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.)
Hello… I’m a fan of Madoka… and ever since I watched it, it has been my favorite anime… of all time. And while I am aware that there are fans who obsess over every tiny detail and frame of every episode… I would like to share with you something which may help you heal your heart. ^_^
Madoka is first and foremost a magical girl… the original series was beautiful. It was a masterpiece. I cry uncontrollably to this day every time I reach the final three episodes, but what I take from Madoka is precisely what she fought for… Hope.
And while the story of Madoka may be a brilliantly beautiful creation from the minds of its authors, it doesn’t make any of your experiences and how it made you feel, or what it taught you, or inspired in you… any less real. Given, I am a person who has always been teased for being too “immature” or “childish” to actually believe (and still do believe) that fairy tales can come true, but who I am doesn’t change the fact that what we choose to believe greatly affects and inspires how we face life. If you have watched the Iron Giant… the Iron Giant’s believing he was superman at the very end greatly inspired him to do great things, and the ultimate sacrifice to save those he loved. And that, I think, is the true magic that Madoka has.
Madoka deals with emotions, and wishes, and dreams, and how there are people in this world who – like me – will fight for tomorrows that seem impossible in a very cruel world. And this gives me hope. It reminds me that it is okay to be a dreamer in a world of Dream Slayers. Madoka reminds me that it is okay to weaken every now and then, we have to pick ourselves up and keep breathing. Madoka reminds me that magical girls are indeed real; that there are people out there who literally make hopes and dreams come true, and all too often these are the very people who are always tortured and crucified for caring too much… but these people, no matter how many times their hearts have been broken, still get up, still fight, and still choose to love.
Because of this.. Madoka has given me the courage, along with books like Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli) or Bridge to Terabithia, to always keep fighting for my dreams. And to help others fight for their dreams as well. And while magical girls are technically a genre of Japanese Art and Culture, this doesn’t make them any less real. Because there is magic in the world. A single touch, a single word, a single smile or hug or embrace, can make all the difference to a soul on the brink of collapse. And for this reason… magical girls, and Madoka… are very much real.
I have always been doing my best – long before I watched Madoka – to brighten the spirits of my friends and loved ones. Even before Madoka gave what I do and how I live a name for me… it was something that I always felt and knew existed. All Madoka did truly, was give a name to something I already knew. So if all the chaos of the fans has somehow gotten to your heart and made you reel back in terror, thinking that you have wasted so much time… then from one magical girl to another, let me give you a hug and tell you that you didn’t waste your time. That Madoka has become part of your life and always be part of your life in some way, and how you choose to move forward from there, is all up to you. And your true friends – be they magical girls or boys – will just like madoka, join you on your journey to help make your hopes and dreams come true.
I have no weapons nor can I jump from building to building like Madoka, but I hope that when you read this, in some way, my words can bring comfort to your heart. Stay safe, you. Life and reality is what we make it to be, because everything that is or was, began as a dream in someone’s heart. ^_^ * hugs * ^_^
And… one last thing that may help… ^_^
On your saying that,
“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,”
again from one Magical Girl to another… “be kind to yourself.”
You are judging yourself too harshly. You don’t have to call yourself names. Madoka excited you, it drew you in, it fueled your dreams and inspired you and brought you many adventures and it, in its own way, gave you life… that is beautiful. It is not something to be ashamed of, because it is something you cared about and still do… because you wouldn’t be calling yourself harsh things if it didn’t. For many boys, it’s Star Wars. For you (and for me), it’s Madoka. And… I am not trying to convince you to come back to the franchise. I would never do that. I am simply doing what Madoka would have probably done as a magical girl: to give you a hug, so it will hurt less.
May your experiences at facing your mirror demon not traumatize you from being touched and inspired and brought alive again in the future… ^_^ Because, in many ways… I don’t think it really was Madoka you’re running from… but yourself, and how deeply you reacted to being so deeply affected by the story. And while I do not engage in debates with other fans because I think every anime – just like a work of art – holds different messages and lessons for every person whose life it touches, I can tell you too that I too, am deeply affected by the story, but I take this a means to make not just my life, but others as well and their hopes and dreams, as Madoka and Akemi would have – better, in my own little way.
Because… that’s what magical girls do. They make hopes and dreams come true, or at least, embrace others so whatever is hurting them hurts a little less. ^_^
* hugs * ^_^ Stay safe! ^_^ Stay Magical! ^_^