In the twelfth and final episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka finally makes her wish. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Madoka Magica.
Well, I was so close, yet SO FAR AWAY.
At no point during this EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER of a finale do the writers make the past not matter. When Madoka made her wish, my number one concern was that things would be re-contextualized in a way that would render the journey I’d watched for eleven episodes moot. Thankfully, not only does this show avoid doing this, it doesn’t negate magical girls either.
Madoka’s wish is granted because she has the karmic energy to create it, and Kyubey watches in horror as a teenage girl completely destroys his system in a matter of seconds: she becomes a goddess. I was wrong to say that this show is about Homura. She’s a main protagonist, yes, but Madoka’s sacrifice is just as important. Here, she sends her arrows across all space and time, visiting EVERY MAGICAL GIRL EVER who was about to become a witch, and allowing them peace and hope in their final moments. I managed to spot Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and who I think was Anne Frank as well. There are magical girls all over the world, and it was pleasing to see a magical girl in Africa and another wearing a hajib. What Madoka’s sacrifice represents is a complete reversal of misery in one sense. It’s not that she eradicates unhappiness from human history. If anything, what we see of the new timeline merely means that the suffering of magical girls is no longer an energy source to be mined by the Incubators.
But before we see the effects of Madoka’s wish, this show punches me in the face with emotions. I just cannot believe the scope of the story that’s given to me. IT’S RIDICULOUS, AND I LOVE IT. Madoka has to reform the universe because she must rewrite the laws of the universe. Ultimately, this results in a paradox: Madoka must erase the very planet-sized witch that she’ll become, which means she must erase herself. The show doesn’t cop-out on this reality, either. Madoka must cease to exist forever if her wish is to come true. But Homura, able to control the magic of time, gets one last moment with her very best friend as the fabric of the universe is re-folding into something new. In that sense, I was right about the resolution: this story is about the love of friends. (Which, by the way, I will imbue with a heavily queer context in my own personal headcanon because I am allowed to.) Madoka honored what Homura fought for. She respected that Homura protected her all this time, and she did not take this lightly. The world she built in place of the current one was a world where hope finally existed. In the old system, every end was the same for magical girls. They would suffer, they would become witches, and only the Incubators would benefit from such an arrangement. What Homura did, and what she sacrificed over and over again, allowed Madoka to have the power to rewrite the whole goddamn system. And I think’s that’s important, you know? I wanted the show to say that Homura’s actions mattered, and in this arrangement, they do.
And then Madoka gave Homura her hair ribbon and EVERYTHING WAS SADNESS FOREVER.
I was happy that the show found a way to give closure to the other characters. In her higher being/goddess form, she visits (what I like to think is) Sayaka’s spirit. She tells Sayaka that if she prevents her from becoming a witch, that means that Kajimo’s wish would be undone, too. So Sayaka ultimately decides that despite that she gave her wish to a boy who will never reciprocate her feelings for him, she’s okay with it. He can play again. It’s a heartbreaking and remarkably selfless moment, punctuated by Sayaka’s love for Hitomi more than for Kajimo. Even in her final moments, she chooses to help other people rather than do something that benefits herself. I’m glad that Sayaka was ultimately happy with her fate and was able to move on.
Mami and Kyoko are both alive in this new timeline, but it’s revealed that Homura is the only person from the original group of magical girls who still remembers Madoka. The new world doesn’t account for her existence. Does that mean everything is puppies and rainbows? I wish. No, the world is still full of human mystery, and magical girls still exist. Now, however, they fight curses in a different form, they disappear if they expend too much energy, and their relationship with the Incubators appears to be far more consensual and caring. And you know, it’s not that the world is necessarily better because Madoka sacrificed herself. To me, though, Madoka always wanted to alleviate the ultimate suffering of the magical girls. I think she knew she couldn’t change the fabric of human existence the whole time. You can’t wish away unhappiness. But Madoka’s own sadness came from the futility she felt when she faced the harsh reality of what it meant to be a magical girl. She had seen how that life tore apart and used girls for someone else’s benefit, so she made her wish to change the process. That doesn’t mean magical girls don’t suffer, and we definitely see how sad Kyoko, Homura, and Mami are when Sayaka dies. It just means that they finally have more of a choice in how to sacrifice themselves for the world.
Then I find out that Tatsuya can still remember Madoka, and EVERYTHING IN MY WHOLE BEING IS SHATTERED. Oh my god, when Junko said that Madoka’s name felt nostalgic, I was already a billion percent done with all things forever.
But the end sequence of Madoka Magica confirms that grief will always be a part of human existence, that bad things will always happen to good people, and that there will always be a fight for magical girls. What changes about this equation – and what Madoka has given everyone – is that the fatalistic end doesn’t exist anymore. Madoka must have seen something worth saving in the world, or else she would have wished it all away. I’d like to think that Madoka truly believed that the love we share with one another made life living. She wasn’t particularly talented or special, and she often made mistakes. But Madoka learned how the people in her life – Junko, Tatsuya, Mami, Kyoko, Sayaka, Hitomi, and especially Homura – loved her so completely, and it made the journey worth it.
That’s the gift she gave to Homura. She gave her the hope that she was loved. She gave Homura a reason to fight, and she gave all magical girls a reason to keep going.
Don’t forget. Always, somewhere, someone is fighting for you. As long as you remember her, you are not alone.
I won’t forget Puella Magi Madoka Magica for a long time.
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