Friday, 18 February 2011

Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Episode 7

After tentatively planting Puella Magi Madoka Magica into my top three anime series of all time at its half-way point, part of me was expecting it to go and let me down as punishment for making such a bold assertion.  However, if this show is planning to do just that, there's no sign of it in this seventh instalment.

Following the big revelation surrounding the reality of the magical girls' Soul Gems last episode, Sayaka is understandably upset and insistent upon finding out why Kyubey didn't tell her (or indeed any of his charges) about this rather important part of the "small print" within their contract.  Of course, from Kyubey's point of view where a human "soul" resides is of little importance and that it's far safer for a magical girl not to have body and soul bound as a single entity... indeed, he even intriguingly hints that there's a further step that Sayaka could take to become even more resilient to pain and injury.

Just as Sayaka seems unable to overcome her feelings about this turn of events, up pops Kyoko once again - not to fight, but to recount her own history as a magical girl, weaving her own narrative of how and why she agreed with Kyubey for help against a backdrop of a religious father whose errant take on his gospel almost caused his ruin before Kyubey's intervention.  Of course, the miracle wrought by Kyubey has a sour (and in fact brutal) ending, explaining why Kyoko now exists only for herself... a concept which Sayaka still refuses to accept as she seeks to tread her own path as a magical girl.  That said, come the end of this episode Sayaka's resolve is beyond tested, as she learns of her friend Hitomi's romantic interest in Kyousuke - the final nail in her proverbial psychological coffin as she finds herself facing off against her first ever witch.

Once again, nothing goes to waste in this week's episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica; every scene and action is of some importance, all the way from Kyoko's obsession with food right through to the big stuff - the importance of the concept of a human "soul" and how it ties into the physical body, and whether this uniquely human concept is as "inconvenience" as Kyubey would see it or a cornerstone of existence and what it is to be a living, breathing person.  I would wager that the second half of this series will lean heavily on such questions in particular, and while I've hesitated to compare this series to Neon Genesis Evangelion thus far there are some obvious likenesses at this juncture both in the way this question is handled and the behaviour of Sayaka in particular.

The fact that such soul-searching (with every pun intended) questions have been slickly polished and slipped into such an entertaining, compelling, thought provoking and visually striking package frankly leaves me rather speechless. This isn't the best state of mind for an anime 'blogger to be in, but as I mentioned last week words alone simply can't do this series or its core concepts justice, and I certainly don't think I can properly put across the mixture of shock, disturbance, sadness, inner contemplation and excitement this particular episode brought me.

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