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View Poll Results: Madoka Magica - Total Series Rating
Perfect 10 173 57.67%
9 out of 10 : Excellent 82 27.33%
8 out of 10 : Very Good 27 9.00%
7 out of 10 : Good 9 3.00%
6 out of 10 : Average 7 2.33%
5 out of 10 : Below Average 0 0%
4 out of 10 : Poor 0 0%
3 out of 10 : Bad 0 0%
2 out of 10 : Very Bad 1 0.33%
1 out of 10 : Painful 1 0.33%
Voters: 300. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 2012-12-02, 21:28   Link #161
Triple_R
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChainLegacy View Post
I don't mind fantastical, Superman like powers (hell, I'm a comic book fan. I think they have more of a balance than these anime where the only super-powered people are 13 year old girls... Every type in superhero comics has powers, girls, boys, aliens, with men and women at the helm primarily... but that's a subject for another thread I suppose).

I just can't get into this whole little girls saving the world in super serious situations thing. I know most anime fans like it. I just don't. It didn't stop me from enjoying the series, but like I said, I can't help but find it silly. Maybe I'm just an old-school macho guy, I don't know, but it's not really something I can debate with you since it's a completely subjective, knee-jerk reaction on my part (it is akin to trying to debate why my favorite color is green as opposed to red). Regardless, I worked around it and have with other series in the past because I won't let my personal feelings of what is "cool" get in the way of a good story.

I did somewhat predict this ending, like you said, and I guess it works 'in story'. We can get semantical about the meaning of the deus ex machina phrase, but I don't care about the exact meaning of that phrase (perhaps I used it incorrectly) so much as my enjoyment. I didn't enjoy seeing everything peeled away and rewritten with essentially no effort. It felt very anti-climactic to me. I couldn't help but shake my head a bit in disapproval.
Well, in fairness to you...

1. I did find it a bit disconcerting that not one of these girls even considered trying to get adult human help. Now, Mami and Kyouko no longer have living parents, so that explains them. Sayaka and Homura don't appear to have close relationships with their parents/legal guardians, but it's still a bit disappointing that even in the midst of severe psychological descent Sayaka is never once shown thinking about her parents/legal guardians. Then there's Madoka - Madoka obviously has two loving, caring, open-minded parents.

2. The anime could have used a real plot twist or two. I'll admit that it's major plot-points unfold with a certain predictable logic. It makes the narrative feel nicely cohesive, but it also dulls excitement a bit, imo.


One defense I'll make though is that the ending was achieved with no effort. My view is that Homura's efforts to prevent Madoka from contracting combined with Madoka's efforts to carefully learn more about the Puella Magi world, enabled Madoka to make a well-informed wish. I mean, if Madoka contracts anytime before Episode 9, I doubt she makes the wish that she does, and it probably becomes a "smaller" wish (one benefiting just Sayaka, or just Mami, or even just a cat ).

I like the idea of the character who gradually learns about the evils and dangers inherent in a system, and then when armed with that knowledge makes a good decision to correct that system (at least to some degree).
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Old 2012-12-03, 09:39   Link #162
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It was certainly interesting that the main character did not receive her powers until the last minute, and we never really got to see her in action (other than in Homura's flashback realities). That was one of the nice, unique parts of this series that made it fun to watch and a little less predictable. Heh, I don't want to seem like a nitpicker here, I did like the series (voted it an 8/10 on the poll)! Just figured I'd add some balance to this thread with some criticisms.
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Old 2012-12-03, 12:33   Link #163
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Well, in fairness to you...

1. I did find it a bit disconcerting that not one of these girls even considered trying to get adult human help. Now, Mami and Kyouko no longer have living parents, so that explains them. Sayaka and Homura don't appear to have close relationships with their parents/legal guardians, but it's still a bit disappointing that even in the midst of severe psychological descent Sayaka is never once shown thinking about her parents/legal guardians. Then there's Madoka - Madoka obviously has two loving, caring, open-minded parents.

2. The anime could have used a real plot twist or two. I'll admit that it's major plot-points unfold with a certain predictable logic. It makes the narrative feel nicely cohesive, but it also dulls excitement a bit, imo.


One defense I'll make though is that the ending was achieved with no effort. My view is that Homura's efforts to prevent Madoka from contracting combined with Madoka's efforts to carefully learn more about the Puella Magi world, enabled Madoka to make a well-informed wish. I mean, if Madoka contracts anytime before Episode 9, I doubt she makes the wish that she does, and it probably becomes a "smaller" wish (one benefiting just Sayaka, or just Mami, or even just a cat ).

I like the idea of the character who gradually learns about the evils and dangers inherent in a system, and then when armed with that knowledge makes a good decision to correct that system (at least to some degree).
On your points -

1. Beyond the anime trope of "adults don't exist", I felt that it wasn't too unusual in this situation. For one, children do tend to hide big issues from their parents, unfortunately, and I can't see "talking animal gave me magical powers" going over too well in appealing to authorities. For another, we do see an unusual spin on the trope in the sense that the adults do sense that something is up and are at least involved in the manner that adults tend to be. For example the teacher mentions missing children, and references Mami (not by name, but you know who she is talking about). So it's clear that at least on some level, the adults are catching on to what is happening.

I think it would have been interesting to see this aspect explored more, but I also think it could have potentially bogged the story down a bit given the limited episodes. It's a bit like alien invasion movies, and how you don't see many that explore the meta, instead choosing to focus on a few characters who you then see things through their eyes. I suppose this choice is made to help the writer create a tighter narrative instead of juggling multiple narrative angles into one overall story, so for me, it was nice to see things like the conversation after Sayaka's funeral between Madoka's mother and the teacher. It shows the writer was at least aware of the potential of the idea, even if he didn't/couldn't explore it more.

2. I think the anime had plot twists, but they weren't the complete reversal of narrative type of plot twists we usually think of (like Sixth Sense). Part of the problem is that the story, in attempting to break the mold of the genre, doesn't stray too much from the mold of basic storytelling. So while it is a deconstruction of a genre, it's not a deconstruction of narrative. The other issue is that the show was a heavy focus of speculation, and in the internet age where people can collaborate 24/7 around the world, at some point every and any possible theory was thrown out there, and someone was bound to point out the right ones.

This helps create the "oh, so predictable" noise. I'm sure some keen minded people really did find it predictable, but I doubt it was the case for most of the viewership. I for one found aspects of the story unpredictable. I had guessed that Homura was a time traveler, because that was the most obvious explanation for her knowledge. However I could never have guessed what had gotten her to that point, which is why episode 10 remains so powerful to me. I had guessed that Sayaka would fall, but I could never have guessed that so much around her would become the "perfect storm" for it. And of course, I never would have guessed stuff like Kyubey's speeches, or Madoka's wish.

I suppose it does feel a bit empty that Madoka is considered the "heroine" when Homura (and the others) did all the groundwork for her, but I considered that in itself a deconstructing statement about heroic narratives. Usually it's the main character that does most of the work, struggles hard, and saves the day, while the rest of the cast is reduced to cheerleaders or occasional enablers of that. Here it's the exact opposite, where the hero is basically useless for the majority of the story and is only able to be heroic by the efforts of others. The way I view it, is a statement about collectivism versus individualism. In many stories, it's very much all about the hero, but in Madoka, everyone contributes something important, and heroism is less about the person and more about how our choices build upon each other to enable change.

In a way, Madoka is a bit like Neo from the Matrix (if you pretend the sequels never happened). Most of the story is about everyone else helping him to realize his potential destiny, and for the most part he's pretty much useless while they run around sacrificing everything to keep him alive until he understands what needs to be done. When does he get to be the hero? Right at the end. The story is just as much about Morpheus and Trinity as it is about him, even though he gets the honorific of being "the hero".
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Old 2013-01-27, 11:23   Link #164
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So I finally gave in to the hype and watched the series this week (a couple episodes a night, I'm a busy guy you know) to see what all the fuss was about.

I have to say I was surprised at how...dark this series really is. Not what I expected at all. I guess being a magical girl isn't all it's cracked up to be. The art was, in my opinion, pretty good, and different at times, especially when it came to the portrayal of the witches. I liked the background music, which combined with the slightly futuristic setting (transparent classrooms with digital, touchscreen white boards and retractable desks for example) kind of gave it a slick, refined feel.

Not a bad show at all. Now I'll have to find the movies.

Endless "Slick and refined" Soul
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Old 2013-06-07, 08:11   Link #165
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I got spoilt about Mami's death AND about Kyubei because it had become a meme: "Make a contract with me! NOW YOU ARE MINE!". This made the anime far less enjoyable, but I could still enjoy it nonetheless!

The opening was SUCH a troll to the watchers:
1. It gave a completely wrong impression about the show
2. You could see Madoka in "Magical Girl", although she only had this look in the last 3 episodes!

Overall it was a nice "Magical Girl Parody" and (obviously) definitly not for people who usually ONLY watch "Magical Girl" series.
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Old 2014-02-03, 20:51   Link #166
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It's interesting with the above post. I actually felt that the opening did relate pretty well to the anime. Especially when compared to the ending theme.

The opening came off to me as a cheery theme to symbolize the hope of wishes and what we normally think of wishes as. And the ending theme symbolized how that can lead in to despair and the eventual path that was shown in the anime.
That was just my interpretation though.

All in all I enjoyed the anime quite a bit. It definitely was not what I was expecting coming in to it. The short duration was a little bit disheartening but I felt the length served the purpose of the anime well. The build up throughout the series was nice and progressive and leading up to the final episode truly did feel like a final episode.

I hear the 3rd movie that came out gives a good ending as well and I look forward to watching that.

All in all I would rate this probably a 9/10.
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Old 2014-07-01, 19:01   Link #167
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So a while back I said Madoka and Homura needed more development, but after rewatching I'll admit some things flew over my head on the first round.

Aren't shows supposed to get worse when you watch them with more experience? And I thought my noobishness was helping me the first time.
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Old 2014-07-20, 08:27   Link #168
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Just got done watching this for the first time. I think I need to watch it again sometime to let it sink. I was completely in a state of denial when characters started dying left and right. Mami's death I can accept, somehow. But when Sayaka died I was like wtf ?! They just killed main character's best friend and then they killed Kyouko too!!!!

Maybe I just forgot Urobuchi wrote it while watching. Kyubey gives off the creepy vibes through the computer screen.

Welp, I got another fandom to raid on fanfiction now I guess
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Old 2014-07-22, 08:55   Link #169
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Originally Posted by Eragon View Post
Just got done watching this for the first time. I think I need to watch it again sometime to let it sink. I was completely in a state of denial when characters started dying left and right. Mami's death I can accept, somehow. But when Sayaka died I was like wtf ?! They just killed main character's best friend and then they killed Kyouko too!!!!

Maybe I just forgot Urobuchi wrote it while watching. Kyubey gives off the creepy vibes through the computer screen.

Welp, I got another fandom to raid on fanfiction now I guess
have you watched the movie rebellion?
if not then I urge you to watch it, as it continues after the anime.
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Old 2016-01-07, 00:47   Link #170
Asehpe
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Madoka and its aftermath

Of course, opinions are legion, and it's OK to feel whatever you feel about a certain show, since your reaction to it is just as "legitimate" (a word I feel should always come in scare quotes... but that's a different topic) as anyone else's. Now, it may be that your opinion will evolve with time, and in reaction to the opinions of others; yet even your initial, gut feeling, relatively uninformed initial reaction is "legitimate". Which is why I see my reaction here more as sharing than as an attempt to convince others.

Personally, PMMM impressed me greatly as a masterpiece of Shakespearian proportions. I had no experience with animē (other than Spirited Away, I had watched nothing prior to Madoka Magica), and only a vague understanding of the Mahō Shōjo genre, via a few episodes of Sailor Moon that I watched by mistake.

I was, quite simply, blown away. After Madoka, I had to know more, and I started exploring the world of animē -- and I found so many other things that I enjoyed greatly, and that are now part of who I am. None of them, however, has had the same impact as Madoka on me.

Many have criticized the characters as 'sketchy' or 'archetypical' or 'unrelatable', especially Madoka herself, the 'sobbing coward' (a Shinji type?). Yet I personally find it so easy to see them as real people -- I wonder why that is? Why can I see Kyōko Sakura's hard life so clearly in almost every one of her gestures? Why can I see Sayaka Miki's courage and apparent strength (with an underlying serving of weakness and self-hatred) so clearly even in the way she laughs (completely different from Madoka's, Mami's, or Kyoko's -- has anyone else noticed how well their way of laughing fits their overall personality?)? Similarly, Mami's sense of comfort with inner loneliness seems to me so clear both in her demeanor, in her attempts to interest others (all those tea and cake magazines, her coyly saying 'only a few refreshments' to then treat her friends with cake and tea served with such elegance, everything suggests an attempt to seduce others into staying and helping her ease her loneliness)...

I could literally write an entire essay on the intricacies of every single character, as they are revealed by small things here and there. (What do Homura's hairflips make you all feel, for instance? How do they relate to who she is as a character?). I would love to analyze the witches' labyrinths, and how they relate to the wishes, powers, and other circumstances of the magical girls that gave rise to them. The sheer change in insects (from nice ones like butterflies in the first episodes to buzzing threatening ones around lampposts in episode 9...

There have been complaints about the fight scenes, as not 'sufficiently impressive'; comparisons to Nanoha were made. To me, however, the labyrinths and the fight scenes were metaphors for the characters' inner states of mind. The labyrinths were supposed to represent the despair of the ex-MG-now-witches who lived in them; their surreal motfis may not look martial enough, but when you think about the backstories they suggest, and when you see actual magical girls dying in combat, they become quite hellish to me. Not everything has to look like Apocalypse Now in order to convey the ordeals of battle.

But then again, this is just my own personal reaction; and how a show affects me has probably as much, if more, to say about me than about the show itself.

I will conclude by giving it a 10/10 (not because it doesn't have flaws -- the entropy thing is of course nonsensical, though you can kinda save it by saying Kyubey's people are so much more advanced than we are that they've discovered entropy does not work the way we think it does, so that exploiting the energy of Magical Girls would actually work... but still, meh -- but because these flaws subtract nothing from the overal literary value and impact of the work.

These five girls have become, as Mami said of Kyubey, dear friends of mine, and I have the feeling they will remain with me till the end of my life. Each has moved me in a different way (I'm particularly partial to Kyōko's sacrifice); by the end of the show (which I binge-watched in one single night), I had cried so much, I was surprised by the amount of water I was able to produce. That hadn't happened to me in many, many years.

But if you disagree... that's OK with me. I will only hope that you do also have a show that means to you as much as Madoka Magica has come to mean to me.
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Old 2016-01-07, 01:21   Link #171
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It's really great to see Madoka Magica gain a new fan here on Anime Suki. Welcome to AS, by the way!

Very good first post. It's good to meet another PMMM fan, particularly one that seems to have a pretty deep and thorough understanding of the show and its characters.

With that in mind, I want to focus on this part of your post here...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Asehpe View Post

Many have criticized the characters as 'sketchy' or 'archetypical' or 'unrelatable', especially Madoka herself, the 'sobbing coward' (a Shinji type?). Yet I personally find it so easy to see them as real people -- I wonder why that is? Why can I see Kyōko Sakura's hard life so clearly in almost every one of her gestures? Why can I see Sayaka Miki's courage and apparent strength (with an underlying serving of weakness and self-hatred) so clearly even in the way she laughs (completely different from Madoka's, Mami's, or Kyoko's -- has anyone else noticed how well their way of laughing fits their overall personality?)? Similarly, Mami's sense of comfort with inner loneliness seems to me so clear both in her demeanor, in her attempts to interest others (all those tea and cake magazines, her coyly saying 'only a few refreshments' to then treat her friends with cake and tea served with such elegance, everything suggests an attempt to seduce others into staying and helping her ease her loneliness)...

I could literally write an entire essay on the intricacies of every single character, as they are revealed by small things here and there. (What do Homura's hairflips make you all feel, for instance? How do they relate to who she is as a character?). I would love to analyze the witches' labyrinths, and how they relate to the wishes, powers, and other circumstances of the magical girls that gave rise to them. The sheer change in insects (from nice ones like butterflies in the first episodes to buzzing threatening ones around lampposts in episode 9...
Very eloquently stated.

Madoka Magica has its critics, but it's a widely well-regarded anime show, one of the more popular and critically acclaimed ones around.

However, a fairly common comment I run across is that what makes Madoka Magica great is its plot and style, not so much its characters. So it's very refreshing to read a Madoka Magica review that gives special attention and credit to its characters.

What you wrote about the main cast resonates strongly with me, especially what you wrote about Sayaka and Mami. I think you very nicely captured the emotional richness and personality depth of both characters.

Why more people don't "see" the main cast more like you and I do is indeed a bit of a mystery to me. Like yourself, I find the main cast to have considerable depth of character. So much so that, yes, they feel like real people to me. While I think there's some truth to the characters being archetypal, that just makes the sense of realness coming from them that much more remarkable. Each of the main cast characters manages to exemplify a certain popular anime character/personality type as well as stand for certain ideas - But even while doing this, they still feel like real people to me.

Madoka Magica probably has the strongest main cast of any anime show I've watched. All five are well-realized and carefully fleshed out, representing a good and believable range of personalities as well as very good interpersonal dynamics given those personality similarities and differences.
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Old 2016-01-07, 11:24   Link #172
Asehpe
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Madoka's characters

Thank you, Triple-R! I would certainly be interested in hearing/reading about other people's experiences with Madoka Magica, especially the characters. Not that I dislike the plot -- it was oh so amazing to see practically every little detail explained or tied up to everything else in the show eventually, from Kyōko's food consumption to the little cat (Amy, I think?) that appears in the opening scene but almost nowhere else... From the meaning of the opening and ending songs to the little "obvious" clues like calling their jewels "soul gems"... -- the sheer amount of thought involved in each of these details makes me feel that the plot and execution of PMMM is just as well crafted and polished as the best soul gem.

Yet it's the characters that always get me. Not because there weren't other characters that I could feel very emotional about (the entire cast of New Genesis Evangelion is, I think, as meaningful to me as Madoka's characters), but because everything was done so well in their development and execution that I could only stand in awe at the result. Many peopel have said that the show could have benefitted from having more episodes, and I tentatively agree with that (I would have loved to see Kyōko's backstory being played out in detail in two or three episodes, for instance; also, other possible relationships, like the apparent previous meeting and colaboration between Mami and Kyōko before the beginning of the series); but at the same time they did it so well with only 12 episodes, I wonder if having 26 wouldn't be like inviting trouble, like asking for entropy (heh heh) to cause at least a few of these episodes to be failures. (All the bad rep that NGE gets comes from execution mistakes, I think, since the basic idea and the actual characters are so mind-blowingly good. I am so happy to see Madoka Magica exempt from this possible failure...)

Quote:
Why more people don't "see" the main cast more like you and I do is indeed a bit of a mystery to me. Like yourself, I find the main cast to have considerable depth of character. So much so that, yes, they feel like real people to me. While I think there's some truth to the characters being archetypal, that just makes the sense of realness coming from them that much more remarkable. Each of the main cast characters manages to exemplify a certain popular anime character/personality type as well as stand for certain ideas - But even while doing this, they still feel like real people to me.
I think it's difficult to define what exactly makes a character "come alive" to you, what is the moment, feature, or little event in the series that makes you see them as more than simply drawings with voice actors behind them. I can sort of relate to what these people say about the Madoka characters, because in a certain sense they seem to be "too well defined" (Madoka is 'obviously' Hope Incarnate + the Heart that Understands Everybody [to the point that it is a Big Deal when she says to Kyubey 'then you are indeed our enemy' -- Madoka is not the kind of character who says such things easily], Sayaka is 'obviously' Courage Incarnate ['no matter how many times I beat you down, you always stood back up...'], their relationships are oh so pure, oh so strong [Madoka is ready to sell her soul for Sayaka, Homura goes through hell for Madoka, Kyōko eventually kills herself for Sayaka) -- if you compare the Madoka characters and their 'perfect' feelings to the much more messed up and thus more realistic characters in NGE, you can see where the critics are coming from, I think.

But still... I have seen 'archetypal' characters that I couldn't connect with very much precisely because their design and execution were 'begging' me to connect with them. Angel Beats! comes to mind: lots of Bad Stuff happen to the main characters, they have to go through hardships and evolve, and their dedication to themselves and each other is also commendable, and yet... I end up empathizing with non-main characters like Yui or Iwasawa over main characters like Yurippe or Otonashi.

Not so with Madoka Magica's main characters. Each of them seems to me to be much more carefully crafted than the main characters of Angel Beats!. Their revelations do not seem to come out of left field, unexpected and slightly contrived; rather, they follow naturally from their personality and character. I think it ultimately boils down to how these characters are executed: how they are drawn, how they move, how they reveal things without spelling them out loud, without shouting them for the viewer to understand. Most people picked up on Kyōko's eating disorder and connected it immediately to the hardships she had to endure in a family that often did not have food, without the show having to shout "Trauma!" as Angel Beats! often did when telling the life stories of the main characters.

Yes, Madoka Magica in constructed in such a way that every time you rewatch it you learn something else about a character's personality and views -- you pay attention to a little gesture that you hadn't noticed, and it tells you something more about that character. All those details seem to scream "I am interesting! I could be the MC of my own spin-off animē if I wanted! I have a lot that I'm not showing here just because we don't have time!" So if you don't pay attention to these details or are not drawn to them (which is a way of saying that such reactions may depend more on the viewer and his/her personality than on the actual animē), then I can see how you can end up thinking of the characters as 'archetypes' without much reality. After all, we only see them for so many minutes; what they actually say and do in the main plot can be summarized in a few sentences. Any implied depth remains just that: implied. (Just consider the possible previous history between Mami and Kyōko, implied in Mami's warning about not making wishes for others without thinking about all consequences, and also in Kyōko's mention of Mami by her full name, Mami Tomoe) If you're the kind of viewer to takes that and dreamily speculates on what lies behind it, then the characters become much more real, they really come alive. But if you don't like this kind of speculation, if you don't want to read every little thing as evidence of depth, then the characters basically become their arcs -- Kyōko is "the redeemed bitch" who ends up sacrificing herself, Sayaka is "blind courage and good intentions" who ends up damning herself, Madoka is "hope incarnate" who saves the world with the kindness of her heart, we've seen this all before, etc.

I'm the 'dreamy speculative' kind, so Madoka's execution resonated perfectly with my own artistic sensitivies and my own personal worldview. Other kinds of people would resonate less, or even not at all, with this kind of show.
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Old 2016-01-07, 15:46   Link #173
Asehpe
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Madoka and the nature of despair

Here is one example of something I saw in this animē that made me change my mind about one topic -- despair. For personal reasons, despair is a topic I have given a lot of thought to. But there obviously were things I didn't know about it, and one of them came to me while watching Madoka Magica.

What was it?

Well...

Despair is usually defined as the 'absence of hope'. So, when you find yourself in an impossible situation -- i.e., when you realize that whatever it is you're trying to do: to conquer someone's love, to protect those you love, to achieve something in life... is simply unreachable, that no matter what you do and how much you try you simply have zero chances of ever getting it --, then what you feel is despair. In other words, "I'm fighting against unsurmontable odds!" = "I am in a desperate situation!" = "I feel despair".

Hm. Not quite. Because, as Madoka made clear, there are different reactions in people to the realization that their fight is hopeless. One is the 'active' reaction, which you might call the 'hopeless hero', the 'charge of the light brigade': you go on fighting regardless of your odds, because it's the right thing to do. There still is something to be done, even if you are not going to win the war. To use famous words form another show (Joss Whedon's Angel the Series), "when nothing that you do matters, then all that matters is what you do". I call this 'active' reaction the +1 reaction, and I personally wonder if it deserves to be called 'despair' at all. In fact, it is the reaction of those who kept something in their hearts -- not hope, since they understand they are not going to win, but something like dignity or a sense of meaning, a sense that their fight, even if ultimately hopeless, is still worth it. It is the acceptance of one's status as a tragic hero.

Another reaction to the realization that one is in a hopeless situation -- a reaction I call 'static' or '0' -- is simply apathy. If nothing that you do can ever change the outcome of your situation, then why do anything? Why not simply lie down on the ground and contemplate the sky, or simply wait for the unavoidable end of your situation to unfold without your help -- it's going to unfold anyway, so why not just sit and wait? The apathetic or depressive reaction is less dignified than the active reaction, and it is clearly an 'end' in that, barring external influences, nothing will happen to it: it is a stable state, in which the subject yearns for a feeling of nothingness that will dull his/her pain.

And then, there is the -1 or 'agonic' reaction, which is a further step from the two above. After realizing that there is no chance of winning ('tragic hopelessness'), after realizing the futility of action ('apathy'), the despairing subject can walk one step further, a step symbolized by Sayaka's beautiful, heart-breaking words, "I was stupid... so stupid..." (あたしって... ほんとバカ): s/he can feel shame, deep shame, because of the fact that s/he actually believed at some point that s/he had a chance of winning... So I thought I could win that person's love? How could I be so stupid! Someone like me!... So I thought I could protect my loved ones? Someone as weak as me? How could I?!... So I thought I could actually achieve something? Who, me? You're kidding...

Given how interconnected the world is, when the "despairing person" reaches this stage (the one that I think truly deserves the name of "despair", unlike the 0 and +1 reactions that should probably be called something else), then everything seems to remind him/her of his shame; everything in the world is part of that which he wanted to achieve but couldn't, everything becomes a trigger for this shame (Asuka Langley from NGE: 'I have everybody! I hate everything!'). It is as if every noise from the outside were simply one more little laugh, adding itself to the cacophonic ocean of laughter that the whole universe is having at the thought that the "despairing person" actually thought (ha-ha!) s/he had a chance of winning!... At this moment, the only thing a person can do to survive is to push everything away, to close their eyes and ears and scream, scream as loud as possible, thus creating a wall, call it a labyrinth, encircling the person, so as to keep the 'laughing world' outside, a labirynth formed by the materials more conveniently at hand: the person's old beliefs and hopes, but now perverted into a pessimistic version given the realization that there is no hope of ever achieving them.

And that is what Madoka Magica portrays admirably, at least in my humble personal opinion.

Last edited by Asehpe; 2016-01-09 at 16:53.
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Old 2016-01-09, 16:38   Link #174
Asehpe
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Sayaka and the legitimate refusal of empathy

I have seen in many places the discussion of whether or not Sayaka's demise -- losing the boy he loves to her best friend after discovering her actual situation and feeling unworthy of him, then losing all hope and turning into a which -- is not really worthy of empathy, because her suffering is mostly 'her fault'. As Sayaka herself says, agreeing with her critics, 'I was stupid... so stupid' (あたしって...本当バカ).

To me, this argument basically boils down to 'Sayaka is not entitled to ('legitimate') suffering in her situation, because it is not really so bad' (basically the person who makes this point is arguing that s/he would react differently, in a more level-headed way, if s/he were in Sayaka's shoes). Many of the people who argue this point claim to be a little angry or displeased at Sayaka for her reaction, and judge her as a 'hothead' or 'not mature enough'.

However, this seems, I think, to miss the main point, which is that Sayaka's suffering is sincere and deeply felt. She is not pretending to suffer in order to harvest empathy from others, she is not 'fishing for pity'; she is, quite simply, really suffering. And it shows. I don't think anyone can doubt that the pain she suffers is real, and that she would rather not be suffering it if she could -- i.e., her pain is not a sham, not an attempt to fool others into feeling something for her. It is, quite simply, pain, heavy, terrible pain.

When faced with the pain of others, humans tend to empathize, to offer help and sympathy. But perhaps because there are too many people in pain in the world, there often is some sort of hierarchy in place to the effect that (or, as some people would put it, 'we feel that') some people are to be blamed for their suffering, and thus do not legitimately deserve empathy. They 'rub us the wrong way', because 'their situation is not really that bad' and 'they are exaggerating the bad side', so that 'their downfall is really their own fault -- if only they had a more mature attitude', etc.

But if one thinks logically, there is no situation, no matter how catastrophic, that can't possibly be viewed through this prism. So you've seen your 5-year-old son be ripped to pieces by a sadistic criminal without being able to do anything to prevent it? Well, there are people who went through worse ordeals and bounced back and are quite healthy, because they have a mature attitude and understand that bad things happen and you have to deal with it! Now, if you choose the lacrimose/angry attitude of actually suffering because of this, then it's your own choice, pal, you've only got yourself to blame for your depression, and frankly I don't want to commiserate with you because if this had happened to me, I wouldn't make the choice you're making, I'd be more mature and blahblahblah.

And indeed it is true that choosing the right attitude determines how you're going to react to any ordeal (I don't know if there is an ordeal so bad any human being would break under it; maybe there is; but it's not an obvious fact, maybe there's always a 'more positive' attitude that would help you bounce back no matter how bad the ordeal was; I will however guess that if there is such an uber-ordeal, it's probably a rather rare one). That is it -- this is always (or at least almost always) true. If this is a legitimate basis for refusing sympathy/empathy, then you can always get out of it. You don't have to accept anyone's suffering and despair as 'legitimate', you don't have to empathize with anyone's suffering and despair, because you can always argue that there are people (perhaps you yourself) who bounce back and don't complain so much about it. I believe in practice everybody draws the line between 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' suffering/despair somewhere, so for every single person there are always situations that s/he would consider as reasonable sources of legitimate suffering/despair, but I would argue that this is not a logical necessity, it is simply a personal preference. You could in principle also argue that there is no such line, and that all suffering/despair is the result of someone choosing the wrong interpretation, the wrong attitude, for a given situation, so nobody, no matter what ordeals they went through, is ever worthy of empathy or commiseration. It is always 'their own fault'.

In other words, the difference between 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' suffering/despair (i.e., between the kind YOU would want to empathize with and the kind YOU wouldn't want to empathize with) is not out there in the world, it is not a physical feature of a given person's (e.g. Sayaka's) situation, it is a subjective choice made by the person who interprets the situation. In a very true sense, it can be argued to be as much YOUR fault as the given person's (Sayaka's). Yes, Sayaka could have chosen a different attitude and felt better; but you could also have drawn the line differently, you could also have chosen a 'different attitude' so as to see Sayaka's suffering as 'legitimately empathizable' rather than not. Consequently, people with lines differently drawn will never agree on that, because each person sees the line s/he drew as 'the right one' -- and this could only be discussed meaningfully at a metaethical level, abstracting away from Sayaka's actual situation and bringing into the fold the criteria whereby one would want to draw the line at a certain point or other.

Personally, I think this line is ultimately arbitrary, so the question of whether or not a given situation should automatically warrant the mark of 'legitimately empathizable suffering/despair' (the difference between 'true tragicity' and 'just being a pussy' or 'being the cause of your own suffering') is to me not a real question.

What I ask myself is: is this person's suffering sincere, i.e. is the sufferer lying just to get attention, or is s/he not? And how can I help ease this suffering?

Sayaka's suffering is clearly of the sincere kind. Even if I thought that Sayaka's suffering is 'her own fault' (which I don't, because I don't really draw the line; being ultimately pessimistic, I think that the 'guilt-assigning' analysis always works, i.e. you can always argue that it's the sufferer's fault for the choice of interpretation s/he made, because there is no real empirical line between 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' suffering/despair) -- so, even if I thought it was Sayaka's own fault, I would actually prefer to offer her a shoulder to cry on, as Madoka did, because I would anyway be moved by the real suffering she was feeling; and, from the 'it's your own fault' analysis I would rather try to derive something to say to her to make her feel better ('your powers are really awesome, not a curse', 'you're not really a walking corpse' , 'you can still love and be loved'), and I would try to argue these points with her, providing good arguments ('Did you ever fail to love Mami just because she also was a "walking corpse"? Was Mami not worthy of your love and admiration just because of that?' etc.).

I would do that, in the hope that I might convince her, and bring a smile back to her face. Because my heart does go out for her, because the question of 'who is to blame for her suffering' is not me not a real question, given that her suffering is sincere. Because the mere brutal fact of her suffering is to me much more important than the blame. Because trying to change her attitude, if possible with kindness (though I don't exclude a more Homura-like 'tough love' approach if it works), is to me much more important than any non-issues about whether or not her suffering is 'her fault', whether I would suffer or not if I were in her shoes. Ultimately, her real heartfelt suffering is more important than any of that abstract byzantine crap.

To give a final parallel: if I had a 5-year-old son who was terrified of spiders, I wouldn't shrug my shoulders and dismiss his suffering just because I myself am not afraid of spiders. I wouldn't say it's all his fault because he could choose a different attitude towards spiders (or towards his own fear of spiders) and change it. (Hell, I wouldn't say that even if it were a 45-year-old man rather than a 5-year-old boy!) Because ultimately it is sincere suffering, not something he chose to have just because he thought it would be fun to be afraid of spiders, or because he wanted to manipulate others into being good to him by being afraid of spiders (both of which would be different situations) -- no; rather, because it is true suffering, I would try to change it, to ease it, not to judge it.

Last edited by Asehpe; 2016-01-09 at 17:12.
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Old 2016-01-09, 16:56   Link #175
Vegard Aune
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The idea that you can choose your attitude to something strikes me as impossibly idealistic, too. Sure, just go up to a person suffering from severe depression or PTSD or something and tell them to just think the problem away, because that obviously helps![/sarcasm] And of course, berating someone who is in any way suffering, saying that it is all their fault and that they should just get over it... Pretty sure that is literally never going to help in any situation ever.
I would also like to point out, to those people who think Sayaka is unworthy of sympathy, that her situation was a bit more complex than just "The guy I love doesn't love me back and now my friend is gonna take him from me!" I mean sure, that was a very real part of it, but the whole "Holy shit I am a monster!" thing also helped, and I think it can safely be assumed that the Ultimate Scum of Humanity she encountered on the train were pretty much the last straw. I mean we don't see how that situation ended and there are conflicting reports from the various staff members, but in any case, what is the very next thing we see of her after that? Her on the train station, talking to Kyouko... and turning into a witch like a minute later. After claiming that she no longer gives a damn and has no idea what she was even fighting for.
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Old 2016-01-10, 07:51   Link #176
Asehpe
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I indeed mostly agree: our attitudes to situations are not like clothes that can be removed and replaced with others at a moment's whim. I, too, find it hard to believe that so many people would find fault with Sayaka for simply being who she was and breaking down under extraordinary pressure.

That being said, it is true that people seem to expect others to change -- part of judging others as 'unworthy of empathy' seems to be exactly the thought that they could 'man up' and react more positively to whatver catastrophe befalls them. I do agree that this is more than a tad judgmental (and usually not realistic), but I see many people ready to refuse empathy on these grounds. Sad, but true.
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Old 2016-02-25, 01:58   Link #177
Filia Nox
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Just completed this anime today and I am glad I picked this anime up. Surprisingly great anime with a very interesting storyline and compelling characters - well most of them anyway. I felt it is a bit short though and much more could still be explored. 2 characters in particular, have grown on me over time. Sayaka and Kyouko. Both of them come across as slightly annoying at first but by ep. 7, both have won me over. They even have their own theme, "And I'm Home", which is really sad and sweet at the same time. Sayaka + Kyouko forever.
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