It’s easy to forget now, but when the last episode of this show aired is was 3/10/11. That’s a date that I suspect will always conjure up the same memories when uttered as 9/10/01 would to an American – the day before the world changed, forever. For me it was also a week before I was scheduled to fly to Tokyo (I ended up delaying the trip by 12 days and having a fantastic time anyway), so I felt the massive displacement in my own way from across the sea.
So much has happened since then, it hardly seems possible that it was less than six weeks ago. Yet so it was, though that didn’t stop the jarring feeling I got when the OP credits rolled for episode 11. It took a few moments to get back into the rhythm and flow of the series. It would be easy to argue that this is the most anticipated finale any anime has seen for a long time – when you consider how immensely popular this show is and the delay. That’s a lot of karmic pressure to live up to.
Alas, my hopes for the “Morning Rescue End” didn’t exactly pan out. Gen Urobuchi had perhaps an impossible task to fulfill here, such was the pressure after the self-imposed delay of a month. What we got was something of a mixed bag – a little happy, mostly sad, a lot of mumbo-jumbo and a great deal too much deux ex machina (which was my greatest fear for the ending going in). Yet there’s no denying that it still packed a fair amount of emotional punch – I would argue more in episode 11 than the actual finale.
Effectively, Madoka did what the Genius of the Lamp always said wasn’t allowed – she wished for more wishes. I guess the Incubators weren’t so careful, because when Madoka wished for the power the stop all witches from coming into existence before they’re created – effectively, wishing to be an omnipotent trans-dimensional deity – the little guttersnipe Kyuube didn’t seem to be able to refuse her. Apparently Homura’s act of replaying the month-long timeline had the impact of making Madoka’s spiritual energy super-powered, amplifying it upon itself by tying all the timelines together. That’s why she had the ability to be the most powerful Puella Magi – effectively the most powerful witch – ever. It also means her wish was all super-seiyan, and allowed her to transcend this dimension and her mortal coils and become a kind of ethereal Kami, journeying through time and saving each girl just as their despair was about to turn them into witches. Kind of a bad deal for her, but a good deal for everyone else, right? Madoka takes one for the team.
Except on the whole, this is still pretty dark. Naturally, certain people are posting as if they can explain every detail of the ending with perfect confidence, as if Gen-san had personally explained it. I’m not so vain as to believe that – to me, a lot was left open to interpretation. What seems clear is that now, thanks to Madoka, the witches in the past don’t die – they just disappear. I guess that’s better, especially from Madoka’s POV, but it’s not especially heart-warming. With no witches being formed, the darkness of the human dimension now takes the form of demons who look kind of like monks crossed with the Angels from NGE – and it’s Homura’s job to fight them, with an amnesiac (when it comes to Madoka and the “real” timeline) Kyuube at her side. She seems to have found some way to convert the demons grief into energy for the Incubators. And it appears that Sayaka, rather than letting Madoka save her, decides to let her death occur so that Kamijo’s miracle will still stand.
But Homura has it rough too – she’s condemned to fight forever, and from the looks of the postscript it looks like the world she’s fighting in is pretty fucked up. She also remembers Madoka – that was how Madoka wanted it – while no one else does. Except for Tatsuya, her little brother – although why he remembers isn’t so clear. In any case, Madoka is traveling endlessly through time mercy-killing Puella Magi, Homura is traveling endlessly through her time killing demons with Kyuube, and that’s the ending we waited six weeks for.
As I said, there’s way too much deux ex machina here for me to call this a great end, but it was still pretty powerful – especially when Madoka met the dying Homura on the rooftop at the end of 11 and made her wish. Indeed, the real climax of this series was the penultimate episode in many ways – Madoka’s farewell with her mother, her wish with Kyuube, Homura’s despair at knowing what that wish was. The last episode was mostly coda, and got caught up a little too much in “End of Evangelion” theatrics and metaphysics. But I can forgive that, and I suspect for most fans this will prove to be a pretty satisfying way to tie things up. As always, I look forward to the ongoing debate over the episodes almost as much as the episodes themselves.