My friend and co-panelist on Latin Latin Madoka More Latin 3, Kit, is going to be doing a panel on the Utena and Madoka movies at Otakon! If you’re at the con, you should go, she is way smarter than me and actually trained in this stuff. Also, she could use some help getting to grad school. (I am eyeing some of those rewards greedily, biding my time until I get my tax refund…)
|Yep. None whatsoever.|
In the final episode of Madoka Magica, failure is victory is loss is triumph.
We open with the same tableau that ended the previous episode. Four figures remain, the key players in this apocalypse, for apocalypse it is: Every timeline we have seen has ended with a fight against Walpurgisnacht. There is nothing beyond the fight with her, because Homura keeps resetting the universe before the future can occur. Homura is the first figure, broken and bleeding, the sad clown who is endlessly victimized by her desperate attempts to find meaning in an absurd and uncaring universe. Laughing at her mockingly is the instrument of her defeat, Walpirgisnacht, the harlequin who signifies that absurdity. Between them is Kyubey, the director, author, orchestrator, the master manipulator who choreographs their dance to please his unseen audience and thus derive power and sustenance from their emotional arcs.
Madoka is becoming a bridge between the old genre and the new. She speaks the assurances of the old genre to the representative of the new one. She gives her ribbons–chosen for her by Junko, who has repeatedly been paralleled to Mami–to Homura as well. It is not a complete restoration of the magical girl tradition–the new world is still dark, and being a magical girl is fraught with dangers and likely to end with death–but a partial restoration, acknowledging that there were good stories, good characters, and true themes to be found among magical girl shows past.
Madoka has attained enlightenment and divorced herself from this decaying world. But she has not abandoned it; the world she creates is better. Not perfect, because a perfect world is a world devoid of story, but better. The magical girls still inevitably die, but so does everyone else; what’s important is that they now have a far better idea of how the system works and a much better relationship with each other and the Incubators–notably, the fact that wraiths drop a number of little magic-restoratives rather than one big one encourages the magical girls to work together. Teams are likely the norm in this new world, rather than solitary girls as in the old world, and since the Incubators can no longer derive energy from the despair of the witches, they have no incentive to make the girls suffer or hide from them how the system works.
Even Junko is shown in a new environment. We have seen her driven and determined before, concerned, caring, but this final sequence is the first time that we see her being happy. Some have interpreted this scene as Junko being a very different person in the new timeline, less driven and more nostalgic, but there’s little reason to believe this is the case. It seems highly unlikely Madoka would replace her mother with a different woman, and far more likely that this is what Junko is like when she’s relaxing and having a day out with her family. Her dynamic with Madoka’s father is unchanged–he cares for Tetsuya while Junko deals with the outside world, in this case talking to Homura–and so it is likely that she is still the primary earner, the driven executive. It is simply that we can now see that she also contains within herself nostalgia and serenity and wistfulness; she contains contradictions, just as the magical girls/witches contain both curses and blessings, as this ending is both happy and sad, a win and a loss.
Seeing Junko and Tetsuya helps Homura to understand that there can be good things in what for her is a dark, Madoka-less world. She continues on, affirmed in her knowledge that Madoka is all around her, even if she cannot see her. She does not fight for hope in the normal sense, but out of love, and duty, and hope in the Havelian sense that whether or not she succeeds, her life makes sense as long as she fights. And so she fails to save Madoka, and in her failure succeeds in empowering Madoka to save herself. Madoka saves herself by sacrificing herself, and Homura loses her–but someday, when Homura expends the last of her energy and loses her last battle as a magical girl, she will be together with Madoka again.
But this is not for Homura alone. Someone else has been working, trying to stave off decay, but increasingly concerned that their efforts are doomed. “I am full of hatred toward men’s so-called happiness,” Urobuchi wrote in the afterward to Fate/Zero volume 1, “and had to push characters I poured my heart out to create into the abyss of tragedy… In order to write a perfect ending for a story you have to twist the laws of cause and effect, reverse black and white, and even possess a power to move in the opposite direction from the rule of the universe.” The implied author of that note and this series is a deeply depressed individual, spiraling into a creative abyss brought on by despair.
“Only a heavenly and chaste soul that can sing carols of praise towards humanity can save the story.” And now, in Madoka, all things are one. This is fiction, a creation within the mind of an author (even the gestalt implied author of a collaboration); the author is that one. Madoka loved something in the world enough to deem it worth saving, and she is part of that author. Homura will accept that love as reason enough to keep moving and working, and she is part of that author. Just as Homura is not suddenly all smiles and laughs in the new world, this is not a panacea–but it is enough to keep going for a while longer.
–Don’t forget. Always, somewhere, someone is fighting for you.
–As long as you remember her, you are not alone.
The projector winds to a stop.
There will be a brief hiatus, followed by the first of several posts on Rebellion.