NB: This post contains spoilers for the Rebellion movie.
Whilst writing this post, I’ve had to go and do not just a lot of memory back-tracking, but a lot of self-reflection as an anime fan. Madoka Magica is one of the shows that has made me the kind of fan I am, but it is because of what the franchise has become now is why I must walk away from it. 6 years of fanart, fanfiction, outspoken posts about the numerous hidden metaphors in the show, bizarre rumours and a abnormally long wait for new material has made me walk away from Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko (as well as everyone else) for good. And here are the reasons why…
April 2011. I had just missed out on watching the simulcast of Madoka Magica and so caught up with it around this time, as another SHAFT show had just been released (Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko). I watched the entire show in one sitting, skipping any opening and ending credits, and it took 6 hours for me to turn from excited guy curious about a possibly happy magical girl show to a despair-filled wreck. I’m naturally the sensitive type, and the fact that those 12 episodes got me so enthralled and so excited about the 5 girls (and what happened to them) was, I saw, just a part of how I loved anime in general. For the first time in a long time, I saw a show that could take a long-standing anime stereotype and put it in a blender. Something that was groundbreaking, beautiful and mesmerising all at the same time.
I had to tell people about it. Friends who had heard of it, friends who didn’t, even those who didn’t even care about the magical girl genre. Some of them chose to watch it and went on to enjoy it, while some totally ignored me…and here is where my obsession with the show took a darker side. I just would not shut up about the show for a whole year. Ever. Even while I was holed up in hospital with life-threatening encephalitis in the December of that year, I was telling the nurses about the show, who put on a forced smile to put on appearances.
A few months into 2012, I was still recovering, and I found out that some of the friends I had been going on and on about Madoka Magica about had unfriended me from Twitter and Facebook. Some had even deleted my number from their phone. After some asking around, I found out that my illness had nothing to do with it; they just got completely sick of my constant nattering about the show. A show that I loved and adored at the same time was something they were just sick of me talking about, and thinking that that was the kind of behaviour I would always do, they had just had enough and decided to cut their friendships with me.
Do I regret it? Of course I do now, but I don’t even remember if I did then, and that what makes it even worse. These friends I lost weren’t that close and back then, in my Madoka Magica obsession, I was possibly too consumed with the show that I saw their loss as nothing so important. But that event was, curiously, not the wake-up call for me.
It was Rebellion.
Rebellion: an expensive fan-fic adaptation?
When the movies were announced, I think the majority of us were hoping for some kind of happy resolution to what had happened…while secretly knowing that that wouldn’t happen in a million years.
Instead it tells a story of an alternate timeline where the girls are all alive, but with no Witches to fight, they have Nightmares to take on instead, which manifest from the city’s residents as they sleep. I liked the idea of the movie effectively parodying the atypical magical girl genre, by deliberating going over-the-top with their transformations and their attacks, whilst keeping in theme. With Homura suspecting this timeline isn’t all it seems, she decides to push herself, only to end up killing herself doing it, manifesting into her Witch form (Homulilly), effectively forcing Ultimate Madoka to come to her aid and…well…you probably know the rest.
After the first watch, I found myself very angry with the ending. “WTF is this?!” I was screaming at the TV. I actually remember saying that countless times, even as the end credits rolled. We were given the impression that this was to be the final result, that Homura finally got what she wished for, even though that meant for both her to be consumed by self-loathing and Madoka effectively trapped in a cage, oblivious to what has ever happened. I had to rewatch the whole movie to finally understand why Homura did what she did.
As I began to reflect again (and again), I finally accepted the ending of Rebellion, but I still couldn’t shake off that feeling that this movie…a story that would continue where the very end of episode 12 left off…was just something that was written on the side. A fanfic brought to the big screen. Now you can flame me all you want for even suggesting something like that, but the fact that Rebellion gave us a surreal story from Homura’s point-of-view made me think that another story could have pleased us Madoka Magica fans better. Not a sugar-sweet and happy ending where Madoka and Homura live forever in Yuri Valhalla, but something that had more meat on the bone, and I just did not get that feeling in Rebellion.
It is this whole “Homura did nothing wrong” meme that leads me onto the next topic.
4chan, Reddit and The Puella Magi Wiki
Social media is a very cruel and unforgiving thing. For these last 6 years, all of the various Madoka Magica subreddits (lots of them), the 4chan Yuri board and the Puella Magi Wiki have all given their own views on the show (and still do to this day):
Love posts, hate posts, OTPs, OT3s, metaphors and references relating to religion, art, literature, philosophy and sociology, as well as stabs at the staff and VAs.
The posters would constantly be at war each other, day after day after day, because none of them would agree with one another. But it wasn’t just this bickering that gave me the wake-up call I really needed to move on, it was also the incredibly pretentious and varying opinions on the hidden messages, metaphors, connotations and references deep within every episode. Judeo-Christianity and the existence of the Creator would be brought up at least once in every thread. Numerous philosophers from the 18th-century up to this modern age would have their time to shine (especially those detailing the futility of life, humanity’s eventual downfall, and our journey to Heaven or Hell or Purgatory). Even the tiniest piece of art that lasts for just a second in an episode would be analysed, scrutinised and talked about for entire forum threads.
It just got too overwhelming for me. I loved watching Madoka Magica so much, but I did not want to get involved in a fandom that would be happy and willing to tear itself apart over something petty as what happened in just a few frames in one of the more filler episodes.
All of these people, from the young fans still a little naive to the more experienced fans who monitor sakuga and stuff, were squabbling over tiny little things. Rebellion still annoys me to this day, and the entire franchise has become one uncontrollable bubble that can no longer be stopped. So it was here when it finally dawned on me.
It’s not real.
Very very stupid, I know, but this obsession of mine just became so intense, so insane, and had become so ingrained into my very soul. The story, the characters, and the hidden messages had been inside my head for over 5 years. It had corrupted me and turned me into a monster. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that we haven’t (as of time of writing) heard any more news of this ‘concept project’ that Magica Quartet announced years ago, otherwise that obsession would have stayed with me, and even more conspiracy theories about what would happen would surface…and social media would turn on itself even more.
My Blu-rays of the show and the movies, my manga and my illustration books have been hidden and locked away now, like some kind of Jumanji game. I know that if I’d ever get them out again, and obsess over them, I might go back to my old ways.
But I’ll never say that it’s a terrible show; Madoka Magica has been one of the landmark anime shows of this decade based on an original story, in terms of story, character design and animation. In its own twisted way, it shows us that there can be hope beyond despair.
But it is a franchise that I can never be a part of again, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of the people who decided to stick with me and my refusal to shut up about anime, and for the people I have met since. Madoka Magica is the show that showed me what being an obsessive butt-hurt weeb was like…it was something that scared me greatly, and something I am glad to see the back of.
(UPDATE: A fourth Madoka Magica movie was announced in April 2021, once again based on an original story idea like Rebellion was. It has not said whether it’ll touch on the ‘concept project’ I originally mentioned, or whether it actually will give us that happy ending we all want, but that means nothing to me. I will not be touching it with a bargepole.)