Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 9 – The Truth Hurts
Madoka Magica has hinted at a darker meaning behind the war between magi and witches for the entirety of its run, and this episode, the truth is finally revealed. And I won’t lie to you: it’s pretty dumb.
Unlike some other shows airing this season, though, it has something going for it besides the mystery of its setting, however. Tragic character drama, not the truth about magi and witches has always been at the heart of Madoka, and that’s why this episode remains interesting despite itself.
To everyone’s surprise (except Kyubey and Akemi), Sayaka Miki has succumbed to existential despair and become a witch, her mind and soul drained of magic and any will to live. Kyouko, who has only just learned the inevitable fate of all magi, wants desperately to save Sayaka, perhaps to convince herself that she can avoid that fate.
She enlists the aid of Madoka to make some appeal to whatever is left of Sayaka’s humanity. Madoka, meanwhile, has received a visit from Kyubey who, aware that the cat has been let out of the bag, decides to come clean with Madoka to try to convince her to join the magi.
You see, Kyubey and his kind, the Incubators, are beings from another, more advanced world, looking for an energy source not bound by the second law of thermodynamics. And they have found one, in the emotions of humans, or the grief of young girls turning into witches, to be more precise.
So they use their sufficiently advanced technology to grant the wishes of young girls, in order to encase their souls in a form that’s better for collecting energy. They then have them battle already-depleted former magi in order to manipulate their emotions into that one instant where they, in their grief at the loneliness and futility of their existence, explode into a gigantic explosion of emotional energy, which the Incubators can collect.
Maybe I’m just desensitized and jaded, but it seems kinda silly to me. The basic premise—harvesting little girls for energy—is pretty dark, but collecting power from the tears of schoolgirls just crosses the line between horror and overwrought grimdark.
That’s not even mentioning how hackneyed advanced alien technology appearing to be magic is in these shows. Can’t it just be demons or something trying to win the souls of children? Wouldn’t that be less ridiculous? I mean, scientific materialism and urban fantasy go together like oil and water.
And since this is a fantasy show, I’m only going to briefly mention the impracticalities of using long-lived, energy consuming beings as a source of power. I mean, the Incubators are trying to beat heat death by finding energy sources that don’t create entropy.
But even if the actual emotional reaction of magi turning into witches generates energy out of nothing, it still takes a lot of energy to raise a human being for long enough to get them to the point where they’re capable of such a reaction. People living in the first world consume a lot of energy: through food, transportation, environmental control, and other things, all creating entropy, and all required for the twelve or thirteen years it takes for a girl to be ready to make her wish. In order for the whole scenario to be a net energy gain, the resulting reaction would have to be much larger than Sayaka’s seemed to be last episode.
That’s not to say there’s nothing good here. Probably the best thing about this whole scene is just how wonderfully alien Kyubey is. Incubators are completely devoid of emotion, ethics, and seem to have no concept of individuality, so he goes to Madoka to earnestly appeal to her sense of the greater good.
I mean, think of how much good she could do if she became one of the magi. She could generate an enormous amount of power out of nothing. Think about how much longer she could prolong the inevitable heat death of the universe!
Madoka, being a middle school girl, is horrified at the suggestion. She doesn’t want to be a sacrifice for some alien civilization; she just wants to live a normal life. It shows just how fundamentally incompatible their ways of thinking are.
Ultimately, the show does such a good job of writing everything else that I don’t have to care why the schoolgirls are crying over the bleak tragedy of their existence, I can just appreciate that they are. This is a great episode for Kyouko, who in her attempts to save Sayaka remembers that she first made the contract because she wanted to be a hero.
Her inner hero comes out in a couple of great scenes that allow her to atone for her selfishness, culminating in a touching final assault on witch-Sayaka. It’s a great ending that shows how smart character writing can carry a show, no matter the premise.
You can watch this episode here.