The Only Lost Cause (Can You Face Your True Feelings)

I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to fund My Little Po-Mo volume 2 here!

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Apologies for the lack of updates the last couple of days, going to a con sick turns out to be REALLY EXHAUSTING.

Look at how happy Sayaka is! Clearly everything
is gonna be just fine. Really!

Last episode, we saw how Kyubey denies the agency of the magical girls by restricting their access to information. This episode opens by continuing that thought, as Kyubey demonstrates to the audience and Sayaka how little he cares about her. As part of a demonstration of his claim that the removal of the magical girls’ souls is beneficial to them, he uses Sayaka’s Soul Gem to torture her, demonstrating that the pain of the first blow in her fight with Kyoko would have crippled her utterly if not for the buffer provided by the gem. His total lack of interest in her agony as anything but a teaching tool, however, belies any claim by Kyubey to have the benefit of the magical girls in mind.

The repeated use of the word “zombie” to describe the magical girls (which is original to the Japanese text–Sayaka can be distinctly heard using it several times in the episode) is telling here. The entire point of a zombie is that it is shaped like a person, but actually a thing. In philosophy, a “zombie” is a creature that acts like a human but has no internal experience or life–for example, poking a zombie will cause it to say “ow,” but it has no internal sense of pain. More familiarly, the zombies of movie fame are walking corpses, who can be fought and killed while technically being already dead. This allows the audience the visceral thrill of imagining fighting and killing other people, without having to worry about the morality of actually causing a human being to die. In other words, both the philosophical zombie and the movie zombie are extreme cases of objectification, in which a person’s agency is stripped away leaving only a thing which can be used and abused with impunity.

Objectification is rampant throughout the episode. Paralleled to Kyubey, who assumes he knows what is best for Sayaka and causes her intense suffering as a consequence, is Kyoko. Throughout Kyoko’s story of how she became a magical girl, her family and the people around them are represented by dolls, puppets, and toys–like zombies, human-shaped objects that possess no agency. Kyoko made a wish that she believed was what her father wanted, but since she did not consult him, she got it wrong, and as a consequence brought pain not only to her father but to her entire family and ultimately herself. By failing to communicate openly with her father, and simply assuming she knew what was best for him, she treated him as the object of her observations, rather than as a subject capable of expressing his own needs and wishes.

However, Kyoko has learned entirely the wrong lessons from this experience. Rather than talking to Sayaka and trying to understand her, she assumes that she and Sayaka are the same, and that Sayaka’s problem is that she wished for Kyousuke without understanding what Kyousuke wanted. Kyoko has come to reject empathy and human connection entirely, fixating on purely physical needs (namely, food) as a source of comfort while rejecting all human companionship and norms. This is unacceptable to Sayaka, because Sayaka’s problem is ultimately not that she objectifies others.

Sayaka spoke with Kyousuke frequently while he was hospitalized, and he expressed quite clearly that he wanted his arm to heal, and that its inability to heal was a source of despair to him. Sayaka did not assume that she knew what Kyousuke wanted; she found that out directly from him. Rather, Sayaka’s error was (as Mami hinted back in Episode 2) not understanding what she wanted–she wanted a healed and happy Kyousuke, yes, but specifically so that she could be with him. Sayaka’s error, in other words, is that she is excessively self-sacrificing, in effect objectifying herself.

Kyousuke’s self-centered disinterest in Sayaka doesn’t help her mental state at all, of course. He never thinks to question why she visited him so frequently in the hospital; he simply accepts this as normal and thus does not stop to consider whether Sayaka might appreciate being told when he leaves the hospital or that he is returning to school. He displays no interest in her inner life or motivations, and as such does not think to consider her feelings; he treats her as a background character in his life, rather than the main character of her own life–much as he himself is a background character in the show.

The cure for all the objectification going on in this episode, of course, is for characters to treat one another as agents possessed of unique, subjective experiences. Key to this is open communication, which unfortunately is in short supply throughout the episode. Characters mostly talk at each other, missing entirely the effects their words are having; the only real exception is the conversation between Madoka and Sayaka in which the latter breaks down, sobbing that she cannot approach Kyousuke romantically because of her altered physical state.

The trigger for that conversation is a demonstration of how difficult it can be to understand and appreciate others’ subjectivity. Hitomi does everything right when she approaches Sayaka; nothing requires Hitomi to delay approaching Kyousuke or give Sayaka the first chance, but Hitomi does so anyway because she knows how Sayaka feels and doesn’t want to hurt her. Unfortunately, because she doesn’t know about everything else Sayaka is going through–and Sayaka understandably chooses not to tell her–she has no idea that by giving Sayaka this ultimatum she is triggering all of Sayaka’s newly acquired body image issues. Hitomi has no way of knowing how she is hurting Sayaka, and likewise has no idea why Sayaka doesn’t make her feelings known to Kyousuke; Hitomi thus has no reason to believe that Sayaka has any objections to or issues with Hitomi and Kyousuke dating.

Interestingly, however, it is not the loss of her love interest that most hurts Sayaka, but rather the brief moment during this conversation in which she regrets saving Hitomi from the witch in Episode 4. Sayaka is holding herself to a ridiculously high standard here, and thus failing to recognize that brief ugly impulses are a part of the human condition, an element of the internal life that does not necessarily translate into outward behavior. Instead, Sayaka takes this momentary viciousness as proof that she has truly become subhuman, that she is a “zombie” rather than a person with an unusual physical configuration.

Ultimately, this tendency of Sayaka to objectify herself culminates in deliberately numbing herself so that she can fight the witch with no sense of pain. Her sense of self-worth has plummeted to the point that she no longer cares about self-preservation and is no longer willing to accept help. It is only a matter of time, in her eyes, before she inevitably loses Kyousuke, and she feels that this is only right because she sees herself as having become a thing. At this point, despair and deep depression are all Sayaka sees in her future, and fighting witches the only purpose she has left.

The stage is now set for the culmination of the middle arc of Madoka. The first arc ended with the show escaping from the constraints of the magical girl genre. This second arc will end with the genre’s death.

Next week: Five faces of depression.

0 thoughts on “The Only Lost Cause (Can You Face Your True Feelings)

  1. “Key to this is open communication, which unfortunately is in short supply throughout the episode. Characters mostly talk at each other…”

    Really, you could say “franchise” instead of “episode” here. I'm not sure how much of it is deliberate and how much is just a side-effect of PMMM's love of wham moments, but characters almost never solicit feedback on their big decisions/plans before enacting them. Sometimes they can't because of time or other constraints, but there are plenty of cases where it seems like a character could have taken a moment to ask, “What do you think of X?” but they don't.

    PMMM seems to allow for passive listeners and active deciders, but actual collaborative/cooperative decision making… not so much.

  2. Hmm… what are the major decisions characters make in this series? Madoka and Sayaka talk extensively with Mami while deciding whether to become magical girls. Sayaka then chooses to ignore Mami's advice, but that's different from not seeking/receiving advice. Madoka-Homura and Kyoko-Homura consult readily, though Kyoko generally doesn't listen to the advice she receives (and Homura occasionally doesn't either). Kyoko consults with her only ally at the time, Kyubey, before attacking Sayaka, and he is clearly egging her on to do it.

    Then this episode and the next happen–and note we get a scene of Kyoko and Homura planning together in the next ep.

    After that, we get Kyoko's plan for saving Sayaka, regarding which she talks to Madoka (and Homura? I can't remember, I haven't rewatched that one in a little while). Then episode 10 shows us the past timelines, in the first of which Homura, Mami, and Madoka worked together. In all the timelines after that, Homura's attempts to share her knowledge backfired disastrously, which is why she gave up doing so.

    Then in the final two episodes Homura and Madoka are separate and have no one to consult with about their decisions.

    So I'm really not seeing where you're drawing this conclusion that the characters habitually avoid communicating with each other. It really seems more that the running theme is that communicating is hard and frequently impossible.

  3. First I want to clarify something that I intended to be clear (but I guess I did a poor job) which is what I meant by “decisions/plans.” I'm not talking about the opportunity to make a decision; I'm talking about a specific choice or plan. I'm talking about something actionable–something that other characters could potentially make detailed suggestions about, debate costs & benefits, etc.

    There is a lot of discussion in the series about the opportunity presented by Kyubey's offer: how amazing and difficult it is, how others out there may have more need of it, vague ideas about how in general it might be used, etc. That's fine, and there's a place for that too, but that's not what I'm talking about. Actually, episode 3 gives a nice example of the distinction:

    Sayaka: “Like hypothetically… Hypothetically, all right? Say there was someone who was worse off than me. Could I use my wish for them…?”
    Madoka: “You mean… Kamijou-kun?”
    Sayaka: “D-Didn't I say hypothetically?! Gosh!”

    Basically, Sayaka tries to ask about her options in the vaguest possible terms, then Madoka tries to address the specific wish that she suspects Sayaka is considering, but Sayaka deliberately shuts that down. She is not willing to discuss her actual decision/plan.

    With the exception of Homura & Kyouko planning for Walpurgisnacht (and Mami's “wish for cake” suggestion if you take that seriously) the examples you give don't fit what I'm taking about. They are not examples of collaborative planning. They are not examples of cooperating to improve and refine a specific choice or plan of action.

    Now, it has been a while since I last watched the series and I feel like there's more than what I'm remembering right now, but here are some more examples off the top of my head:

    – Episode 3 –
    Mami jumps to the conclusion that Homura's motive is fear of Madoka's potential, and is apparently satisfied that this explains everything. Thus she issues a fight-on-sight ultimatum. She makes no attempt to, e.g., ask Madoka what Homura discussed with her, or what her opinion on any of this is. Her lack of curiosity in this regard is believable but foolish.

    Later in the episode, Mami ignores Homura's warning and ties her up. Madoka pretty obviously has misgivings about this, but that too is ignored. No compromises or alternatives are discussed.

    – Episode 4 –
    Sayaka makes her wish for Kamijou without any attempt to discuss it with Madoka or even just bounce ideas around about the specific form the wish should take. Instead, they discuss Sayaka's choice and their feelings about it in episode 5, long after the deed is done. Yes, it did turn out that Sayaka was under time pressure because of H.N. Elly, but she didn't know that at the time.

    – Episodes 6 though 8 –
    In the first half of episode 6, Madoka learns that Sayaka has some big misunderstandings about Mami and why/how Mami died. Sayaka totally ignores Madoka's (admittedly feeble) attempt to correct this. More importantly, Madoka never makes another attempt to correct her, even though she wants the magical girls to get along and understands that Sayaka opposing the others and venerating Mami is leading nowhere good. Sayaka continues to make bad choices, based at least partially on her false ideas about Mami and the others.

    – Episode 8 –
    Kyubey informs Kyouko & Homura that Sayaka has nearly reached her limit. The girls separate to search for Sayaka, but evidently never bothered to discuss how to handle things once they find her. They end up working against each other, Sayaka gets away, and then Kyouko is not prepared with a grief seed when she finally does catch up with Sayaka.

  4. (cont'd)

    – Episode 9 –
    After escaping Oktavia's labyrinth, Kyouko & Homura don't discuss what to do about this. After meeting up with Madoka, they just go their separate ways, without deciding anything about how they will handle the situation.

    Despite waiting for a chance to intercept Madoka on the way to school, Kyouko does not take time to inform Homura of her intent to try to save Sayaka or ask for her help. Later, Madoka specifically suggests getting Homura's help, but Kyouko (wrongly) believes that Homura wouldn't be willing so there's no point in asking.

    – Episode 12 –
    It seems like there is at least a little time when Madoka could have discussed her wish with Homura before making it. Even if it was just a last-minute, “Hey do you see any obvious flaws with this wish that I could address?” kind of thing, that could have at least allowed a chance for some meaningful feedback.

    The way Madoka describes things to Sayaka, it sounds like Madoka was able to choose between a “healed Kamijou & dead Sayaka” universe or an “injured Kamijou & living Sayaka” universe. Madoka makes the choice on her own, and Sayaka just has to accept it. It seems like Madoka was correct in judging that is what Sayaka would have wanted, but the point is she didn't actually give Sayaka a chance to weigh in on the decision before it was made.

    Similarly, Homura got no say in her position in the new universe. She's just there with her memories of the old universe, disconnected from the only thing she really cared about, and left to fight in (what she sees as) the futile defense of an irredeemable world — because that's what Madoka would have wanted. Surprise, surprise, this one doesn't work out so well.

    – Rebellion –
    I feel like this should probably be saved for a later post, so I'll be brief. There's AI YO, obviously, plus the entire handling of Madoka's rescue plan by Sayaka & Nagisa (and to a lesser extent, Madoka herself). It's a month of relaxation followed by one night of total chaos, mostly because nobody bothered to tell Homura any of the relevant information.

  5. Regarding your comments on Rebellion, I just want to say that at one point Sayaka tries to explain everything to Homura but she isn't interested in listening. Also, when Sayaka asks Homura “what will you do when you find the witch?” and Homura says she'll destroy it…well, you can tell why Sayaka doesn't just reveal the witch's identity to Homura.

  6. Well, first off, I disagree with you about the conversation where Sayaka and Mami talk about wishes. It's *really obvious* that Sayaka is talking about Kamijou, and Mami gives *exactly* the correct advice, so I'm not sure it matters that Sayaka was being vague. So by the time she makes her wish in Episode 4, Sayaka HAS discussed it with Madoka and Mami and is choosing to ignore their advice. That's not poor communication, though, that's stubbornness.

    Episodes 6 though 8: Yep, that's the poor communication I'm talking about.

    Episode 9: Homura has already seen on prior timelines what happens if she helps with the Oktavia situation. The narrative makes it quite clear that her talking with them about it would not help, so I'm not willing to say that poor communication is a contributor to the problem here. And Kyoko and Madoka *do* discuss it.

    Episode 12: Homura is on the verge of becoming a witch and Walpurgisnacht is destroying the city, so when exactly is this discussion going to happen?

  7. in case you didn't notice, there is absolutely no urgency in the scene in episode 12, so much so that the movies felt appropriate for madoka to whipe away homura's blood tenderly. in addition, madoka did not have to go and find homura, if the situation was that urgent, she could have transformed/made her wish anywhere. she didn't. she sought homura out, so when is this talk going to happen? how about right now, seeing as Madoka went through all the trouble of finding her and Walpurgisnacht was nice enough to oblige. at most we're talking like an added minute of discussion too. unless we're really supposed to believe that for over a minute walpurgasnacht is unable to attack them despite desiring to.

    In the end I have to agree strongly with the other anons assessment.

  8. @Anonymous February 27, 2014 at 4:09 PM
    Sayaka doesn't try to explain everything in that scene. She is deliberately cryptic. Personally, it felt like she was just enjoying knowing more about the situation than Homura for once. She does make some vague hints about what she knows, but she doesn't get anywhere near the important stuff. In particular, she does not give any indication that there is a plan, or that Madokami is just fine. From Homura's perspective, the apparent return of witches would not bode well for the Law of Cycles.

    However, even if Sayaka had tried then–even if, in that scene, she did everything she could–that is too little, much too late. She (and Nagisa) still let things stew for a month, and didn't act until after Homura and Mami's big duel. People in general are less willing to listen calmly in a dire situation, and Homura & Sayaka have trouble understanding each other even under normal circumstances. That Homura would not be particularly interested in discussing things with Sayaka at that point is the expected result. I really don't see a good excuse for failing to take that into account.

  9. @Froborr
    Episode 4:
    It seems like you're still not clear on what I'm saying. Even if Sayaka had said, “What if I use my wish for Kyousuke?” in that conversation, that's still not an actionable plan. She can't go to Kyubey with “I wish to use my wish to help Kyousuke,” (or if she can, that would be very ill-advised). Even if she is determined to use her wish to help Kyousuke, she still has to decide on the specific wish itself. Mami's warning could potentially have been the beginning of such a conversation, but it's not. It's effectively the end of the conversation.

    Compare that to something like:
    S: “I think I'll wish to heal Kyousuke's arm.”
    M: “Why just his arm? Why not heal everything?”
    S: “Oh, good point…”
    M: “And if he's just suddenly healed, you're unlikely to get any credit. What if you wished for the power to heal him yourself?”
    S: “I don't know… That seems kind of selfish…”
    M: “Well, if you wished for the power to heal people, you could use it to help other people too, not just Kyousuke. You'd be doing a lot more good in the long run.”
    … and so on.

    Episode 9:
    PMMM makes it clear that saving Sayaka once she contracts is impossible. The rest of it is not so clear. Homura could still try to mitigate the damage. Mami is already dead, so she's not an issue. Letting Madoka walk into danger like that is directly against Homura's goals. Losing Kyouko is a major blow to Homura's Walpurgisnacht plans.

    The main problem with all justifications along the lines of “Homura has already seen X so why bother trying?” is that it applies to the whole situation. She's seen Madoka die or become a witch every single timeline. By that logic, she should just give up and despair right now. Why bother trying to change anything at all? Because she does NOT accept that it's futile. She's still “searching for the one way out,” trying to “find the one path that will save [Madoka] from [her] fate of boundless despair…” Saying something like “if you decide to go after that witch, get me so I can help you” costs her nothing. Sure, it may not work, it may be ignored, but why not try? Kyouko specifically gave her belief that Homura would be unwilling to help as her reason for not asking. That's a fixable misconception.

    Episode 12:
    The urgency you imply simply isn't there. Yes, there are issues that need to be dealt with relatively soon, but there is time to talk. The darkening of Homura's soul gem has paused with Madoka's arrival. Walpurgisnacht is just kind of floating there. Madoka's slow movements and calm bearing don't fit at all with your claim that she needs to make the wish right this instant.

    Beyond all that: they DO talk–at a rather relaxed pace, in fact–just not about what Madoka's actual wish will be. From the time Madoka grabs Homura's hand until Madoka starts making her wish is over 2 minutes (which is longer than it sounds. Seriously, try to sit still and do nothing for 2 full minutes.) And when she does start wishing, there was nothing happening at that moment to indicate Madoka could not delay further. That's just when the conversation ended.

  10. @AnonymousFebruary 27, 2014 at 11:04 PM
    Actually, it's clear that Sayaka was trying to help Homura find the truth – she even tells Homura to just stop and think for a second and she'll figure it out – but rather than do the logical thing and listen to Sayaka, Homura tries to stop time. If Homura had actually stopped to listen to Sayaka then she probably would have found the truth earlier.

    Second, it's not clear if a month has actually passed in Homura's barrier (It's a barrier, time is undoubtedly wonky there). That being said, I think that if Sayaka just went up to glasses-Homura and said “Homura, you're a witch, but don't worry, we're going to get you out”, Homura either wouldn't believe her…or she would believe her and react in a way that makes the situation worse. The reason Sayaka just doesn't straight up tell Homura she's the witch is because she worried Homura will try and kill herself if she finds out.

  11. @universalperson
    I can't wait until the Rebellion BDs come out in April. It's hard to remember everything from December. I apologize if I'm misremembering things, but my memory is mostly what I have to work with.

    You seem to be focusing on the fact that Homura is the witch, but that's not actually a necessary piece of information for Homura to have. What was Madokami's original plan? Didn't they just need to break the barrier to expose & attack the Incubators' isolation field from within? That's what they end up doing in the big battle; they attack the barrier itself. Nagisa hits it with bubbles, Oktavia stabs it with a giant spear from Kyouko, Madoka shoots it, etc. After enough hits, the barrier shatters revealing the Incubators' apparatus beyond. What part of attacking the barrier requires Homura to know that she, personally, is the witch? What they needed to tell her is something like: “We're in a trap. The Law of Cycles is safe. We have a plan to escape, so here's what to do…”

    ~ “If Homura had actually stopped to listen to Sayaka then she probably would have found the truth earlier”
    I'm not disputing that Sayaka was dropping hints that Homura is the witch. That's not the information that needed to be shared first. I don't think it needed to be shared at all, though I suppose that is debatable. Either way, “you're the witch” is not the right way to start that discussion. That aside, listening to Sayaka then would have accelerated Homura realizing she's the witch by, what, a few hours at most? What difference does that make? How would that be a significantly better situation?

    ~ “Homura either wouldn't believe her…”
    in which case nothing valuable has been lost…

    ~ “or she would believe her and react in a way that makes the situation worse.”
    Worse than what does happen? That would be quite a feat.

    ~ “she worried Homura will try and kill herself if she finds out.”
    Except that in the current circumstances, Homura wouldn't know how to kill herself. At most she'd shoot her soul gem, which wouldn't achieve anything beyond confirming that she's the witch. Indeed, it's highly questionable if she even can die for real in the dreamworld. The text from the official Witches Artwork booklet they gave out says, “Without any other purpose, this witch's last wish is her own execution. However, a mere decapitation will not clear away the witch's sins. This foolish witch will forever remain in this realm, repeating the procession to her execution.” That makes it sound like even after turning into Homulilly, she still can't succeed in really killing herself. Probably, as long as her real soul gem in the real world survives, she survives. In any case, Mami could just restrain her with ribbons if it came down to that.

  12. It really sounds like your issue is less that the characters don't communicate, and more that they don't plan or think through the consequences of their actions. Consider that example conversation you give for episode 4. It assumes that Sayaka doesn't immediately make the wish when Kyubey appears to her, but instead takes the time to seek out Madoka, state precisely what wish she's planning to make, and then Madoka think it through and come up with alternative wishes. Does that sound like something Sayaka would do–that having made the decision to wish, she would pause before doing it? Does that kind of tactical thinking through of the consequences sound like Madoka?

    Don't forget, we're talking about children in a highly emotionally charged situation. It's just not realistic to expect them to sit and think about options when their love interest is giving in to despair (which if you think about it, is what's happening in all three cases of Sayaka, Kyoko, and Madoka).

  13. @Froborr
    Sorry for the confusion. The M is supposed to be Mami. That's continuing the conversation thread about the discussion of Sayaka's potential wish early in episode 3.

    I said: “Madoka tries to address the specific wish that she suspects Sayaka is considering, but Sayaka deliberately shuts that down. She is not willing to discuss her actual decision/plan.”

    You replied: “It's *really obvious* that Sayaka is talking about Kamijou, and Mami gives *exactly* the correct advice, so I'm not sure it matters that Sayaka was being vague.”

    My response was: “Mami's warning could potentially have been the beginning of such a conversation, but it's not. It's effectively the end of the conversation. Compare that to something like: [example]”

    The example may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that's really not important. I'm trying to get you to see the difference between a vague warning and targeted feedback. Whether or not the character would/could actually be that savvy isn't a big deal; the degree of shrewdness can be adjusted easily. What matters is the value of specific feedback on a specific idea.

    It seems like we're getting hung up on Sayaka's wish, but my point isn't about any particular case in isolation. It's about the pattern. There is a pretty consistent pattern of “better communication really would have helped here.” In Sayaka's case, more tactical consideration would have helped, but what about Kyouko? Given her circumstances, her priorities, and the information available to her, would thinking more tactically really have changed things? I don't think it would. Her conclusion about Homura probably seems clear and obvious to her based on what she knows. She did formulate a more-or-less reasonable plan, thinking that Madoka is the person with the best chance of reaching Sayaka if such a thing is possible. Yes, Kyubey kind of tricks her, but given her “I wouldn't need your advice anyway. As if I'd ever accept help from you…” I don't think it is so much a case of her being fooled as she feels she needs to try, no matter how unlikely success is. So the “tactical planning” pattern doesn't fit, but “better communication” does.

    Which brings me to the broader point. Communicating and thinking things through properly are deeply linked. If humans were perfectly logical, objective beings then there would be little value in discussing anything except to share observational data, because everyone would reach exactly the same conclusions given the same input. We're not. We are emotional creatures whose thoughts are misguided by a host of cognitive biases and cultural conditioning that we can never truly escape. Training and a commitment to intellectual disciple & honesty can help, but only to a point. That is WHY getting feedback from others is so important. We can't trust our own judgment, especially when strong feelings are involved.

    If I was going after not thinking things though, I would spend a lot of time on Kyubey and how the girls almost never pursue or follow up on any of the vague or misleading things he says. I deliberately left Kyubey out of my examples because I am trying to focus only on cases where the girls could have done better simply by talking more with each other.

    This isn't about blaming the characters. I never said it was unrealistic for them to act as they do. My claim is that there is a pretty consistent pattern of cases where better communication would probably have helped. That the characters have believable reasons for not having these important discussions doesn't somehow make it wise. Having flaws is part of being a believable character, but that doesn't make the flaws not flaws.

  14. AnonymousFebruary 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    It's implied that they COULDN'T break through Homura's barrier until she became a witch; otherwise they would do so beforehand.This interpretation is supported when Homura transforms; there's an image of Kyubey's forcefield smoking, implying that it's being weakened.

    Sayaka and Nagisa don't tell Homura they're from the Law of Cycles for the same reason Homura didn't tell anyone she's a time traveler; it's a completely unbelievable thing, and they don't really have any proof – even summoning witches can be explained as illusions created by the barrier.

  15. @universalperson
    I don't recall any such implication. The isolation field is created by the Incubators' technology outside of Homura's soul gem. The labyrinth/barrier is created by Homura's magic inside her soul gem. I don't remember anything stating or showing that the barrier was being strengthened or reinforced by the Incubators. The Incubators' system was straining to keep up with Homura's despair overload, to prevent her from “hatching” out of her soul gem. Sayaka's comments during the big battle did not sound at all to me like Homulilly was part of the plan.

    In the third timeline for sure (and possibly in some others) Madoka DID believe that Homura was a time traveler. Homura had better reasons for keeping that a secret than people doubting her claim. Kyubey believing it, for instance. Speaking of Kyubey, in the battle he believed Sayaka quite readily even though she could plausibly have been lying or a trick of some kind. In a vacuum, it's a preposterous claim. In the context they are experiencing, it makes a lot of sense.

    “Illusions created by the barrier” doesn't actually explain anything. The barrier itself shouldn't be able to exist in the first place. That mystery at least is inescapable. Something is up, and one way or another it must involve the Law of Cycles.

    I have to reiterate a point from my earlier reply that you seem to have ignored: the reasons you offer for not telling Moemura don't stand up to scrutiny. If she doesn't believe them, then their behavior is just one more oddity among many in the dreamworld. At worst it would accelerate the suspicions she ended up having about them anyway. Later on, when she starts to realize on her own that she is the witch, at least there's a chance she would think that if they were right about that, then maybe their other claims also have some merit. If she does believe them, it's the same as what has to happen eventually anyway, except they'd be dealing with a more manageable version of Homura having the meltdown. Because, if your interpretation is right, the meltdown needs to happen. You're saying that her witching out is part of the plan. So then what is this “worse” that they're afraid of?

    I don't think Homulilly was part of the original plan, but I'm willing to temporarily assume for the sake of argument that it was. If you're interested, then I want you to explain, as clearly as you can, what you think Madokami's original plan was, and how you think events were intended to unfold in the dreamworld. That way we can at least have some foundation for discussing their choices in the context of that plan.

  16. AnonymousMarch 2, 2014 at 4:02 AM

    The thing is, they were clearly waiting for SOMETHING in order to break Homura out of her barrier. If they could break her out right away they would have done so. The fact that they broke her out of the barrier when she became a witch implies that they only could break her out of the barrier when she became a witch. I suppose it's possible they were trying to wait for the Incubators to give up and turn off the Isolation Field. Certainly that would be the solution least damaging to Homura or Madoka.

    Ultimately, Madoka's objective was to save Homura. The problem is Kyubey, who knows Madoka is the Law of Cycles. If Kyubey witnesses Madoka purify Homura's Soul Gem bad things happen. So Madoka entrusts her powers and memories, or something like that, to Sayaka and Nagisa. It's implied that both of them volunteered for the job. Furthermore, both of them had the purpose of fooling Kyubey. Kyubey knew that both Sayaka and Nagisa were taken by the Law of Cycles, but he was shocked to find that they were part of the Law of Cycles themselves. Clearly he didn't think Sayaka and Nagisa (or more precisely, Bebe) were real. That's why Nagisa disguises herself in Homura's barrier – if Kyubey saw Nagisa, he'd wonder what a girl who Homura had never met was doing in her barrier. This clearly limits Sayaka and Nagisa in many ways, since they have to work without Kyubey watching or getting suspicious.

    Furthermore, at one point, Kyubey tells Homura that she could restore Madoka's memories. Kyubey is an unreliable expositor here, since he believes that Homura's barrier altered Madoka's enemies when the truth was more complicated. However, since Homura's barrier seems to respond to her thoughts, it makes sense that she could still restore Madoka's memories and powers – which would be an extremely bad thing given the circumstances. Telling Homura the whole truth is basically playing with fire. Even if she believes it – and they only proof they have is that they'll still exist when Homura becomes a witch (which is why Kyubey realizes that they're not illusions) – she could still trigger Madoka.

  17. @universalperson
    I agree that they must have some reason(s) for staying in a holding pattern, but since they don't comment on them, it's hard to make a strong case for what those reasons are. Given what we know, I… actually let me address the other bit first.

    Your concern with Madoka's memories and powers seems pretty shaky. It's not clear that Homura could restore them, but let's suppose she could. You said, “if Kyubey witnesses Madoka purify Homura's Soul Gem bad things happen,” which I agree with — that is part of the premise for why they are handling things this way. The issue I have is that, if Homura did restore Madoka's memories and powers, then Madoka just has to voluntarily not use her purification power. I can totally see how Madoka might not trust herself to keep up the act (or resist saving her friend) over a long duration, but in this hypothetical scenario, they would have already explained things to Homura so the time of their escape should be quite close. Madoka just has to refrain from purifying Homura until they escape, which she should know since (with her memories restored) she would remember why she planned it that way to begin with.

    To me, that line of thought actually adds some credibility to the idea that waiting out the Incubators was part of the original plan. If their time in the dreamworld was originally intended to be short, then Madoka hiding her memories seems unnecessary. She should be able to pretend for a little while, right? So they probably went in expecting (or at least prepared for) a long haul. However, they would also know that if waiting fails, then they will need to fight their way out. Now, I acknowledge that I can't disprove your “Homulilly weakens the barrier” interpretation, but I think there is a more elegant alternative that has a stronger foundation in things we do know. The Incubators' apparatus is outside Homura's soul gem in the real world. The girls are inside Homura's labyrinth, inside her soul gem. Attacking out of a soul gem is something we have seen before (e.g., Mami's ribbons in episode 3; Kyouko's spear in episode 8). I think that part is what they need Homura's cooperation for: to attack out of her soul gem and hit the Incubators in the real world. This is also consistent with how things play out in the film. They don't attack the barrier immediately when Homulilly appears; they wait until she's nearby so Madoka can get to her soon. After the barrier breaks, they don't try to attack the Incubators' apparatus. They wait for that big MadoHomu combination attack. This interpretation also has the benefit that it would mean Madokami did not make a plan in which Homulilly was required, and then completely fail to anticipate that such a thing might have consequences.

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