Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal – Review
So… Is patriarchy still a thing, then? Because it kinda shouldn’t be in this series’ universe, right?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Living On A Prayer – Review
I think there’s a reason that when people talk about this series, they hardly go into any detail about the whole thing with the witches and what Kyubey’s role is supposed to be. That’s some heavy fluff Madoka Magica is dragging around during the story. It’s hard to imagine anyone hearing about this stuff outside the series and actually giving a shit about it. This series really goes deep with its setting and its very own rules-set for how the universe works. I really hope that the third movie Rebellion will be the last attempt to create a sequel for this series. Not only do you need to be a hardcore-fan to be interested in the complicated developments after the end of the second movie, the story gets also further and further away from being a deconstruction of the mahou-shoujo-genre. It already is barely one in this second movie.
Running Time: 109 minutes
Madoka learns from Kyubey, whose real identity is Incubator, that his species makes contracts to make girls into magical girls that inevitably become witches in order to use the energy that spawns from their despair to counter entropy in the universe. Kyouko, hoping for a chance that Sayaka can be made human again, takes Madoka with her to try and reach her humanity.
It’s interesting to note here that in some medieval stories the devil has been sometimes depicted as a shadow on a wall. Also, I would like to think that the unnatural angle of Kyubey’s shadow was deliberate. It really gives Kyubey this imagery of threat and dominance in this scene.
How far would you go to save the universe? It’s a stereotypical notion for a story to set up some sort of evil that needs to be thwarted. And it’s usually the hero who does all the thwarting. But in Madoka Magica’s second movie battling evil doesn’t mean slaying a big monster, it’s the question how important doing the right thing is. While the movie has some shades of gray when it comes to its morality, it’s quite clear that Kyubey is supposed to be evil, that Homura is a sort of anti-hero and that Madoka is the hero that will save the day. All three try to find a way to make the universe a better place and each of them is convinced that they’re right. That same fear that made the characters mistrust Homura in the first movie has become oppressive paranoia. At no point during the movie characters actually change their opinion because of outside influences. Instead, characters ignore advice or simply the reality of the situation. This movie is about a looming danger that doesn’t have an easy solution but most of the characters would rather fail on their own terms than meeting the terms of the solution.
The movie opens with the tail-end of the Sayaka-arc set up by the last movie and it’s clear that this is the second half of a story. When the scene of Kyouko finding Sayaka, who’s about to turn into a witch, is reestablished, it has the feeling of an outsider walking onto an accident-scene. Tragedy and catastrophe gets just dumped on the audience in that moment with the same sort of sudden shock the unexpected sight of a car-accident might evoke. And even though the Sayaka-arc in the first movie tried to set up her end, due to the break between the movies it’s hard to see this movie’s start as the culmination of that build-up. Rather, it’s similar to Mami’s death-scene as Sayaka’s end is equally sudden and has the same feel of inevitability. The tragedies in this series all seem like a train that once it’s started always has to race to some horrible end. There are never those little moments where that train could’ve been stopped or diverted somewhat. Instead, the tragedy just keeps going and gaining speed until it all ends in an explosive crash. But Kyouko and Madoka still try to find some sort of solution. And faced with the horrible nature of this series’ universe, the characters enter that paranoid mode I’ve already talked about. Kyubey makes it clear that Sayaka can’t be saved but Kyouko and Madoka refuse to listen. Instead of accepting the state of the world and facing it head-on, they hope for their delusions to be proven right. Trying to chase this delusion always leads to failure in this series. And it’s noteworthy that the conclusion of this first part sees Kyouko abandoning her initial desire to save Sayaka. Instead, accepting that Sayaka is a witch now, Kyouko sacrifices herself to kill her. While the plot of Sayaka’s ultimate fate and Kyouko’s efforts doesn’t seem very suitable for the start of a movie, it does set the tone theme-wise. What fuels the conflicts in this second movie is the dichotomy between the characters’ selfish desires and the reality of the world. Most of the drama in this movie stems from the characters’ inability to let go of the former in order to deal with the latter.
At this point Kyouko still very much just wanted to be friends with Sayaka…
And with Sayaka becoming a witch, the first of the three characters in this movie offers up his solution for saving the universe. As a character that the movie often portrays as evil visually or in how characters interact with him, on the surface his desires are the least selfish of all the characters. In a sense Kyubey is the guardian of a dying universe. For him (or his kind, so to speak) the end of the universe is at stake in this story. Applying the thermodynamic notion of entropy to the universe, the end of the universe appears to be nothing but a matter of time and so Kyubey tried to find a solution. The solution they’ve found was emotions. Something Kyubey and his kind don’t have. And Kyubey goes out of his way to add that emotions are considered a “disease” in his civilization – and yet they basically weaponize emotions to be used by the mahou-shoujo. The law of cycles is based on the discovery that the energy created by emotions doesn’t experience entropy. And it’s also interesting how Kyubey approach this energy-output like a maths-problem. So, to create a balance and make maximal use of the emotional energy, they not only make good emotions usable but also bad ones. And the biggest horror comes from the characters realizing how emotionless the setup for this law of cycles is. But at the same time it’s clear that this is Kyubey toying around with something his kind doesn’t comprehend. Kyubey treats the mahou-shoujo/witches like batteries that dispense energy for the universe. Many stories go for the romantic notion, though, that emotions are one of those things that actually can’t be expressed with numbers. Due to Kyubey’s actions an irrational force has been added to a rational universe. And that’s where also Kyubey’s arrogance comes into play which is very clearly shown when he talks to Madoka about how humans treat their livestock. It draws a clear comparison between how humans help cattle while using them as a resource and how Kyubey uses humans’ emotions while also “helping” them somewhat. But that would put Kyubey only on the same level as humans in some way. He doesn’t stop there, though. He adds that he treats humans better than humans treat their livestock. This remark is solely there to establish his superiority. Kyubey not only looks down on humanity but he considers his kind superior. Whenever he’s faced with other characters’ emotions, his words, if not his tone, get kind-of snarky. And compared to the compassion of many people who wish to make the life of livestock as comfortable as possible, Kyubey always blames humans for their discomfort. He never blames himself; it’s always the humans’ fault if they have a problem with the law of cycles. But that arrogant selfishness ultimately leads to him losing control of the situation (and the universe in a wider sense).
The second selfish character struggling for control of the world is Homura. Her arc in this movie mostly consists of a flashback-montage showing her version of ‘Groundhog Day’. It’s interesting to note here that compared to Harold Ramis’ classic and for example the recent Edge Of Tomorrow (which is a good movie, by the way), Homura’s journey of time-repetition is quite different. The notion of “What would you do if you could do it all over again?” is a romantic one tied to the frustrations and regrets of thinking you could’ve done better – and would if you had a second chance. While Groundhog Day and Edge Of Tomorrow do show that just repeating the same day over and over again isn’t as great as you would necessarily think, it still portrays the protagonist’s journey of gradually bettering himself. Through trial and error the protagonist has to become a better person in order to move on. Homura’s journey, though, is not one of becoming a better person but in some ways a worse person. In order to save Madoka she creates her own kind of cycle getting more ruthless and obsessive with each time she restarts the cycle. When this series’ story starts she’s even fine with not being nice to Madoka anymore. Madoka not becoming a mahou-shoujo is good enough for her at that point. And it’s clear just how obsessive her need to protect Madoka has gotten when she laments the fact that Madoka tries to be a good person in a scene from the first movie. What Madoka wants to do doesn’t even enter the equation for Homura’s plan of keeping her safe. It all culminates in the talk between Madoka and Homura where the former admits to not even trust Homura anymore. Despite the fact that Homura is becoming aware of how she has gradually drifted apart from Madoka, she doesn’t appear to change her mind about her obsessive protectiveness. Homura apparently knows what’s happening but doesn’t know why and instead of listening or seeking advice she just keeps going. Later Kyubey remarks to Madoka that she would immediately turn into a witch if she were ever to give up. And that’s what the flashback-sequence ultimately shows: This isn’t the journey of a character bettering herself, it’s a character getting so desperate that she’s ready to sacrifice everything, just to prove to herself that it wasn’t all for nothing.
Normally this kind of conflict between Madoka and Homura would be solved by them reaching some sort of an understanding that would lead to them working together. But Madoka decides by herself how to solve the situation – despite that this would mean going against Homura’s wishes.
In the end Madoka saves the day, of course. Kyubey’s efforts lead to the creation of a universe that he neither comprehends nor controls and Homura’s obsession is a futile cycle of repetition that refuses to become self-aware enough to change its course. Meanwhile, Madoka’s solution is a selfless sacrifice against the wishes of both Homura and Kyubey. Both have to admit their failure as Madoka ignores their wishes. It’s a bit plot-convenient how Homura’s cycle of repetition also enables Madoka to have universe-changing powers as a mahou-shoujo but it’s somewhat explainable within the setting’s rules.
But that leads to the one problem this movie has. At this point, Madoka Magica has become its own thing. This isn’t a deconstruction of the mahou-shoujo-genre at this point but rather its own series with its own setting and rules. There are a ton of explanations in this second movie that basically lead to the creation of a sort of “magic-system”. With time-travel, multiple dimensions and the universe being governed by supernatural laws, things do become a tad exposition-heavy. It’s a sign of how compelling the world Gen Urobuchi and the rest of the team have created here that this second movie doesn’t become too boring because of that. But every story set in this universe will become more complicated due to how many individual setting-rules this movie has introduced. And while it’s a good movie it leaves the audience with a rather complicated narrative. What makes the second movie so impressive are specific moments where writing, direction and visual representation work well together. Meanwhile, the mythology-creating narrative of this movie is a cumbersome affair that’s only interesting for the biggest fans of the franchise.
- It’s kinda weird that for a series that tried to deconstruct the mahou-shoujo-genre, the story kinda ignores everything surrounding the mahou-shoujo in favor of some weird, supernatural bullshit. In fact, when Madoka ends up “saving the day”, the story focuses on what she has done for all the mahou-shoujo of the past, present and future. The fate of normal people in the face of the destruction that Walpurgisnacht will cause seems like a not very important side-event in the way it’s portrayed in this movie and the series. The series really has detached itself from the mundane once the final minutes of this movie have been reached.
Some thoughts about Madoka-stuff outside the anime or these two movies:
- The TV-series had a manga-adaptation that more or less followed the plot of the anime. But occasionally it would do its own thing like giving Mami a way more graphic death. But due to the success of the series there are already a couple spin-off-mangas out there, like for example Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice or Puella Magi Oriko Magica. And there are even more spin-off-mangas in the works which will be set after the third movie Rebellion. At this point it’s clear that the series instead of deconstructing the mahou-shoujo-genre ended up creating another mahou-shoujo-franchise. Rather than distancing itself from mahou-shoujo-tropes as the series started out to do, the series is now turning into a franchise that clearly tries to create a universe where mahou-shoujo-tropes still matter in some fashion.
- The other important fact to note is the doujinshi and hentai community. Naturally Rule 34 also applies to the characters in Madoka Magica. Therefore the series spawned a ton of hentai-stuff. And since there are mostly female characters in this series, the fanfictions tend to go for yuri naturally. The most popular pairings are between Kyouko and Sayuka and of course between Homura and Madoka. This is important to know because the third movie and the opening of this movie (as well as the first one) make it blatantly clear that Homura and Madoka are in love with each other. Something, the original series only hinted at if you tried to interpret their “friendship” that way. After all, if they really had been in love all along why exactly does Madoka in her god-form only say that she finally realized that Homura is her best friend? But there I still could kinda see it. The far stranger thing is that the third movie legitimizes the relationship between Kyouko and Sayaka. Those two barely interacted with each other in the original anime and also in these two movies. But now they’re romantically involved. Take that as a foretaste of how weird that third movie actually is, in case you haven’t seen it yet.
Posted on June 24, 2014, in Anime, Madoka Magica Movie Series, Reviews and tagged Anime, Gekijō-ban Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica Kōhen: Eien no Monogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal, reviews, 劇場版 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ 後編: 永遠の物語. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.