This post is the eleventh of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!
Spoilers for the entirety of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (excluding Rebellion)
Homura Akemi lives a rough life. She only recently finished a 6-month stay at the hospital, and her aloof personality keeps her from making friends at the school she just transferred to. She lives on her own, so the only person she can really count on in her life is herself. To make matters worse, Homura is also secretly a magical girl, and spends most of her evenings battling witches and their familiars throughout Mitakihara. She’s also recently been in conflict with another magical girl and her new protégés recently, just in time for the witches in Mitakihara to strengthen and threaten the lives of those living in the city. A storm is brewing, and Homura is not able to face the coming fights on her own.
Hidden well beneath the cold demeanor she shares with others, Homura’s heart aches at the sight of the coming storm.
This is not the first time Homura has seen these events play out before her. And it is not the original Homura who stands present in these moments. Homura’s aloofness was instead once her shyness, and her 6-month hospital stay had once left her far behind in school and athletic abilities. Her struggles tore away at her, amplifying her feelings of loneliness in an unfamiliar environment. In this despair, Homura stumbles into a witch’s labyrinth, but the appearance of magical girls Madoka Kaname and her senpai Mami Tomoe saved Homura from the clutches of the witch. This moment of salvation endears Homura to her classmate Madoka, and as they continue to spend time together, the foundation of Homura’s deepest, most precious friendship is formed.
But their time together doesn’t last: a powerful new witch named Walpurgisnacht shows up to Mitakihara and threatens the entire city. Madoka and Mami do their best to fight against the witch; but while they are victorious, it comes at the cost of both of their lives. Madoka’s death leaves Homura in despair even as Mitakihara is saved – because how can Homura choose to live out the remainder of her life without the one person who meant so much to her, without one of the only people who had offered her unconditional love? In her grief, Homura is faced with the decision to become a magical girl herself and make her own wish for Madoka, or to move forward in her life alone. Homura knows she has only one path before her, even if she also knows the grief and pain it will bring her; and so she wishes to be the one to protect and save Madoka, just as Madoka protected and saved her. Homura’s melancholy, her pensive sorrow, forms in this moment of her wish, and her timeloops begin.
“I’ll repeat it. I’ll continue to repeat it over and over. Visiting the same time again and again, searching for the single exit out. Searching for the path to save you from a fate of despair.”
With each passing repeat of the 30 days leading up to Walpurgisnacht, Homura only becomes more and more familiar with the world and events around her. The complicated math problem she’s asked to complete becomes child’s play for her, and she follows the path to the nurse’s office mindlessly with Madoka time after time. Even as memories become more familiar, Homura’s personality becomes less so: colder to the events that all go so wrong around her, indifferent to the feelings that mean little if they can’t do anything to protect Madoka. She stops offering a hand of friendship to Mami, and acts openly hostile to Sayaka Miki as she also begins to find herself involved in the world of magical girls. Though Homura was so close with Madoka in her early timeloops, she finds herself further away with each repeat she witnesses before her eyes.
But no matter what Homura does, she is unable to break out of her timeloop to save Madoka. Each loop only raises more difficulties for Homura in defeating Walpurgisnacht – unable to bring Mami, Sayaka, or another girl named Kyouko Sakura with her to the final fight, Homura cannot defeat the powerful witch on her own. And the emotional toll on Homura grows greater through every repeated interaction and word – Homura’s heart aches more with every repeated comment questioning her true motive, or with her ever-increasing familiarity with all she sees around her. Mami’s refusal to heed Homura’s warnings results in her death time after time, and in every loop Homura can only watch as Sayaka is defeated by her despair and becomes a witch yet again. But despite all of this Homura commits to fighting on, for Madoka’s sake and for herself as well, that she might break free of the melancholy beginning to spread further within herself and be reunited with the one person she still holds dear in her heart.
“Madoka… my one and only friend. If it’s… If it’s for you, I have no problem being trapped eternally in this maze.”
Kyubey’s revelation that Madoka’s potential as a magical girl only becomes greater with each additional timeloop devastates Homura and leaves her on the verge of despair. The thought that her continued attempts at ending the timeloop may only be making Madoka’s fate worse robs Homura of her will to fight on. Her sorrow and grief leave her on the verge of becoming a witch herself, an ending that would stop Homura’s timeloops for good and doom the world to destruction. But Madoka steps in, and makes a decision in light of Homura’s sacrifices for her own sake: she will wish for the end of witches, and for the power to erase them before they are born.
For Madoka and the world, her wish represents a new hope as Madoka ascends to become the despair-lifting Law of Cycles. But for Homura, the new world created will keep her forever apart from Madoka, the one person she longed to be with throughout her entire journey. Though Madoka reassures Homura of her decision, of her wish and the desire to do what only she can to save the world, Homura is left alone in the new world with only a single ribbon left as a memory of Madoka’s sacrifice. And finally, the Melancholy of Homura Akemi reaches its peak: the war within Homura’s heart begins, a fight between the hope of Madoka’s continued transcendence as the Law of Cycles and the despair of Homura’s permanent separation from the one friend she treasured the most.
Homura ultimately chooses to live on in honor of her very best friend until the day where her despair may once again be too big a burden for her to carry alone. As the only one who remembers Madoka’s existence in this new world, Homura’s daily steps forward are quiet and lonely, weighed down by the melancholy that still makes its home in her heart. And yet Homura still chooses to take those steps forward, with a single red ribbon as a sign of the kindness treasured in her heart. Her journey continues, and her fight against the wraiths and dark forces will never end; but with Madoka and the Law of Cycles watching over her, Homura can look forward to the day where the Law of Cycles meets her again and the melancholy in her heart is finally no more.