Before I go over that ending, let’s first talk about Sayaka. With each episode, it becomes increasingly clear that this girl is someone we the viewers need to be worried over. Normally, she’d be the one we’d be rooting for 100%. She’s selfless and she has a strong moral code regarding the work of a magical girl. At the other side of the spectrum is the new girl, Kyoko Sakura (Ai Nonaka), who’s clearly out for personal gain and attacks Sayaka simply because they don’t like the cut of each other’s jib. For all intents and purposes, Kyoko is pretty much the antagonist here, someone we ought to see Sayaka defeat.
Chances are however that you don’t feel that strongly for Sayaka to win. Aside from the fact that Kyoko is so obviously the stronger and more experienced fighter out of the two, the girl is potentially right about a couple of things. With how integral Grief Seeds are with rejuvenating a Soul Gem and, by extension, a magical girl’s power, one kind of has to prioritize hunting Witches. Fighting the small fry may very well be a waste of time and resources as Kyoko argues. And as deplorable as it is for Kyoko to describe how Sayaka could emotionally and physically abuse Kyosuke and keep him wrapped around her finger, she’s not entirely wrong about that either. If Sayaka really wants Kyosuke in her life, she could’ve wished for him to be dependent on her in some way. To make matters worse, we’re starting to see how curing Kyosuke might actually backfire on Sayaka. She can’t reliably see him like she could when he was hospitalized and it’s telling that Kyosuke didn’t tell her that he’s been discharged.
There is also the notion that Sayaka’s line of thinking is frankly pretty narrow. She considers Kyoko her enemy and yet, Kyoko has a legitimate point regarding their disagreements. She groups Homura with Kyoko as another one of the bad eggs and blames her for Mami’s death, jumping to the conclusion that Homura intentionally let the Witch kill Mami (which isn’t true at all). In her eyes, Mami is the only “good” magical girl she’s met so far. Much of her nobility even seems to be inspired by Mami’s. But while it’s true that Mami wasn’t selfish, she was also rather lonely and vain. Mami trying to be the model magical girl ultimately left her alienated and even led to her demise. All things considered, Sayaka comes across as pretty arrogant or stubborn. At the very least, it’s an interesting contrast to Madoka who has been present in enough events to see the big picture and is able to empathize with where Kyoko and Homura are possibly coming from.
While Homura initially intervenes between Kyoko and Sayaka’s fight, she later forms an alliance of sorts with the former. The deal is that Kyoko lets Homura handle Sayaka and that the two of them team up against an upcoming threat known only as Walpurgisnacht. You might be able to take a good guess as to what exactly this threat is before the show later confirms any suspicions. I’ll admit that it’s extremely out of the blue to announce a ticking time bomb of sorts though without spoiling, how it may fit into Madoka‘s narrative will make sense in due time.
Now about that ending.
So towards the end of the episode, Sayaka prepares to take on Kyoko once more, Madoka attempts to prevent any more violence by chucking Sayaka’s Soul Gem off the bridge they’re on. In doing so however, Sayaka suddenly collapses and to the shock of both Kyoko and Madoka, she’s completely lifeless. As Homura rushes to recover the Soul Gem, Kyubey reveals a disturbing truth: Soul Gems literally contain the souls of their owners while their physical bodies are now merely shells that the gems can control remotely within a 100 meter radius. This is to mitigate physical harm from interfering with a magical girl’s ability to fight witches.
I consider Episode 3 to have the most famous twist in Madoka, and it is a very good twist in and of itself, but I honestly have always found the truth surrounding Soul Gems to be more meaningful and unnerving. Mami’s death is effective but it purely runs on shock value and serves to establish the sense of danger that the characters are in. This twist however doesn’t just set the tone, it’s a huge change in the mythos. It isn’t just the life or death stakes now, there’s clearly something messed up about how magical girls operate and most of our characters are only now finding out about this. The foreshadowing for this twist has also been quite good. I mean, the objects are literally called “Soul Gems” and there’s a flashback from last episode where you see Kyubey create Sayaka’s Soul Gem by extracting from your body are dead giveaways. Admittedly, they’re pretty dead giveaways but you don’t necessarily pick up on that until this episode provides you with some context.
The different reactions from the characters also stand out to me. Madoka is rightfully horrified. It’s made even worse because her decision to throw Sayaka’s Soul Gem away comes from following advice she recently received from her mother, to help your friend even said friend may not appreciate it at first. That’s good advice and Madoka has the right intentions at the time, a shame then that it backfires on her in the worst way possible. Meanwhile, you have Kyoko who, despite her jaded views on magical girls, is taken completely aback by the truth. She puts her beef with Sayaka aside, instead lashing out at Kyubey for turning their bodies into inanimate objects and for practically deceiving them. The same can’t necessarily said about Homura. Thing is, as soon as Madoka takes action, Homura immediately teleports away to recover Sayaka’s Soul Gem. It would seem that she already knows the truth surrounding them. If that’s the case however, one has to wonder how Homura found out in the first place.
By far, the most peculiar and alarming reaction however is Kyubey’s. Rather than apologize for bringing up the fine print, Kyubey instead comments on how every human he’s interacted with have the same reaction and objections our heroines do. More importantly, he doesn’t seem to understand why they object and why they don’t see eye to eye with him. He fails to recognize the disturbing nature that comes when separating one’s soul from their body. Instead, he keeps arguing the “practical” benefits of such an arrangement and even if that is true, he completely misses the point that the girls are arguing. Keep in the mind the wording too how Kyubey directly refers to the girls as “humans”. That Kyubey being nonhuman was obvious from Day 1 but now that means more beyond mascot character status. Kyubey doesn’t understand why his companions are feeling in a such way because he isn’t human and therefore, doesn’t think and feel like them. And when you think back on past scenes, you realize that Kyubey has always been like this. Pleading with Madoka and Sayaka to form a contract with him before they die alongside Mami. Telling Madoka that she could take a stance among her peers if she becomes a magical girl. Stating that Kyoko is much stronger than Sayaka. None of these weren’t actually out of concern but rather a manner of fact. The writing was playing tricks on you the whole time, framing Kyubey’s dialogue as unassuming before finally revealing his disconnect with everyone and everything in blunt, piercing fashion.
Thanks for reading!
Read my Puella Magi Madoka Magica reviews (page will be available soon)