Madoka Magica Episode Four: The Cat Came Back

Kyubey is a creature who maximizes on opportunity – ironically, much like the witches in this World of Puella Magi. I’m sure he knew despite witnessing Mami’s horrible death, Sayaka (and Madoka) have wishes they want fulfilled. Even if they can’t think of any on the spot, they’ll come to mind when things calm down. And in that very moment where one of these girls think, “If only…”

POOF! Kyubey appears.

I certainly wasn’t surprised that Sayaka caved and became a Mahou Shojou; I was a little surprised she became one before Madoka though, but by the end of the episode, I understood the difference in not just personality, but maturity between Sayaka and Madoka. (Not that Sayaka is more mature than Madoka or vice versa, but that their sense of maturity is fundamentally different.) First of all, Sayaka has a clear and obvious “wish” to fulfill; there is a need before her and nothing in the realm of non-magic can satisfy it. I just hope Kyosuke was worth spending her one and only unlimited wish on. The nature of their relationship hasn’t been explored to its fullest yet (like who he is, how they know each other, the nature surrounding his accident) so it’s difficult for us to say whether or not Sayaka’s choice was a wise one – plus we don’t know how it’s going to play out.

Madoka, on the other hand, spends more time mourning Tomoe Mami. The realization she makes about the life of a Mahou Shojou after visiting Mami’s apartment is profound, only further elaborated on by her conversation with Homura. Death is one dark aspect of being a Puella Magi, but that event is instantaneous. Living the life of a Puella Magi – experiencing loneliness, distancing yourself from friends, family and relatives, the limitations of building new relationships, constant deception, having the bulk of the purpose of your life dictated by someone else, physical and mental distress, the lack of sleep – is on-going and gruelling. What really resonated within me about the Life of a Puella Magi is that every Mahou Shojou who dies at the hands of a witch is classified as a “missing girl”. And not only are they “missing”, but because of the distance between Magical Girls and their relatives (and presumably friends), their disappearance is never reported immediately. (This also conveniently answers the question: Won’t someone notice that Mami is missing? She’s already expressed her lack of close friends and comrades, and in this episode, we learn she doesn’t have any close family. No one will be missing Mami.) In this way, Homura reiterates her initial warning to Madoka: If Madoka cherishes the life she has, the family she has, the friends she has, then she should not become a Magical Girl.

Another character by the name of Kyoko is introduced at the end of the episode. It seems that the city that Mami had dominated for a long time is quite the hot bed for witches. Even though the newly contracted Mahou Sayaka could take over Mami’s territory, Kyoko isn’t about to leave town without a fight. I know, I know: What about Homura? I think the reason why Homura is discounted is because she probably spends most of her time tracking Kyubey around, either trying to kill him or detract other girls from contracting with him (or both).

I’ve finally figured out what Kyubey is: Kyubey is a Mahou Shojou P-I-M-P. Not just because he gathers girls and puts them to work doing a job that puts their lives on the line, but because he sees the whole system as a business. When he was talking to Sayaka and Madoka on the school roof, he talks about Grief Seeds as payment. Mahou Shojou work – battle and defeat witches – for Grief Seeds. Forming a contract with Kyubey is committing yourself to a life-long career there is no quitting from. The wish he grants you is your one-time bonus upon entry. From then on out, you fight witches and compete with your colleagues for your livelihood. Or, according to Homura’s perspective, Mahou Shojou hunt and fight witches to pay for their wish.

I wonder how many more episodes it will take for Madoka to reach a point where she decides to be a Mahou Shojou. Seeing Hitomi with a witch hickey no doubt reminded her of the important role Mahou Shojou play, but whether or not she can see herself as the Mahou Shojou saving all those people is another story.

10 Responses to “Madoka Magica Episode Four: The Cat Came Back”

  1. 1 all-round anime lover
    30 January 2011 at 4:18 am

    One of the most succinct and lucid reviews for the episode and the series I have read so far!!

  2. 30 January 2011 at 6:10 am

    This episode made me like Sayaka alot more, she’s really interesting.

    These episodes so far are all so good. The ending was a bit depressing though. I like this series since it’s pretty different from a magical girl type anime, it’s more of uhh can’t think of a name to call it, dark magical girl? I love the dark tones in makes everything more exciting.

    • 4 blindability
      30 January 2011 at 6:53 am

      The dark undertones of this show don’t just make things exciting, they make it more realistic. More often than not, Magical Girl shows are all pink and purple fluff, leaving gaping holes in a substance-less storyline. While Madoka Magica still has a lot of questions to answer, the world and the characters are so full. Like Sayaka! I don’t think anyone expected anything from her in the first episode. She even mentions it when talking with Kyosuke, saying how people don’t expect her to know classical music pieces; she was unimposing and uninteresting, but now that her true colours are starting to shine through, she’s a treat.

  3. 30 January 2011 at 6:59 am

    A solid view on the episode. Also at least one that hasn’t already marked Sayaka for death and tragedy. Things could certainly go bad with this Kyoko girl trying to move into the scene. Not to mention we still can’t be sure what kind of guy Sayaka just made that wish for. Be surprising if he actually turned out to be a better guy than expected. It’s going to be rough for Sayaka regardless since she’s in a very dangerous spot.

    I have to agree that Kyubey really does seem to look at this as just an impersonal business. Not bothered by Mami’s death and when it seemed that the girls weren’t going to give in he just backed off. Of course I really think he has a “If only” detector that does let him lock in on girls wanting to make the wish. Until we really understand where Witches come from I’m not sure if he’s just a necessary evil or a jerk who takes advantage of those in weak positions.

    Not sure what is going to happen with Madoka. Have to think she’ll make her contract eventually, but is there going to be more losses while she is making up her mind? If she keeps walking into this stuff she’ll have to act. Of course might say Homura is right and she’s too kind to be drawn into solitude like magical girls are and forced into life or death situations.

    Anyways nice that they are trying to be different and darker, but I hope we don’t keep seeing main characters die since that’s just not positive.

    • 6 blindability
      30 January 2011 at 7:13 am

      Yeah I’d like to say I didn’t bring up Sayaka’s potential death because I wanted to be different, but it’s more like I didn’t think about it, haha. But part of me doesn’t want to think of it either because Mami’s death is still so “fresh”. I agree with you: they can’t keep killing off their mains at this pace, but Sayaka’s not likely to die anytime soon (in my opinion). Until we learn a little more about the nature of Witches, there are too many possibilities for what can happen. (I suppose we could sneak a peek at the manga, but I don’t want to spoil it for myself.)

      It would be interesting to see Madoka NEVER contract with Kyubey – until a second season is announced, haha.

  4. 30 January 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I wonder how characters with a family become isolated from said family when they become a magical girl? Obviously Mami’s family were dead, but how does Kyubey get Homura more isolated so her inevitable death isn’t questioned all that much? It’s a scary thought really, especially when you realise how ‘perfect’ Madoka’s home life is. Come to think of it, I remember someone saying at the start of the series how surprised they were that an anime protagonist actually had a family for a change! Now I see why it was so important she had a family

    • 31 January 2011 at 12:17 am

      Well I’m not sure if there is really anything too sinister behind that. I mean look at Madoka after seeing Mami’s death. Could a person secretly be fighting for their life all the time and still interact with family and friends like everything is normal? Maybe the girls just drift away naturally. But definitely the family that Madoka has is important since she has a lot to lose.

    • 9 blindability
      31 January 2011 at 6:24 am

      I think it’s much simpler than we think: It’s like any other secret an adolescent keeps from their parents and over time, draws them apart. Maybe the Puella Magi start coming home later than normal with no good reason. Maybe they’re constantly running late for dinner. Maybe their grades slip in school. And if your daughter one day told you that she was a Magical Girl, would you believe her?

      Madoka internalizing the grief of Mami’s death is the first step toward her separation from her family. Despite being as close as they are, she didn’t tell them that her friend had died. She didn’t share about Kyubey or about her contemplating about becoming a Mahou Shojou.

      Without such a strong family background, Madoka would have less to lose becoming a Majou Shojou, so it was really well set up.

  5. 1 February 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Kyubey pops up anytime wish is mentioned hahah thought that was creeepy! But great stuff.

    I am interested in the whole wish process, like I wonder if they have a FMA style of thing going on. Like did that guy really gain all he wanted? or will something bad happen to him, leaves for some fun thoughts! Mosty due to how creepy the lights were when he looks to his arm.

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