If I were to ask you which character in Madoka was the ‘bad guy’ I wouldn’t expect to get many different answers, in fact I pretty much expect to get two:
Both I think would be answers that miss the actual point of the series, but these are the answers I would assume I’d get. Walpurgisnacht is one that’s pretty easy to counter, if it’s villainous so are the entirety of the main cast by virtue they will become like it when they die. It’s actions are not conscious so it can’t be considered evil in the same way a natural disaster could, it just….IS.
And that’s the thing about the entire Madoka series, it just is, ultimately Madoka has NO VILLAINS OR HEROS and to suggest that it does really misses the point of the series: That human ideals are just that, human. There is no ultimately right or wrong thing when it comes to the universe. Also, things don’t change, any action you take will eventually become moot so that action in itself is somewhat pointless.
To explain what I mean by this I would like to go over each character and explain why their actions, whether intended to be good or not, ultimately achieve nothing
Kyoko is my favorite character in the Madoka series. Why? Well her design does of course help but I think Kyoko embodies the series like none of the other main cast does. Youtuber Digibro says in his video on the series that Kyoko doesn’t really add much to the series. I would say that’s incorrect. Kyoko is the series. Her character arc gets across its point perfectly, the illogical nature of human emotion and how in the end those actions one takes are ultimately pointless. Take a look:
- Out of love for her Father she becomes a magical girl, at first it’s great for them but then it ends up killing her entire family
- Between then and the series by ignoring that emotional side of hers she enjoys the most stable time in her life
- During the series she is unable to deny the human (emotional) part of her and dies trying to save Sayaka
In a nice three act structure, Kyoko’s arc both shows how destructive positive actions can be and how none of her actions ultimately made a difference.
None of Sayaka’s actions can be considered heroic. Feel free to argue with me but her wish to make ‘s arm heal ultimately came from her desire to be with him not to simply see him get better, in fact Kyoko calls her out on her bullshit in a great scene midway through the show.
Her wish ultimately changes nothing, all the pain Kyosuke harbored was just pushed onto her. That idea of entropy again. She was never going to be with Kyosuke, and nothing was going to change that. In the end Kyoko and Sakura come together to help each other achieve nothing.
Again, what does Mami achieve? Nothing. And again her desire to have Sayaka and Madoka to fight alongside her is innately selfish, she herself cannot alleviate her pain, only share or pass it on to others.
Like Kyoko, she lives and then she dies all without ever doing much. It’s also worth noting that she is presented as the ‘ideal’ magical girl and is the one with the least emotion, and when she starts to show great deals of it she almost instantly gets punished for that.
(There will be spoilers for rebellion from here on out)
Homura is an interesting case in that the intentions of her actions can be considered either heroic or selfish, being that she either wants Madoka to survive or isn’t prepared to live in a world without her (it’s the latter), either way it matters not because her actions ultimately do nothing, in fact even in the short term she only makes Madoka’s power as a witch grow greater every time she tries to save her and ultimately it’s Madoka herself that “saves” everyone.
So from here you might think that Homura’s actions did change something (Madoka’s fate, albeit indirectly) and ultimately she’s a hero. She’s not but dealing with why is easier explained through Madoka.
Madoka is obviously NOT the series antagonist…..right? She’s the only one of the characters who seems to have actual selfless motives behind her actions (or really action, singular).
Talking about her or Homura as a singular entity is difficult as their characters are so heavily linked that explaining one without the other is pointless.
At the end of the series Madoka and Homura seem to have truly changed things, getting rid of witches and (seemingly) taking pain away from her friends and the human race.
There are two different things to point out about this though:
- In a strictly logical sense Madoka has caused a greater damage to the universe as a whole than she has fixed. Kyubey makes the point that just one Witch generates enough power for a countless number of sentient beings to thrive, and in the series epilogue and movie it’s discovered that the “new” Wraith system provides less energy to counter entropy. She actually shortens the universes lifespan.
- It’s also shown that she doesn’t really change anything at all. When Homura is removed from Madoka’s sphere of influence her soul gem does turn into a witches labyrinth, Madoka’s fix is a half-measure, she is still going to become a witch (one now of immeasurable size) if the universe doesn’t succumb to entropy first.
Madoka is again, only taking on the pain of those she “saves” she is not extinguishing it, she actually says so herself, so in terms of net impact on the series’ universe she by far damages it the most.
(Now this is an educated guess on what the next Madoka project might entail, but the way that Rebellion takes the happy enough ending of the series and plunges it into despair, just like Kyoko, Sayaka and Mami where a powerful wish’s initially good outcome becomes bad due to the wish itself, in all of these the maker of said wish ends up dead due in part to it’s outcome, with the status quo largely staying intact, the next Madoka project will return the series to a state incredibly similar to the one we saw in episode one, nothing changes after all)
Kyubey is the closest thing to a hero in the Madoka franchise from an objective standpoint. It is doing a job which greatly benefits life as a whole, not just one subsection of it.
Being an emotionless being it offers a lot of commentary on the series’s idea of the illogical nature of humans, it’s talk with Madoka when it shows her just how deep hypocrisy runs in our veins and asks of her what is one life compared to thousands only prompts a “you wouldn’t understand” response from Madoka.
Why would it? Objectively he’s right, this truly is for the greater good of the universe, and it itself says that the deal is more than fair and no one was forced to take it. Kyubey exposes just how useless human emotion is from an objective standpoint, it is capable of causing us to do things that are detrimental to ourselves and society.
So without the shackles of emotion, do any of its actions ultimately change anything? Of course not. It’s aware of this. In one of the many timelines we are shown Kyubey tells Homura that Madoka’s witch will provide them with a lot of power, but not that it will actually SOLVE the problem of entropy. Eventually when there are no more humans entropy’s grasp on the universe will cause it’s demise and there’s nothing anyone, Kyubey or otherwise, can do other than prolong the inevitable.
The only villain here is life itself: emotions are illogical and painful, nothing matters, we’re all going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it.
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