For this installment of My Favourite Anime, Ashley of Ashley’s Anime gives us a personal view into why she loves Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Read on, and find out why the love between its magical girls mean much more to her than your average otaku ship.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica has been a widely accepted and loved franchise since it came out in 2011. This is in part because of its gory and horror take on the magical girl genre which had mostly been marketed to a younger audience within the anime fandom prior to its release. But as a queer woman myself, I always saw a lot more in the extremely diverse and complex systems we see in this anime.
Most of the girls – if not all – are perceived as queer or queer performing in some way. Of course, Homura and Madoka are the ship of a lifetime, however there are other popular ships such as Sayaka and Kyoko. Even Mami has a certain presentation of queer affinity, though she’s never actually presented in a ship (her relationship to Nagisa is often a motherly portrayal in the movies).
The way these relationships are shown often remind me of Adrienne Rich’s “lesbian continuum”, a theory that refers to women’s vast relationships to other women, whether romantic or not. Rich had a lot of theories on queer relationships and compulsive heterosexuality, but when it comes to anime I’m sure she would have been stunned; the amount of sexualisation we see of the queer community and their relationships is quite stunning.
I’ve always found it very difficult to swallow when I watch yuri. Even as a queer woman, I find it difficult to watch other women (straight women) fetishise queer male relationships. In whatever form it comes, it has always felt to me that queer relationships in anime were never really meant for the people they were representing.
You can imagine, as a new, out-of-the-closet kid in high school, I was so excited to watch an anime like Magi Madoka. Of course, the obvious romantic tension between Homura and Madoka caught my attention, as it did from many of the show’s followers, but it showed me so much more. The platonic love Mami had for her friends and the desire to be close to them in a specific way, with no romantic intentions, was always something I admired and a reason I loved the character so much. Rebellion only made me love her more as she took on that mother/big sister role for my favorite character, Nagisa.
Before I moved to different kinds of theory in college, I had mere ideas of what my sexuality and identity meant to me as I grew into an adult. Suffice it to say, as I am still an otaku today, anime was one of the ways I figured out a lot about myself and what I was feeling before I could critically analyse it. For me, Magi Madoka was one of those series that shifted my thinking.
Of course, nothing I love in anime is inherently un-problematic. I find a lot of things in Magi Madoka to be extremely unhealthy or invalidating. The fact we’ve never really gotten that ‘canon’ moment from any of the famed ships, even though ‘yuri undertones’ are always suspected and ‘obviously’ depicted. And even if it was canon, I’ve always felt that Homura’s unwavering love for Madoka could be analysed as an unhealthy relationship in and of itself.
And yet, despite the issues I’ve always seen in Magi Madoka, I’ve never found myself falling out of love with the series or its characters. I’ve always felt that, platonic or not, the relationships between the girls showed me a lot about myself and how I felt towards other people. How close is platonic till it is perceived as romantic? And is that even possible? Does it only count when the writers come out and say so?
I can’t give finality to these answers, but what I do know is that there is an abundance of things to look into in Magi Madoka. For queer women like me, that show means a lot more than just a slasher flick filled with magical girls. It was probably the first time I didn’t feel completely sexualised in my favorite genre of shows. Sure, there are those who do fetishise all the girls, but I never felt that the show was doing that itself. For me, there was a lot of an awakening that I enjoyed being a part of in the experience that was, and still is, one of my favorite anime.
Did you enjoy Ashley’s interpretation of Madoka Magica? Does her experience resonate with you? Let us know in the comments, and while you’re at it, make sure you follow Ashley on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Ashley Glenn is a Media Studies and Gender & Sexuality major at UNLV. She owns and runs the podcasting hub Black Moor Productions and the sarcastically humorous anime blog Ashley’s Anime.