steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

The Mahou Shoujo Must Go On 5 (Genre part 4: "Dickensian" redemption story)

When I said that PMMM was an example of four genres, and maybe five, this one - centred around Kyoko - was the maybe. Perhaps it’s a story type rather than a genre – I don’t know. It still needs to be mentioned, though. Kyoko deserves no less.

Kyoko’s is a human-scale redemption story. In that capacity it bears an obvious analogy to the cosmic redemption of Madoka herself (which I have yet to discuss), but a more useful parallel may be with something like Silas Marner or A Christmas Carol. These are stories of people who started out open to life’s possibilities, but who for one reason or another – either some traumatic shock or betrayal, or gradual disillusionment – drew down the shutters against the world, till loneliness or depression or even cruelty became, it seemed to them and others, a settled part of their characters:

a style
Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,
Suddenly they harden into all we’ve got
And how we got it

Then, something happens – something that wakens the part of them that had seemed dead. Perhaps, like Scrooge, they are shown their own former self and forced to compare it their present façade of cynicism, especially as seen through the eyes of others. And, in seeing that, they are reborn.

Does this kind of story have a general name? I don’t know, and I don’t mind, really. In making the comparison I don’t mean that Madoka is retelling Dickens or that Scrooge is really much like Kyoko, but I do find his situation a useful analogue for hers. When Kyoko’s wish for her father ends in his madness and the murder of her family, she survives only by giving up on the part of herself that had made the wish – the Kyoko who believed witches were worth fighting and her father’s ideas worth fighting for. In the new, harder, smaller world she inhabits when we meet her she views everything in purely selfish and utilitarian terms: ideals are an illusion, all that matters is survival and maintaining one’s place in the “food chain” (compare Scrooge’s jibe about decreasing the “surplus population”). Naturally, anyone who reminds Kyoko of her own former perspective is going to be treated with hostility. But it’s only such a person who can – like Scrooge’s visions or Silas’s Eppie – offer hope of salvation.

Sayaka fulfils that role. As someone who espouses the “naïve” version of MG-hood that had led Kyoko to disaster she naturally arouses her antipathy – but in her doomed and tenacious heroism she also rekindles that part of Kyoko, and for Kyoko saving Sayaka becomes a way of saving herself. Kyoko’s and Sayaka’s arcs (but here we are straying into structure) follow opposite trajectories, as is typical of the show’s interest in balance: as Sayaka falls further into despair and nihilism, Kyoko holds ever more tightly to her rediscovered generosity and idealism. As she tells Madoka, she became an MG because as a child she loved stories in which love and justice triumph over all, and it was Sayaka who recalled that destiny to her, and her to it. The two begin and end in fighting, as Kyoko notes, and Kyoko ensures that in death they are not divided. While Kyoko’s is not a happy ending like that of Scrooge or Silas (this is Madoka after all) she leaves on her own terms: “Hey, God. If you're there, my life sucked. So for once, please, let me have a happy dream.”

That wish, too, is granted.
Tags: madoka, nippon notes
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