Jan 212011

Blahblahblah Kyubey is Satan. Everyone’s doing it. I did it the last two episodes.

Let’s see if we can tackle this magical girl shit from a different direction this week. Just to be deliberately contradictory.

But yeah, while thinking about Madoka the past few days, before the head-gaumping third episode hit, I realized that all of this was playing out like some sort of magical girl Training Day redux.

If you’re one of those weirdo anti-anything-that-isn’t-anime freaks and you have no idea what Training Day is, it’s a pretty decent Hollywood flick where Denzel Washington plays a crooked bastard of a cop who takes a newly prompted detective out to show him the ropes– said ropes consisting of robbery, drug dealing, and murder all in the name of self-gain. Bad shit goes down, but karma comes back around and bites Denzel in the ass as he gets gunned down by some Russian mafia dudes. In the end, it’s all about how you can’t be so much of a cocky motherfucker that you think King Kong ain’t got shit on you.

These first few episodes of Madoka have been playing up that whole “Training Day” angle. Mami and Kyubey have been dragging along Madoka and her buddy as they deal with witch problems. They’ve been showing the would-be recruits the ropes of being magical girls, and just like Denzel, they’re more than willing to show them the ugliness of the job. Hell, the way they dealt with the witch in the third episode felt like they were breaking into the witch’s house and blowing it away while it was sipping tea and eating cake in its dining room– not unlike Denzel busting into the drug dealer’s house, playing all nice, and then executing the bastard like it’s a daily occurrence.

That’s all pretty obvious. What isn’t quite as obvious is the whole “selflessness vs selfishness” angle. Denzel’s all about the self. The whole “serve and protect” angle of being a detective is just an afterthought. He uses his badge as a way to get ahead in life and do whatever he wants. Mami keeps on preaching to Madoka and her buddy that whatever wish they make, it needs to be self-serving. While her motivations may be different from Denzel’s (She seems to be saying this out of regret for her inability to make such a decision, what with Kyubey fucking her over by making his appearance while she was dying. All she could wish for was “don’t let me die.”), she’s still going on about how these “recruits” need to use their position as a way to get ahead in life. Even Madoka’s mom is indirectly making the argument that one should do what needs to be done to get what one wants, what with how she’s willing to play office politics to support her family. Even Madoka’s dad is proud of what his wife is doing, since it means she achieves what she wants out of life.

The catch is that neither of the new girls seem like the types to go that route. Madoka’s buddy wants to use her wish to help cure her pseudo-boyfriend of whatever ailment that’s keeping him from achieving his dreams. Mami cautions her about this wish, asking if she’s doing this to help him or if she wants him to turn around and praise her for her willingness to use her wish on him. Mami’s bit there is a little ambiguous. She wants the decision to be made for the right reasons, but which one of those reasons is the one Mami feels is the right one? The natural assumption is to think “doing it for him” is the right one, but based on everything that Mami and Kyubey have said, I gotta think it’s the opposite. This wish is the only wish you’ll ever get, so if you make it to cure a friend you should make sure that you get something out of it other than the warm fuzzy feelings in your belly. The girl obviously digs this boy, so she should use her wish to help him and help herself get in his pants.

So yeah, a lot of the series has been playing up the self-serving angle of things. Many of the characters feel that this is the right thing to do. Then again, much like Denzel getting gunned down at the end of Training Day, Mami gets her head bitten off by a tea-sipping Jack-in-the-Box. So are we really supposed to buy into this selfish ideal if you’re gonna get butchered for believing in it?

I’d actually argue that what gets Mami killed in the end is the fact that she wavered in her selfish attitudes. Right before she gets decapitated, she has a tender little moment with Madoka. Madoka gives her a traditional magical girl speech about friendship and not being alone. Mami breaks down and shows some real emotion, admitting that her “cool” attitude was just a facade that kept her from crying all the time. And what is her reward for having that “breakthrough?” Death.

If anything, we’re seeing that the generic magical girl attitude of “togetherness” is a bad thing in the context of this world. The instant you let your guard down and think about something other than yourself and doing what needs to be done, you’re gonna get fucking killed. Mami didn’t get to where she was by thinking about others. While Madoka’s mom is clearly doing what she does for the sake of her family, Madoka’s dad also makes it clear that she enjoys her lifestyle– it isn’t just a matter of “doing what’s right for the family,” it’s a matter of “I like doing this, and it’s a happy coincidence that it puts food on the table.”

So, the message isn’t quite the opposite of Training Day’s, but it’s close enough. The main difference is that, as far as we know, “doing as you please” has yet to result in “doing evil.” It’s clear that the witches are the real evil in the world, hurting innocents and the like, so the “anything it takes” attitude is justified. With that, the series can support its selfish attitude.

But all of that hinges on the idea that what these magical girls are doing is right. Kyubey’s still suspicious as all gets out, but it could be a matter of him doing whatever it takes to right wrongs. Witches need to be stopped, so what does it matter if a handful of little girls have their lives ruined if it means more people are saved? If that’s the case, Kyubey ain’t Satan, he’s God letting Job get fucked over to prove a point about the resilience of man.

In all honesty, that might be just as fucked up as Kyubey being all Faustian.

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