Warning! Contains SPOILERS, strong language (thanks, Aaron), strong themes (thanks, Adam) and strong fanboyism (thanks, Evan). This discussion was in response to our upcoming podcast detailing our reactions to our Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movie Marathon. Enjoy.
Aaron: Hey, I was editing the Madoka podcast last night and had some thoughts. If Madoka’s wish can unfuck all the magical girls, why didn’t she just unfuck the Kyubey’s energy problems? How far back can Homura actually go? Does she still have time powers in the new Madoka-less universe? Could she rewind time to before Madoka makes the big-ass wish? Or did it always have happened because of the wish? Re: Madoka solving Kyubey Energy Crisis 1997, wouldn’t Homura resetting time imply that entropy can go hang since she can rewind time to a higher energy state?
Daniel: Stahp, what are you doing?! STAHP!
Aaron: I googled some of the answers, which kinda make some sort of sense. But still, where is the energy for the wishes coming from?
Evan: Exactly. Are you questioning the watertight logic of Madoka?
Aaron: It’s as watertight as a sieve.
Evan: Haha! I know. Believability or consistency has never been key to emotional impact for me. I’ll take style and symbolism over consistent-world-building any day. Give me a deus ex machina, chock full of wit or irony over a believable outcome. I understand I’m a minority. But it’s why I love Hellboy, Ghibli, Mother 3, BioShock, Locke & Key, Pluto, etc.
Adam: So what you’re saying is that if Aaron and I value world building we should never ever play Mother 3? Eh? Eh?
Evan: Shut your face. Aaron loves Locke & Key. It’s not the lack of consistency, it’s the grand symbolism.
Aaron: I’m fine with suspension of disbelief, Narrativium etc…
Evan: Which Madoka uses a few times. Although watching all three movies in one shot gives you a fairly big dose.
Aaron: …but if you ask too much of the suspension then it becomes a distraction. It’s most jarring for me when a work attempts a “realistic” or “scientific” explanation of some parts and then just hand-waves the rest. The distraction in Madoka is figuring out how much energy is involved in wish-granting and how much is involved in witch-turning, such that there’s a significant net gain.
Evan: Sometimes, I guess. Wish granting and witch turning are both positives though. They’re extra energy unleashed because of the individual potential within the emotions of these girls. Thematically, they’re opposites, but physically they’re the same phenomenon. I think it does a good job of putting us in the girls’ position, with a strange being talking down to us as lesser life-forms.
Aaron: Wait, so you’re saying that the wish-granting is already an energy gain from nothing? Pure anti-entropy?
Evan: Sure is. Just not of the scale of the witches (despair). It’s creating energy out of emotions. And Madoka can generate so much because of reasons. Timey wimey reasons. Because they extract as much as each potential allows.
Aaron: So why don’t they just grant multiple wishes?
Evan: They can’t grant more, because they’ve used up the emotion potential. They’re a catalyst.
Aaron: Also, why not just harness Homura to a treadmill?
Evan: They try that in the third movie, albeit for different reasons. And remember there’s always a point at which the Kyubey realises, and often it’s too late. The incubators are unaware of the screwing around with time that she does.
Aaron: So what’s the emotion potential that triggers a wish? Why not just refresh that?
Evan: They’re harvesting cattle here. They go looking for fat cows to turn into meat (emotional girls to unlock power).
Aaron: Is the witch event a one off event?
Evan: Indeed. It’s the transformation of a girl’s soul, and thus it facilitates the Christological allegory.
Aaron: Wouldn’t it be better to have multiple ongoing wish events, i.e. milking the cows instead.
Evan: But we’ve burned the plant matter to heat the water, we can’t burn the charcoal.
Aaron: I believe you can burn charcoal. Whooooooa!!
Evan: I’m not a scientist. But how would they use the transformed soul for another event? At no point did I feel like I was thematically cheated by fake science. I think the whole thing was fantasy, but instead of magic, they used “energy” and “emotion”.
Aaron: Yeah, but you bring entropy into it which brings a whole lot of scientific baggage.
Evan: The heat death of the universe as a theme doesn’t really require rigorous scientific justification if we’re talking about magical girls here. Our purpose is to examine the tropes – Why young girls? Why wish granting? What are the repercussions? And I think it succeeded.
Aaron: If they had just said “Err.. We like emotional energy from little girls…” I would have zero problem with that.
Evan: I think essentially that’s what they did. It’s got more baggage for an engineer than your average viewer.
Aaron: Well they said, “We use little girl energy to counter the entropic decay of the universe.”
Evan: Which means what to Mrs/Mr AnimeViewer LadyMan? It means we need more energy in the universe, and little girls are the source.
Aaron: Sure, that’s magical mumbo jumbo to a layman.
Evan: I think it adequately describes a universal energy crisis, without the need to explain the electrons and sciency-ness.
Aaron: BTW, where does it state that the wish is a net gain event? Just clarifying, since I remember it being pretty vague in the movies. Was it a series thing?
Evan: Bedroom scene. Nope, the movies covered it – it’s only super quick.
Aaron: Bedroom scene ;)
Aaron: Also to clarify, I’m perfectly fine with the arc of the series/movies. Like you said, I’m ok with Narrativium to drive the story. I get distracted when the Narrativium is presented as a consistent system, especially one with a real world correlation. My response to the distraction is to investigate that consistency, to see if the plot could have been resolved differently within the prescribed system. Which is not to knock the system or the plot, since character motivation and plot structure requirement plays a big part of it.
Evan: Fair enough. Nerd.
Aaron: Exactly! Nerd. It’s a very nerd thing to do. I think questioning/exploring the canon is a huge part of nerdery.
Evan: Yeah, fair enough. Fan fiction is born from asking question about changing simple factors within a universe. That, and lust.
Aaron: A similar argument would be “Where the fuck where the eagles in LoTR?”. I think in the books they were discussed and dismissed as the need for stealth and subterfuge outweighed the need for speed (most wanted). Also, I believe Gandalf intended to reinvigorate the human kingdoms so it was important that Aragorn was seen to take charge before Gandalf and the rest of the OP elves could fuck off west and slow down the metagame for the rest of the noobs.
Evan: There you go. And now I believe. (Unrelated) I think a lot of drama and emotional impact for tragedies comes from near-successes within the constructed world. I tend to question less – but I still do the research. BioShock Infinite, for example. Mmmmm… Those themes.
Aaron: I tend to question for the purpose of more material to make fun of. It doesn’t actually affect my actual opinion of the overall piece unless it’s really egregious (MAN OF STEEEEEL).
Evan: Fair enough. I look for how the holes could be plugged, where explanation wasn’t given, or where I missed it. Any closing thoughts?
Aaron: Not enough shimapan.
Evan: True. The solution to everything. And they could be on the outside for him! Or were you talking about Madoka?
Aaron: It’s fun to be able to make fun of a magical girl anime’s handling of entropic decay. That’s my take away. Sorry for spamming this chat, Adam and Dan.
Evan: I’m not sorry!