As I try to find the time to marathon Puella Magi Madoka Magica in an attempt to avoid any more spoilers, I had to stop to write about episode seven, in which allusions to and mentions of Christianity are far stronger than in any other episode to this point of the series. Though a few bloggers briefly mentioned the issue, I didn’t read anything in-depth (please let me know if I missed someone’s analysis), so I thought I’d have something to add.
Early in the episode, Sayaka and Kyoko, whose personality and background get far more fleshed out in this episode, discuss the idea of the pact that the girls agree to. They exchange their souls for a miracle. What’s interesting is that this is very much like Christianity, but in a warped way. While Sayaka is pained by and later begins to regret her decision, feeling she’s given up her soul for a miracle (and a relatively trivial one at that), Christianity emphasizes that we give our lives to Jesus when we receive the miracle of eternal salvation. The ideas are similar, though the feelings associated with the transfers are drastically different.
Now, for the meat of the symbolism. Kyoko leads Sayaka to a church and begins the temptation. A church is typically used as a moody setting for a scene (episode 5 of Cowboy Bebop comes to mind), but as should be expected of this high quality show, it becomes much more than that. It also emphasizes the fact that spiritual issues are also at hand.
Also the Apple is becoming synonymous to Kyoko in the way that she is like Eve, who took the Apple from the tree and thus doomed mankind to sin, or in her case, her greed for a miracle from Kyubey doomed herself and her entire family.
The Eve comparison is a good one. Kyoko is fiery and dangerous, fitting with the image of Eve that’s developed over thousands of years. And Sayaka stands ready to accept the apple, which is the fruit that typically represents the one given to Eve. Her acceptance will lead her into sin.
But I think there are roles that are even more befitting of Kyoko and Sayaka. Instead of Kyoko, it is Sayaka that fits better into the image of Eve, while Kyoko is more like Satan. Remember, Eve gives the apple to Adam, but she is initially convinced by the serpent to take it. Kyoko tempts Sayaka with both the physical apple and the spiritual one – as Satan convinced Eve that eating of the fruit would open her eyes, Kyoko tries to open Sayaka’s eyes to her ideas about Puella Magi looking out only for themselves and not for others. And as Satan’s ideas were irresistible, Kyoko’s make sense as well – helping others has led to her ruin and seemingly to Sayaka’s. Why not look out for number one?
Note in Kyoko’s backstory, she starts out as a innocent child – wasn’t Satan once an angel? He, too, was God’s creation before going wrong. Throw in some apparently “wrong teachings” (she says they were common sense…but we don’t know if that was true or the optimistic view of a daddy’s girl), and a transformation from angel to demon begins.
Sayaka’s answer to Kyoko, of course, doesn’t fit into any mold relating to the Garden of Eden. It does, however, fit well with another demonic temptation – that of Lucifer and Jesus in the wilderness. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He went on a 40-day fast in the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan. Jesus was able to resist. Sayaka, too, passes her test, deciding (at least at that moment) to fight for others.
Kyoko’s response is unsurprising – she is angry, especially when another Biblical scene occurs. Sayaka asks Kyoko where she got the apples, and receives no answer. In turn, Sayaka basically says that she will do what she will, as a non-response to the non-answer. This is reminiscent of Jesus refusing to answer the Pharisees’ question when they refused to comment on John’s baptisms (Matthew 21:23-27).
We’re also left to wonder about the apples – were they possibly stolen or taken by force? As Puella Magi don’t make money and Kyoko has no family, it’s possible that the apples were taken by underhanded means. Thus, even in her presentation of the the right way to live life, Kyoko’s foundation is marred by sin – very much like the temptations by Satan in the wilderness.
The rest of the episode marches on like a bizarre retelling of the gospel. Sayaka is betrayed by her friends (Hitomi could represent Judas or Peter); she marches on toward death, in spite of the pain she’s feeling; and she goes the final road alone, although others watch in the background. Of course, Sayaka’s attack on the witch is marked by a crazed personality after her transformation, making this gospel imagery very strange indeed.
All this in 22 minutes…and I didn’t even discuss the teachings of Kyoko’s father or the temptation by another Satan-figure, Kyube. Perhaps that’ll save for another post.
And onward I march! Five more episodes remaining…please, comment, but please, no spoilers. 😉
Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve completed the series. No need to avoid spoilers.