Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episodes 11 and 12 – What Heaven Allows
It was a nice present to come back from being overseas to find that the last two episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica had aired. It was even better to discover that, for once, a show had managed to break the curse of crummy endings to otherwise promising anime.
Early on in the series, I was worried that it would suffer from the same problem as Mai-Hime: an unsatisfying cop-out that placed having a happy ending over telling a dramatic story. That was before it had fully sunk in that happy endings aren’t Madoka Magica’s style.
These two episodes finally resolve the question of whether or not Madoka is going to become a magical girl. If you think she doesn’t, then perhaps you don’t understand the title’s translation: Magical Girl Madoka Magica. I’ll just say that her transformation is more than worth the wait.
One particularly brilliant stroke of storytelling is revealed in the first scene of episode 11, where Kyubey reveals that Madoka’s power stems from all the suffering built up in Akemi’s multiple trips through time. Every cycle Akemi has gone through in her endless quest to save Madoka has only served to make her even stronger and her eventual suffering that much greater.
This makes the Madoka in this timeline unbelievably powerful, and if there’s one truth in the Madokaverse, it’s that with great power comes great suffering. That’s certainly true in this case, but with a twist: to some extent, this story has a happy ending.
That’s not to say that sacrifices aren’t made, or that things don’t get overwhelmingly sad at points, but in the end, Madoka’s power and knowledge of the circumstances the magi fight in gives her a unique chance. Rather than wish for something small and personal, she can change the very fabric of reality.
Anime has no shortage of epic metaphysical endings that transcend space, time, and personhood, but so rarely do they make sense within the context of the world. Even in the best shows, it so often feels like an easy out: if you write yourself into a corner, do something beyond the reality you’ve forced yourself into.
In Madoka, though, where such a possibility has been bandied around for episodes, it just seems like the logical progression of the story. Especially since it so excellently ties in with the show’s themes of the consequences of power and selfishness.
The ultimate conclusion—that it is noble and good to suffer for others—is a moor that’s thousands of years old, at least, but Madoka has never been about its cutting edge storytelling, but the simple, powerful, and ancient tragedies it tells with its characters. In the end its main hero is a tragic one: not a Greek one, brought low by her own pride, but a sacrificial one, willing to give everything for the sake of her friends and the rest of the world.
It’s not novel, but still beautiful. And just as beautiful are the visuals, which continue to be gorgeous in nearly every frame. Each battle scene continues to upstage the ones before; the battle against the Walpurgis Night has to be one of the most visually stunning things you’ll see this year in anime.
There’s much more I could say about the elegant way Madoka’s relationship with Akemi comes together, or the way she grows up in how she relates to her mother. But I don’t want to waste too many words, or undercut my main point: Puella Magi Madoka Magica has a fantastic ending that serves not to leave you wanting a second season, but to tie up all the threads of the series perfectly.
It’s a bittersweet ending, one that left me overwhelmed and exhausted, but satisfied. You’ve probably seen it coming all along; you never just thought they’d be able to pull it off.