Character Analysis: Madoka Kaname

What can you say about Madoka Kaname? She’s obviously the central character of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, so much so that the show is named after her. But for eleven episodes she doesn’t really DO anything. That makes it kind of difficult to describe her as the hero or the protagonist of the series.

The protagonist is the person who drives the plot to completion, though, right? And who does that in PMMM? It’s Kaname, right? And she’s not just the protagonist; she’s the hero. She saves the world! How much more heroic can you get?

How the heck did she do that? Did you ever see anyone less heroic than Madoka?

I mean, she says it herself. She’s not very strong, she’s not very bright, she’s not very brave. The list of positive characteristics Madoka lacks can keep her going for quite a while and at a couple points she lists them all off.

I’ll give you one more: She’s not very good at making up her mind. I mean, sheez, girl, make up your mind! Do you want to be a Magical Girl or not?

Madoka Kaname her own self

Yes, she’s loyal to her friends. That’s certainly a positive trait, but not one suited to defining her as a hero. In fact, as they are closing in on Walpurgisnacht and it’s just Madoka and Homura left, being a loyal friend makes her better suited to the Sidekick role than the hero, and in fact that’s how they go to face the beast: Homura the hero leading the way, with sidekick Madoka left behind.

If I sat down and took her apart, it’s hard to point out what it is she has. Instead, let’s sneak up on the question bassackwards: We know she’s the hero. But what the heck kind of hero is she?

Call for Doctor Jung!

Carl Jung says, “Look, there are these archetypes people (and characters) live up or down to.” He goes on to list a bunch of them, but for our purposes there are three that matter.

One is the Physical Hero, who wins by being bigger, stronger, and/or more powerful than others. Let’s see … How about Sadao from The Devil is a Part-Timer?

One is the Trickster, who wins by devious and/or clever means. I mean, if you look this guy up in the dictionary you see Loki or Coyote, but it’s also Lupin the Third, right?

And there’s the Wise Old Man, who is smarter or more experienced than the other guy. We’re talking characters like Uncle Iroh and Master Roshi now, right?

The thing here is that the protagonist is defined by what they DO, not by how they look. My favorite is Vash the Stampede, who looks like he could benchpress a moose. You’d expect him to be a Physical Hero, but because it’s part of his moral code to not kill anyone he ends up being trickier than the next dude. He LOOKS like a Physical Hero, but he’s really a Trickster. (It’s when he has to actually harm someone that everything goes topsy-turvy for him.)

It’s really wild, actually. Madoka defines herself in terms of what she’s not. She’s not strong (Physical Hero, out). She’s not clever (Trickster, out). But when push comes to shove, she agrees to become a magical girl in return for having one wish granted, and she says … I watched the whole series again so I could get this quote 100% right:

“I wish I had the power to erase witches before they’re born, every single witch, past, from the present, and future, everywhere.”

It’s obvious she’s thought this wish out VERY carefully, word for word, right? It’s almost like she hired a lawyer to write it for her.

And it works. She blows up the whole system, brings all the poor, dead magical girls back from the dead, admittedly at the cost of making herself some kind of transcendental being. They reappear in the world, and she disappears, barely a memory.

She’s clearly the hero and she’s not old nor is she a man. But she’s a Wise Old Man. She gets the win by using her BRAIN, and that’s what the Wise Old Man does.

She has to be the most moe Wise Old Man ever.

Now, you could argue that she’s outsmarted Kyubey, and that makes her more of a Trickster than a Wise Old Man. But that’s not how a Trickster works. She didn’t go outside or around the box, or exploit a loophole. She played the game exactly by the rules, and won it by making a move so precise it was perfect.

And when Kyubey says something along the lines of, “You know, this means you’ll have to disappear/become a god-like being/whatever and leave all your friends and family behind, that’s where Madoka’s single strength comes into play. She’s loyal to her friends, so she says, “Do it.”

And they do it. Her friends come back to life and she wins. Such a cute little Wise Old Man!

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Character Analysis: Madoka Kaname

  1. Good analysis; in other words, Kyubey played himself. Though to be fair, the loophole she exploited was the “wish for anything” shtick which he offered; given that he’s bound to that system without fail, well you see where this goes. Kind of like the scene in “Fairly Odd Parents” where the teacher wishes for “more wishes” on his last wish to the bad genie guy.

    I see Madoka as a great example that no matter who we are, big or small, we all have a chance at glory and making ourselves turn into the heroes others needed – no matter how big or small, everyone has a chance at achieving success, and overcoming obstacles is no difficulty. That’s one of the reasons Madoka Magica is such a wonderful anime that I’ve been blessed to watch and I’m happy you felt that way too 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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