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?
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.