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Hope Floats (Like a Bloated Corpse)

March 10, 2011

All the stuff that happened in the latest episode of Madoka was pretty damn awesome. Seeing all the alternate realities– how shit’s gone down and all that– rocked. But all of this raises a major problem in the series.

There’s hope.

The last thing Madoka needed as a series was hope.

And it isn’t just hope. Said hope is inevitable. Given the fact that Homura can control time and reset everything, all she has to do is continue to do her thing until she wins. Assuming that she doesn’t get killed (Although given her powers she can probably stop time and reverse that, too, if she doesn’t get gaumped like Mami did.) and assuming her will doesn’t break along the way (And if she’s made it this far, I doubt that’ll happen.), she has time on her side to get it right.

We have infinite possibilities– infinite realities out there. All possible conclusions exist out there, regardless of whether their probability is 100%, 50%, or 0.00000000001%. When you have this sort of power at your disposal and no apparent weakness that keeps you from abusing it over and over again, it’s just a matter of time before Homura manages to save Madoka from Kyubey’s schemes. And even if there’s no way to save Madoka, Homura will keep going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny in drag. She might not win, but she’ll get an infinite number of chances to do just that.

No matter what, Homura gets what she wants– she gets to retain that hope that Madoka can be saved.

And given everything that’s happened up to this point, isn’t that a big fucking copout?

Mami’s death had an impact because there was nothing anyone could do about it. She was dead. Her soul gem was trapped in some sort of subspace. You couldn’t even retrieve her body to give her a decent burial. Her death was cool because it was sudden and no one could do a damn thing about it. Now we know that there’s an infinite number of Mamis existing out there, and while many of the alternate Mamis have died or snapped or whatever, there’s always that hope that Homura will eventually figure out a way to save Madoka before Mami’s inevitable demise.

So yeah, that awesome bit in episode three? It ain’t nearly as shocking and ain’t nearly as devastating as it was.

And all these alternate realities were pretty cool. Mami snapping and trying to kill everyone so they won’t become Witches was awesome. Seeing Madoka and Homura share several before-death moments of friendship was nice, too. But given the fact that all of this can be avoided so long as Homura just keeps up with her time traveling antics renders all of that pretty meaningless.

And that’s what you get when you start screwing around with time travel in fiction. Time travel is the ultimate “fuck you” to good storytelling.

Superman fails to save Lois while saving the rest of the world? No problem, he’ll just fly around the sun and save her as well. The Borg can’t defeat the Federation in the future? OK, we’ll just send them back in time to try it there while also allowing Picard and his crew to be the driving force in Earth meeting the Vulcans. Every now and then you get a good story out of the time traveling gimmick (I love Groundhog Day and Tatami Galaxy.), but those stories are pretty damn few and far between. I don’t see Madoka being one of those stories.

I don’t know. Maybe they’ll pull off something that makes all of this worthwhile. Maybe Homura’s actions are breaking away at the space time fabric or some bullshit like that, and it’s her screwing around with the universe that’s causing all of this degradation of the world’s energies, and thus requiring Kyubey’s race to harvest energy from obnoxious little girls. That might be cool. But yeah, given the revelations up to this point I’m not seeing a cool ending in our future. We’ll either get some lameass happy ending where Homura wins, and thus rendering all of the previous losses moot, or she’ll continue on her meaningless quest in some infinite time loop of whateverness.

Gah. Madoka is turning out to be Angel Beats all over again. Fun set-up. Lots of neat bits strung about. But in the end, it all comes down to a massive copout that insists on playing it safe. Again, I’d love to be proven wrong with these last two or three episodes, but everything I’ve seen to this point is telling me I’m gonna be pissed.

What this anime needs is an evil Baka of a Prince to screw everyone over at the worst possible time.

Also: I really need to get some positive shit written sometime soon. I’m all for the snark, but damn…

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 11:33 PM

    Two points.

    1) Even if Homura fucks up and dies or becomes a witch or gives up or whatever, it’s still a copout. Because…

    2) The mystery worked in the beginning because we didn’t know what was up. This led to lots of fun speculation. But now not only do we find out Kyubey’s lame ass origins, this is VERY much a case where everything could have been solved if Homura just sat down and explained everything to everyone. Especially since she knew EVERYTHING anyway.

    And she had multiple chances to do so. Like at the very beginning, or right after the whole initial Witch attack (to prove to Madoka and Sayaka that this magical stuff is real) or right as Mami demonstrated how grief seeds can purify soul gems. All these instances could have been used to reveal the entire truth and avert everything. Heck, she could have just sat down with everyone, including Kyubey, and hash everything out and expose Kyubey as a liar.

    The more the magic is explained, the more of it is lost and the bigger the plot holes become.

    Ugh, this is pretty much exactly like Angel Beats. Once everything is explained, it makes no sense anymore.

    • March 11, 2011 5:03 AM

      I believe one of the realities WAS one where Homura tried to explain everything, and it didn’t take. Mainly because’s Sayaka’s such an untrusting beezy. :)

  2. March 11, 2011 12:48 AM

    I think you just want to see little girls suffer. Such a sadist.

    • Landon permalink*
      March 11, 2011 12:49 AM

      Sadism is a virtue if you ask me. Heehee

  3. March 11, 2011 6:38 AM

    Or there could be no hope. No matter how many repetitions occur, the same events will eventually unfold. Details may change but Madoka always becomes a Magical Girl.

    Honestly speaking though, I like this inclusion of hope. Although I’m willing to roll with pretty much everything Madoka can throw at us by now

  4. March 11, 2011 7:01 AM

    @5camp: Being the 40k nut I am, I would have broke out the old ‘Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment’ bromide, but I REALLY want for the plight of the girls in the series to end. Tragedy is all good and well, but there also has to be a satisfactory ending to balance it out.

    I’m surprised at the wide range of emotions some watchers had in the aftermath of the revelations shown this episode. Some thought it brilliant execution-wise, others thought it lame for its relative unoriginality (ESPECIALLY since some message boards managed to predict these twists more than a month before) — there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

    Really, it’s VERY hard to come up with something 100% original, and as a writer I understand that the best many of us can do is try to make sure that the execution/presentation of the themes, plot, or characters is somewhat different… Which is what I thought the episode succeeded at. At the very least, it made one feel for Homura’s almost hopeless fight.

  5. March 11, 2011 9:32 AM

    I thin you’re missing a big point, that all the characters have an inescapable fate. Mami is fated to die on the job. Sayaka, if she becomes a mahou shoujo, is fated to become a witch. Kyouko is fated to die trying to save Sayaka. Even when circumstances are different, they have never been able to escape these fates. And we see Kyubei mocking Homura, what makes her think she can change Madoka’s fate? The only fate Homura’s been able to alter is her own.

    But if it’s fate that Madoka becomes a mahou shoujo, it doesn’t matter how many times Homura repeats the events or changes things. The end result is still the same. The question is, can fate really be changed? Considering none of the other characters could escape their fate…

    It’s more likely Homura will be killed or have her soul gem run out at Walpurgsnacht then ever reach that possibility, because it the possibility even exists, it’s so small.

  6. Son Gohan permalink
    March 11, 2011 9:56 AM

    This is not a complete copout like the Mai Hime ending was because there were multiple hints in the first 9 episodes that Homura was a time traveller.
    I also think you are underestiating the effect that this endless cycle of sadness and despair is having on Homura. I don’t think she’ll be able to go on for long before falling to deperation and killing herself. This must be the last iteration.

  7. March 11, 2011 11:47 AM

    New reader of your blog here, I have to start with saying that your stuff is really fun to read. It’s also really nice to find another person who’s seen and liked Air Master!

    But about Modoka, specifically the past two episodes, even more specifically about QB. I’ve heard a lot of people who say that Kyubey being an alien fighting heat death gave him a understandable motive, and thus lame. Honestly, I thought the same thing when I saw it as well. But when I sat down and watched this episode, something clicked with me; he’s come to Mado-Earth, talking about how he’s trying to save the universe from entropy…an event akin to death-by-old age in living beings, an event that the people of Earth won’t see at all because the Sun will die billions of years before then. He’s coming to this girl and hyping her and her species up like they’re important, even though he must know that they’ll likely go extinct before anything like that happens. This alone makes his whole “I’m a purely logical and fair being” spiel ring pretty hallow, until the second point; His race is using magic, the clearly bad type that involve pulling out and dicking around with people’s souls. He and his species know that magic is an unnatural force that makes no sense, but are willing to use it and sacrifice species who aren’t themselves because they don’t want to die. Sure, they wrap it up in mock selflessness about how the universe needs to be save, but to me, it’s just as empty a claim as Sayaka saying she simply wanted to wish Kamijou well. After thinking about all that, I came to the conclusion that Kyubey’s big old entropy rant in the previous episode was just another way to mislead and deceive both Madoka and the audience. He claims not to be evil, just emotionless, but literally everything he does and the way he does it points to him being just as bad as any other demon in Christian stories. What really makes him so effective is that he never outright lies, thus there are more than a handful of people willing to drink his Kool-Aid even when he’s been repeatedly proven to be completely unreliable. He’s Mephistopheles wearing a Spock mask, and the fact that he can still dupe so many people in and outside of the show keeps him high on my villain list.

    One more thing, “There’s hope. The last thing Madoka needed as a series was hope.”

    You’re talking like this series is GaoGaiGar, where 1% + COURAGE = 100%. If anything, the show NEEDS hope, not much of it, just a little bit. If there was no hope, all the constant tragedy would start to get boring and predictable. Seriously, I could pretty accurately predict that Sayaka would become a witch, and Kyouko would die well before those events happened (It was mostly because every event surrounding Sayaka’s short magical girl career was so damned contrived, though). For me, the logical prediction is that Kyubey becomes completely aware of Homura’s time travel shenanigans, and then manipulates events so that either she dies, or turns into a witch. It’s already been shown that Kyubey is catching on to Homura’s game, along with Madoka starting to remember who she is. The show has already gone out of it’s way to show that Homura, in spite of he time traveling shenanigans, is anything but invincible. Even with her time stop powers, she’s the weakest of the set, and only started to get stronger. It’s not too farfetched for Kyubey to be able to undermine her if he ever finds out. Also, the show seems to be implying that the best outcome for this series of events was the first one, before she made her wish, and that Homura is making things worse by repeatedly traveling back in time.

    • March 11, 2011 10:04 PM

      That final point…is a real good one…

      I think what Kyubei’s goal is, is the survival of his own species. If he kill off the human race, who cares. I think we’re suppose to assume that Madoka will give off enough energy to insure his race will survive long enough (millions of years) to justify killing off the human race. Either that, or it’s a bit of a plot hole why they’re kill off their future energy supply.

  8. March 11, 2011 7:48 PM

    Now I know I’ve been bitchin’ about the show a bit recently, and that’s mostly on account that by giving a technobabble reason for stuff to happen, they took away the “magic”. QB for instance went from some unfathomable malevolent entity into, well, a Vulcan. And time travel has its own inherent story telling risks.

    All that said, I can think of one plot twist off hand that can re-justify this series for me. And that’s that Homura is destined to fail and “cheat” forever. Why? Because she’s a Respawn Point. QB granted her a wish that can only work against him because he wants her to keep repeating the events leading up to Walpurgis. So that he can ‘camp’ these events and ‘farm’ them for energy.

    In that sense, Madoka sometimes becoming the giant witch is like a rare drop, with Sayaka and co. being regular drops. And once their energy has been harvested, Homura respawns the events and QB goes back to farming them for more energy.

    • March 11, 2011 10:08 PM

      So to you, the series sucks unless it’s as depressing as possible? I’m just curious, but why would anything but that leave it ruined?

      I think it’s probably a lost cause for both you and Mecha Guignol at this point. ^_^; Just write it off as ‘didn’t work for you’ and watch it out to see how it ends. If you end up surprised, cool.

      • March 11, 2011 10:44 PM

        It’s actually more a case of storytelling. It’s not to say the show sucks, far from it, it’s better than most. It’s just a matter of the tension being undermined. Someone brought up Mai Hime’s ending just pressing the reset button. This is something similar, though not as extreme. In that the ending of Mai Hime undermined everything since the start of the Himelander Arc. The show’s still good, and one of my favorites, but it’s still a reset.

        Reason why a straight up good or even bad ending wouldn’t do it for me is that from a story telling perspective, the tension’s been on a down trend. A straight up ending would see it end on a flatline. A twisted ending, be it a good or bad end, would see it end on an up trend. In fact, if they pull off an effective Good End, it’d be even better, since the expectation so far is that things will end badly. An epic good end would be even better than an epic bad end.

        I suddenly thought of a pretty good example to illustrate what I mean in terms of fiction/storytelling. But I can’t use the example, because Landon has yet to frikkin’ watch the Dr. Who 2010 Xmas Special.

        So the point of my response to your response is, Landon should watch that episode gosh darnit!

        • Landon permalink*
          March 12, 2011 12:47 AM

          You’ll never get me to watch Dr. Who! I’ll never fall for your sinister Dalek schemes, or whatever other Who villain I don’t know about you happen to be.

        • March 12, 2011 10:34 PM

          Okay, I get what you’re talking about. And agree. It’s seems the throwing aside the tension (which has remained in neutral/dropped since 9) to left that hanging to be as emotional as possible instead. Being the little girl I am, I’m suckered by the emotion, I admit.

  9. Landon permalink*
    March 12, 2011 11:26 PM

    I’m officially appointing Updatedude to handle all Madoka comments, since his view on things skews considerably towards mine and he’s doing an awesome job of answering stuff much like how I would.

    Also, he needs to do more work around here rather than leaving me to do EVERYTHING while he plays with his plastic dolls.

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