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Monday Musings
Monday, 16 May 2011 11:41
The reset button: the most hated event in any anime series. It takes all you know about a show, its world and its characters, and tosses it in the blender, to produce.... well, who knows. Usually a quick rewind to something you've seen before and, frankly, don't particularly want to see again. It's not good. So what happens when the most hyped show of recent years tries to hit the reset button? It works. You don't see that every day...

Praise GodokaOkay, so it's been a few weeks now since Puella Magi Madoka Magica ended. From what I was reading on Twitter at the time, it took most people a while to parse the ending and get a handle on what had just happened - but once it began to sink in, praise was the almost universal result. Most of the series I've already raved about, but I could easily do the same for the conclusion all over again. In the hiatus weeks where no-one knew even when the final episodes would be aired, never mind what they would contain, there was a growing apprehensive that SHAFT and Shinbo would fluff the ending and ruin the great work that had been done up to that point. They didn't.

But they did take a risk. The show's conclusion relies on the power of one character - Madoka herself - to rewrite the history of the world (and the portrayal of what she does makes it clear that the effects of her decision reach right back to the dawn of humanity) to get the outcome that she wants: the destruction of witches. All witches. Everywhere. Everywhen. She takes one thread of humanity's history (as presented in the context of the series), and hits the reset button, rewinding history to remove that thread before allowing history to re-run and reform itself to fill in the gaps that are now there. It's a reset-button ending, but done on such a scale that it distinguishes itself from any other reset endings that I've seen to stand alone, as an example of how to do it right.

And as well as showing you the event, the series goes on to use the second half of the final episode to show the effects of that reset, showing that in this case it hasn't fixed all problems (Kyuubei is still recruiting magical girls, still making them fight against the threat that has filled the gap left by the witches, still seeing them die doing so). Madoka had a very specific aim in mind when she made her wish, and while she achieved that, pain and suffering still survive and have to be dealt with by the friends she leaves behind. Godlike power, yes; complete omnipotence, no - and that leaves the ending rather bittersweet, despite the level of Epic Win that she manages to pull over Kyuubei and his entropy-defeating plans.

The result is worthy of applause. There are some issues with the ending - the way that the 'postscript' and its focus on Homura takes away some of the feeling of epicness around Madoka's actions and pushes her out of the picture hasn't met with universal approval, for starters, but that's in keeping with the decision Madoka made and the wish she made. But in terms of taking a common, widely loathed way of avoiding dealing with difficult matters and making it work? Nailed it, in very impressive style. The magical girl game has been raised, and it's going to be interesting to see if anyone can rise to the challenge of trying to outdo Madoka. I think we might be waiting a while for that.


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