In the eleventh episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura faces the implications of her actions and decides she must fight alone. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Madoka Magica.
Love has the power to destroy. Love has the power to create.
“The Only Thing I Have Left To Guide Me” opens on a more bleak note. Homura learns that she is responsible for making Madoka “special.” All those lines of time travel folded onto one another? That’s what has given Madoka such immense potential to be a magical girl. She has multiple lives stacked on top of one another. The show uses a particular image I liked to demonstrate this. Madoka is tied down to a clock, and thin white threads pull away from her body. Each and every time Homura turns back the clock, she adds another thread, making Madoka more powerful than before.
Obviously, this is what destroys Homura over the course of this episode. Madoka’s full understanding of the past initially does the same thing, too. After Sayaka’s funeral, Kyubey shows Madoka the full history of the magical girls, going back to women like Cleopatra and Joan of Arc. The Incubators have been intervening in human history since pre-historic times. While the sheer scope of this revelation is meant to impart the severity of this arrangement, it also did something else: created a reason why Madoka could not just wish it at all away. After Homura’s first scene, I had a lingering idea that this is how Madoka could solve this. She could make her wish a request that the Incubators never came to Earth at all. But Kyubey goes out of his way to state that without the Incubators, humankind probably wouldn’t have developed at the rate that they did at all. While this a tenuous statement if you consider the real-world implications, I was willing to believe Kyubey when he said this because he’s clearly demonstrated how ridiculously manipulative he is. I imagine all the Incubators are. (Do all the Incubators look like Kyubey? Just curious.) Plus, he demonstrates just how little he understands what it means to be human. At one point, he openly compares humanity to livestock, saying that the only difference between how Incubators treat humans from how humans treat livestock is that Incubators acknowledge humans are sentient life forms. Ouch. I would venture to say that Kyubey has barely acknowledged this at all. It’s hard to feel anything but rage and fury at what he says because his detached nature makes it impossible to understand what he is doing to these girls. He can’t comprehend that a sacrifice forced on to someone is hardly the noble thing he seems to think it is. But it’s his claim that Madoka should blame the wishes the magical girls have made for the cruelty of the system that 100% lost me. Nah, fuck you, Kyubey. You’re the one who lied and manipulated these young women into making those wishes. Need I remind y’all that he came to Mami as she was dying in a car crash? He purposely seeks out situations where women are vulnerable and desperate, and then expects their wishes to be beautiful, implication-free fantasy worlds?
Fuck you, Kyubey.
“The Only Thing I Have Left To Guide Me” also impressed me by bringing back the girls’ teacher (who we only ever saw briefly) in a heartbreaking scene where she and Madoka’s mother, Junko, could lament what was happening around them. I loved that this scene took characters who largely existed in the background and thrust them before us, getting us to think how the events of the show have affected them the whole time. What I enjoyed most about the portrayal of Junko, however, is that the writers make her a truly loving parent. I think that’s important for the larger theme of this particular episode and perhaps the series as a whole. She loves her daughter so much, and it causes her distress when Madoka pulls away for the first time in her life. When Junko finally does confront Madoka, I took one thing away from that conversation: this whole story has been about love. Mami loved being a magical girl. Sayaka’s love for Madoka and Kamijo led to her downfall. Kyoko learned to love other people. Madoka’s endless capacity for love is what made her so special in the first place. And Homura loved Madoka so intensely that she was willing to fold the fabric of time over and over again to save her.
So that scene on the stairwell solidified a theory that I first thought of when Homura finally tells Madoka what’s going on while they’re both in Homura’s apartment. This whole mess is happening because Homura is trying to break the endless cycle of the magical girl curse. If it can’t all be wished away, then what could possibly disrupt this? Throughout the series, we’ve seen how love can affect these characters, negatively and positively, but the redemptive, powerful moments all come when a character supports the idea of a loving friendship.
So how the fuck can they stop this?
I honestly don’t know, despite that I think friendship is the key to all of this. I wonder if we’ll find out who the Walpurgisnacht used to be and why such a powerful witch was created. Despite that Homura is an immensely talented fighter with the motivation to match, this massive witch is still too much for her. I wonder if, deep down, Homura always knew that she couldn’t defeat the Walpurgisnacht alone. I think so, and I think that in this timeline, she finally decided to give up. After traveling through time over and over again, she could not stop this inevitable curse from coming to fruition. She lost Madoka every time. So she gives up and decides to finally give in to her fate.
AND THEN MADOKA SHOWS UP AND SHE HAS KYUBEY WITH HER AND SHE IS GOING TO MAKE HER WISH NOOOOOO YOU CAN’T BECOME A MAGICAL GIRL IT WILL RUIN EVERYTHING OH MY GOD.
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