Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is Madoka Magica a Deconstruction?

Madoka Magica is a Magical Girl show that is notorious for being a much darker take on the Magical Girl genre.

It gets labeled a Deconstruction a lot, but TVtropes explains that not everything Darker and Grittier is a deconstruction.  You can also be a deconstruction without really being Dark or Gritty, many aspects of the 66 Batman particularly the Movie were Deconstructive.

I think it's fair to call the first 11 episodes a Deconstruction, while Episode 12 is a Reconstruction.  (Rebellion I don't really want to get into right now).  That's pretty common for serialized Deconstructions nowadays, to Reconstruct everything before the end.  Like Venture Bros.

Objections to calling it a Deconstruction are varied.  For one other shows are argued to have deconstructed the genre before, and some people feel there can be only one.

Most notoriously would be Utena.  Utena is my favorite Anime, it has a few Magical Girl aspects, and is definitely a Deconstruction.  But I would not consider it a Deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre.  The Magical Girl tropes I think are the only tropes left completely intact.  It's a Deconstruction of Fairly Tale archetypes like the Prince, Princess and Witch, with some High School drama tropes deconstructed along side.  But it qualifies as a Magical Girl show in only the most borderline sense.

The key issue is, do the Dark and Disturbing aspects only tell us THIS Magical Girl universe is Dark and Disturbing, or is it trying to make us rethink what came before.  I think the answer to that lies in Kyubey.  Kyubey's predecessors aren't hated because they don't seem so clinically sociopathic.  But ultimately they're guilty of the same offense, they don't make any more effort then Kyubey does to make sure the girls are prepared for what their getting into.  In fact Kyubey has a lot more patience then Luna.

All great Deconstructions also have a Meta quality to them.  Is Madoka Meta at all?  It doesn't lean on the Fourth Wall as obviously as Scream or Wathmen does, but I think it is fairly Meta.

First of all is the fact that in Universe they're just called Magical Girls.  They're not Sailor Senshi, or Love Angels, or Pretty Cures.  The name of the Genre is the only title they needed.  That in itself suggests it's seeking to be a commentary on the Genre in some way.

In multiple ways the main cast of characters do seem designed to reflect prior Magical Girl archetypes.  Most of which were set to some degree by Sailor Moon. But sometimes in very mixed up or subverted ways.

I'm actually going to start with Hitomi not one of the Magical Girls.  Hitomi is very much in the Naru Osaka/Molly Baker role, the close school friend who never becomes a Magical Girl herself.  And in episode 4 she plays the Youma Bait role (and again in Rebellion).

The title character, Madoka, looks like she's supposed to be Usagi and Chibi-Usa rolled into one.

Homura looks like Rei Hino/Sailor Mars (and thanks to Viz Media in English now sounds like her), and her name meaning Flame might seem like a reference to that too.  But being originally the awkward Nerdy girl, and kind of the smart one makes her seem like Ami.  While being so physically ill and weak kind of echos Hotaru.  But her powers being Time Travel based would make her Sailor Pluto.

Mami is Minako/Sailor Venus as she was in the Manga and Crystal, the most experienced and a natural leader, and also a buxom blond.  Someone the other girls look up to and idolize.  And she takes the mission more serious then most also.

Sayaka and Kyoko are harder to compare to specific Sailor Moon characters.  But Kyoko is perhaps somewhat like the Outer Senshi in general, being not part of the story from the start and much more of a loner by nature.  And at times an Antagonist.  (With Homura when her backstory is revealed we realize she's not a loner by choice at all.)  There are a number of characters in other Magical Girl shows who seem to play that role as well, from Wedding Peach to Pretty Cure.

Sayaka I think one could argue is more like a typical Pretty Cure protagonist.  With her unique enthusiasm for being a Magical Girl and sense of Justice.  Her optimistic and idealized approach to being a magical girl is why her fall into becoming a witch was the most effective to follow.

Deconstructions come in varieties and so may not always be so Meta in nature, but it's pretty common.

TVtropes uses the term Unbuilt Trope for when the very work that creates a genre can seem in hindsight like a Deconstruction of what came after it.  And Sailor Moon is in fact an example of one.  But usually the best way to tell the difference between that and an intentional deconstruction of a genre (besides being historically aware it came before the rest of the genre) is that an Unbuilt Trope probably isn't going to have any Meta qualities.

Meanwhile you can be meta without being deconstructive at all, sometimes being Meta is just more fun.  So Sailor Moon can at times look like a Deconstruction compared to Pretty Cure, except that Pretty Cure is far more Meta then Sailor Moon is.  Pretty Cure loves winking at the audience.

If Madoka Magica is to the Magical Girl genre what Scream was to the Slasher genre, then Yuki Yuna is a Hero would be I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Yuki Yuna is a show that is obviously trying to follow the success of Madoka (though the things they have to fight seem more like Angels from Evangelion then Witches).  That doesn't automatically make it bad.  I watched all 12 episodes last night.  For the first eight episodes I was thinking, "this is interesting but not Madoka" then I watched episode 9.  And while it's still inferior to Madoka, in that episode the show earned it's right to stand on it's own.  The feels are strong in that episode.

The show's story structure is weird, I can see why some might feel the need to give up on it before it reaches episode 9, but trust me it's worth it.  You do need to have followed what came before for what happens to 9 to really hit home properly.

I bring it up here because I feel Yuki Yuna is an example of a darker take on the Magical Girl genre that isn't truly a deconstruction, even though a deconstruction helped inspire it.

And the only thing remotely Meta about it is that some of the 5 main characters clearly reflect the cast of Madoka.  But since I love studying archetypes I figure I'll go into that some.

Yuki Yuna being a Pink haired title character is clearly kinda based on Madoka, but also with a good dose of Sayaka.  Thing is, when viewing this show on it's own, without seeing Yuna as a reflection of Madoka, it really takes awhile to justify why she is the title character.  She doesn't even really dominate the POV much.

Karin has in the Dub Sayaka's voice which throws me off sometimes.  But I would say she largely plays the Kyoko role besides never being an antagonist at all.

Fu being Mami is perhaps the most obvious of all.  And with her descent from Minako not at all being forgotten.  She is central to why this show works for me.



Spoiler Warning!!!






I've avoided spoilers up to this point.  But now I feel simply saying that Toga is the Homura of Yuki Yuna is kind of a spoiler.  How she looks arguably makes her a candidate from the start.  But I am really surprised by how surprised I was when she went all Ominicidal Mainiac at the end.

Itsuki is the one who's not a Madoka character at all.  She's Fu's younger sister.

Now going back to Episode 9, I'll say now past the spoiler warning that why that episode works is how well done Fu's emotional breakdown is.  The one thing missing from Madoka is that Mami's the only character who's pain we never delved into as deeply.  That's what this episode delivers.  Fu is breaking down NOT because of what she's lost but because of the others especially her sister, and because as the leader, as the one who recruited the others for this, she feels responsible.

The last thing I'll say about watching Yuki Yuna is that I can now proclaim it scientifically impossible for a Magical Girl to be heterosexual.

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