Friday, September 1, 2017

Why Kyoko Sakura is the most important character in Madoka Magica

That title is a bit of hyperbole, but it got your attention.  Also this is an analysis based on the Canon as limited to the original 12 episode series, before we had the expanded universe and stories set in the abandoned timelines.

It’s easy to think of Kyoko as inherently less important than everyone else.  She may be in more episodes and so probably have more screen time then Mami.  But she’s not in the opening episodes, and is killed off before the end.  So it’s easy to write off her importance as just being her relevance to Sayaka’s arc.  I think even most people who’d say Kyoko is their favorite character aren’t likely to argue that she’s super important to the plot.

I’ve long liked to note that in Episode 10, at the end of the 3rd timeline, what Madoka actually asks Homura to do is make sure she doesn’t get tricked again.  Homura technically succeeded at that by early in episode 9, by then Madoka knows the major dark secrets.  Homura doesn’t think of her mission as being that, but that is why the story has its happy resolution, because Madoka was able to make a fully informed choice to make the contract.

Kyoko’s involvement in this timeline is largely why all the secrets come out.  Her fighting with Sayaka is why Madoka throws Sayaka’s Soul Gem.  And while the writers said Sayaka always becomes a Witch (if she doesn’t die), Madoka may likely have never known about it if Kyoko didn’t take Sayaka’s body.

Now you may be thinking, “in a well written story everything that happens should be relevant to the resolution”.  That is true, but this is why thinking about the other timelines is interesting.

Homura’s actions aren’t quite the only reason things play out differently each time.  Some small things do randomly happen differently, right in the first episode Homura didn’t expect the Witch to attack that soon, or Sayaka to have a fire extinguisher.

It’s established in episode 6 that Homura has encountered Kyoko before.  But from what we see in Episode 10 that could have been from the 3rd timeline alone (Kyoko must have been called by Mami when Homura started saying she knew things Kyubey was keeping secret, something Homura doesn’t try on other timelines).  So my suggestion is, maybe Kyoko coming to Mitakihara at all wasn’t common?

The end of Episode 4 implies Kyoko came to Mitakihara because Kyubey told her about Mami’s death.  Homura’s behavior in the Charlotte situation implies to me it’s not the first timeline where someone was killed by her.  But it may not have always been Mami.  And even in other timelines where Mami dies who knows what small things may have affected Kyubey’s decision to get Kyoko involved.

The Different Story Manga involves Kyoko in one of the abandoned timelines where Mami doesn’t die, other EU works probably did too but I haven’t read them yet.  But what I can say about The Different Story is it’s explanation for why Kyoko came even though Mami didn’t die feels rather forced.

So there is good reason to suspect Kyoko’s very presence in this timeline is a big factor in why it plays out differently.  Small things making a big difference is a common theme in fantasy, like The Hobbits for example.

One of the reasons I think Kyoko is interesting is that she’s a Christian.  Christians are a minority in Japan so it’s interesting when they show up in Anime.  And I’ve become an increasingly unconventional Christian.  Even in the prequel story we’re given about Kyoko and Mami we still don’t know exactly what controversial doctrine Kyoko’s father was teaching.  So I’m free to use my imagination if I want.

Kyoko’s arc is partly about how she lost her faith after her family died.  Then finds it again in episode 9 before she dies.

Christian imagery popping up in Magical Girls shows isn’t exactly uncommon.  (In fact it’s Shintoism being relevant that is rather rare. Having only Rei’s Miko duties in Sailor Moon and Yuki Yuna is a Hero) Haruka is a Christian in Sailor Moon, and lots of Christian imagery is used in Wedding Peach and both of the 90s Magical Girl Thief shows.  And elsewhere in the Madoka EU there is a Manga focused on Jeanne d’Arc.

That is kinda funny given how the Magical Girl concept isn’t exactly compatible with Christian theology.   But whatever, I know some pretty radical Christians who are also into Star Wars.

Kyoko however is different from most of those others in that her faith partly is her arc.

So how is this ramble about Kyoko’s faith relevant to the main thesis of this post?  It’s not really, more like an epilogue.  But it means a Christian viewer can say a Christian saved the day if they wanted to.

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