[EPISODE RECAP] Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 10

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Hah! Horrible, isn’t it? My episode 10 recap almost took longer to materialize than the delayed episodes of Madoka. But I’ve been incredibly busy of late, and it’s only now that I have enough time to sit down and write this up.

I know we’ve all been anxiously anticipating the coming episodes, but I’m actually pretty bummed about the fact that all this excitement is going to be over soon. And have this paranoid fear that after all the awesomeness it might end up being a colossal disappointment instead. But let’s hope inst that it’ll be a spectacular finale that will leave us with loads and loads of things to keep fangirling/fanboying about for a long, long, time.

Right, moving on to episode 10…It’s a Homura-centric one, which, as we all would expect, answers a lot of the questions that we have about Homura. And it turns out that a lot of predictions about her were spot-on, which in itself isn’t a surprise — with that much guessing going on someone had to hit the mark, and solid hints have been dropped anyway. But, like nearly every Madoka episode, it still manages to catch us with revelations most people didn’t see coming.

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I mean, I don’t know about you, but in what seemed like the beginning of a flashback of Homura’s first appearance, I certainly didn’t expect to see this:

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What the hell happened to her?

So apart from the obvious physical and attitude differences, this Homura has a heart disease, and has been hospitalized for a long time previously.

And our flashback turns out to be a bizarro recreation of the events in episode 1. The girls in the class crowd around Homura during their break, excitedly interrogating her, but our too-cool, aloof Dark Magician Girl is now just timid and quite visibly cowed by the attention. But she’s saved when Health Rep Madoka cuts in, saying she needs to take Homura to the nurse’s office for her medicine.

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And so Madoka confidently leads Homura to the office while the latter follows meekly behind, in a reversal of the similar scene in the pilot. As they walk, Madoka introduces herself, insisting that she be called by her first name, and asks if it’s fine if she does likewise for Homura. Homura is pretty uncomfortable with this — apparently, she thinks she’s not cool enough for her name (she might have a bit of a point…). But Madoka doesn’t see it that way — with a name like that, Homura should be acting cool, to live up to it. But Homura doesn’t seem to be up for that plan just yet.

And I’m pretty sure we all when “Ah, that’s why Homura was upset when Madoka called her by her last name!” It makes sense now — at least, it would make sense if we knew what the heck is going on here in this bizarro alterate meganekko Homura universe?!

But I think a lot of us can kind of guess…

And so The Sweet Life of Akemi Homura, Pigtailed Meganekko continues. Our not-so-cool heroine nearly breaks down when she can’t solve a math problem of the board (actually, I don’t think I can blame her…do they really learn that at that age?), apparently nearly passes out during warm-up for P.E. I’m torn between “oh, the poor little woobie and “this is too creepy WHERE’S MY SUPERCOOL HAIR SWISHING MAHOU SHOUJO”…Anyway, Homura walks home and reflects upon her utter uselessness along the way. Sounds a lot like what a certain pink-haired protagonist has been spouting for the past nine episodes…Just when Homura starts getting suicidal thoughts, another voice chimes in to agree with her and…yep.

Witch.

Of course, this Homerun-chan and can’t even run away. But wait! Rescue arrives! Two mahou shoujo make their appearance, evoking two powerful but distinct responses:

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Mami-san…we’ve missed you so much T_T. And oh, wow, look…

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…it’s actually her!

Oh that’s just…wicked. Mahou Shoujo Madoka finally makes her long-anticipated appearance within the show, but it’s not what we were expecting — we’re not even really sure what’s going on here. It’s Madoka, but it’s not quite the Madoka we know. It’s not quite the universe we know. That “Finally!” we were all ready to say comes out confused and uncertain. Oh, well played, Urobuchi, well played.

Oh, Kyubey’s there too, but we don’t really want to talk about him.

Mami binds the witch and fires off some bullets, Madoka demonstrates her ability to shoot pink arrows of light, and Homura just watches in awe.

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(We’re only five minutes in (-_-“))

Later, in Mami’s apartment, the three girls have tea and cake. Oh, yeah, they talk, too. Turns out that Madoka’s only been a mahou shoujo for a week. But Mami thinks that Madoka will have gotten very good by the time Walpurgis Night comes around. Homura probably doesn’t really get it, but looks impressed anyway.

And oh, look, it’s Walpurgis Night now.

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That was quick.

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And oh, Mami’s dead again.

Madoka’s preparing to face Walpurgis alone, but Homura, apparently still a Muggle, begs her to run away. Madoka just calmly reminisces about how they managed to save Homura, something she’s still proud of. She thanks Homura for being her friend, and bids her goodbye. Homura calls vainly after her.

Next thing we know, Madoka’s dead, and Homura’s grieving over her body. Homura wishes aloud that Madoka (interesting that she calls her Kaname-san, isn’t it?) lived on. And guess who hears it?

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Kyubey asks if she would risk her soul and live a life of fighting for that wish. Which, coming from Kyubey, is incredibly forthcoming. Is he slightly less of a snake here, or is it just because the scriptwriters figured we all already knew this anyway? Well, Homura states her wish — to redo her meeting wit Madoka, with her in the role of protector instead. So Kyubey rips her soul out, and Homura’s powers materialize, sending her back in time…

Ohh…So that’s what’s going on.

And Timeline 2 begins.

Homura wakes up on a hospital bed — it’s some time before she starts at Madoka’s school But now, she has a Soul Gem in her hands…

In school, a much happier Homura introduces herself to her class, then runs up to Madoka’s seat. Apparently unable to comprehend the concept of a secret identity, Homura announces to Madoka that she’s a Mahou Shoujo too, to Madoka’s embarrassment and confusion. I wonder how they explained that one to their classmates.

Later, Homura demonstrates how she can stop time too (seems to come from a clock device mechanism thingy inside that shield she carries). Unfortunately, her physical abilities are still pretty pathetic. Still, she manages to trash a metal barrel during her time freeze, exhausting herself in the process. Mami’s impressed with Homura’s ability, but notes that she still can’t utilize it properly.

That night, or some night later, Homura’s in her apartment, building something that involves chemicals.

In the next scene, the girls are fighting a witch. I’m too lazy to look up her name right now…Witch seems to be made up entirely of arms wearing skirts, and has a thing for clotheslines, uniforms, and chairs. Homura is helpfully clinging on a clothesline in apparent terror while Mami and Madoka rush in to atatck.

But then Mami, who’s not just a sharpshooter but also and amazing weaver, builds a bridge out of ribbons and calls out to Homura. And Homerun-chan demonstrates that she can be awesome. She drops onto the bridge, stops time, runs up to the witch and tosses that thing she was building. She restarts time…

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…and it goes boom.

That fight with Charlotte makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it? ‘Fess up, how many of you called this? I think most of us were to distracted by the myriad of explosions to consider that time stoppage was Homura’s real power.

Anyway, witch dies, Mami catches the falling Homura, and Homura gets a glomp from Madoka. It’s all sweet and happy and…

…oops. Walpurgis. It’s the same scene where Homura makes her wish, but Madoka’s not dead. She looks like she’s in a lot of pain, and her Soul Gem…

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…isn’t a Soul Gem anymore.

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And Witch!Madoka? Eugh.

As witch!Madoka (identified in the Madoka Wiki as Kriemhild Gretchen) slowly forms, Homura watches in horror…and cue time transition. Homura’s back in the hospital bed.

Timeline 3.

Homura’s pretty clear on the Mahou Shoujo = eventual witch thing now, and tries to warn the other mahou shoujo — the group now includes Sayaka, somehow. Sayaka, however, isn’t buying it. She questions Kyubey’s reason for lying (Homura doesn’t seem to know that much) and accuses Homura of working with Kyoko to turn them against each other. Hey, that’s pretty harsh, Sayaka. After Madoka admonishes Sayaka, the latter goes on to declare that she’s not for working with Homura — the ‘sudden explosions’ thing makes her nervous. So Mami asks if Homura has any other weapons.

She doesn’t, but she’s going to remedy that.

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Amazing things happen in this episode, but the sight of a teenage girl stopping time to raid a what looks like yakuza cache for firearms is somehow one of the most ludicrous scenes. It’s a relatively mundane scene; Homura walks in, puts the katana and short sword aside (haha! No katana wielding schoolgirls in this anime), and packs some guns and bullets into the Hammer Space in her shield. No action, but it’s just looks so…ridiculous. But makes a lot of sense at the same time.

Next scene, and Sayaka is now the witch Oktavia. Her barrier dimension, though, looks different from what we saw in episode 9.

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Kyoko’s there, unable to accept that the witch is Sayaka, and Madoka’s dodging gigantic wagon wheels while persuading Sayaka to remember her old self. Where’s Mami? When an avalanche of wheels head for Madoka, Homura stops time, fires of a salvo of bullets, and arms a bomb. Time restarts, and it’s game over for Sayaka/Oktavia.

They all end up back in the real world — and Mami’s there too. Kyoko’s pissed and grieving. Madoka’s crying. So’s Homura…but then suddenly she finds that a bunch of familiar yellow ribbons have bound her. And then a bullet is fired —

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And just like that, Kyoko’s dead. And the culprit?

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One unhinged Mami.

They’re going to turn into witches, something Mami can’t allow to happen, so they all have to die. Mami raises her gun to shoot Homura, who yells for her stop — and then a pink arrow destroys Mami’s Soul Gem.

This is, I think, the most disturbing scene thus far. We’ve seen mahou shoujo being killed by witches, and mahou shoujo essentially dying by turning into witches. What else can kill them? Each other. Overdramatic and silly? I don’t think so. Mami was already unstable to begin with, and the conviction that she was doing good was all that was keeping her together. And then she finds out that she and her newfound friends are the danger…That her broken mind should jump to that murderous conclusion isn’t really a stretch.

Speaking of breaking minds…Our nice, sweet Madoka just mercy-killed one of her own friends. That had to have screwed her mind epically. But for Homura, it’s apparently enough that Madoka isn’t dead too. Her idea of comforting Madoka is to propose that they defeat Walpurgis Night together. Madoka’s still crying, but she nods.

Walpurgis Night. Carnage all around as usual. Homura and Madoka are down, Soul Gems almost corrupted.

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Homura asks Madoka about Grief Seeds, and Madoka shakes her head. There’s no saving them. So Homura proposes that they become monsters together, and destroy until there’s nothing left. She seems to be almost looking forward to it. But then…

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…it turns out that Madoka can be pretty sly

It’s kind of a weird time to say this, but Madoka, as a Mahou Shoujo is…one hell of a cool girl. I admit, she was being to annoy me a little with her “I’m so weak and useless” spiel and her insistence on putting herself in dangerous situations anyway. But we get to see what kind of person she becomes when she’s not wangsting about being helpless. It’s not just her power. She’s protective, smiles against her pain, is decisive enough to take Mami out when the latter goes murderously insane, and calmly deceives Homura, because she knows Homura won’t willingly take her last Grief Seed…She’s an awesome protagonist.

Too bad she had to lose her soul for us to see it.

And so Madoka cleanses Homura’s Soul Gem. Homura, as expected, is horrified, and asks, “Why me?” Madoka explains: because Homura can go back in time, and and Madoka wants her to stop her from taking up the contract. Homura, of course, will do anything for Madoka. Homura promises that no matter how many times it takes, she’ll protect Madoka.

There’s on more thing Madoka wants to ask. As the pain of her corrupting Soul Gem wracks through her, she tells Homura that she doesn’t want to become a witch. Homura cries Madoka’s name — her first name, and Madoka is touched. And the she holds up her Soul Gem. Homura understands, and transforms. She takes out a pistol, aims at Madoka’s Soul Gem, and fires.

Our writers really love the whole tragedy of mercy killing, don’t they?

And oh, Madoka…what have you doomed Homura to?

Timeline 4

Homura’s in hospital again. But she’s a very different Homura from the one we met at the beginning.

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She gets up, heals her eyes with magic, and ditches the pigtails. At night, she sneaks up to Madoka’s window, and warns her not to agree to anyone promising miracles in return for her help, with a Kyubey corpse in her hand hidden from Madoka’s sight. Interestingly, Madoka recognizes Homura before she slips away…but they shouldn’t have met yet right?

In this timeline, Homura’s determined to fight alone, against all witches, against Walpurgis Night. She raids the mlitary for weapons, and takes out a witch with a machine gun. No sign of the other mahou shoujo, but when Walpurgis Night comes around…

It’s the exact same scene that the first episode opens with: Homura fighting a losing battle, Madoka watches, Kyubey explains what’s going on, and Magia‘s resounding forbiddingly in the background. But there’s one very important difference. We can hear what Homura is screaming to Madoka. And this scene, which was merely foreboding the first time we saw it, is now a heartbreaking one.

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“Don’t listen to his words! He’s tricking you!”

It makes sense now, doesn’t it? But we never would have guessed at that time.

But Madoka doesn’t hear her, and this timeline is doomed, too. Next thing we know, Walpurgis Night is already over, ended by Mahou Shoujo Madoka with just one hit.

But she’s already on her way to witchdom. Kyubey observes that it won’t take long before Madoka destroys the planet, but it’s not like he cares — he’s just glad to exceed his energy collection quota. He does ask if Homura will fight. But she won’t — “This is not my history.” And Kyubey suddenly seems to recognize something about Homura, as she walks away into the past.

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Homura’s hunting Kyubey. She kills him, he resurrects, she keeps chasing. Her thoughts are in the narration — she’ll keep repeating it all until she finds the way out. The episode ends of on a familiar scene, establishing that this is now the timeline the past nine episodes have taken place in. Homura’s efforts fail as Madoka finds an injured Kyubey, right before Homura appears before her. In her head, Homura names Madoka, her only friend, and flinches when Madoka calls out her name. But then she steels herself, and walks towards Madoka.

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“If it’s for your sake…I don’t mind being locked in this eternal maze!”

That was a humongous post, wasn’t it? But there was just so much going on in that episode. Homura’s Time Loop situation isn’t an original concept, but I’m impressed by how well it plays out. The brutal character development that Homura goes through as a result just adds to the tragedy of it.

Five timelines — that we know of, at least. A lot of questions get answered but of course there are still so many left to ask. One thing Ithat bothers me Homura didn’t try harder to save Sayaka and Mami. Maybe she just didn’t care that much anymore.

I want to say that th episode throws everything that happened previously into a totally new perspective, but I think I could say that for nearly every episode in the series. This time around, though…the idea that all we’ve been watching is just one more timeline out of many for Homura is a particularly depressing revelation. It’s like, “And here we thought what we saw was tragic,” kind of feeling. Do you think you’d accept it if the series ended off with Homura going back in time once more? I think I could, but I’m really hoping for an ending that will give a better sense of resolution.

1 day left till the final episodes. Whatever happens, I’m pretty sure it’ll have the fandom exploding. I just hope it’s not with bitter disappointment.