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Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: second viewing

Saturday I met up with thomasyan and after some insufficiently filling Bluefin restaurant sushi, went to his place to marathon Madoka.
1) He and his girlfriend liked it. He and I were both crying at the end; she wasn't, which prompted discussion.
2) If you want to watch people speculate, you probably *shouldn't* marathon it; you need a day or more between episodes, not minutes, to let the creative and pattern-finding juices work.
3) We watched the Chihiro sub, which had some differences with whatever the commonly used streaming site offered, I think to the slight disadvantage of Chihiro.
4) The other subs I downloaded turned out to be Italian. Curse shoddy labeling!
5) Lots of early stuff is either hilarious or poignant the second time around.

Thoughts after a second watching:

1) The show is surficially Faustian and explicitly so after decryption. But I had the thought that it's sort of double-Faustian. The obvious level is girls in effect giving their souls to Satan for power. The secondary level is that QB commits itself to granting wishes in exchange for a more mundane kind of power, which ends up blowing up in its face, twice. When we got to QB granting Homura's wish I was quietly muttering "don't do it QB! It's a trap!"

2) For an otherwise allegedly emotionless being, QB sure enjoyed its bubble bath in the bathroom in episode 2.

3) Madoka becomes Madokami (fan name), God. Homura's final state manifests cosmic-looking wings and she can hear the voice of God, and speaks of God's existence. Homura is literally an angel, messenger. Not that Madokami has much to say.

4) Translation: the one RPG.net and I watched had "I have many bodies" after QB got shot and replaced, which combined with the surprise at humans being emotional individuals yet working together, and their emotion being a mental illness, prompted a lot of speculation that the Incubators are a hive-mind/group-mind species. Chihiro has "I have replacements", which is less provocative. Also, I remember all of us watching Episode 10, and watching the opening-as-ending and going "holy Faustian mascots! These lyrics are all about HOMURA!" It felt less compelling with the Chihiro translation, though I can't pin down why. Also, I had a stronger impression the first time around that Magical Girl bodies were ageless and potentially immortal. Also, I don't think the Chihiro subtitlers spelled out so well "MAhou shouJO -> MAJO", magical girl -> witch.

5) I've viewed the true ages of Kyouko, Mami, and late-state Homura as open-ended, with Mami being limited by the existence of trucks to cause car accidents. I realized this time that Mami's apartment is probably paid for by insurance/inheritance from her parents, and that she's a 3rd year at the high school, so the simplest model is that she's exactly as old as a 3rd year. It's possible she's using magic to keep herself in a high school social context for lack of better alternatives, and she's the one who could throw around magic mostly freely, but it doesn't seem very likely.

The other two are still open. I could believe Kyouko being decades old as Japan's deadliest homeless child. Homura still has the tension between the 5 timelines of ep. 10 fitting very well together, vs. her seeming more jaded than 5 repeated months would seem to call for, and I think QB saying that many timelines were tangled, so it's tempting to assume a lot more timelines between 3 and 4 or 4 and 5. The first 3 I think are inseparable.

Also, where are Homura's parents, and who's paying for that creepy apartment? We see Madoka's at length. We don't see Sayaka's but Madoka talks to them on the phone, they exist. Mami and Kyouko are accounted for. Homura???

6) Still no idea what Kyouko's special power was, related to her mass charm person wish for her father. Or Madoka's, related to the WordOfGod wish of saving the black cat in the OP.

Unless Kyouko's "power" was being hungry all the time and having a bottomless pit stomach. Did QB give her an always-hungry body?

7) Also no new insight into wtf Walpurgisnacht is. (In the show. It's the carnival of witches in Faust, which it kind of is here too.) Specifically whether it just arbitrarily is, or whether it's part of the time loop: Homura-witch or Madoka-witch or what, or whether it's getting more powerful with iterations. I noted again that Homura says "How?" incredulously before getting hit by a building, but it's not clear if that's "how is it still alive" vs. "I see something I recognize, like temporal manipulation, and how...?"

8) I noted that Homura had been defeated twice before by it, in alliances. And Homura doesn't get magically stronger with iterations. OTOH she does get more experienced, and steals bigger and bigger weaponry.

9) In combat her time stop> at-will seems limited to 1d4+1 rounds and has a momentary recharge time. When stealing or placing explosives it seems to have indefinite duration. I smell dramatic license. >_>

10) I couldn't help thinking that Homura's behavior sucked, big time. I was later reminded that she'd tried the sensible talk-to-people approaches before, and been burned on them. I feel this works better with the "many unseen timelines" version, where she'd have tried talking multiple ways and soured over time.

11) The ghosts still seem rather out of place given the ostensible cosmology.


K asked Thomas and I why we were crying. Hard to explain. I went for something like empathy with Homura feeling she'd failed, and despairing, and Madoka stepping in, and knowing (probably stronger for me) that she wasn't just being saved, but Homura's efforts had led directly to Madoka being able to step in. Except I didn't use the word empathy, which might be crucial: directly feeling Homura's feelings of despair and relief. Or feeling them for her, before she has a clue.

K and Thomas are both Taiwanese, and K had no delay in seeing Madokami as Buddhist. RPG.net had several people saying she turns into Jesus, dying for your sins, until others pointed out that Buddha/bodhisattva concepts work at least as well. I noted that reincarnation doesn't really fit, Homura's the closest to a reincarnator but not really. But cycles and breaking them, yes. In fact, if you back off from the later hope vs. despair and go back to wishes and despair -- well, what's a wish? Desire. And can you call despair the ultimate suffering? Wishes lead to despair, desire leads to suffering, and if you can't recognize that latter as fundamentally Buddhist [also Epicurean] I'll mock you.

K also said something about Chinese religion and remembering the dead, and books as remembrances, which I connected to maybe explaining ghost-Mami returning "class notes" to apotheosizing-Madoka, which otherwise made no sense. Neither of them has any more need for class and when did Mami get notes from Madoka anyway? And why, they're different years?

Conclusion: still an awesome series. Has minor blemishes from perfection.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC)
Here via swan_tower. Always keen for Madoka talk!

ghost-Mami returning "class notes" to apotheosizing-Madoka, which otherwise made no sense.

I think what she's returning is primarily the sketches Madoka made in Ep. 2, of herself as a magical girl - the very magical girl she's in the act of becoming, only now with understanding rather than her earlier naivete.

Fwiw, Kyoko's special power (and how she loses it) is explained in The Different Story manga. Iirc it's the power to create illusory versions of herself that can distract a witch - which links well to her power of creating illusory (in one sense) worshippers for her father's church.

Edited at 2015-10-16 03:45 pm (UTC)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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