The reveals are coming hard and fast now, and the one in this episode somehow managed to top everything else so far. It was a move that many had predicted from the start, and a perhaps disappointingly convenient tool for explaining Homura’s story up to now. Still, the episode was filled with solid action and moving stand alone scenes and did its job of teaching us Homura’s story and letting us feel for her.
So this little twist gave Shaft carte blanche to do anything it wanted with the characters and story (in fact, I’d bet that that was one of the main reasons that the twist was used in the first place), and at the very least, it made for some good fanservice. Much like in doujin, we got to see various “what if” scenarios play out starring our favorite characters, without worrying about the continuity of the main story. Plus, there was something deeply satisfying about finally seeing Madoka as a magical girl, fighting and protecting as she had longed to do throughout the show.
One thing I liked was the brevity with which each loop was shown, and how much variety there was in them. Homura woke up, she fought along with some of the girls, failed on Walpurgis Night, tried again. There was no dilly dallying around. And Shaft clearly had a lot of fun with what they were allowed to do in the loops. One of my favorite moments was Homura shooting Madoka after Walpurgis Night. The shaded zoom out followed by a simple flash as her gun went off, with Homura’s pained screaming going on the whole time. The scene leading up to it would have fit well as the ending to a separate story about the two girls. Of course, that part was the only glimpse we saw, but the Groundhog Day loop let us forgive the lack of development up to that powerful climax and just accept the moment for what it was.
Another thing I really liked seeing was Mami losing her head in the loop in which they had to kill the witch Sayaka. Who would have thought that she would turn out to be so unstable and suicidal? I mean, her magical girl wish was to live, so of all of the girls, you’d think she would want to keep going. But that’s what’s convenient about the Groundhog Day loop, isn’t it? You’re allowed to have crazy, out-there situations that don’t necessarily jive with what’s been shown thus far.
Maybe I sound very positive about this reveal, but I’m actually not. Introducing the time loop is a cheap way of explaining everything up to now. Again, it gives Shaft carte blanche, and that power is a double edged sword. It’s just too powerful a tool and can result in a deus ex machina. So that they decided to use it annoys me somewhat. I would have preferred a more typical back story for Homura, in which her cynicism slowly crept into her over time in a linear progression, instead of it bashing her over the head through the loops. Alternatively, since Shaft decided to go the route of the Groundhog Day loop, I wish they had really run with it as is the norm for uses of the loop, that is, that Homura had to suffer through hundreds, thousands, or even millions of loops to get to where we are now, instead of just 5.
At the same time, I always say, it’s never the concept, always the execution. And this episode was executed very well. Not amazing, mind you, but it did its job of letting us see Homura’s character development, and it had some awesome action and heartfelt scenes, to boot. It convincingly presented Homura as a gun toting badass magical girl, and that’s pretty cool. The cinematography, art, and music were top notch as usual. I can’t take anything away from that.
So, and I’m repeating what I wrote last week, the stage is set for the finale, to defeat Walpurgis Night and save Madoka. We know that this will be the last loop Homura has to suffer, because this is the loop that this show has followed. I’m really pulling for a happy end, because that would be just so unexpected at this point. And it would be darn hard to pull off well, which would make it all the more satisfying if it did. There are a lot of traps the story can fall into in these next 2 episodes, and it will be fun to see how Shaft navigates around them.