I <3 ( ● ω ● )

 Anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica  Comments Off on I <3 ( ● ω ● )
Feb 262013
 

Kyubey is a fiend. He’s a little fucking bastard who manipulates the innocent for his own whims. He’s evil, he’s wretched, and he’s one of the awesomest characters to ever set foot in an anime.

All this stuff about comparing him to Satan and the Faust story can be thrown out the window. With Satan, you know what you’re getting. You sell your soul, you get rewards now, and you pay the ultimate price when it comes time for you to die. When you make that Faustian bargain, you know what’s coming, so the angst is all existential and shit. You see it coming and there’s nothing you can do about it since you chose this path. You fucked yourself over, and Satan was just there to help you along your own path of damnation.

That ain’t what’s up with Kyubey. While he warns the girls about making sure their wishes are worth the price of having to fight witches, he’s by no means upfront about anything. He outright lies about how it’s “curses” that create witches, when we’ve seen that what creates witches is a magical girl allowing her soul gem to become over-corrupted. And with the latest episode we’ve had all of those “Kyubey is behind all this shit” conspiracy theories proven right, since he’s the one “incubating” witches by having girls make contracts.

With a Faustian deal, you’d know that your wish would lead to you becoming a witch. “I give you this wish, and you get to reap its rewards for awhile, and when that time’s up you become my bitch witch,” that’s what Kyubey would be saying if this was a real “deal with the devil” scenario.

Kyubey isn’t playing by those rules. He isn’t tempting people with temporary gain in exchange for a debt to be paid later, he’s scamming these girls into becoming something and doing his best to make them not realize the truth until it’s too late. He’s not unlike the sort of Cthonian gods we see in Lovecraftian shit, where the cultists who worship these dark alien gods think they can control the wild energies given to them by their masters only to find themselves descending into insanity and eternal servitude– all without the sort of warnings you get from classic Luciferian scenarios. These girls are given just enough hope that they can make a difference with their sacrifices, only to have that sliver of hope be their real downfall.

And really, that’s how most of this shit goes down in real life– you never know that you’ve fucked up until it’s too late. Rarely is it a case of some fucking bastard luring you down that path the way Kyubey does, but it’s a far better representation of the sort of shit you can get yourself into (Especially when you’re young, idealistic, and naive like the kids in Madoka.).

So yeah, Kyubey’s an awesome representation of the sort of real life “evil” that can fuck you over without you knowing it, but you know what makes him truly awesome?

He eats himself.

Seriously, dudes, that was the coolest thing I’ve seen in an anime since JET PIRANHAS. It was grotesque both in a disturbing way (You know, cannibalism and all) and in a disgustingly cute way (The way he gobbled himself up and then rolled around like a cat was adorable.). If I’m still doing this shit by year’s end and I do that 12 Days of X-Mas Shit again, I fail to see how this won’t be my #1. Hell, I better schedule it already.

Also: If Homura is Madoka from an alternate time line, I will be PISSED. My money is on Homura being Madoka’s mom.

Hope Floats (Like a Bloated Corpse)

 Anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica  Comments Off on Hope Floats (Like a Bloated Corpse)
Oct 032011
 

All the stuff that happened in the latest episode of Madoka was pretty damn awesome. Seeing all the alternate realities– how shit’s gone down and all that– rocked. But all of this raises a major problem in the series.

There’s hope.

The last thing Madoka needed as a series was hope.

And it isn’t just hope. Said hope is inevitable. Given the fact that Homura can control time and reset everything, all she has to do is continue to do her thing until she wins. Assuming that she doesn’t get killed (Although given her powers she can probably stop time and reverse that, too, if she doesn’t get gaumped like Mami did.) and assuming her will doesn’t break along the way (And if she’s made it this far, I doubt that’ll happen.), she has time on her side to get it right.

We have infinite possibilities– infinite realities out there. All possible conclusions exist out there, regardless of whether their probability is 100%, 50%, or 0.00000000001%. When you have this sort of power at your disposal and no apparent weakness that keeps you from abusing it over and over again, it’s just a matter of time before Homura manages to save Madoka from Kyubey’s schemes. And even if there’s no way to save Madoka, Homura will keep going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny in drag. She might not win, but she’ll get an infinite number of chances to do just that.

No matter what, Homura gets what she wants– she gets to retain that hope that Madoka can be saved.

And given everything that’s happened up to this point, isn’t that a big fucking copout?

Mami’s death had an impact because there was nothing anyone could do about it. She was dead. Her soul gem was trapped in some sort of subspace. You couldn’t even retrieve her body to give her a decent burial. Her death was cool because it was sudden and no one could do a damn thing about it. Now we know that there’s an infinite number of Mamis existing out there, and while many of the alternate Mamis have died or snapped or whatever, there’s always that hope that Homura will eventually figure out a way to save Madoka before Mami’s inevitable demise.

So yeah, that awesome bit in episode three? It ain’t nearly as shocking and ain’t nearly as devastating as it was.

And all these alternate realities were pretty cool. Mami snapping and trying to kill everyone so they won’t become Witches was awesome. Seeing Madoka and Homura share several before-death moments of friendship was nice, too. But given the fact that all of this can be avoided so long as Homura just keeps up with her time traveling antics renders all of that pretty meaningless.

And that’s what you get when you start screwing around with time travel in fiction. Time travel is the ultimate “fuck you” to good storytelling.

Superman fails to save Lois while saving the rest of the world? No problem, he’ll just fly around the sun and save her as well. The Borg can’t defeat the Federation in the future? OK, we’ll just send them back in time to try it there while also allowing Picard and his crew to be the driving force in Earth meeting the Vulcans. Every now and then you get a good story out of the time traveling gimmick (I love Groundhog Day and Tatami Galaxy.), but those stories are pretty damn few and far between. I don’t see Madoka being one of those stories.

I don’t know. Maybe they’ll pull off something that makes all of this worthwhile. Maybe Homura’s actions are breaking away at the space time fabric or some bullshit like that, and it’s her screwing around with the universe that’s causing all of this degradation of the world’s energies, and thus requiring Kyubey’s race to harvest energy from obnoxious little girls. That might be cool. But yeah, given the revelations up to this point I’m not seeing a cool ending in our future. We’ll either get some lameass happy ending where Homura wins, and thus rendering all of the previous losses moot, or she’ll continue on her meaningless quest in some infinite time loop of whateverness.

Gah. Madoka is turning out to be Angel Beats all over again. Fun set-up. Lots of neat bits strung about. But in the end, it all comes down to a massive copout that insists on playing it safe. Again, I’d love to be proven wrong with these last two or three episodes, but everything I’ve seen to this point is telling me I’m gonna be pissed.

What this anime needs is an evil Baka of a Prince to screw everyone over at the worst possible time.

Also: I really need to get some positive shit written sometime soon. I’m all for the snark, but damn…

Magica(l) Touch(es)

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Jul 012011
 

So yeah, yesterday I ranted about how Infinite Stratos refused to go for those little touches that can allow for something generic and formulaic to break from its boundaries and become infinitely more interesting.

As if on cue, Puella Magi Madoka Magica comes along and does exactly that.

Madoka ain’t doing anything new. It’s playing with your typical magical girl scenario: ordinary, slightly dimwitted girl gets sucked into the world of magic and fate and all that shit. There’s magical pets and rivalries and transformation sequences and the whole shebang. We’ve seen this before a hell of a lot of times, and we’ll see it again and again and again because there’s an audience for this sort of thing. But unlike Stratos, Madoka ain’t willing to play it safe.

The catch is, I wouldn’t say it’s the visuals that make the difference. The usual Monty Python-esque SHAFTisms we see when the shit hits the fan and the characters are drawn into the parallel dream-like world or whatever the hell that was is awesome and all, and it’s a neat stylistic flourish that goes a long way towards making this enjoyable, but that isn’t the primary thing that’s drawing my attention. It’s the series’ overall attitude that caught my eye.

During the mundane home life shit showing Madoka prepping for school, during the moment when you’d expect her mother to give her some sort of pep talk about “being yourself” or “believing in yourself” or whatever, she says something decidedly more cynical. She tells Madoka that women need to use their looks to get what they want out of life, and encourages Madoka to wear something decidedly more flashy than she normally would. It’s a throwaway comment, but it isn’t the sort of thing you expect from this sort of show. We usually get the usual spiel about how you don’t need to change and stick with your inner strengths to change the world, but we get the exact opposite message for the main character’s mother.

Juxtapose this with the comment that the main rival tells Madoka later on in the episode. This girl obviously knows that something’s going on with Madoka. She knows that Madoka has been chosen by whatever forces are out there, and she’s opposed to these forces (as we see later on when she’s trying to kill the token magical pet). In order to distract Madoka from her destiny, she tells her “All you need to do is be Madoka Kaname.” She uses the same line that we usually hear when a character is trying to encourage the main character, but she’s saying this as a way to put down the main character. She doesn’t want the competition, and the only way said competition won’t come about is if Madoka maintains her current state of mind.

So yeah, most anime series say “You’re already a hero, don’t change anything about you!” while this one’s saying “The only way you can become a hero is if you become a hero.” We’ll see if this attitude persists, but I hope it will, since it’s refreshing to see a series do away with the whole Oprah Winfrey/The Secret “belief is all you need” bullshit and tells its audience that you need to earn your place in the world through action.

There also doesn’t seem to be the feeling of “safety” that we get in most magical girl series. Most series, whether they’re Sailor Moon or Precure or Cardcaptor Sakura, start with a sense of whimsy and fairy tale like wonder. While they may delve into darker aspects later on, that “light” feeling said series start with always gives the audience the feeling that there isn’t much at stake in terms of the characters’ safety. They’ll win in the end and there’s nothing standing in the way of that fairy tale ending.

That’s well and good and works for many of these series, but the series throws that out in the first three minutes. Madoka’s introduction to this world of magic isn’t some fluffy encounter with a cute pet or some vision of beautiful castles in the sky or whatever. Nope. Madoka has a horrific nightmare where she witnesses the end of the world, and she’s outright told that she has the choice to help save the world. The stakes are raised right off the bat, and Madoka’s backed into a corner rather than given the sort of leisurely introduction that many magical girls get when they burst onto the scene. Couple that with the not-at-all subtle threats that the other magical girls deliver to each other towards the end of the episode and we have a world that’s decidedly more grim and nasty than your standard magical girl series. It ain’t oppressive or anything, since we get a healthy dose of the usual sunshine and happiness while Madoka’s at home and at school, but there’s a prevalent streak of menace present.

These are all fairly minute details in the grand scheme of things, but they go a long way towards making Madoka pretty damn cool. Hopefully it’ll keep up this pace. If it does, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the best series of the season.

Also, a chick whose big magical girl attack involves her summoning a horde of antiquated rifles to blow shit up? How can that not be awesome?

Q

 Anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica  Comments Off on Q
Mar 032011
 

So now we know what’s up with Madoka. We know that the whole magical girl/witch game is just some elaborate energy harvesting. Yeah, sure it makes sense and all in the context of this shit, but there’s two problems with this:

  • It rationalizes a situation that was far more interesting because it was irrational.
  • It’s just plain fucking stupid.

Kyubey is no longer a scary, imposing figure because of this. We now understand that he’s on Earth to help stem the tide if dissipating energy in the universe. Magical girls play off of the emotions of young girls, have those emotions boil to the point where they become witches, and then when another magical girl kills one of these “matured” witches, massive amounts of energy are released into the universe. The catch is that Kyubey claims that this is creating a net gain of energy, and therefore halting the universe’s inevitable deconstruction over billions of years.

This makes Kyubey some sort of force for the greater good, but it also makes him sympathetic. He’s an alien, not unlike the sort of shit we see in the likes of Star Trek and other “hard” sci-fi series– the sort that is looking out for what’s right in the universe but comes at it from a coldly logical perspective. He’s willing to make sacrifices to ensure a better future for the universe as a whole and doesn’t mind if that means a few innocent souls get fucked over in the process.

This is a perspective that we can understand. We might not agree with this notion, but we get where that mindset is coming from. But in understanding Kyubey’s side of the story, we’ve lost that hopelessness and meaninglessness that had been prevalent up to this point in the series. I don’t mind that Kyubey is working for a greater good, but he’s working for a greater good that can be boiled down to a few sentences. That robs his character of the mystery and foreboding that made him so fascinating. Now he’s just yet another Vulcan wannabe that’s clashing with Madoka’s Kirk– the classic “logic vs passion” debate that we’ve seen since forever.

And really, do we need yet another Q vs Picard situation? Do we need that in anime? We already get plenty of this in anime as is it, with characters droning on and on about the virtues of passion and emotion and gut feelings and all that noise. Do we really need this series, which seemed to be doing a few things differently (or at least differently enough to be pretty interesting) up to this point, to go down the same “you don’t understand what it’s like to FEEL” route? Are we gonna have Kyubey finally realize the error of his ways? Will his heart grow three sizes as Cindy Lou Madoka cures his cold-hearted ways?

I’m hoping this series is better than that, but by the mere insertion of such possibilities I’m not so sure of that anymore.

So yeah, Kyubey has become Q-Bay, and he’s just working his alien schemes on Captain Jean Luc Madoka and her Number One Lt. Homura.

That’s… pretty damn stupid, dudes.

Also: All that said, the fight between Sayaka and Kyoko was FUCKING AWESOME. Not as awesome as Kyubey eating himself, but it rocked. Shame it had to come after all these lousy “revelations” that pose as development and depth when it’s really just a rehash of every other script of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But I’ll still watch the damn series. Maybe they’ll pull off some twist. Maybe Kyubey’s was laying some bullshit on Madoka and trying to trick her into thinking she would be working for the greater good.

I don’t know. Whatever. At least we’ll still have headless Mami to remind us of the good times.

All in the Family

 Anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica  Comments Off on All in the Family
Jan 292011
 

Conspiracy Theory Theater, Madoka Edition, Mark 4.

Alright, let’s run with the whole “Kyubey is behind everything” angle. Kyubey’s orchestrating this whole scenario. He gives chicks power, forces them into his little games, likely creates witches through some means, blahblah. Assuming that, for some reason Kyubey needs Madoka. There’s some reason why she’s his primary mark. He tells her she’s special. He stays with her rather than Sayaka during the “recruitment” phase. Madoka’s some sort of anime-styled “chosen one” that’s needed for whatever shit Kyubey’s scheming to go down.

First off: Why is that? Let’s make a major logical leap.

Madoka’s mom was/is a magical girl. Back in the day, I’m willing to bet that Madoka’s mom made a pact of some sort. Maybe it was with Kyubey, maybe it was with another magical pet thing. It would explain her mom’s attitude towards life, since the mom’s perspective mirrors that which Mami and Kyubey tried to pound into Madoka’s head. I’m willing to bet that the mom’s past experiences as a magical girl led to her present outlook. And I’m willing to bet that her wish had something to do with starting a family or finding a way to make her husband fall for her or maybe helped lead to her current career.

Regardless of her wish, yeah, I bet she’s a retired magical girl. And this might make Madoka special in some way. Maybe this is exceptionally rare. From the looks of things, magical girls have a low life expectancy, so to see one get to an age where she can have kids may be something pretty exceptional. Maybe some of her magical prowess has been passed onto Madoka, making her a natural for whatever it is that Kyubey’s has in store.

Kyubey needs Madoka. He needs her badly. So what does he do? He finds ways to force Madoka to make a pact with him. If granting a wish doesn’t work, drag her along to show her how serious this is. Maybe if Madoka sees how much she’s needed to fight witches, maybe she’ll pull the trigger. If that doesn’t work, arrange for the current magical girl to have a little “accident.” Make Madoka want to fill the void. Now that this hasn’t worked, go for the peer pressure angle. Arrange for Sayaka to have a character-developing moment with her sick buddy. Twist the dude’s emotions so that he freaks out and pushes Sayaka to make a pact. Maybe Madoka will jump if she sees her best buddy jump as well.

I don’t see this working. If anything, Madoka will be relieved that someone else decides to take the risk, especially if it’s someone she knows. With peer pressure failing, call in an outside magical girl to deal with the newbie. Gank Sayaka’s ass and force Madoka’s hand.

The catch is that the character Madoka best resembles is Shinji Ikari. The weight of the world is placed on both of their shoulders, and both of them cower in the face of massive responsibility. The only reason why Shinji ever got in an Eva Unit is because he saw a chick that resembled his mother about to be forced into one in his place. It’s gonna take something that severe and personal before Madoka even considers making a pact.

The Sayaka gambit isn’t gonna work. Sayaka’s gonna do her thing, only to either die or get severely hurt in the process. But that isn’t gonna change Madoka’s attitude. There’s always Homura, and even once she’s removed it’s gonna take a direct attack on Madoka’s family before she finally caves in. It might not even take the deaths of her father and her little brother before she finally caves in.

It’s all gonna come down to Madoka’s mother somehow. Her fate is going to determine Madoka’s fate. There’s no other reason why they would play up their relationship and make it parallel Madoka’s magical girling if that wasn’t the case.

Sorry to say it, Madoka’s mom, but you’re screwed.