish in the “I don’t care what all of you think, this is what I think and no matter what you do I will not change, even if I have to hurt you in the process” kind of way.

      Idealistic selfishness. It’s the most dangerous kind.

  4. Cholisose says:

    Great post! Personally I’m enjoying Fate/Zero more out of the two shows, but I’ll withhold judgement until the series finishes. I’m really curious to see how much success there can ultimately be for any of the characters, considering this is a prequel series. (I haven’t seen Fate/Stay Night, but I’m at least aware there’s another Holy Grail War… which seems to imply a number of things to me, but I’ll have to wait and see I suppose.)
    I thought Madoka Magica did well with its variety of viewpoints in regards to how much people should be willing to sacrifice for “the greater good” as well as their own personal causes. I’m not sure if there’s really a correct viewpoint one should take in their position, but I did like all the conflict that arose from their… lack of agreement. I didn’t really like the ending of the series though, unfortunately. Everyone’s efforts just felt a little meaningless, I suppose. =/ I’m worried I might feel this way to some degree with Fate/Zero as well. But at least in the meantime, everything’s been quite exciting. I really like all the characters in Fate/Zero, and all their personal motivations for participating in this Holy Grail War.

    • @fkeroge says:

      You’re enjoying Fate/Zero more. Fair enough. For me, it was just a matter of presentation. I like Madoka more because it packs more content in a small amount of time. What Madoka Magica built with 12 episodes, Fate/Zero plans to do in 25.

  5. rds says:

    I don’t really see any of the madoka girls as selfish at all….

    Maybe Kyoko was when we first met her, but she changed her ways very quickly (and very impressively)… poor Kyoko…

    Madoka when she couldn’t overcome her fear?…. Noooo, even as scared as she was she still pushed herself to the limit for the sake of Sayaka…

    Late Homura?… eeeeeh…. all she did was not for herself but for Madoka, no, not selfish….

    Mami-san? I am not sure what you see as selfish in her…

    Ah! Kyubei is selfish, that’s for sure. Though he claims he does everything for a Greater Good.

    • Hamtaro says:

      Gotta remember though, Kyuubey shows no emotion and/or feelings what-so-ever, which means they might not exist for him in the first place. Now, there are exceptions to this, but all in all he’s kinda lifeless. xD

  6. rds says:

    Better late then never, – I am sorry if some one was offended by my first comment – it was not intentional (for the most of it 😉

    I really love all those madoka girls so when someone calls them names (like, selfish, !!!) I feel like I want to reach for my tomahawk and …..

    • @fkeroge says:

      Look, if you’re thinking that I’m using selfish as an insult, you are mistaken. Selfishness makes a person who he/she is. If none of the Madoka Magica girls are selfish, none of the mess that happened in Madoka Magica would have happened in the first place. Not being willing to compromise your ideals definitely counts as selfish, as what Sayaka was doing, but I don’t hate her for that. In fact, if it wasn’t for Sayaka, I doubt Madoka Magica would be as good at it turned out.

      I believe that all people are at least, to some extent, selfish. The goal of human life is to seek one’s own happiness. If one lives for others because he wants to, that is pursuing one’s own happiness. Isn’t that selfish in and of itself?
      “Selfish” isn’t a bad word. It simply means to put priority on one’s own benefit (happiness), be it through altruism or self-serving acts.

    • @fkeroge says:

      And just so you may know, Madoka Magica is my second favorite anime of all time, and one of the only two anime that I gave a score of 10 in MAL. I dedicated my previous blog to Madoka Magica fandom when it was airing. I already spent a lot of money on Madoka Magica merchandise, something that I rarely do for other series. So please understand that I have zero intention on bashing Madoka Magica or its characters. I’m just stating my observations.

  7. rds says:

    “Not being willing to compromise your ideals definitely counts as selfish”

    how come?

    look, the word “selfish” has a particular meaning, and “not being willing to compromise your ideals” generally has nothing to do with “selfish” per se. The word that is appropriate is “stubborn”, “obstinate”, and such.

    you cannot just take a word and assign what-you-want meaning to it, not if you authors a blog and want people to participate in discussions, ok?

    • @fkeroge says:

      Selfish: adj (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. -Oxford Dictionary

      What was Sayaka’s wish? Why did she wish for it? What did she want in return? Wasn’t it implied that she wanted Kyousuke’s attention?

      Why won’t she accept help from other people? Were her beliefs so valuable that she’s willing to ignore the reality before her despite others trying to help her?

      I won’t try to change your mind anymore, but please understand that your view of the world isn’t the only valid one out there.

      Also, if you still plan on responding, keep it to the thread and stop making new comment threads. Just look at this – it’s all messed up now.

      • rds says:

        So, in your opinion, Sayaka acted for her personal profit and pleasure? There is nothing else I can say at this point….

        You must be one messed-up freak if you see Sayaka this way…. well, I saw people who consider Madoka anime a fapping material, so you are not that bad, actually.


        • Valence says:

          She refused to compromise on her ideals because she wanted to be the only one who could be near Kyousuke. She fought on alone because she felt it to be her duty, and not one others could partake in. She withheld her feelings despite how much others cared. She didn’t consider how others felt, and when she found out her folly, she still couldn’t see it as her own fault- and fell into despair. That was the point of Sayaka as a character – to be prideful.

          Being selfish can have several meanings. Thematically in the world of literature, not reciprocating someone’s feelings could be considered as an selfish act. In layman terms, not sharing food or physical objects is selfish. Despite how Sayaka may not be as selfish as @fkeroge puts it out to be, or as you see it, she is still the most selfish character in the show, despite how little her selfishness may be. Homura fights to save everyone. Mami fights and helps others, like her raison d’etre. Kyouko fought for her family. Madoka fought to save every single magical girl out there. Sayaka fought for Kyousuke so she could win his love. It’s not that it happened in @fkeroge’s opinion: it was outlined and shown in the show. She fell into despair because she found that her noble efforts of slaying witches did not get her the love she so very much desired. So in that respect although Sayaka isn’t extremely selfish, of the 5 she is probably the most selfish.

          Although admittedly despite Sayaka being slightly more selfish than the other magical girls, the most selfish character has got to be Kyuubey, who is only concerned with his own motives and not caring about the others.

          Nonetheless, although we do appreciate and encourage discussions, it’s not very polite to insult others, such as calling them moral relativists and accusing them of using anime characters to make up for their shortcomings.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Yep, I am one “messed up freak”. But I would rather be “messed up” than be naive. Thanks for the discussion.

          • subzero008 says:

            Sayaka made her wish to gain the affections of Kyosuke, but thought she was doing it for his sake. This discrepancy did not doom her. I believe it was not the fact that she lost Kyosuke’s affections but that she felt she was a monster, a politically-incorrect zombie, a lich, whatever.

            She thought she was the hero of a fairy tale, gets the fair, uh, maiden, slays the monsters and saves the day. She was undoubtedly selfish, but no more than the best of us. Overt idealism probably contributed to her death far more than the quandary of her wish. Alas, if she was better prepared for her fate…

            Another thing people seem to have a problem with is her inability to accept other opinions. You mustn’t forget that Kyoko, in her eyes, was basically a killer for allowing familiars to eat people. Homura didn’t save Mami even though she could have.(This is from Sayaka’s pov. We all know that Mami restrained her.)

            She tried to martyr herself when everything became too much, and became what she fought, thankfully only in a physical sense.

            Another incredibly-telling part of her character was in episode 8, when Sayaka angrily accuses Madoka, and asks why she is not a Mahou Shoujo, despite her incredible potential. In this scene, I believe she is acknowledging her weaknesses, in battle and in morals. She knows she is being selfish, and asks Madoka, who is selfless to her, and incredibly powerful, to doom herself alongside her.(sorry for the awkward grammar) What pisses me off is that most people forget she felt horrible about it afterward, crying that she hurt her best friend. Alienating, to her eyes, her only remaining friend was a HUGE factor in becoming a witch. Loneliness is an easy way to fall into despair, after all.

            The second paragraph is supported in the final episode, where Sayaka accepts dying for Kyosuke’s sake, and is HAPPY to see him with Hitomi. She accepts her wish and its results, making her selfless.

            Sorry for the huge comment.

          • subzero008 says:

            Oh, and in Oriko, Sayaka considers Homura as her friend. Just saying…

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  11. JJ says:

    I’ll have to pick Fate/Zero.

    I think it comes down to three dumb reasons.
    1. I’ve already seen well done Maho Shoujos. Madoka Magica would just be another one to write on the list. And yet for Fate, my closest reference point is still that horrid F/SN which just got worse as it continued.
    2. Visually the fights look better.
    3. I’m a fanboy of history. And Fate is still the closest I’ll get to a Animated version of Deadliest Warrior.

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  13. subzero008 says:

    There’s a line between “anti-hero” and simply being evil; Emiya has, in my opinion, crossed the line, shat on it, then put the video of it on the internet. How much longer will it take for him to become what he is fighting? He stopped being human at one point and became an symbol.
    Saying, “It’s for the good of others” does not excuse you of repercussions for your crimes.

    He acknowledges his actions as being “evil”, but he doesn’t do anything about it. That’s the difference between Homura and Emiya; Homura tries everything in order to save Madoka, Emiya picks a questionable path and sticks to it. He never tries to find an alternate method.

    He’s arguably worse than Kyubey here, both working “for the greater good”, but never straying from the Path-of-the-Glorious-ANTI-hero. Kyubey, however, has been emotionless for, well, a long time. Emiya ignores anything other than his own actions, which makes him incredibly arrogant. Thank God he sees he’s wrong at the very end.


  14. I agree. While Fate/Zero was still great (And by far the best anime of last year might I add) the pacing is what puts Madoka that little bit higher than F/Z

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