Madoka, Homura, and a Yuri Embrace of Grace

Weeks past the tweet and blogfest that was Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica episode 12, I felt the need to add one more piece to the already-considerable pile of writings about the finale.  While I’ve already discussed Christian motifs of the episode, and others have commented extensively on its various religious aspects, I wanted to focus on one particular scene in episode 12.  It lasts only two to three minutes, but it’s likely to be remembered by most who saw the show.  Why?

Because it was awkward.

At least it was awkward in that it was unexpected.  The scene I’m talking about is the one where Madoka embraces Homura, with the two clothed in nothing but glittery shadows (you can see a shot of the scene at Ambivalence, or is it ambiguity?).

While the scene projected yuri overtones for the show and the girls’ relationship (forgive me if I’m wrong, but I understand the genre in terms of how John at AnimeNation defines it), I want to focus on the spiritual transformation that occurs within Homura in the scene.  It’s a strangely innocent and pure scene – both girls are in their natural states and it is talk of friendship that dominates, not of lovers.

Homura represents all of the witches; while we don’t know what the other witches did in their lives, besides accepting the contract (original sin as it were), we know what Homura did.  Besides agreeing to Kyubee’s conditions, she also continued to try to save Madoka, in turn weighing her friend down with burdens and changing her.  By this point in the episode, Homura is defeated again and is a wreck, not only from suffering time and time again, but forcing Madoka (in other universes) to do the same.

But Madoka, now godlike, sees what Homura did.  She sees Homura’s actions.  We connect with Homura because she is like us – someone lovely and with good intentions, but who often gets it wrong.  And the Christ-figure Madoka sees this as well.  She embraces the “sinner” Homura and lets her know that it’s all going to be alright – “it doesn’t matter how much your errors ended up hurting me,” Madoka is saying, “I will still give up my very life for you.”

That’s love. That’s grace. That’s the power to lift up the suffering to unimaginable heights.

Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica
Art by PF (Pixiv)

There’s a small bit of dialogue toward the end of the scene, when Homura questions Madoka – why would she do this?  Madoka ensures her best friend that it’s going to be okay.  Homura, now believing in Madoka, is at peace.  She has accepted her god.

And with that, a three-minute yuri scene has presented the Gospel message.

It’s scenes like this and the show’s overpowering message of hope that makes Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica powerful and moving in addition to being creatively fulfilling.  It is the story of Christ as played out by teenage magical girls.


8 thoughts on “Madoka, Homura, and a Yuri Embrace of Grace

  1. So, basically, Madoka became like Jesus, dying to instill hope in the humanity that exists and carrying the burden of a million mahou shoujo. But if they really wanted to throw in Christian elements, then they would’ve had the entire gang (you know, Kyoko, Sayaka, Mami) sit down at a table and have a Last Supper.

    That would’ve been far better than two nude underage girls canoodling. I’m just very against these anime that portray very young high school girls in a sexual manner, intended or unintended. Sure, one could say that them being nude can be considered “pure”, but I just think they used that as an excuse to give the fans what they had screaming for – yuri moments.

    But personally, I think Madoka Magica is a show that takes on more oriental religions. Madoka becoming God is better suited as Madoka attaining enlightenment (Nirvana) than Madoka’s crucifixion. But I guess all religions do boil down to the same thing at the end of the day (well, sort of at least).

    And what’s with Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica once and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the other XD ?

    1. Thanks, as usual, for the comments. I really like you what had to say – I’m also sick of the manner in which underage (particularly middle school-aged) girls are portrayed in anime. Madoka earned even further points with me by avoiding fan service (except perhaps excluding the yuri fan pandering in the above-mentioned scene). Like I wrote, I found the scene awkward at first…it even bothered me to the point that I thought about it – and this post is what I came up with.

      As for eastern religions, I think you’re right. The creator obviously seemed to have Buddhism in mind when crafting the ending. Christianity – I dunno, though judging by the apple symbolism and talk of church in episode 7, he at least had this faith during the series, if not during the finale.

      I would totally disagree with your conclusion about all religions, though. 🙂

      Did I use both series titles? I’ve gotta tell you, this is about the only anime series title that I have to think about each time before I write it.

  2. I honestly don’t see the yuri/shoujo-ai component here. If they were wearing their normal clothing would you be saying the same thing? They were set in space, garbed in stars. If anything, the imagery is reminiscent of God and Adam touching fingers.

    For the majority of the series, Madoka and Homura were kind of set at odds. Then a revelation occurs and you get a very rare shift of perspective, and a realisation that the character you thought was the protagonist really isn’t the driving force in the story at all. And as this is revealed, and the situation explained over the course of a couple of episodes, you see Homura’s friendship turn to a vibrant, loving loyalty. And as she tries to reach the perfect ending, her determination to save this person who means so much to her overshadows even her friendship with this person.

    Matthew 42:10-14:

    And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another[1]. And many false prophets[2] will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness[3] will be increased, the love of many will grow cold[4]. But the one who endures[5] to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world[6] as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come[7].

    1: We see this in Kyouko’s initial perspective, being consumed with acquisition of Grief Seeds and willing to kill Sayaka to establish her territory
    2: Kyuubee definitely fits the bill here by telling the girls only part of the story. They think they’re doing good, but…
    3: Lawlessness here is the ever increasing amount of witches to deal with, and the Faustian part of the bargain.
    4: We see Homura’s love grow cold, and Kyuubee says that her own despair will break her. She’s just about at that point right before Madoka takes on the mantle.
    5: Yet, Homura doesn’t give in to despair. She does endure until the end. And she (specifically) is saved.
    6: Yet this salvation (the good news) is taken to all of the other magical girls, so that the darkness in their soul gems is taken on by Madoka rather than hatching new witches.
    7: And before we know it, Madoka has fundamentally altered the rules of the game. The old has passed away, and the new has come.

    1. I suppose I didn’t finish my initial thought. I don’t see a romance here, but a pure affection and loyalty.

      I’m a fan of shoujo-ai anime. Candy Boy is one of my favorites. There’s no romance there – just a couple of sisters who love one another.

      In Maria-sama ga Miteru, a poster-child for shoujo-ai, I don’t recall the main relationship between Yumi and Sachiko ever being pushed into romance. More like “bromance” between females, though cast in (as the yuri article you linked above mentions) an admiration relationship.

      So I suppose it’s a non-romantic shoujo-ai that I see, rather than a romantic shoujo-ai (like Aoi Hana or Sasameki Koto). I didn’t get that romantic tension/vibe from Madoka and Homura in the starclad scene. (my initial point =p)

      1. Adam, thanks for the comments. I’ll reply here first, and then to the earlier one when I get some more time.

        I don’t think there’s a romance between the two characters. As I mentioned above, even that scene seems to depict a strong friendship and not anything more. But from my understanding of yuri, the word means more than a direct romantic relationship. Yuri-theme anime and manga (again, I’m no expert) often depicts more of the loyalty/reverence relationship we see here in the series.

        If I’m coming from the perspective of someone in the anime (or particularly yuri) fandom, the scene is yuri in nature. If I was just watching without thinking of this genre or without much knowledge of it, and specifically being Christian, I might think of the Sistine Chapel (a wonderful comparison by the way!).a

    2. Thanks for the awesome response – man, I wish I’d thought of it – what an amazing match between scripture and this series. I think the two align very well.

      There really is a lot to say about this series in regards to spirituality, Christian or otherwise. I feel that dozens more posts are just waiting to be written as bloggers and other fans dig more and more into the series.

      By the way, for anyone reading these comments, the verses are from Matthew 24, not 42.

  3. Well, I finally got around to seeing the first two episodes of “Madoka” last night. And was quite unsettled. Besides, so I told myself, I didn’t like this type of character design, especially coupled with that kind of background, blah blah blah you know what to expect of me at this point. So I went to bed certain that I’d never watch the rest of the show. And totally changed my mind this morning. 🙂 (Maybe the four episodes of “Slam Dunk” made me so sick of MEN and MUSCLES and BEING MACHO that a show with mostly female characters was a welcome break.)

    You and I also differ somewhat on spoilers, as you know — in this case, I’m GLAD you spoiled this element for me. Now I am prepared for the last episode, which I plan to see tomorrow when I marathon the second half of the series. After that, probably back to the macho thing. 😀

    1. I’ll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Madoka Magica, this being a series that is very different from your typical fare.

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