[EPISODE RECAP] Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 4

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I’m slow, I know, episode 5’s already up. But the time that was supposed to have gone into writing this was spent on working on a Rurouni Kenshin Tsuikohen AMV other really important stuff. I’ll get to episode 5 within the week, I swear.

I’d like to say that I’m going keep this brief, but that somehow never works out for me.

The wait for this episode was agonizing. I’d been counting on the change in the series’s tone, but the events of Episode 3 had gleefully blown away all my predictions as to how it would happen. What the hell was going to happen now?

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In the cold opening, Sayaka tries but isn’t allowed to visit Kamijo. We get a bit of insight into Kamijo’s situation (talented violinist who injured his hand and can’t play anymore). It’s clear that Sayaka’s still thinking about that wish…

The cheeriness of the OP is downright unsettling at this point.

We see that Madoka’s visibly shaken by Mami’s death, to the point of bursting into tears in front of her confused family (nice cover up…). Sayaka seems to be handling it a lot better, does a pretty good job of pretending nothing happened in front of others.

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But it’s clear they’re both not eager to become mahou shoujo, especially Madoka. Kyube decides he can’t count on them to fill the void Mami left behind, and says goodbye. I don’t think anyone believes that’s the last we’ll see of him.

Madoka pays a visit to Mami’s empty apartment, and then bumps into Homura. The ensuing conversation continues to hammer in the harsh realities of being a mahou shoujo. Homura explains to Madoka some facts — including how, when they die within a barrier, their bodies don’t turn up in their world. And Mami has no close relatives…The idea that no one else will mourn Mami’s loss greatly upsets Madoka. She’s determined to remember Mami as a martyr, even as Homura insists that mahou shoujo only fight for their wishes.

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The most unsettling bit is when Madoka asks Homura how many mahou shoujo she has seen killed in action. “Too many to count.” Dozens, maybe hundreds of girls, killed in battle, with their families never knowing…

If you had any doubts before, you’d probably conclude now that Homura’s a sympathetic character. A woobie, even; she seems to know quite a bit about being forgotten and unnoticed, and is clearly affected by Madoka’s insistence that both Mami and she will be remembered. But come on, girl, if you want to save your fellow adolescent girls from Kyube, you’ve got learn to act a little less suspicious and be a little more persuasive.

While Madoka’s grieving, Sayaka’s got something else to occupy her thoughts. Kamijo, in a fit of despair, lashes out and accuses her of torturing him by making him listen to music he can’t play anymore.

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Not cool, but really, it’s understandable, and if he’s a decent guy he’ll regret it.

And he can’t know that it might push Sayaka into doing anything crazy like, oh, I don’t know, agree to a possibly fatal contract to heal him.

And oh, look who showed up:

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Freakishly great timing, you little creep.

Back to Madoka. She’s on her own now, and bumps into the neglected girlfriend Hitomi. But she seems to be acting a little crazy, a little…suicidal…

Yup. Witch.

Madoka follows Hitomi to a group of similarly afflicted people, and tries to stop them from kicking the bucket by picking it up and throwing it away.

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I’m not kidding!

But then they all turn on her, and she ends getting caught and tortured by the witch.

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Cartoonish or not, that looks painful

I know, it’s called Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, and it’s only episode 4, but I was seriously afraid for her life. And her sanity.

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Like she wasn’t already broken up enough.

I was hoping Homura would come to the rescue, but this really seemed like a good time for Kyube to turn up and force Madoka’s (possibly) inevitable transformation into a mahou shoujo…

So I was pretty surprised when she showed up.

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How do you usually feel when a leading character takes a level in badass? Not dismayed, probably. But that’s exactly what I was feeling. Oh, Sayaka. Mahou shoujo and secondary character? You’re probably doomed.

And someone arrives late to the party. Too late.

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She’s probably just really concerned, but she’s terrible at showing it

Just to be clear on what happened to Sayaka, we get a shot of Kamijo moving his no-longer-injured hand.

Before the show ends, we finally find out who the redhead in the OP is — Mami’s intended replacement, called over by Kyube.

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She’s not very nice…Kyube gets bonus creep points by association.

Her name is Kyoko, she wants Mami’s territory, and she’s not happy to hear that some ‘rookie’ has gotten to it first. But she’s planning on fixing that.

And yup, Sayaka’s probably doomed.

But a mahou shoujo showdown would be awesome.

Just some comments:
I usually hate it when a story’s universe allows the dead to be brought back to life, with no repercussions, but I realized that I want Mami to be revived — she really could kick ass, and in the scenes preceding her death it really seemed like she was a genuinely nice person, if somewhat broken. I was disappointed that the possibility wasn’t even brought up in this episode, but I guess there are reasons for that. Madoka’s too afraid to commit for that wish, and Sayaka already has something she wants.

Speaking of Madoka, it’s quite refreshing to see how reluctant she is to take on the role of a mahou shoujo. Yes, she has very good reasons to be scared, in this universe, but it’s refreshing nonetheless. I’m starting to wonder if she’ll ever become one. It would be an incredible subversion if she didn’t end up becoming one, but also somewhat ridiculous, given the show’s title and marketing and OP and ED…

And for all my dire predictions about Sayaka, I’m actually hoping she doesn’t die. We’ve already got the Shocking Death!!! with Mami — I’d rather see her maybe break down, slowly, from the stress, or the thanklessness nature of the job, or pushed to the brink by the newly arrived mahou shoujo…and I sound really sadistic now.

*goes off to watch episode 5*