By now most of the people watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica have concluded that the real villain is the cute animal mascot character Kyuubee. (I’m just going to transliterate the name. Others use “Kyubey” or even “QB”.)
It’s easy to believe that he’s actually in league with the witches. At best he’s a totally amoral pragmatist who is willing to sacrifice any number of magical girls in order to defeat a greater evil. Worst of all is the way he deceives his potential recruits. He doesn’t exactly lie to them but he certainly doesn’t tell them the whole truth about what they are getting into.
This is a notable subversion of the well-worn tropes of the magical girl genre, but it is not unprecedented. In fact it evokes the greatest magical girl show of them all: Cardcaptor Sakura.
Anyone watching the first episode of Cardcaptor Sakura may be forgiven for wondering if Sakura is making a big mistake. Maybe in some sense she is. Kerberos, the cute animal mascot character of CCS, recruits Sakura with carefully-worded equivocation. He doesn’t exactly lie, but his words are misleading. If Sakura had known the real truth about what she was getting into, she probably would have refused.
Yet nobody hates Kerberos. I’ll give you some reasons:
- Kerberos, unlike Kyuubee, has an actual personality.
- Kerberos genuinely cares about Sakura and tries to look out for her interests. Kyuubee just seems to be looking out for Number One.
- Kerberos sometimes shows uncertainty about what he is doing. Kyuubee just seems smug.
Most importantly, even if Sakura doesn’t get what she wanted in the beginning she seems satisfied with the outcome. In fact the whole series can be regarded as an extended metaphor for the trade-offs involved in growing up. You don’t get exactly what you dreamed about, but you also get things that you could not have imagined.
It seems unlikely that Madoka will have such a happy outcome, but I suppose anything is possible at this point.