In the first episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka meets a mysterious transfer student to her school in a dream. The night before she actually meets her. And then THIS IS INCREDIBLY FUCKING WEIRD, AND I AM ALL ABOUT IT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Madoka Magica.
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Okay, new show, so that means I need to share with you what I know about Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
- It’s an anime.
- I am so unprepared that numerous people have expressed explicit concern that this might be the first time I’m totally going to be rendered unable to live by a fictional story.
I don’t even know what any of those words aside from “Magi” even means, so I’m coming to this show without the slightest clue what I’ve signed up for. Lots of people like it? I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M WATCHING.
Truthfully, I haven’t watched that much anime, which is why I wanted to purposely branch into it. Next year, I’ll be starting Cowboy Bebop and Princess Tutu. That’ll be fun! At this point in my life, I’ve seen most of the Ghibli films, sat down and watched FLCL in one sitting with SpectralBovine, and then I–
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra don’t count, do they? Technically?
Okay, then I’m not sure I’ve seen anything else. HAHAH WHOOPS. I didn’t MEAN for this to happen, but I grew up poor, without regular access to the Internet, and with very few friends who were anime fans. It’s just something that never happened until very recently, and even then, where the hell do you start? The genre is so massive and diverse that it’s overwhelming to a newcomer. So when the lovely Amanda commissioned a Mark Watches video for me, thinking that this show was a ways off, I thought, WELL I MIGHT AS WELL JUST JUMP INTO IT.
So here we are. I know not a thing about this show, its characters, the story, the fandom, and I’m going to watch it.
WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I GOTTEN INTO.
That’s pretty much how I feel about the first episode of Madoka Magica. Without even being terribly knowledgable about what sort of tropes or archetypes appear in anime, I could still recognize the fact that this show takes very accepted ideas, turns them on their head, and then confused the fuck out of me because apparently everyone derives joy from my suffering. I know that somewhere, Joss Whedon is hiding out in a room writing his next show, and he’s intentionally going to make it something I’ll initially be attracted to, and then he’ll be waiting around the corner to sucker punch me with feelings This is the way of the world, okay?
What I do like about this introduction is the weirdness, though. The opening sequence is a bizarre, frightening look at a possible future, a world of violence and destruction. This absurdity is then contrasted by the sheer normalcy of Madoka Kaname’s life. She has a loving family, the GREATEST MOTHER OF ALL TIME, and an adorable younger brother. She and her friends talk about boys, cute outfits, and learn together in school. Nothing about her life is strange, lending credence to the idea that her dream was just that – a dream. I mean, I don’t even have words to describe that dream world! I didn’t even know what I was looking at the entire time. So I just assumed that we’d deal with it later, or it would become a recurring theme of the show.
And then Homura Akemi shows up.
It’s not uncommon to see the trope surrounding Homura show up in fiction. The distant, totally perfect student who only seems to be interested in the main character? I mean, come on, that’s Twilight, isn’t it? I imagine it’s a frequent thing for this genre, but Madoka Magica not only acknowledges this, but COMPLETELY DESTROYS IT within the first episode. Homura looks downright bored with being perfect. She’s not unaware of what skills and talents she possesses. In fact, she appears to use them just to get through the day. She could give no fucks if she impresses anyone, and Madoka is included in that. That’s because Homura’s interest in Madoka isn’t about Madoka being the exception to the rule. Normally, this type of story builds up the ~special snowflake~ main character, but here, Homura specifically tears that down. After getting Madoka away from the others, Homura warns her to stay the way she is. Initially, I thought she was talking about Madoka’s experimentation with her image, but that proved to be a silly idea. How would Homura even know that? Instead, I think it’s related to what we see at the end of this episode.
I’ll get there in a moment. I wanted to discuss the MIND-BOGGLING scene between Madoka, Sayaka, and Hitomi that they have during… lunch? Yes? After they made fun of Madoka for admitting that she “met” Homura in a dream, they then openly discussed the dream. By now, y’all should know that one of my pet peeves is when weird shit happens to people and no one talks about it. Here, the girls discuss the possible reasons why Madoka would even have this dream, and none of it is done to deny she had it. They all outright believe that it occurred, and they go on from there. I LOVE THIS DEEPLY.
So, I spent most of the time watching this calling Kyubey “bunny rabbit cat thingy.” I swear, I’m an adult, and I understand the English language. Now I understand that Kyubey is some sort of contract-giving cutie, and that they are… well. Okay. At first, I thought the show was cleverly making Homura the villain, since she was clearly chasing down this endlessly cute creature and trying to kill it. But now I think the show was relying on the audience’s willingness to side with a cute creature over anything else. Given the conversation that Mami and Homura have, they’re both magical girls, right? So they’re like ~warriors of good~ or something, yes? So what is it that they fight?
Could it be the NIGHTMARISH MONTY PYTHON-ESQUE EVIL WORLD THAT SAYAKA AND MADOKA STUMBLE INTO? COULD IT BE THAT? I’M GOING TO GUESS IT’S THAT. What the fuck is that place? Is it similar to what Madoka saw in her dream in the cold open? It has to be. So… what the hell???
All I can piece together is that Mami and Homura are magical girls, they use magic to fight evil, Homura wanted to harm Kyubey, who was trying to get Madoka and Sayaka to be magical girls because… why? Why was she going after Kyubey? Homura’s warning to Madoka earlier has to be about her choice to be become a magical girl. So why is Homura so set against it if she is one herself?
You goddamn cliffhanger, I already need to know more, and you’re just getting in the way. Damn it.
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