Suffering. Death. Hope. Life.
These themes pervade Magica Madoka, particularly informing the final two episodes. They are also important ideas in religious traditions, namely Christianity and Buddhism. The Buddhist principals expressed in Madoka Magica are so pervasive, that I’ve started to think that the Christlike imagery I immediately saw when viewing episode 12 wasn’t at all planned by the show’s creator. After all, while the burden of sin on the Christ figure in the story is obvious (as are ideas like God living out of space and time and Madoka’s visit with Akemi resembling Jesus’ visits with the apostles and others before his ascension), other actions are harder to reconcile with Christianity. Maybe I’m just being euro centric, applying western thinking to an eastern medium.
Not that I have a problem with that – this is what I do on this blog (spoiler below).
Whether or not the Christian spirituality expressed in the final episode was intentional, it’s undoubtedly there. But beyond the Jesus metaphor, what Madoka’s final sacrifice shows is the state of fallen man and the value of Jesus Christ.
Live to Die, Die to Live
One of the most famous images of the Bible is of the Garden of Eden – a place of serenity and peace, where man knew no sin. After sin, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden into a harsh world where sin would reign – where it would deteriorate the world spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
A common question tossed at Christians, often with bitter and angry words, is this: if there is a God, why does He allow suffering in this world? This question leads many to the conclusion that even if the Christian God exists, they will not follow Him.
The answer, according to Christianity, is because we live in a fallen world – a place where sin and Satan rule and where life is often out of our control. In Magica Madoka, the girls make a deal with the Kyube (like Adam and Eve agreeing to eat the snake’s apple) without realizing the full consequences of the act. After making their contracts, instead of receiving their wishes (compare to Adam and Eve wanting to be like God), they are led into a difficult, cursed life. Adam and Eve, too, received curses (toil the land, brother! deliver children in a most painful way, sister!) – and they passed these down to generation after generation. Once you’re born into being a magical girl, you’re stuck with a painful life and a most horrid end.
But Madoka provides one of the most powerful forces in the universe – hope. As Scamp writes,
Madoka Magica is about Hope. Or, for 11 episodes worth, the lack thereof. As soon as you entered the world of the Magical Girl, you had lost all hope of returning. You turned into a witch when all hope had been extinguished and you had given up on life entirely.
She took the burden placed on herself by Homura’s actions, and even larger, the burden of all the contracts made by magical girls throughout history, and made them her own. She battled these curses and won. The parallel is obvious – Jesus took the burden of sin of all mankind, battled them on the cross, and won.
And even as Madoka went away, her hope continued. The series ends with these words:
Don’t forget, always, somewhere, someone is fighting for you. As long as you remember her, you are not alone.
Christ, too, ascended to be with the Father – but He leaves the Holy Spirit with believers. We are not alone. We are freed from the burden of sin, and we are forever in the company of God. Likewise, Homura is left with the red ribbon – like the red string of fate that connects lovers (Christ’s relationship with believers is described in the Bible in such intimate terms) and like the seal of the Holy Spirit – helping her to remember that she’s not alone.
As Christ said on the cross, “It is finished.” He accomplished the goal of defeating the enemy. Madoka did the same, freeing the would-be witches. But, in both cases, it is the “spiritual” side of the story which is finished. Physically, a curse remains. Yumeka writes,
Madoka was not able to bring absolute salvation to the world – even though she erased witches, there are still plenty of other curses in the world, with demons being the new ones introduced at the end of the series.
The new enemy isn’t as fierce as that of old, but it is dangerous nonetheless. The curse of the witches is gone, but in its place are demons that still cause death and suffering. Likewise, we all still live in a world of sin, despite Jesus’ sacrifice. Suffering still occurs. It still falls on the good and the bad, the deserved and the innocent. We’re still in a world that is relentless in fighting us.
But this life, through new eyes and a new heart, is much better than the previous. The magical girls must still fight, but they no longer live under the witch curse. Christians still experience the consequences of sin, but are given a new heart as they look forward to a future destination.
Madoka provided hope for the girls. Jesus gives hope for us all.
Magica Madoka not only gives parallels between its main character and the Bible’s – it provides an amazing framework for understanding sin and Christ’s redemption. These ideas, I think, ring true universally. Perhaps that’s part of why many found the final episodes to be so emotional (catchercatch and DeShaun Zollicoffer among them). For me, Magica Madoka was more than entertainment and more than emotional – it was a religious experience. It is a show that has the power to transform. It is the gospel, as told through Faustian imagery and magical girls.