Rewatch: Puella Magi Madoka Magica 1×01: I First Met Her in a Dream… or Something

Spoilers abound. I recommend this series highly; you can watch it online for free, officially and all that, at Crunchyroll. There are only 12 episodes, and it’s quite an experience.

These rewatch posts will spoil everything in PMMM front, sideways, backways, and seventeen ways from Sunday. I highly recommend watching the series in full, first.

You have been warned!

The way this series starts out is weird: it’s akin to an old film can being spun up in the machine. I’m not sure what significance that has, other than that the series ends in the same way. It’s an interesting, unrealistic touch and reminds me in a way of the meta nature of most witch’s labyrinths. Also, the “old film” touch is singularly out of place considering the gleaming futuristic setting of Madoka’s world.

Something to think about later, or else we’re not going to get through episode 1.

Episode 1; all this unpacking to do, and when I first watched it, it didn’t impress me very much. But now all the little beats get to me. I admit I haven’t watched this episode much at all, because it’s so painful to see the girls being manipulated by Kyubey, but THIS. IS. THE. REWATCH. So here we go.

The checkered world that Madoka runs through in her dream resembles a witch’s labyrinth, but the weird thing is that Walpurgis Nacht doesn’t need a labyrinth, yet she is the closest witch eligible in the area. Madoka exits from the labyrinth (or possibly not-labyrinth) into the top of a gigantic tree, and things get really surreal from here on out.

And now we get to watch Homura battle Walpurgis Nacht. This scene is from the timeline that occurs “before” the current one that most of the series runs through. (And perhaps this is where the old film can comes into play; the emphasis on the almost meta-fictional components of the story with Homura’s ability to rewind time and do it again.) Watching Homura fall from the tree screaming as she watches Madoka has a new, twisted meaning now that we know what she’s screaming.

And just before Madoka makes her decision to become a magical girl (and thence turn into the worst witch), she wakes up.

Time has rewound itself. We know that now; so much makes sense.

And now we hit the opening theme of LIES. And truth, but that only becomes apparent by episode 10.

The theme of happiness that plays as Madoka interacts with her mother (her wonderful mother) is “Scaena felix”, which Google Translate munges to “Happy Stage”. It’s the kind of music that you hear playing while you’re hunting for seashells during the summer months of Animal Crossing.

Oh gods, the ribbon that Madoka’s mother makes her wear as she talks about secret admirers, and Madoka insists she doesn’t have any. (Oh, Homura. I’m going to be saying that a lot in this series, but especially this episode.) The last music in the series, “Taenia memoriae”, means “Ribbon Memories”.

Madoka running to school, late and popping breakfast into her mouth, reminds me of Usagi of Sailor Moon running to school, always late. There’s also the talk of love and love letters, which was always a thread present through Sailor Moon as well (not surprising, since it’s first and foremost a romance). I’m pretty sure that this was all part of Shaft’s trolling of the audience, lulling them into thinking this was Yet Another Magical Girl series after the nature of Pretty Cure and the like.

“You must be my bride, Madoka!” Now I hear the Wedding March whenever Sayaka says this. Thanks so much, Neko-san and Princess Tutu.

Inappropriate teacher is inappropriate. She reminds me of my soon-to-be-ex-manager.

And then Homura appears, and stares at Madoka. She’s not glaring, we who are veterans of the series realize, but just looking at Madoka with intent and a kind of hunger. Oh gods, Homura. There’s some sort of really heart-breaking nostalgia driving all this as well, since Homura is repeating many of the motions from her first meeting with Madoka.

As they walk down the hall, “Puella in Somnia”, “Girl in the Dream”, plays. She is leading Madoka, and each scene matches that in episode 10. You can see her heart breaking as she and Madoka discuss her name, with Madoka stammering about how it was “kind of cool”. Now we know why Homura looks like this so often:

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The lunchtime discussion between Madoka, Sayaka, and Hitomi really hit some call-backs home. “Now you’re acting like an anime character” will be called back to by Madoka’s former mother asking, when she hears of Madoka, if she’s an anime character that her son has heard of, since he keeps repeating her name. And of course Sayaka commenting that maybe Homura and Madoka were fated to meet again across space and time—I must say, this is all reminding me of Sailor Moon, except the role of Tuxedo Mask is being played by Homura. Tuxedo Mask (aka Mamoru) is at first an ambiguous character, even if he saves Sailor Moon an awful lot. Just goes to show that even as he is subverting the genre, Shinbo finds ways to show fondness for it.

(Also: yes, it would have been so easy to make Homura a boy. I’m glad they didn’t.)

Now we watch Kyubey get pelted by Homura’s purple magic. Go, Homura, go. Kill that cute devil. Run, Kyubey, run—wait. Don’t run. Don’t run! Oh damn it, right into Madoka’s arms. And now everything is starting to go wrong in this timeline. There are a lot of chains in this scene, from the ones that fall when Homura lands in front of Madoka and Kyubey, to the ones that Mami uses to make some sort of magic circle to protect Madoka and Sayaka. I’m sure there’s some sort of symbolism here—the binding nature of Kyubey’s contracts, maybe. That interpretation certainly puts a new look on Mami surrounding the girls with chains.

I found out the other day that “Credens Justitiam”, Mami’s awesome theme, means “Believing in Justice”. Key word here being “believe” rather than just “Justitiam”.

Oh Homura. She shuts her eyes in pain when Mami tells her to go away.

Hooooooooomuuuuuuuuuraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Hm. I forgot they put in an ending theme of LIES for the first few episodes. I’d try to suss out if the lyrics meant anything more than their surface shallow happiness, but it’s just too much of a betrayal, even now, to stand. I feel a little bit sorry for the musicians behind this probably most neglected anime theme ever.

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