Unusually Daunting Tale of Magical Girls and Its Takeaways

Yet another post about anime.. What is this time ? I assure you that this is a redeeming one, worthy of discussion and note. Let us creep closer to the dark side of humanity.

Remember how Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon used to be the  bomb in the anime and manga industries in the 1990s ? It can be said that these franchises have paved the way for the genre of ‘Magical Girls’ to be brought into acceptance by the media at large, as well as Japanese art in general. The flow of Magical girl stories usually go along the lines of being paragons of justice, having fun with fellow magical girls and end off happily with a bit of struggles in between. I was too young of a child to comprehend what was going on, let alone know that they existed, but through word of mouth from distant family members and such, I deduced that it was quite the force back then. Of course, there were many other precursors to the boom in popularity of manga and anime, but the two aforementioned works of art definitely were integral to the process.

Until this day we still see Sailor Moon manga books topping the New York Times book charts, proving its appeal to a global audience. However, quite recently, an eccentric but rather unique anime redefined the genre of magical girls.

Its name : Puella Madoka Magica 

The marketing department disapproves of this gloomy fanart. Image obtained from konachan.com

This anime was generally hailed as the revolution of the Magical Girl genre of recent times, as it eclectically mixed elements of horror, psychology, morality and topping it off with unconventional art direction. Judging from the first few episodes of the series, people would expect a happy-go-lucky story of monster bashing and evil-vanquishing with a happy ending – the whole series, however, was barely close to that ideal flow of things.  Nevertheless, the execution of the series in the form of anime was very well done and thus its high acclaim was very well justified in general.

In the series, the girls were given a rude awakening to the truth behind their Mahou Shoujo (magical girl) transformations and the inevitable cycle of their lives once the contract has been made.

A pretty harrowing cycle I must say. A girl meets Kyubey with the pretext of getting a wish, only to be transformed into a Mahou Shoujo upon agreeing to a ‘contract’, sweeping across the world to banish witches ( evil entities who cause trouble in the physical world ) who drop Grief Seeds. These girls’ bodies only become a vessel in which the continue their strife, as their true life essence and soul are stored in a physical and palpable Soul Gem. The Grief seeds are then used to purify the taint that the girls accumulate while expending magical energy in their Mahou form, failing which, they will turn into a witch upon reaching full level of taint of the soul gem.

Roughly goes like this:

Young girl: Agreed to contract ? yes, proceed to 1  –>  If not, you are be safe from eternal damnation. No flow over here. 

1) Becomes a Mahou Shoujo while retaining human form, can switch between magical form and human at will – accumulates taint as witches and familiars are fought

2) Died while fighting ? If yes, end of the line for you – both your soul and body is forever desecrated —> If not, proceed to 3

3) Accumulated too much taint? Failed to purify your Soul Gem ? Proceed to 5, If not, proceed to 4

4) No more witches to fight ? Your melancholy takes over you and ultimately corrupts your soul gem. Proceed to 5

5) Becomes a witch, what you originally had to fight. Ironic, is it not?

6) Kills more Mahou Shoujo and wreaks havoc : giving Mahou Shoujo jobs to do

7) Becomes a grief seed if killed , if not 8)

8) Accumulates immense amounts of energy and becomes a powerful entity

9) Witch gets defeated ( or not ) and reverts back to Grief seed to feed the essence of 1)

In the midst of all the processes above, energy is released into the surroundings, so Kyubey really only needs to find girls to supply this endless chain of energy, to counter the deficit proposed by entropy.

but clearly Kyubey’s explanation of entropy is rather messed up and should not be referred to as science to ANYBODY, but I’m not here to mind that – I’m here for the moral side of the whole process.

Seems cruel ? definitely needs a discussion.

Kyubey, an inorganic creature who is a part of the Incubators (preservers of the universe), claims that this is the most viable way to slow down the process of entropy in the universe, as human emotions exothermically emit a lot energy . Interestingly, the energy that keeps the universe going lies within the emotions of the girls that Kyubey are looking to making contract with. Normally, any human would label Kyubey’s ways as ‘cruel’, ‘inhumane’ and ‘sadistic’ as we are sacrificing one of our own. Really? Kyubey does not comprehend the logic in this. We feed on livestock such as cattle, and probably up to millions have bred and died to sustain our population – and yet we feel no remorse for these animals at all ? Who are we to claim that just be being in the higher echelons of both the food chain and the animal kingdom , we are able to do as we please to ones with lesser intellect and ability?

Perhaps that is the point that Kyubey has been trying to convey, but not a single regard was given to emotions – he does not see the point in weeping over a few humans when there are so many all over the surface of the earth. Why consider a few special, the double standard that we all give to a certain section of society ? Why make such a big deal out of a few humans ? Kyubey ponders this in the mindset of a utilitarian, no doubt, but with rationale and a bit of what we call ‘compassion’. Why so? because becoming a Mahou Shoujo requires the consent of the other party- the girl. Without an agreement, no form of contract can be agreed upon and no ‘cruelty’ can ever be done to any party. Kyubey defends the actions of his race by explaining it that way. He does not comprehend the concept of ‘regret’ and ‘betrayal’, for the decision to become a Mahou Shoujo is entirely voluntary, and a pretty incentivized one [ a free wish ] at that.

So why do some people still call Kyubey evil ? This is the interesting part about the whole series: you cannot really pinpoint to an antagonist. In the eyes of the wise, we consider Kyubey a lawful neutral- one who does not go around enforcing their actions on others, but tends not to take sides in their strife. He is simply trying to keep the universe going, so that future races and lifeforms are able to develop and sustain themselves and a lot of people are saying that this is malicious ? What is so malicious about helping the world at large ?  Does one always overestimate one’s value in this world ?

The ‘one for all’ and ‘all for one’ mindset has kept the world going for some time. Back in the industrialisation era of Stalin and Hitler, millions of workers bit the bullet to work tirelessly in order to build their nation – not without Hitler or Stalin’s authoritative gazes on them 24/7 of course. These leaders probably felt the same way Kyubey felt – securing a future, making sacrifices in the present; no emotions and melodrama, only action. Could it have been done better ? certainly, but apparently I do not have time machine so that I can give a 1930s bitch-slap to the admission officers back at Vienna Institute of the Arts when Hitler was a teen. I do not know how Germans or Russians feel about this, but the past must be put aside as well dwell on the present.

Indeed, humans are always torn apart between decisions. ‘Emotions’ are often the judge of our actions, for we often fail to have an arbiter measure of what is really ‘good’ for us. If Kyubey were to come up one day and tell us that your own family members were required to be turned into magical warriors in order to slow down entropy in the universe, I would probably weep for a while and embrace reality. Call him a devourer if you must, but I know that I have fought a good fight in life, as I will in death.

Ultimately, our will is unrestrained and we have only ourselves to impose control upon our very life.

And so , the lessons of morality, values and friendship have been packaged in the anime very nicely. I reflected upon my own values as I finished watching the anime and while writing the post. Time well spent, I must say.

Stay magical and logical my friends.

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~ by keerakun on April 30, 2012.

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