Konnichiwa! Today we take a look at my favorite character in Madoka Magica, Homura, and how her outlook on life is similar to that of the legalistic Christian.
A common element of action series is to have the main characters split into a few categories: the confident ones, the smart ones, the unsure ones, and the black sheep/antihero/angsty-with-past-issues type. This can be seen in many forms of media, from books to movies to anime, and while fairly predictable, can help to bring new perspectives into a story. This is exactly what Homura does in the overall plot of Madoka Magica: she is the first magical girl that causes both the viewer and Madoka to question the attraction of life as a magical girl. Homura is a mystery in the beginning of the series: we don’t know her motivations, her goals, or really even her powers. Her actions hint at anger towards Kyubey, she relies very much on her own power, not teaming up with the rest of the girls, and has a fairly cold indifference towards others, despite warning them against becoming magical girls. In fact, the only actions she takes that could hint at affection are her warnings to Madoka not to trust Kyubey. Her world is a black and white one: Kyubey is bad, I am good, and this life is horrible. She provides a powerful contrast to the bright and eager Mami, and she is the first indicator that things might not be as they seem. If you’ve been reading these articles for a while you’ll know what I’m going to say here: the answer to the mysterious actions taken by Homura are explained by her past.
Enter episode 10 of the series: one of the most pivotal turning points in the anime. If you haven’t seen the anime up to this point, I will be spoiling important plot elements, so be warned. We are once again introduced to Homura, but she is very different from how we know her. Rather than a strong, confident young woman we see a timid, shy, sickly individual. She transferred to the school attended by Madoka, Mami, and Sayaka, but she didn’t have many friends. Her weakness discouraged her, and she fell prey to the wiles of a witch. Thanks to a last-second save by Madoka and Mami, she was introduced to the life of a magical girl, and found friends. Similar to a new Christian, Homura revels in the fellowship of her newfound friends, and enjoys learning from them. She loves the power that they have as magical girls, and she wants to be like them. But ultimately, Mami and Madoka are not powerful enough to defeat the onslaught of the powerful witch Walpurgisnacht, and they are killed. In her pain and desperation, she turns to Kyubey, making a wish to go back in time and redo her first meeting with Madoka.
Returning to her original time with the power of Time Magic, Homura again joins Madoka and Mami, and begins to fight against witches alongside them. She’s not the best magical girl at first, but she does help them to take down several threats. Unfortunately, her power is still not enough to prevent the death of both Mami and Madoka to Walpurgisnacht, and in her horror she watches Madoka become a witch. Going back in time, she attempts to warn the rest of the girls, but none of them are quick to believe that Kyubey would lie to them. It takes the death of Sayaka and her transformation into a witch to show the girls what their eventual fate will be; driven mad with despair, Mami kills Kyoko, and Madoka is forced to kill her. Despite their personal pain, Madoka and Homura unite together to fight Walpurgisnacht once more, but again they fail. Similar to when a new Christian faces spiritual adversity for the first time, the despair of Homura and Madoka threatens to eat them up…but like the encourager she is, Madoka sacrificed her last Grief Seed to purify Homura’s Soul Gem, and asked her to go back in time and prevent her from becoming a magical girl.
Armed with the conviction to save Madoka, and the determination to make it happen, Homura returns to her previous timeline, willing to do anything to save Madoka. Nothing else matters: not her life or even the lives of others. Similar to the new Christian, Homura recognizes her weakness, and also recognizes what gives her strength: Madoka. She loves the camaraderie and the fellowship she finds in her relationship, but she also sees the dark powers that try to taint that relationship, and vows to protect it. And in their zeal, the new Christian lashes out against the world, trying to save what saved them. Not trusting God, they attempt to “protect” Him by establishing order around what they believe: they create rulesets and guidelines on how to live. They begin to judge others by the way they measure up to their own standards, and look down on those who don’t. This is legalism at its core.
What might have begun as a labor of love transforms into a work of self-salvation through the fulfillment of rules and guidelines that are believed to signify the closeness of the relationship one has with God: the more you follow the rules, the better a Christian you are. But this is not love. This is not protection, but self-preservation, as the legalist uses rules to comfort themselves. Their rules give them security in their confinement; the self-made prison is simultaneously the most restricting and yet the easiest to slip into. But this is not love. Love is mutual, it is derived from relationship, and it requires a true knowledge of the other person for it to flourish. The legalist claims to know God, but in truth knows nothing about His true nature or love. They know part of it, they may have even experienced some of it, but they don’t truly understand it.
In Christ we find the ultimate expression of love: not a man who created a variety of rigid rules in order to live holy, but a Man who loved his Heavenly Father, who knew Him intimately, and his relationship fueled his actions, not the other way around. His love for His Father didn’t cause Him to push away those around Him, unlike Homura, but rather He encouraged those around Him to love God and to serve Him. Where legalism leads to pride in self and condescension towards those who don’t measure up to their specifications, the love of Christ leads to humble servitude towards God and a sacrificial love towards others. And this love puts the needs of others before itself, because it has experienced deceit, discouragement, loneliness, and the traps of legalism. And we’ll explore that love on Monday, as we end this series with a look at Madoka, and the love she exhibits.
(Side Note: If you’ve seen the movie Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, and are wondering why I didn’t include it in this post, it’s because I’ve already spoiled the series enough for those who haven’t seen it. Later on I will do a more expanded post on the movie (probably when I review it) because it really, really hammers home the point of Homura’s selfish love.)