Puella Magi Madoka Magica (literally ‘Girl Magician, Magical Madoka’) is a fantastic and fairly short series written by the incredible Gen Urobuchi, whose name you almost undoubtedly do not recognize, even if you are an anime or visual novel fan. Those of you who are, may be familiar with the extraordinarily dark, disturbing and adults-only (and yet charming, heart-warming and ultimately optimistic) visual novel, Saya no Uta, or ‘Song of Saya’. It is certainly mature, but it is a short story worth experiencing and fairly easy to access online, so those who haven’t played it are encouraged to do so prior to reading this essay in order to get a quick feel for the type of mind Urobuchi has—that is to say, genius. Responsible also for Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero, the man is no stranger to problems of consciousness, and though his work is typically described as ‘nihilistic’, work of this type always inevitably is classified as such by people who do not recognize the true message beneath. (That, or ‘existentialist’.)
Saya no Uta, to gloss over it briefly, is the story of a man, Fuminori, who has been in a car accident; since his recovery, he perceives the world as a grotesque, monstrous place, where his friends and neighbors have been transmuted into bulbous, Lovecraftian demons— the protagonist’s consciousness is being invaded and subsumed by the unconscious, which for him is a particularly dark and terrible place. But, in his home, where the walls are still fleshy and alien, it’s true, he is gifted with the presence of a girl— Saya, who loves him madly and wishes nothing more than to take care of him, to paint the walls of his house with a mysterious substance which renders them normal. Meanwhile, in the consensus reality, our hero’s friends grow increasingly concerned about him; and there are, naturally, horrific consequences for this concern. Most Twilight Zone fans or close readers capable of logical deduction will come to the story’s conclusion before Fuminori does, which is, in my opinion, the hallmark of excellent writing in some works and terrible writing in others—dramatic irony does not serve all works as well as it does Saya, which ends ultimately in the revelation that this girl has been painting his walls with blood, as she is truly the only alien in the story, and has so warped his perception that he has transferred her alien-ness onto the world at large. He is trapped in a kind of perceptual hell, and in various endings can choose to accept or reject Saya upon gaining this knowledge. It is, in essence, a brush with death (which, I did not mention, is also responsible for the actual deaths of his parents, or his existing social principles) and further consideration of suicide causes a man to come into inner contact with an extraordinarily chthonic form of the anima. She is a universal experience because she is responsible for killing the friend who comes to check up on him and she is also responsible for changing the brain of a neighbor to be the same as Fuminori’s, which results in him killing his family and assaulting Saya; pulling back from all of this, what we can see in this story is it works as a symbol for two different types of killers, because Fuminori, notably, dines unkowingly on human flesh when he returns home after the death of his friend. Thus, on a meta-fictional level taking Saya as an imaginary experience of the unconscious, we are seeing how the unconscious plays a role in various kinds of madness; first the madness of a potential cannibalistic serial killer who comes to rationalize his actions and arrives at the idea at all as a result of his own mortality, and second the madness of a spree killer of the kind who wakes up one morning and puts a bullet in the brains of his family at breakfast.
I suppose what I am saying is two things: Saya no Uta is quite clearly the nigredo of Gen Urobuchi, and I will have to devote an entire essay to it if we are ever going to thoroughly examine it. I wanted to mention it because it lays the groundwork of a couple of tropes we will see in Madoka and forms the nigredo to Madoka’s albedo. Commonalities between the stories include the appearance of the shadow as anima (as first a chthonic anima, then a purified chthonic anima— from black sulphur to red sulphur, if you will) and Faustian bargains, as well as the idea of aliens manipulating humanity and the opportunity for a secondary or parallel form of perception. Viewed together, the stories are undeniably close relatives— and even in color palette match up with our alchemical ideals, Saya being thematically dark and noxious while Madoka (for the most part) maintains a carnival’s color palette, with the eponymous character’s uniform being primarily red, white, and pink.
Further memetic DNA of Madoka comes not just from the magical girl genre it deconstructs as a whole, but directly from CLAMP, specifically Magic Knight Rayearth and Card Captor Sakura, a show which somebody else will have to analyze because I haven’t seen the whole subtitled run of the series since I was 10. I will however mention that throughout the series a big theme is the relationship between Sakura and her friend, Tomoko, a dark-haired girl who designs all Sakura’s costumes and follows her around, hilariously/creepily photographing her; there is also, as is typical for these series, a bargain to be made with a representative of the unconscious who is also a symbol of the sun compared to another character who symbolizes the moon. Sakura as a series thus serves, among other things, as a metaphor for the exploration of the union of consciousness and matter; a factor to keep in mind as we consider Madoka. We will also consider the fact that this week’s writer is a man and last week’s a team of women. This is only of relevant interest from a psychological standpoint, and so far as constellation the figures of the series is concerned.
I would also like to emphasize before going on that, once more, this is a series which had really ought to be watched to be properly experienced. Consider this analysis a kind of read-along, if you will.
Our story begins en media res with what we will perceive at first to be a flash-forward; a pink-haired girl, Madoka, running through a bizarre checkered hallway with strange non-Euclidean geometry at last locates an EXIT sign and mounts the stairs only to emerge in an obliterated city, the buildings and land destroyed while a horrific monster floats in the sky. As Madoka watches, a dark-haired girl fights the monster, and Kyubey, the fuzzy mascot (and chthonic Spirit Mercurius) of the series, lectures Madoka that the girl has taken all this on knowing what it would cost her, and that if Madoka gives up, it will be the end of everything— but he also emphasizes that she has every opportunity to change fate. He says that she can change everything, and that she is gifted with great power for just that reason— she wonders if someone like her can actually stop anything from happening, can change something like this, and Kyubey says that she can, if she forms a contract with him to become a magical girl. We next see Madoka waking up in her bed, at home.
We then meet Madoka’s family: her mother is a successful salarywoman and her father is a stay-at-home dad who gardens and cooks for Madoka and her toddler-aged brother. We are seeing right out of the gate, then, a balanced exchanged of masculine and feminine traits in the show’s most preeminent background figures— I discussed previously (in Alchemical Devilry IV, I believe) Jung’s quote referring to the sol niger of a woman as being a chronic eclipse of the sun and how the figure he means is not a woman who understands the value of masculine consciousness enclosed in feminine matter but rather the working woman who must be boisterously masculine in order to compensate for society’s feminine expectations of her, and Madoka’s mother is a prime example. Because of her role she is unable to fulfill the capacity of great mother, anima or social expectation; indeed, she and her husband represent running concurrently to society’s standards, and it is for that reason that we see Madoka is close to her mother, who is sure to catch up with her daughter every morning before work. We see in particular the two of them standing in a mirror brushing their teeth, and the position of the mirrors in the bathroom before and behind them give an ‘infinity’ effect— one of many subtle visual symbols relating to the show’s ultimate themes. Madoka’s mother, rather than playing the motherly role, essentially forms the feminine aspect of the conscious ‘wise old man’, which is in this series split into the dual aspects of mother/father. She is also Madoka’s potential as a standard Japanese salaryperson, which is a dreadful fate to be looking down and the cause of a great deal of depression for the young (and aging or aged) population of Japan, with expectations of insane hours and great sacrifices.
On her way to school, Madoka meets her friends, and we see from watching Rayearth that the show uses an identical color palate for its main trio, that is, green, blue, and red (in this case, pink hair and red ribbons) We will find as we go along that the roles match similarly, anime always being great to rely on for specific symbolic associations being intended based on color and certain types of imagery. However, because the series is written by a man and because of the role we will see unfurling before Madoka as the series advances, we will see that even in the series’ most conscious trinity Madoka represents the Salt. Sayaka, despite her blue hair, is arguably the most boyish and boisterous of the three, and will ultimately fulfill the role of conscious sulphur; she will also be that aspect of sulphur which is released, dissolved, and purified in the process. Hitomi, who will never be a magical girl, acts as the opposing love interest to the same boy in which Sayaka shows interest; in this way she acts as a mover and shaker of the plot, a friend who is also a foe, but she is totally unconscious and unintentional in her role as such. Thus, while she is still a Mercurial figure, Hitomi is the fully material iteration, and thus fully unconscious; she is not able to resolve the situation because she is not able to become a magical girl and make herself more conscious through contact with the unconscious. We will, however, elaborate on this at a later time.
We meet, then, our new transfer student, Homura Akemi, the dark-haired girl we saw fighting the monster in what Madoka presumes was her dream. Madoka, consciously recollecting this, is startled; but she, like everyone else in class, is starstruck by this cool and elegant girl, and has to avert her eyes when Homura looks directly at her during her class introduction. Soon, Homura claims to have a headache, and goes directly to Madoka, the health officer of the class, without having to be told her name or that she is the health officer of the class; when Madoka asks her, Homura claims the teacher told her, but she needs no guidance on the way to the nurse’s office, as though she has been there many times before. On their way, Homura seems to become increasingly annoyed or upset, and then stops and asks Madoka if she values her way of life, her family and friends; Madoka responds that of course she does, and Homura says if that is true, then she must not ever think of trying to become someone else, because she will lose everything if she does.
Over the classday, Homura proves an insane aptitude for every subject and especially for phys ed; and meanwhile, we see Kyubey in shadow, watching from, what else, but a palm tree. (Do you see why I went over Rayearth in the essay before this? Otherwise we would be trapped belaboring the points of the same symbols. Yet again, we find the Spirit Mercurius in a tree.) Later, as Madoka eats with her friends, she admits she feels as if she has seen Homura in a dream; Sayaka sarcastically tells her that it must be her karma from a past life, and that she and Homura are friends who have traveled space and time to reunite— what joke doesn’t have a kernel of truth, consciously or unconsciously?
Hitomi suggests that perhaps Madoka has indeed met Homura somewhere, and that she remembered it in unconscious, dream format; Sayaka decries it as too much of a coincidence. Hitomi then must excuse herself to go to tea ceremony practice, leaving Sayaka and Madoka to go to the music store together. We next see Kyubey being chased by something, narrowly evading attacks based in some kind of light, and catch a glimpse of our culprit— Homura. As Madoka tries out music in the store, she hears Kyubey’s voice in her head, begging her to save him, and follows it out into the (dark, below ground) parking garage. Brutally wounded, Kyubey falls before Madoka just as Homura arrives to demand the girl step aside; Madoka, moved by the plight of the animal and its calls for help, refuses to let Homura hurt him further, and before the conflict can escalate, Sayaka intervenes, blasting a fire extinguisher into the fray and running away with Madoka and Kyubey; as the proverbial smoke clears, Homura is consumed by a mandala of butterflies, the first (or, technically, second) witch of the series making its grand appearance.
So let’s take a second here to consider what we learned from Rayearth OVA and put it into context with Madoka. Namely, we saw in Rayearth the appearance of the neutralized, positive aspect of sulphur as Lantis, a semi-love interest for Hikaru and a hero of the show, someone who hails from the unconscious who yet wants to work with and preserve consciousness, for in preserving consciousness, so too is unconsciousness preserved. We also saw that Ferio was the sulphur which remained after the completion of the operation. We will notice in this case there is a similar, inverted situation at work here: the sulphuric animas hail from the material/conscious world (being that the anima is, in her role of the weaving woman, dancing woman, etc., related to the physical world in the way the animus is related in his priestly roles to the spiritual), however Homura, the purified form of sulphur in this series, is, we will see, more closely tied to the unconscious due to her experiences with it. She likewise forms a counterpart to and loves Madoka, the series’ Salt; and she is that part of the sulphuric aspect which must be kept, maintained, while the other aspect, Sayaka, is eventually (though not easily or happily) released.
What is Homura doing here? We will get to that in detail at the proper time, but when we consider Lantis’ goals towards Hikaru— to help her, to maintain the balance between consciousness and unconscious— we can see clearly foreshadowed the role this mysterious transfer student will play. For now, however, the series, and Madoka, perceives her as a villain, as befits her character as shadow; when the witch overtakes Sayaka and Madoka, surrounding them with terrifying homonculi, they are rescued not by Homura, but by blonde-haired Mami, an elegant upperclassman and magical girl who arrives to make her introduction and dispose of the evil spirit. It is worth noting that when witches arrive on the scene, they produce what seems to be a kind of pocket dimension, marked by a darker and more horrific design style based in surrealist collage, an aesthetic wonder. Mami offers the witch to Homura when it runs away, then threatens her, emphasizing that they should avoid unnecessary trouble; reluctantly, Homura leaves, and in the glow of the EXIT sign, Mami heals Kyubey, who, back to his normal, manipulative self, rises up and makes himself as adorable as possible to thank the girls and offer them the opportunity to make a magical contract.
At home the next day, Madoka learns that regular people, like her parents, cannot see Kyubey. We then learn that after last night’s adventure, she and Sayaka were invited to Mami’s apartment, where she offered them an explanation of what was happening. She showed the girls her soul gem, which she explains is a jewel created by the girls chosen by Kyubey, produced by their contract; one does not have to look hard to see the parallels with the lapis, doubly reinforced by the egg shape of soul gems, linking them to fertility and rebirth in the manner of Rayearth’s ovum gems. The soul gem is the source of magical power; Kyubey then claims that the girls can wish for anything, and no matter what it is, Kyubey will make it happen. A soul gem is produced in exchange, however, and those girls in possession of one are charged with the duty of fighting witches. Back to the present, Madoka ponders what she might wish for, and asks her mother what she would wish for, if she could; her mother suggests she would get rid of a few board members, specifically the aging president, and one thinks in a subtle way of the overthrow of Chronos, and what we will see is a symbolic overthrow of Mami by Madoka.
Symbolically, Mami is our ‘dying queen’ archetype, for though she seems a perfectly competent and in-control girl both familiar with magical fighting and well in charge of her area, she will prove to be not long for this world. Her golden hair marks her as a symbol of consciousness; she is the old Salt which will be renewed in Madoka, the Redeemer.
We talked previously in the Rayearth essay about the problem of death being represented in symbols present all throughout the show, but Madoka does away with all the symbolism in favor of confronting the problem of death head-on. We will discover very quickly that death is exactly what the magical girls face— not just at the hands of witches, but at the hands of despair. For now, all Kyubey tells the audience and the girls is that, if magical girls are born of positive desires like wishes, witches are born of negative desires like curses; magical girls spread hope, witches, despair. And witches cannot be seen by humans. The curse of a witch, we understand, is almost always behind unexplained suicide and murder, and witches become a formless evil operating inside the human mind from within the safety of their labyrinthine barriers. Mami, emphasizing the danger of making a wish, offers the girls the opportunity to shadow her during a battle so they can see whether or not they have wishes so great as to put themselves into such danger. She also explains that it is common for magical girls to become competitive with others in their area, because when the girls take out a witch, they are given what Mami evasively calls ‘a certain compensation’.
At school the next day, Sayaka reveals herself to be the voice of the pessimistic, existentialist argument, wondering what makes them special enough to deserve a wish when there are so many others who want or need such a chance. Homura then meets them on the roof and asks what choice they’ll make—specifically, Madoka, who she reminds of their prior conversation. When Madoka asks Homura what wish she made to become a magical girl, she leaves without responding. We next see Mami’s lesson on witch-hunting, which appears to be an early predecessor of Pokemon Go: the Soul Gem glows brighter in the presence of a witch, and so all a magical girl does is follow its glow to the nearest one. Mami also advises that traffic accidents and suicides can be caused by witches, which take life energy from the people they torment. Indeed, we see a woman possessed by the kiss of a witch attempt to commit suicide, but Mami is able to rescue her in time. Inside the building from which the woman was attempting to jump, Mami gives Sayaka a magical bat and brings the girls with her into the witch’s barrier; we see it is the same witch from before, and observe Mami’s gun-based fighting technique along with Madoka in a fairly clean battle which yields what Mami refers to as ‘a grief seed’, a kind of spikey black seed which resembles a Soul Gem and is used to magically recharge them. What a grief seed truly is, though, is a witch’s egg; Mami gives hers to Homura, who has been watching from the shadows, only to have the so-called gift thrown back in her face.
The beginning of the third episode allows us to better understand the dilemma facing Sayaka, who must face the seeming cruelty and indifference of the universe in the plight of her friend, Kamijou, a talented violin prodigy who is no longer able to play after an accident which has left him hospitalized. It is clear enough what kind of wish she will consider making; we learn that, for her part, Mami was the victim of a car accident and did not really have a choice— Kyubey appeared to her and gave her the opportunity to escape death, and so Mami emphasizes that other magical girls should think hard about their choice. Kyubey, however, seems eager to pressure them— specifically, Madoka, whose house he stays at while she ponders her wish. He asks her if she wants power for power’s sake and Madoka says she is not sure, with the creature telling her she would be even more powerful than Mami were she to become a magical girl. Even he cannot estimate how large a soul gem she might produce, he claims.
We next see Madoka have a conversation with her father about her mother; he explains to Madoka that her mother doesn’t like working, so much as working hard— not the company or the job but the defeat of obstacles. In that way, her father says, her mother has made her way of life into her dream, which was not so much to work somewhere as it was to be satisfied.
At the hospital, where Sayaka has gone to visit her friend and been denied, the girls discover a grief seed on the verge of hatching— a particular dangerous situation for all inside. When Sayaka is left to watch it with Kyubey while Madoka goes to get Mami, the seed activates and traps the blue-haired girl and winsome animal within— and we see another example of how Kyubey takes advantage of girls who, like Mami trapped in the wreckage of the car, have no other choice. He emphasizes again to Sayaka that if she decides on a wish then and there he can make her into a magical girl so as to protect herself from the terrifying witch’s labyrinth. Sayaka insists she does not want to make the decision rashly, but seems to be considering it. Mami and Madoka at last are able to return and enter the labyrinth, and Homura arrives behind them insisting she will hunt the prey. Mami insists that they will, and, despite Homura’s protests that she can guarantee the safety of everyone at stake if she is allowed to hunt the prey, the blonde-haired ‘queen’ of the region incapacitates our shadow, who continues to insist that this witch is not like the others. We will discover this is so at the end of the fight, when Mami takes her true role as the dying queen, the failing principle in conscious dominance, by literally dying. Yes, in a horrific twist on the magical girl genre, Mami is brutally killed by the witch.
From a meta-fictional angle, Mami represents the classic magical girl archetype: she is inexplicably independent for her age, the ‘mentor’ magical girl who is already in action when our series begins and who then becomes the model to which our main character is applied (as Sailor Venus appears as Usagi’s hero in the persona of Sailor V at the beginning of Sailor Moon, for instance) and the model which Madoka must surpass. To that end, in the time before Mami’s violent death, Madoka expresses her admiration, and explains that her motivation to be a magical girl arises not out of a lust for power, but a desire to protect people in the way Mami does. Jung’s Mysterium bears an entire chapter regarding the themes of Rex/Regina symbolism in terms of consciousness; it is great, psychedelic reading. Madoka describes to Mami that she believes the greatest thing is to become a magical girl for the mere sake of being a magical girl— that she cannot think to make a wish because her greatest wish would simply be to be a magical protector. She describes how she looks up to Mami, who insists she should not be looked up to, but nonetheless Madoka has placed herself in the psychological role of princess to Mami’s queen, the new psychic dominant en potentia— quite literally, the puella eternia as compared to the symbolic senex represented, in increasing levels of consciousness, by Madoka’s mother, then Mami, and, finally, the witch called ‘Walpurgis Nacht’. The theme of Madoka as the puella eternia will become increasingly significant as our story carries on, and gives new meaning to the title of the series. It would have been easy, after all, to name it ‘Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica’, but instead the Latin got involved.
Mami insists she is alone, and it isn’t a good thing to be a magical girl, but Madoka indicates to her that she isn’t alone anymore, and promises she’ll stand and fight with her. Emboldened, Mami tells Madoka that she had really ought to think of a good wish—it’s a special opportunity and she’s making a contract, so she’d might as well get something out of it, even if her wish is something as simple as money. Mami then goes on to battle the witch’s flunkies, soliloquizing about how she is no longer alone, how she feels so light and carefree, even in a battle. She is then promptly killed after the girls meet up with Sayaka and Kyubey, when she begins to battle the witch, itself. Her death frees Homura, who arrives as Kyubey is pressuring the girls (whilst Mami’s headless corpse is being horribly devoured) to make their wishes; insisting it won’t be necessary, Homura appears as though to teleport from point to point, evading the witch and eventually planting a bomb in its stomach.
It is worth noting that the symbol of beheading is, as mentioned before in the article on The Master and Margarita, a significant one: it symbolizes a specific loss of meaning and also a kind of consumption or possession at the hands of the archetype. Thus, on a level significant to the series’ author, this symbol of the hopeful Mani-consciousness being devoured by the grief-witch is representative of depression rendering existence meaningless. This is the start of a problem identical to the problem presented in Rayearth but without the layers of subtext to hide the horrific implications. As the series creator has said himself that Madoka was spawned from his battles with depression, it is an ideal series for considering the nature of mortality, depression and the production of alchemical art as a psychological curative measure.
After the death of the old conscious dominant, the shadow in the form of Homura messily dispatches the witch, then chastises Sayaka and Madoka, insisting that they absorb the sight fully and understand that such violence is what it means to be a magical girl.
In the wake of such horrific tragedy, we see the girls in profound mourning. Sayaka laments that they’re seeing and living an entirely different world from the rest of the people they knew, and that no one else knows about Mami and the plight of the magical girls; Madoka cries at the breakfast table out of sorrow and gratitude for her own life. They are two different modes of response to the plight of mortality. Madoka expresses that she is terrified and doesn’t want Mami’s fate; Sayaka inquires what will happen to the town (let’s never forget the nature of the inner city from a symbolic standpoint) and Kyubey responds that another magical girl will move in, though he admits (or, more appropriately, bates our heroic girls by explaining) that new magical girls in the area will probably care only about collecting grief seeds, and not about helping people— that truly heroic magical girls like Mami are rare. He then ramps up the guilt like the Mercurial little shit that he is, continuing his efforts to propel himself up the rankings of ‘Most Hateable Mascot of All Time’; he expresses his regrets, and leaves.
Later, after Madoka has visited Mami’s empty apartment, she is confronted by Homura, who assures Madoka she is blameless and applauds her having taken Homura’s warnings to heart. She laments that she was unable to alter Mami’s fate, but is relieved she was able to at least alter Madoka’s fate. No one will know Mami died; the bodies of magical girls disappear when they die on the other side of a witch’s labyrinth. When Madoka weeps over the idea, Homura simply explains to her that magical girls are not altruistic— that they fight for the sake of their own wishes. If they are forgotten when they die, it can’t be helped; but Madoka insists she will remember Mami, and when she insists that she will never forget Homura, either, Homura seems pained, and warns Madoka that her kindness will someday be the cause of great tragedy for her.
Sayaka’s arc, meanwhile, continues in the background. This storyline, which the creator called his favorite arc, is a conscious representation of the problem represented by the unconscious problem facing the magical girls— that is to say, while the girls are conscious of their problem, of course, the town and society at large is unaware of it. Sayaka’s main problem deals with the seeming arbitrary nature of tragedy and mortality, and that, it might be said, is ultimately the ‘grief seed’ of the witch of depression, and it leads her on what is likely the most self destructive spiral seen by a magical girl. In this role she operates much as the Little Mermaid, and I mean that in the sense of the original fairy tale, not so much the Disney parody. In the original story, at its tragic end, the ultimately ineffectual anima figure of the mermaid must dissolve herself, because she has failed to achieve union with her prince. Because Sayaka makes a wish to cure her friend, she is voiceless and paralyzed by her inability to share her love for him; thus, rendered so impotent, the conscious-sulphuric anima will be eventually destroyed. (Recall in Rayearth the qualities of Sulphur were split, in varying degrees of consciousness, across Hikaru, Lantis, and Ferio; we will see that in this series, the same is true of Sayaka, Homura, and a character we will soon meet named Kyoko.)
A more successful version of the integration of the anima is the one represented in Andersen’s parable “The Snow Queen”, which will probably be our Christmas essay. However, ‘xanthosis’ is the process of extracting a kind of corruption, and unfortunately for Sayaka, the constellation represented by herself and her fellow characters leaves her the corruption in need of extraction, for she becomes entrenched in the problem of depression so deeply and violently that she will eventually succumb to grief and become a witch, herself. This is a process, less of a becoming, and more of an unveiling; her mindset has throughout the series been a witch’s mindset, pessimistic and pained, and Kyosuke responds to her in kind, accusing her of torturing him by giving him music to listen to. Kyosuke laments that his hand is no use (it cannot even feel the pain of the smashed CD) and specifically says that “the doctors have advised [him] to give up”. Placing Kyosuke into the role taken by Gerda’s playmate in “The Snow Queen”, we see Kyosuke as the conscious (that is to say, unconscious) representation of Salt. He is male, yes, but rendered effectively impotent by his injury and his inability to pursue his passion, and feminized by his tie to Sayaka; further, his plight as represented by his hand is the plight of all people with depression, whose inner psychological soundtrack advises they simply give up, that there is no use in creativity or creation when death is at the end of the road. Paralleling this theme of self-destruction with which Sayaka will burden herself, Madoka meets Hitomi stumbling down the road and recognizes on her a witch’s kiss; her schoolfriend deliriously tells Madoka she’s going to a place much better than this one. Following Hitomi leads to an empty warehouse where people are gathering for a mass suicide, all of them miserable, one in particular a failed businessman who laments that there is no place for him in the world. Essentially, we are seeing a miniature, metaphorical cult; Hitomi even calls it a sacred ceremony. This is not the first time we will see this theme of the spiritual dangers of religion starting to emerge. For now it’s at a disorganized, Jim Jones level, but soon we’ll be talking scary baptist minister. In trying to escape the warehouse, Madoka is caught by the witch, who catches her in a kind of carousel and forces her to experience her despair over Mami, which she interprets as being for her cowardice; as she accepts what she perceives to be a fair punishment, she begins to be torn apart, but she is rescued by Sayaka. Again, Sayaka is notably protecting the Salt.
I talk a lot about varying degrees of progression of these archetypes, and I think it’s important to note that the first representation, the most conscious representation, is paradoxically almost always the most ‘unconscious’ representation— that is to say, it is the most normal representation, the least self-aware and the one most distantly removed from the problems of the unconscious, which are typically represented in these stories by the fantastical situations. It is also generally closest to the problem the creator is trying to resolve; Gen is writing Madoka to resolve his depression, Kyosuke is cured by Sayaka, who essentially absorbs the burden and corruption of hopelessness and depression from him, then must be destroyed, herself, in order to annihilate it completely. This is perhaps why the creator has been noted as being so adamant that Sayaka’s death is necessary to the story. The unconscious representation of the principle is, however, also deeply unconscious; Kyoko, we will see, fills that role, but with Sayaka’s death, much as Lantis’ death to Ferio, we will also see Kyoko is inspired to turn around and is thus ‘purified’, our true red sulphur compared to the black sulphur of Homura and the xanthotic corruption of Sayaka.
The method by which the unconscious (or, rather, despair) destroys Sayaka is by a process Jung called ‘ego inflation’. The fifth episode of the series, in fact, is called ‘There’s No Way I’ll Ever Regret It’, the conscious chorus Sayaka must maintain as she descends further into despair. When an individual experiences ego inflation, they continue to identify with their ego, which in turn identifies with the Self— this is the sort of person who thinks they’re god, who either eventually gets locked in the madhouse for claiming to literally be Jesus, starts successfully running a cult, or is just roundly despised by all their friends and peers for their annoying behavior. This is also the sort of person who gradually (or, sometimes rather suddenly) self-destructs. Jung and his student, Marie-Louis Von Franz, both claim to have experienced people claiming a kind of immortality and then soon dropping dead. The mechanism by which such a phenomenon would function might be said to be the cost of awareness. Pure consciousness is teleological, non-temporal; and so if there is something down the road or in the soul which does not suit its needs on its awakening, it may have unconscious means by which to dispatch the unfortunate ego hosting it. Jung described this phenomenon as akin to a man’s body betraying him during rock-climbing, say, by allowing his grip to slip; one may contrast the phenomenon occasionally described by miraculous survivors of accidents and tragedies as having been guided by a clear inner voice of angelic intuition as the counterpoint, an instance in which genetic or memetic intuition is able to take control of the primary functions of the human being. So, on a personal level, Sayaka’s ego is betraying her, and her body, too, and why? Because Gen insisted, despite the pleas of one of his staff members, that Sayaka must die— but she must die for a necessary reason, and that is so the girls can understand the ultimate fate of a magical girl who does not die at the hands of a witch is to become a witch. It reveals the meaning of despair and grief as the true corruption and allows the final chain of events to be set into motion.
At the beginning of episode 5, we see Sayaka in the center of a mandala of flowers on the rooftop of the hospital; Kyubey assures her he can grant her wish and then uses his ears to reach into Sayaka’s body, from whence he extracts her soul to be converted into a soul gem. The image of the soul being extracted and becoming a stone is quite an alchemical one, indeed, particularly when this process is caused by the Spirit Mercurius. We later see her with Kyosuke, who has been miraculously healed, though he must linger to finish his walking rehabilitation and to allow the doctors to investigate the incredible recovery of his hand. This achievement further reinforces Sayaka’s role as feminine sulphur, for she engenders change in the salt which is made possible by the mercury. On the rooftop, Kyosuke plays his violin—Ave Maria—for the first time since the accident, and Sayaka says, tragically, probably quite rightly, that it is the happiest moment of her life.
Kyoko, meanwhile, is spying on the proceedings, and in a conversation with Kyubey comes to understand that there is a magical girl in the town who Kyubey does not know. Kyoko, flabbergasted, says that if she is a magical girl she must have made a contract with him, to which Kyubey replies, “You could say yes, you could also say no,” because he’s a little shit. Immediately, we see Homura and Madoka having lunch; Madoka is there to apologize on Sayaka’s behalf and to ask Homura to be Sayaka’s friend. Homura, who says she does not like to tell lies or make promises she can’t keep, simply advises Madoka to give up on Sayaka. She says that ‘just as the dead don’t return to life, there is no hope of saving Sayaka’, and that once one is a magical girl there is no hope of salvation. This is not true, we will find— the dead do return to life, but not in a perceptible way, and there is eternal salvation hidden for the magical girl. We next see Madoka accompanying Sayaka on a fight with a witch’s familiar, but they are confronted by Kyoko, who chides Sayaka for trying to kill the familiar before it was able to become a full-fledged witch and leave behind a grief seed— it is better, she said, to let it eat four or five people first. In the ensuing fight, Kyoko handily displays her strength, but we learn that because Sayaka made her contract wishing for someone to be healed, she herself heals at twice the rate of a regular human. We therefore witness an absolutely brutal beat-down, during which Kyubey tries to manipulate Madoka into making a wish to become a magical girl to help Sayaka. Homura arrives just in time, seeming as though to teleport out of Kyoko’s grip. She says she is on the side of those who think rationally and against those who engage in needless conflict; Kyoko indicates she feels as if they have met before, then leaves, and Homura chastises Madoka.
In Sayaka’s room, we see Kyubey instructing her on the use of a grief seed to absorb impurity from her soul gem; when she notes the grief seed is pitch black, he states that it is now dangerous, and that if it absorbs anymore impurity, a witch could hatch from it— this is a flat-out lie. His helpful offer to collect her seed into a hole which appears in his back is, we will find, part of a ploy; but, in essence, much as the Spirit Mercurius is a gardener who can cultivate pain and sickness as much as creativity and joy, Kyubey is a gardener collecting fruits of grief from the trees about which he ultimately cares very little, if at all. They discuss the importance of keeping the soul gem purified and Kyubey spins it as being in her best interest so she may use as much magic as she likes during battle, because every use of magic blackens her gem a little more; of course, as discussed, the real reason is far more sinister.
Several things are worth noting here— much as magical girls become unconscious when they are rendered witches by despair (that is, they are absorbed totally by the archetype and are reduced to a series of symbols trapped within the labyrinths embodying their former psyches), so too does the purity of a girl’s wish relate to the amount of her power. Mami was incredibly powerful, logically speaking, because she wished for life— this is not explicitly stated, but it can be roundly presumed based on her near-death in the car accident. (Another reason why she is a manifestation of the consciousness archetype.) Madoka, Kyubey admits to Sayaka, would be most powerful of all. We will see that Madoka’s wish—the wish of the new ‘queen’ as it were—will be a kind of evolution, much as achieving a higher state of consciousness builds upon the initial state of simply being alive, as represented by Mami, whose desire is not pure enough to keep her alive because it is biological and not psychological.
Speaking of power— Homura meets Kyoko at an arcade to broker a peace agreement, of sorts, explaining that in two weeks a witch called Walpurgisnacht will descend upon the city. This is a good time to mention Goethe’s Faust, of course, which incorporates a scene on Walpurgis Night. In the first part of the play, in a gambit to distract him from his lover’s plight, Faust is brought up the infamous mountain by Mephistopheles, who introduces him to a raucous fray of witches; one in particular has the body of Faust’s love, Gretchen, and to force him to tear his eyes away, Mephistopheles shows him a stage, and begins what he calls an ‘Intermezzo’, called The Walpurgis Night Dream, which introduces a miniature play with an entire cast of characters about the feast of the 50th wedding anniversary of Oberon and Titania. Faust, however, is not to be distracted. This is all significant because, when Walpurgisnacht arrives, we will see it is a sort of weaving woman witch, a blind and fully unconscious demiurge which exists only to subsume other witches, who is made conscious via symbols of the stage and who, like a weaving demiurge, seems responsible for the drama of life.
This is also the time to bring The Master and Margarita into it, which demonstrates the link between despair and the anima’s becoming a witch. In it, the anima in the form of Margarita is consumed with despair, and, after using the cream given her by a demon, becomes a witch. On her journey to meet the devil, she momentarily visits a small boy who is disturbed from sleep, and she puts him back to it, elegantly summarizing both her plight, and the plight of witches in Madoka:“I’ll tell you a fairy tale,” said Margarita, and put her burning hand on top of the boy’s close-cropped head. “Once upon a time there was a lady. She had no children, and no happiness either. And at first she cried for a long time, but then she became wicked…” [Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, page 206]
Meanwhile, we see Madoka talking to her mother and Sayaka discover that her friend was discharged. Sayaka then gets into a battle with Kyoko, but Madoka arrives, then Homura, with Homura agreeing to incapacitate Sayaka; but before Sayaka can transform, Madoka throws Sayaka’s soul gem over the side of the bridge and onto the car beneath, and when the soul gem gets far enough away, Sayaka’s consciousness leaves her body. As the girls, horrified, try to figure out what has happened with Homura hurrying to fetch it, Kyubey explains that the furthest radius within which the girls are able to control their bodies is 100 meters— the soul extracted for the soul gem is consciousness, essentially, the awareness of mind which was extracted from the body. Kyubey finally explains all this and ponders aloud why humans are so touchy about the placement of their souls. Homura will go on to explain to Madoka that it is a being with no understanding of human values; he takes a utilitarian standpoint towards the body, viewing it as a tool, and says that the placement of the soul within a gem is better for the girls, who are able to this way detach themselves from pain and use magic more efficiently.
Kyoko arrives to talk to despairing Sayaka, admitting that she is comfortable with the arrangement as the cost of her bargain. Kyoko, who is eating apples, brings Sayaka to the remains of a church and offers her one, bodily threatening her for tossing it away; Kyoko goes on to explain that the church was the church of her father, an overly kind man who gave too much of himself to society. He began teaching from outside of the Bible, and as a result was excommunicated, and eventually Kyoko and her family didn’t have food to eat. Kyoko believed her father was right, and anyone who stopped to give him a chance would believe him; she therefore asked Kyubey to make people listen seriously to what her father had to say. This worked for a while, but when her father found out about her magic, he called her a witch who tainted people’s hearts. He eventually killed his whole family, save, of course, for Kyoko. We thus see the consequences of a wish gone awry; and how Kyoko’s father, the patriarchal Church which rejects the participation of the feminine and gnostic interpretations of scripture, cannot accept her way of consciousness. Similarly, Sayaka is not able to accept it, either, and leaves the remains of the church without accepting the apples, because Kyoko cannot say where she got the money to buy them, therefore Sayaka, much as Koyoko’s father could not accept his parishioners, cannot accept the apples when they were so ill-acquired. At school the next day, Kyosuke is able to return, and Hitomi reveals her feelings for the boy to Sayaka, who is heartbroken. Hitomi, as the conscious (and thus unconscious) mercurial archetype, confronts Sayaka about her feelings and gives her the opportunity to admit them, but she refuses, and so Hitomi moves along with the courtship, the mercurial archetype moving in on the salt in the manner we observed in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery collection, specifically the story “Like Mother Used To Make”. Sayaka sobs to Madoka that she is already dead, already a zombie, and so there is nothing she can do to keep Kyosuke from Hitomi; this is of course the extremely despairing, depressing, negativistic way to look at the separation of consciousness and body, and inevitably bodily mortality. Sayaka, totally detached, then, brutally massacres a witch in front of Kyoko and Madoka. She begins refusing grief seeds and collapsing after the fight and accuses Madoka of forcing her to suffer in her stead and being incapable of experiencing what she is. Further isolating herself, Sayaka runs into the rain and asks herself why she said those things, feeling herself beyond salvation. Because she has begun to curse the world, herself, Kyubey explains, the girls would do well to watch out for her. Indeed, after seeing Hitomi confess her love for Kyosuke, Sayaka goes on a familiar-hunting spree, her soul gem becoming ever more tainted. Homura gives her a grief seed, which she refuses, and Homura then warns her she is going to die. Sayaka claims that she doesn’t care, and that the world doesn’t need her because she is useless. At last, on a train, in front of two scumbags talking about women, Sayaka succumbs fully to despair.
Kyubey, meanwhile, discusses with Madoka the intensity of her latent power. He describes that with her power she could even become god, and that putting Sayaka’s soul in her body again would be child’s play— at this, Madoka nearly makes the contract, but Homura shoots that embodiment of Kyubey to death and begs Madoka why she must always sacrifice herself in such a way. After wondering aloud again whether or not she has met Homura somewhere before, Madoka runs off to find Sayaka, and a new Kyubey arrives to eat the body of the old. He then says he was able to divine from the death her magical specialty, and names it: Time Magic. Homura, he supposes aloud, is not even from their timeline. She, in turn, assures Kyubey, who she calls ‘Incubator’, that she will not allow his plans to come to fruition. We then see Kyoko find Sayaka to help her, just in time for Sayaka to become a witch. We see during the battle that Sayaka’s witch-consciousness is distinct from her physical body, which Kyoko seeks to protect; Homura arrives, stops time, and escapes with Kyoko, who drags Sayaka’s body along with them, much to Homura’s displeasure and protests that it is useless. We, and the girls, then learn the distinct connection between soul gems and grief seeds, and that the former becomes the latter when fully tainted; Sayaka is essentially already dead. Homura explains, much as Kyoko once explained, that the condition of being a magical girl could only last until the amount of despair experienced by a girl was equal to the amount of hope produced by her wish.
Kyubey comes to Madoka that night to defend himself, claiming that what was done was not out of ill will for humanity, but rather due to entropy; the laws of thermodynamics guarantee energy loss on transformation, so Kyubey’s species sought out a source of energy not bound by such laws, finding it in the power of magical girls; the species developed technology to convert the emotions of sentient lifeform into raw energy, but because their species do not possess emotion, they had to find it elsewhere, namely, from humans. According to Kyubey, the amount of emotional energy produced by a human is greater than the energy expended between birth and death; therefore, human souls are the means by which entropy may be countered. The job of incubators is to collect the energy released by the transformation of a magical girl into a witch, experiencing the greatest fluctuations between hope and despair. His big-picture principles, however, only work on a macrocosmic, consciousness level; on the level of the biological microcosm they are seemingly senseless and cruel.
Later, Kyoko, supposing that Madoka’s friendship may reach Sayaka, even in the depths of the witch, takes Madoka with her to fight Sayaka’s embittered consciousness to no avail. Naturally, Homura is forced to arrive to rescue Madoka; Kyoko remains behind to fight the witch, destroying herself in the process. Kyubey claims he would have stopped her death if it had been meaningless, but allowing Kyoko to die means that there is no one to help protect the city from Walpurgisnacht but Homura, necessitating that Madoka become a magical girl if they are to survive.
We then learn the real truth of the matter: we see the true first time Homura transferred to the school, and how she and frightened she was, and how Madoka immediately befriended and supported her. In this original world, Madoka was already a magical girl along with Mami, and rescues Homura from a witch; we then see how this world ended with the arrival of Walpurgisnacht, the death of Mami and then the doom of Madoka. After her death, Homura made her wish with Kyubey— she laments she would rather Madoka have lived than saved her, and makes the wish to redo her meeting with Madoka with Homura, this time, the one strong enough to be the protector. Thus, Homura returns to the point of her transfer; and she does it again, and again, and again, each time with slightly altered results, each time becoming stronger, herself, as the world around her repeats endlessly. We see the plight of the unconscious shadow, then— arguably, and ironically, that most conscious figure connecting the consciousness and the unconscious, must silently watch biological reality pass by over, and over, and over again, eventually to keep Madoka from being tricked by Kyubey at all. I discussed in the Rayearth essay the concept of cyclical reality, and it is represented nowhere better than here in Madoka: the world is perpetually destroyed and recreated, and each time in the hopes that Madoka will awaken to her true potential in order to defeat Walpurgisnacht. Likewise, reality occurs time and time again, a never ending cycle, waiting for consciousness to awaken and move upwards. We have at any time the opportunity to choose to be in the universe in which we conform to the patterns for our highest self, and our shadow is there to do it for us, all-knowing, all-seeing, silent, non-temporal. But because no one will accept the truth about the future, Homura must harden herself and become the girl we’ve come to know throughout the run of the series. We then see the scene which began the series, with Madoka being given the opportunity to change the fate of Homura while Homura, fighting Walpurgisnacht, begs her not to listen to him; it is worthless, however, and we understand that though that Madoka was able to destroy Walpurgisnacht in a single shot, she turned almost immediately into a witch. Kyubey says that as a magical girl, she took down her most powerful enemy, therefore, ‘all that was left for her was to turn into the wickedest of all witches’, which he estimates will take 10 days to destroy the planet. We then see Homura go back in time again, as she did at the beginning of the series, to save Madoka no matter how many attempts it takes.
Back in the ‘present’, for whatever that term is worth, in Homura’s apartment, Kyubey theorizes that this is the reason for Madoka’s extraordinary powers: a magical girl’s abilities are directly related to the karmic destiny she bears, which is what makes Madoka’s powers so particularly strange, as they are more befitting that of a queen; but because so many threads of fate hinge upon her, she has near limitless potential to be anything which she desires. The dreadful irony, then, is that Homura’s efforts to protect Madoka from Kyubey are the very thing which cause Kyubey to become so increasingly interested in pressuring Madoka to make her wish. The shadow, then, is the salvation as much as it is the cause of the eternal condition— we saw this theme before, in Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, where our protagonist’s shadow (which from its perspective views our protagonist as its shadow) endeavors to save and free him from the stagnant eternity of the town, but does not carry on with him, instead remaining to wander perpetually through the woods. The shadow (or the aspect of his person that is represented as the shadow in the End of the World segments) is the one responsible for orchestrating their attempted break-out, and ultimately the only one who ends up leaving: we see that one aspect carries on, and the other splits off, continuing in perpetuity and in the process acting as a pillar for that particular segment of eternity as represented by The Town, which the protagonist himself realizes at the end that he created. In this series, Homura, the shadow, will remain behind in the real world the way the protagonist, Madoka, ascends to become an archetype which maintains the integrity of eternity, becoming responsible for a kind of spiritual new world order.
Kyubey mentions that the mechanism by which Madoka was made so powerful was through the convergence of multiple timelines. To understand what he means, consider yourself. Consider the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics; if it is correct, that means every branching off point where you made a choice elicits the creation of a universe where the opposite choice was made, where you failed instead of succeeded. I myself when considering such an exercise look back in wonder at all of the selves which did not make it— toddler variations of myself which fell down the stairs for a concussion at 2, middle schoolers hit by buses, high schoolers victims of drug overdoses or suicides. Every potential accident, every near-death experience, should be weighed and considered and considered a part of the self, and used as motivating fuel to realize that anything can be escaped by the conscious entity. Keep in mind, from Madoka’s perspective, this final, most successful life and ascendency are the only ones of which she is cognizant: it is her non-temporal shadow, her connection to the unconscious, who bears the conscious weight of knowledge of what has happened to her. In this last, most perfect lifetime before she achieves the equivalent of escape from samsara.
Sayaka’s earthly body is discovered in a hotel and both the possibility of murder and accidental death are reported as being considered by a police; Madoka is shown at a funeral service, knowing better exactly what happened; that Madoka’s body died before her consciousness, which had given into despair and propelled itself out of her in what might be considered a kind of suicide, for we can see and extrapolate rather easily based on the nature of witches that it was Witch-Sayaka’s intention to devour the body of Human-Sayaka. To add to this theme of consumption, Kyubey uses the metaphor of mankind’s slaughter of livestock in an effort to put perspective on the actions of his species towards humanity. He claims that their treatment of humanity is arguably better than humanity’s treatment of livestock, since his species acknowledges mankind is sentient and endeavors to deal with them ‘fairly’, though ‘fairness’ is a manner of speech for a creature which claimed earlier in the series to not understand the definition of ‘tricking’ someone into something. Using the good old fashioned used car salesman excuse of ‘I didn’t tell you because you never asked,’ Kyubey casts retroactive shade on every adorable mascot in anime which preceded him, most particularly a certain little Mercurial tree-dweller we talked about in our last essay.
Because Madoka still does not believe Kyubey, he shows her the relationship of mankind to the Incubators, who, as the chthonic mystery race, are a kind of unconscious counterpoint to both humanity and the idea of the seraphim, have interacted with humanity since the dawn of time. He demonstrates Queen Himiko, Joan of Arc and Cleopatra as magical girls who all succumbed to despair; he also explains that it was not he who betrayed all these girls who lived short lives and yet brought about revolutions or great changes in human consciousness, but rather their own prayers, for a wish is something for a different reality and anything that doesn’t match reality creates a distortion; he says that they were wrong to have made wishes in the first place, not that he blames them. He then, poignantly, reminds Madoka that all the tragedies of history have lain the groundwork for the life she lives now— but he forgets to mention that all the joys of history have lain the groundwork for that life, even more. He also claims that if he and his species and never come to the planet, mankind would still be living in caves.
Going to visit Homura, Madoka learns that Walpurgisnacht is so powerful it doesn’t need a labyrinth, and if it manifests even once, thousands will die. Ordinary humans will perceive the disaster as being caused by an act of God, an earthquake or a tsunami, say; when Homura claims she can fight it alone and Madoka says she wants to believe her, but can’t, Homura bursts into tears and wonders how she can tell Madoka what she’s really feeling when she’s not even living in the same time as her. In a heartbreaking scene, she embraces Madoka and confesses to her that she is from the future and has been forced, over and over, to watch her friend die; she claims the more time they do it, the further they drift apart, and the more her words don’t seem to reach Madoka. She began everything with the hope of saving Madoka, and now it is the only thing she has left to guide her, and begs Madoka to allow her to protect her.
Walpurgisnacht comes into town, and the townsfolk hide as if in preparation for a hurricane while Homura meets it. Kyubey explains to Madoka that if it goes badly for her, Homura will simply negate the timeline and try again; that the moment she gives up and realizes her quest to rescue Madoka is hopeless is the moment she herself will become a grief seed. Madoka’s mother finds her, apparently alone, and confronts her daughter before she can leave to go after Homura; naturally, Madoka cannot express the problem to her mother, but only insists she remain behind and protect Madoka’s father and brother.
Outside, we see the battle between Homura and Walpurgisnacht begin to take a bad turn, and we notice, if we have not by now, Walpurgisnacht’s shifting stylistic resemblance to the pupil and iris of an eye. Homura’s leg is crushed and she laments that no matter how many times she tries, it’s no good; but now she realizes that if she goes back again, she will only make Madoka’s destiny worse. Just as she begins to succumb to despair, Madoka arrives and apologizes to her. She has not yet made her wish, though; she tells Homura she will have to sacrifice herself to do it, and then wishes to erase all witches before they are born, in all universes, past and future, with her own hands; that is, she wishes to rescue the consciousnesses of all magical girls at the moment of their apparent bodily death, rather than to allow them to succumb to the pain and fear and despair of being a witch, which is a metaphor as much for hell as it is for the karmic illusions described in the Tibetan book of the dead. Madoka, however, acting as a savior, is the embodiment of knowledge and unity which rescues them, and the counterpoint, thus, to Walpurgisnacht, the demiurge which animates the drama; as Mami points out to her at her teatable in a non-spatial conversation, Madoka will lose all traces of her individual self, will fight forever, for past, present, and future, and thus exist as naught but a principle which destroys witches— the archetype of the Redeemer, in essence. She says that if someone says it’s wrong to have hope, she’ll correct them. Mami says she isn’t just granting them hope but rather becoming hope, itself; and the proverbial last supper with mami and Kyoko finishes up to unveil Magical Madoka firing rose arrows from her bow, which fly out across all time and space to all magical girls on the verge of their transformation into witches, whose cursed destiny she offers to bear. Magical Madoka and Walpurgisnacht neutralize in a reaction so ferocious it tears all reality asunder, and this act leaves Homura, who is eternal because of her time magic, alone to watch the universe reorder along with Kyubey, present as only a voice.
Madoka’s soul gem has become a rainbow meteor, and brings to mind the common analogy of rainbows upon oil slicks and rainbows appearing near the completion of the alchemical process, rainbows being the arc of the covenant, Iris, etc. Kyubey, of course, being a little shit, focuses on the fact that it also contains enough despair to end the universe, after glossing over the fact that it contains enough hope to create one. The meteor hurtles towards Earth, which is subsumed in a shadowy personification of all the cursed destinies of the girls; that is, Madoka’s immense despair as a result of absorbing their pain. However, because Madoka is eternal, she states that even she should have no reason to despair, and appears as the true Higher Madoka to defeat her own witch in a really fantastic symbolic demonstration of the inner puella eternia overcoming the leaden, Saturnine grief and pain of the Self. Because of this, her existence shifts to a higher plane and she truly exists only as a concept, and no earthly memory of her will exist anywhere. Because of her eternal awareness, however, Madoka now understands what Homura has done for her, and is finally able to express her gratitude. And we see then that, much as in Hard-Boiled Wonderland, the shadow which escapes The End of the World is really our protagonist in the arguably more normal Hard-Boiled Wonderland, Madoka, who must now remain eternally in a higher plane, is also eternally everywhere on earth and so is able to be with all her friends, and all those who are suffering, even if they are not aware; Madoka, then, is the true shadow, for, much as this last timeline was until her transformation the only timeline about which Madoka had conscious awareness, her friends and humanity will have awareness only of their own, normal timeline, Madokaless, and this act of viewing Madoka as the shadow then elevates Homura, like the shadow who escapes, into our role as true protagonist of the show. It is she who moves the plot, she who suffers time and time again, and she who at last lives on, her burden relieved by her friend, who has taken it on to maintain a new, eternal level of consciousness. We then see Sayaka enjoying a concert by her friend and meeting with Madoka, and see the new interpretation, in the new world, of Sayaka’s death: in this new world, magical girls simply disappear before they are killed or become witches.
Sayaka worries that she has caused a lot of trouble, but in fact she has been pivotal, and Madoka assures her of this as they watch the violinist audition. This much is evident based on the fact that they are able to witness such a concert at all; Sayaka was pivotal in absorbing the impurities from our masculine alchemical Salt, thus making possible the violin concert— the series. It is at this concert that we make our transition to a new world, where Sayaka did not die, but was carried away by the ‘Law of the Cycle’, having used up her remaining power. We then see that Homura remembers Madoka, having been able to kep one of her friend’s red ribbons in the transition; she bumps into Madoka’s family, and finds Madoka’s little brother remembers her, too, in the way a child knows an imaginary friend. Madoka’s mother says the name sometimes has a nostalgic ring to it. In this world, also, the girls fight wraiths, and collect curses; the curses of mankind, after all, still continue to exist, and have simply taken a different form. As the story ends, Homura muses on the irredeemable world which Madoka sought to protect, and assures herself that she will never forget it, which is why she will keep fighting. She even appears with wings at the story’s end–a stylistic choice on the part of the animators–to further emphasize her new, higher state of consciousness.
Building on the themes of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and Rayearth as we have, Madoka’s symbolism is not only self-evident, but highly satisfying in its constellation. However, it is not a complete answer to the problem, because mankind of course continues to curse itself— the problem of biological despair continues, even if the problem of consciousness has been solved, for of course, from the perspectives of the people in the city, their lives are limited. Only magical girls can achieve perpetual consciousness in this universe, and if Gen was not successful in fully curtailing his depression with the help of his writing, this reason is why. Yet, it is also true of cynical mankind and the gnostic idea of the world, as well: Homura’s jaded perspective on reality makes her ideal, in fact, to represent that notion, further cementing her as our protagonist, and giving us as audience members good reason to appreciate our own shadow, and to give it a chance— to integrate it, rather than reject it. At the beginning of her journey, Homura is young, bespectacled, gawky; by the end, she is wise, her eyes are opened, and she who must continue to live in the world does so at the peak of athletic awareness, with a level of seemingly impossible consciousness setting her apart among the people she protects. Her awareness of Madoka and of the true nature of things provides her what might be thought of as a kind of spiritual comfort, and a way of bonding with her fellow man; and it also makes her the carrier of the story which we have observed, and the carrier of the methods of xanthosis via art.
In two weeks, we’ll be exploring the albedo represented in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”. Meanwhile, while I edit my own ALBEDO (the forthcoming novel, that is), be sure to read DELILAH, MY WOMAN. Is your Christmas looking a little too bright? Care to read a story about a serial killer which one angry man expecting a more John Grisham-esque novel called ‘pornographic’? Enjoy upsetting friends and relatives with transgressive fiction they aren’t expecting? Then buy DELILAH, MY WOMAN in beautiful hardback edition, or get the ebook for free during the limited window of December 9th through December 13th and justify it to yourself by leaving a review when you’re through.