Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Divine Ideations

This post is the last of five covering the series ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’. It contains spoilers for the whole series. Earlier posts can be found here, here, here and here.

Most of you, I will assume, are familiar with the phrase ‘save the best for last’. In the climax of any series, there is always the following challenge: throughout the series (or book, or movie, etc), you’ve built up this impossible obstacle for the protagonists to overcome. That obstacle could be psychological, tangible, financial, social, political. Maybe the protagonist has gone up against that obstacle several times in the past and come up short each time – but this time is different. Maybe the protagonist has watched others – loved ones and friends – face the same hurdle and get stopped degiad in their tracks, maybe even literally so. Regardless, in most stories with such structures, the protagonist comes up with something special, something that the protagonist either had in them all along or something that they learned during their journey, in order to overcome this situation and its obstacle. In fact, the protagonist’s ability to overcome this obstacle is the very reason that the protagonist’s story was deemed important enough for the storyteller to relay. In this final post on Puella Magi Madoka Magica, we will take a look at how the protagonist, takes down not just the immediate threat that was built since the very episode but also the consequences of dealing with this threat. The stakes are high – just defeating the threat posed by the Walpurgis Night won’t be enough to earn us a happy ending – it’s going to have to be done in a way that the characters themselves consider satisfactory. Of course, that only holds true if you assume that we’re getting a happy ending – and there has been little in this series so far to suggest that that is the direction in which we are heading. Continue reading

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Recursive Miseries

This post is the fourth of five covering the series ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’. It contains spoilers for episodes one through ten, with some speculation for episodes beyond that.

Without knowing, at the time of typing this at least, what the final episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica hold, I think it’s safe to say that nonetheless, this episode will have no difficulty standing on its own feet. Pulling back the curtain on a mystery that has dominated the series since its very first episode alone would be enough to elevate the episode’s standings, but the content of what was revealed surely sends it over the edge. In terms of the overall narrative, I find this episode playing an interesting role. As much as I wanted to learn about Homura’s intriguing past, I also felt that the larger story was in a position where it had the audience in the palm of its metaphorical hands. That’s an enviable position to have an audience; to move away from the main story into a flashback – albeit a flashback for Homura, who is arguably more of an active character than our alleged main character – is a daring move, and one that could have backfired had Homura’s story been even slightly less engaging than what it was. I’m tempted to suggest that interspersing Homura’s story with the finale would have created a tighter, denser finale but on the other hand, the finale and the flashback could also have served as mutually distracting elements which would have kept the audience from focusing on either element of the story. Unlike previous posts on this series, this week’s post will be focusing solely on episode 10:

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Fall From Grace

This post is the third of five covering the series ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’. It contains spoilers for episodes one through six, with some speculation for episodes beyond that.

Coming up with titles for these posts is often a challenge. Every now and then, there will be a title which just jumps out at me and I know it’s a perfect fit right away. Most of the other times, I tell myself to just think of something later and by the time I’m done typing, I’m so tired that I just stuff the first thing I think of in there. This post is sort of neither; I knew right after episode 7 what central idea I wanted to talk about in the post, but at the same time, the title was sort of the first thing that came to mind. The idea behind the fall from grace seems like a natural follow-up to the way we left things last week. The characters had been flying high, and it seemed like internal tensions and inter-character conflicts would be the order of business for the rest of the series. As we will see in a moment, tensions between the characters persist, but the conflict is mostly coming from within the characters themselves. As any fan of drama can tell you, that tends by the most delicious kind – not that I’m salivating at any of the characters misery, or anything.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Regretting Miracles

This post is the second of five covering the series ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’. It contains spoilers for episodes one through three, with some speculation for episodes beyond that.

One aspect of this series that continues to intrigue me is the Faustian deals that the contracts turn out to be. There is something very human about wanting something so badly that you’d consider taking a deal that is not in your favor, not only in known ways, but possibly also in unknown ways. It’s easy enough to empathize with; I’m sure we’ve all had things that we wanted  badly enough to consider taking disproportionately risky gambles on. However, in both fiction and real life, it’s rare to see though gambles not come back to haunt the gambler. In the case of the contract that the girls make with Kyubey, I can see the allure. The contract is fixed in terms of what Kyubey’s demands are – it demands your life, regardless of what you want in return for surrendering that life. In fact, it’s not even really asking for your life directly; a sufficiently skilled fighter might be able to maintain a respectable life expectancy as long as they don’t get cocky or slip up. So, in exchange for simply risking your life, the girls can have anything their heart desires – it doesn’t seem like that bad a deal on the surface of it.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Introduction

This post is the first of five covering the series ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’. It contains spoilers for episodes one through three, with some speculation for episodes beyond that.

This series has been on my watchlist for a long, long while – in fact, right after I finished Fate/Zero a lifetime ago, I thought long and hard about what series to go for next. I ended up picking Neon Genesis Evangelion because I felt that it would be good to go for something a little more classic but there was a strong case to be made for Madoka as well. Maybe it would have been a little too much Urobuchi at a stretch, or maybe I would have been better able to articulate the similar themes that Madoka and Fate/Zero share, but I’m glad I watched Evangelion regardless, if only to understand the history of the genre a little better. By way of introduction, I’ll start by explaining how much (or how little) I know about the series going in. I had heard that the art style and the general ‘cutesy-ness’ of the setting was a put off to many people and I had been told in no uncertain terms that I needed to watch at least the first three episodes before making a decision on whether or not the show was for me. I’m glad I watched the first three episodes; though I think by the end of the second episode I was quite sure the series would be an interesting one. Given my past experience with Gen Urobuchi’s work, I don’t expect any of the characters to end the series unambiguously better off. I expect the characters to suffer – and not always for any particular reason – but I also expect some kind of exploration of the human condition, whether in terms of the search for happiness or purpose, or in terms of trying to understand their role in society. This means I’m going to have to reconcile the optimism of the series’ setting – a normal, peaceful middle school – with the gloomy themes that the series will likely explore.  I don’t see this being a particular problem but it’s something that will need a bit of getting used to.

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[Re-Read] A Storm of Swords – Tyrion II

This post has spoilers for George RR Martin’s fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, including fan theories and speculation. If you do not wish for certain information regarding future plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Well, it’s been a while but it looks like the ‘Re-Reads’ part of Re-Reads and Reviews is back on the menu. I don’t intend to go on hiatus again but no promises right now, unfortunately, given how bonkers my schedule is right now. It took me a while to even remember where in the story we stopped, and then it took me a while to just familiarize myself with the story again; it’s not like I’ve forgotten anything but rather I needed to remember what I’ve already talked about and what I intended to mention in future posts. For we dive back in to this read-along, I should probably explain why there has been such a long gap between posts on A Song of Ice and Fire. Long story short, I was rather disheartened by the fact that we still don’t have The Winds of Winter. Yeah, yeah Martin isn’t our bitch, sure, message received – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been six years and the book is nowhere in sight. I guess I could finish this re-read project and move on – it’s not like there’s any shortage of things for me to cover – but when I first started this way back when, I sort of imagined that The Winds of Winter would be out by now and that was primary motivation in getting me to pump post after post out. Of course, back then I also had a mountain more time than I do now, which obviously helps as well, but when the key motivating factor disappeared, I turned my attention to other topics. The good thing is that when I decided to pick my books back up, thanks to Amazon, I had all my notes exactly where I left them – I don’t know if there is a way for us to share annotations with each other, but that could be a pretty cool idea for a community read through.

Coming back to this re-read project, I guess, if it’s not going to be in time for the release of The Winds of Winter, then at least it will get some buzz around the final season of Game of Thrones – to which I have foolishly read spoilers. I won’t spoil anything here of course, but be warned that as always, this re-read does have spoilers for the television series. The re-read last left off with us looking at the older Lannister boy as he began to the long, long journey to redemption. This post however, picks up on where we left Tyrion – he has recovered from the worst of the wounds that he experienced in the Battle of Blackwater Bay but there are psychological scars that are still plaguing him, though of course, we aren’t told this. Not a great happens in this chapter from a plot perspective, but a lot of Tyrion’s future misfortune is sown here. His unwillingness to set Shae aside, his inability to accept that he is no longer able to call shots, his insistence on staying in game that is looking like it has already been lost. As has always been the case with Tyrion, these decisions are understandable, if not logical, but they will come back to bite him nonetheless.

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[TV] Westworld – Tracing Decay

This post is a second attempt at discussing Westworld. The first can be found here. This post has full-season spoilers for the first season of Westworld

My previous piece on Westworld felt inadequate and I really should have seen that coming. In retrospect, it was pretty naive of me to assume that I could discuss everything I wanted to, while still studiously avoiding spoilers. The end result was that the last post ended up being half-hearted and incomplete. While I still stand by everything I said in it, the post offered little beyond simply identifying what the interesting elements of the show were. This week’s post is a return to Westworld, with the intention of setting those wrongs right.

In case you missed the by-line above, this post has spoilers. Not light, early-in-the-season spoilers – real spoilers, you know, the ones that can actually ruin your enjoyment of the show. Consider this fair warning, there won’t be a second.

The post is going to be structured into two halves, roughly speaking. In the first part, we’re going to talk about the surface level of show. That includes things like acting performances, special effects, story-telling techniques and plot construction. There will certainly be some level of overlap with what was mentioned last week, but I hope to add a lot more in terms of detail. The second half will deal more with ideas and themes – elements that I believe made Westworld a little more engaging and thought-provoking than your typical sci-fi thriller. I tend to be rather hit-or-miss when discussing abstract ideas, but I do find them interesting regardless, and hope you do too.

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