[EPISODE RECAP] Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 9

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I’m sure we’ve all heard about what happened in Japan. But while we’re worrying about our favourite Japanese celebrities, let’s not forget that they are so many other ordinary people in the country who could really use our help.

Mercy Relief (Singapore)
Red Cross (US)
Global Giving
Help Japan (Fandom Auctions on LiveJournal)

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I might go back and recap Episodes 7 and 8 if someone asks nicely (which seems pretty unlikely) or if I feel like it (slightly more plausible). But just to add to my previous comments…each episode of Madoka has been topping the one prior to it, but these last three episodes have been incredible in particular, in terms of revelations and development (for plot and character). Kyoko’s past, Sayaka’s impending breakdown, some solid clues as to who Homura is and what her abilities are, and of course, Kyubey’s true motive. I’ll bet there were people who saw that coming, but I sure wasn’t expecting that.

It was one thing to talk girls into fighting a good fight by concealing just how steep the price of power was. But to have intended to turn the girls into the very creatures they’d been battling against all along…Even if it was for the good of the universe, Kyubey’s passed the moral event horizon a couple of kilometers back.

Episode 9 begins, and Sayaka’s long-foreshadowed fate has finally come to pass, with Kyoko as a horrified, uncomprehending witness.

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At least, until Homura shows up, once again demonstrating her uncanny ability to materialize when it’s just a little too late to do anything more than damage control.

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Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe she has a good reason…She distracts the witch!Sayaka with a hand grenade, stops time, and explains to Kyoko that Sayaka is the witch. When Kyoko refuses to abandon Sayaka’s body (“Useless burden”? That’s just cold), Homura decides to lead her out of the barrier.

After the OP, it’s Madoka, walking along the train tracks when she conveniently bumps into our two remaining resident mahou shoujo. Okay, it’s quite plausible that they were looking for her. Homura explains to a distraught Madoka exactly what has happened to Sayaka, and the wonderfully complex Kyoko gets pissed on behalf of Madoka and Sayaka.

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Homura remains unmoved, though, and only warns Kyoko to be careful when getting rid of Sayaka’s body. At Kyoko’s incredulous question (“Are you even human?!”) Homura calmly responds. “Of course not. And neither are you.”) It’s enough to silence Kyoko.

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Later, while a grieving Madoka sits awake in her bedroom, Kyubey pays her a visit. Madoka notes, but without any apparent surprise, that he’s not dead, and asks him to confirm Homura’s explanation, which he does and proceeds to explain why, without prompting (that’s surprising). While there was little doubt that any forthcoming explanation would be placating…’entropy?’ All those girls died for thermodynamics?!

Okay, it’s a more detailed explanation than that. Apparently, the universe is starting to run out of energy, and Kyubey’s part of an alien species that developed the technology to harness energy from emotions. Being devoid of emotion themselves, they sought and found that human souls generate energy that transcends entropy, with girls in their “second growth phase” (i.e. adolescent girls) generating the most (okay, that last part actually makes sense). So they turn girls into Soul Gems with the intention of letting them burn out into Grief Seeds, releasing energy in the process, which Incubators like Kyubey then harness.

I’m kind of disappointed with this turn of events, actually. It’s sci-fi, now? I hope the writers haven’t ended up writing themselves into a corner — the “it’s all magic” angle would have been much easier, and Kyubey’s explanation still raises a lot of questions about the mahou shoujo system (like, how the heck does this technology grant wishes?). Well, that’s assuming we believe everything Kyubey says. But while Kyubey is undoubtedly deceptive (despite his protestations of not being able to comprehend the concept of deception) he hasn’t been seen to lie outright just yet.

The explanation, quite understandably, fails to convince Madoka, and upsets her even further. Kyubey’s ruthless logic, on a purely logical mathematical level, does admittedly make sense, but that’s not what being human is about, is it? As he leaves, Kyubey reminds Madoka of her potential. If she becomes a mahou shoujo, she’ll eventually release incredible amounts of energy.

And…”If you feel like dying for the universe, just call us” is so not the best recruitment line

That’s it, you bastard, get out of here!

Apparently not done with pissing off mahou shoujo, Kyubey pays a visit to Kyoko in her hotel room.

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The latter’s not about to give up on Sayaka, and is using power to keep her body warm. She questions Kyubey and is told that he doesn’t know how to get Sayaka’s Soul Gem, nor has he heard of anyone being able to do it. But to Kyoko that just means a way hasn’t been found yet. It’s amazing, isn’t it? The one person who’s actively working to save Sayaka is the one who once tried to kill her. Tell me you don’t like Kyoko now. She may have come across as a ruthless bitch in the beginning, but in the end she’s still too compassionate to just let a girl die before her eyes.

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Gotta keep up energy levels for all that rescuing

The next day, Madoka’s on her way to school, and is in the awkward position of being questioned about Sayaka by Hitomi (“We aren’t on very good terms right now”? No kidding) when Kyoko telepathically admonishes Madoka for going on with life like nothing happened, and asks to talk. And Madoka, deciding this is worth playing truant for (like yeah) and runs off.

When they meet, a rather humble Kyoko proposes that hearing the voices of her friends could bring Sayaka back. A nice little theory. I don’t think it’ll work. I don’t think Kyoko’s convinced either. But she reveals that her fondness of stories where love and courage triumph influenced her decision to become a mahou shoujo, and that Sayaka reminded her of that fact. So she’s willing to give it a shot.

And even though Kyoko warns that she can’t gurantee Madoka’s safety, our pink-haired protagonist is eager to help.

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SHAFT really loves these reflection shots

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And Kyoko once again employs her usual method of sealing a deal

In school, Homura takes a cue from the Keanu Reeves School of Acting; she monotonically informs the teacher she’s not feeling so well and wants to see the nurse. Before the teacher can press on her the company of the class rep (in lieu of absent health rep Madoka) Homura makes her own way out of the class.

Back to the other two…as Kyoko tracks down witch!Sayaka, Madoka asks if Homura’s coming too. Kyoko doubts it, and explains that she and Homura aren’t friends, just allies banding together to take down enemies they can’t handle alone. Like the incoming, powerful witch, Walpurgis.

Before they enter the barrier, Kyoko confirms with Madoka that she is indeed prepared to come along.

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As they head towards the center, Madoka asks Kyoko if she’s being a coward for not becoming a mahou shoujo. Kyoko, however, thinks someone with such a ‘convenient’ life like Madoka. has no business being a mahou shoujo, and she won’t stand to let it happen. She then softens a little and tells Madoka to leave such thoughts for a time when she has no choice but to fight.

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That’s not terribly reassuring…

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They enter another chamber, and see what may either be Sayaka’s memories or their memories of Sayaka playing out (I’m wondering how Sayaka can see herself in these scenes but considering that she’s not really in her body anymore, it’s plausible). One of the scenes includes Kyoko…

And then they finally reach Sayaka.

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That song the orchestra’s playing…Have the ever played that track on the show? I’ve been paying less attention to the show’s music than a Kajiura fan should…Anyway, that’s a pretty dark, epic track. I think it’s my favourite BGM from the show thus far.

Kyoko creates a barricade to keep Madoka safe and takes on the attacking Sayaka. Madoka continues to call out to her friend, but it doesn’t seem to have an effect. As she fights, Kyoko reminisces about how she and Sayaka once tried to kill each other. She thinks Sayaka’s still mad at her, and has apparently decided she’ll let Sayaka have her revenge — as long as she wakes up after that. But after sending Kyoko down, Sayaka breaks the barrier protecting Madoka, and slowly crushes her friend in her grip. Seeing Madoka in danger, Kyoko snaps, and attacks. But Sayaka strikes a blow that destroys the ground beneath them and sends them all into an underwater realm.

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Someone on a forum (I lost track of who said it first) theorized that the mermaid tail was a reference to the parallels between Sayaka and The Little Mermaid (changed what they were for someone the loved, but only got betrayed in return). I think they’re right.

As she sinks, Kyoko prays; if this is how she dies, let her see a happy dream at least once.

And look what she gets instead:

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At least Madoka’s safe

With Madoka rescued, Kyoko makes a drastic decision. She tells Homura to protect Madoka, and then locks them both out. She gives Homura one last piece of advice: just protect the one thing you want to protect, until the very end. As Homura gives Madoka a telling glance, Kyoko muses about how she’s mistakenly believed she’s been living the adage she’s given Homura, and begins her ultimate attack. Her ultimate sacrifice.

She can’t save Sayaka…but she’ll stay by Sayaka’s side, until the very end.

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In case you didn’t get that, Kyoko destroys her own Soul Gem, releasing enough energy to blast both Sayaka and herself into oblivion.

Outside the witch’s barrier, Madoka in her arms, Homura stops, and murmurs, “Kyoko…”

*sobs*

In lieu of the ED, we get an epilogue. In the night, Kyubey once again shows his fondness of sneaking into mahou shoujo abodes to see Homura, who’s studying maps in preparation for Walpurgisnacht/Walpurgis Night.

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Homura asks why Kyubey didn’t stop Kyoko from trying to save Sayaka. And Kyubey reveals just how useful Kyoko’s death was to him: Homura’s the only mahou shoujo left, and she almost certainly can’t defeat Walpurgis alone. So to help save the city, another mahou shoujo will be needed — Madoka.

But Homura, of course, declares that she won’t let it happen.

Three-quarters of the series down. And Madoka is still not a mahou shoujo…Will it ever happen? We’ll see.

I think we’ve all expected that we would lose Sayaka, one way for another, and started grieving even before Kyoko put her out of her misery. But oh, Kyoko…you will be greatly missed. You know what was the most amazing part about her turnaround? I don’t know if the writers intended for her sacrifice to be a Redemption Equals Death. But the way I saw it, Kyoko didn’t try to save Sayaka in some attempt to redeem herself, she tried to save Sayaka because it was honestly what she wanted to do. She knew Sayaka hated her, and would probably never forgive her, but that didn’t stop her from doing all she could for Sayaka. And when she felt Sayaka couldn’t be saved, she did what she thought was the best thing: she took her own life to destroy the monster Sayaka had become (and wouldn’t have wanted to be), while taking comfort in the fact that Sayaka wouldn’t die alone.