Madoka is about nihilism. Nah, it’s not. It’s Nietzchen. And no those two things are not the same. If you have even a passing knowledge of Nietzche you are probably familiar with this quote: “God is Dead and we have killed him” but I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with this one: Without music, life would be a mistake.
A bit optimistic from a man who has a reputation for believing life is pointless. Madoka is similar, it has gained a similar reputation for being rather nihilistic which doesn’t do it justice.
So in this video I’m going to talk about Madoka’s Nietzchen influences, spoiler warning for The Main series and Rebellion.
Merriam Webster definies nihilism as “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless”
To be a bit more concise it’s the belief that existence and thus everything is pointless. And I think it’s easy to see why people see this in Madoka especially when it’s so often conflated with Nietzche’s true beliefs.
At the end of the series Madoka wishes for witches to be erased from existence and things are left on a somewhat hopeful note. Sure Madoka and Sayaka are still gone but at least they’re not witches now and Mami and Kyoko get to live. But it’s Rebellion that flips this on it’s head. By wishing for the impossibly good Madoka creates an evil of equal measure in Homura. This idea of every act having an equal reaction on the other side, every wish creates a soul gem which in time will create a witch. So at the end of Rebellion when Homura rewrites the universe and alters the memories of the main cast it can seem incredibly nihilistic, it seems futile to struggle against a being that can control your memories.
But one must not overlook the key element within Madoka and the one that makes it so Nietzchen in nature. The characters will always struggle against things even when it is pointless. Homura continuously tries over and over again to save Madoka’s life, Kyoko tries to save Sayaka and even at the end of Rebellion Madoka fights back against Homura’s control briefly. The girls only become witches once they give up the fight, Sayaka is the best example of this but also remember that Homura is very close to becoming a witch before Madoka swoops in to save her. In fact the very nature of their survival is dependent on fighting because of how soul gems and grief seeds work. Witches themselves are quite Nietzchen in nature. To quote him again: He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
One can see this in the series too as the girls fight against nihilism in the moral sense. Kyubey is a being without emotions and thus any true moral code. It constantly finds decisions made on the part of humans illogical. But that’s sort of the point the illogical nature of emotions is human, it makes us. All of the girls make their wish for the sake of another and embrace this emotion. In fact the only one who doesn’t embrace is Kyoko and her character arc revolves around realizing that she should.
After her original wish makes her father kill himself and the rest of her family she spends years just doing her job and not connecting with others. Until she meets Sayaka who she will then give up her life for in vain whilst trying to save her. I think this can be summed up by yet another Nietzche quote: To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. Kyoko was living, not surviving. Madoka’s entire arc revolves around her finding something worth wishing for, finding that meaning. Sayaka gives up once that meaning is taken away from her, her perception of the soul gem stripping her of some of her humanity leads to a case where she believes she can never truly be close to him. Finding your own meaning is oh so important, for He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Throughout it all Madoka’s message is clear: Whilst things may be pointless one must struggle against it anyway.
And if you don’t agree with me remember: There are no facts, only interpretations.
Thanks for reading,