“Won’t you believe in the answer that the one you have protected all this time has found?”
-Madoka Kaname, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, episode 12.
When I was young, my mother would walk every Sunday to the Roman Catholic church down the street with two neatly-dressed, freshly-showered children in tow. We were hardly kicking and screaming, but like most children, my brother and I were often reluctant, and found various, harmless ways of entertaining each other in mass: singing hymns in horrible British accents, or providing whispered commentary on others’ outfits. That being said, there were times when the messages from the mass would truly engage me, when I found the stories themselves interesting, and I would listen with rapt attention, in spite of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to contextualize these messages until I was much older.
One such story that stands out in my mind is that of the apostle Thomas, not necessarily due to the message of the story itself, but my mother’s relationship with it. Every year, shortly following Christmas, my mother would look forward to this particular piece of scripture, involving Thomas. When I was around eight or so, I remember asking her why. She looked down at me with a smile from the seat on my right and said something to the effect of that it was the one time when a passage directly referenced her: a person who believes in spite of not having seen.
Truly believing in others, after all, is one of the most difficult things to do.
“I’ll do it over, as many times as it takes. I’ll relive the same time over and over, searching for the one way out. I’ll find the one path that will save you from your fate of boundless despair.”
-Homura Akemi, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, episode 10.
When asked to identify my personal favorite Puella Magi Madoka Magica character, Homura did not immediately spring to mind. Instead, I thought of Sayaka Miki, whose story is far more obviously sad; a melodramatic tale of self-sacrifice that was ultimately in vain, as Sayaka’s romantic idea of being a savior was thrown back in her face by the choice of the one she loved. Unable to cope, she turned into a witch. While Sayaka’s tale is fascinating, and tragic, I realized that I identified far more with Homura’s method of self-sacrifice: a repeated action that was forever in vain. Personally, I am far more likely to blunder along my own path, obstinately adhering to the idea that I must go it alone, unwilling to trust others even if it foolishly means making the exact same mistake repeatedly.
Homura makes the same choices with no change in result. Indirectly, she provides the method for which Madoka to ultimately make her inevitable transformation into a magical girl, the very thing that Homura had been trying to prevent through her actions. A key component in Homura’s lack of success lies in her inability to believe in anyone other than herself. Like Galaxia in Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars, Homura attempts to take on far more weight than one person can possibly carry without the necessarily faith in others to balance it. When she confronts Madoka regarding her fate, her best friend simply smiles and says not to worry, that everything will turn out okay. Madoka believes wholeheartedly in the good in all people and this, in addition to Homura’s influence, is what allows her to accept the insurmountable weight of despair that she eventually bears. She doesn’t need to see anything before believing in others, as witnessed from her repeated statements in varying timelines that, in spite of the amount of awful things in the world, the world is still worth protecting. Unlike Madoka, Homura is unable to believe without seeing, or experiencing. She needs Madoka to tell her directly that she’s alright, that everything will be alright.
I do not believe Homura’s narrative to be a direct reference to the story of Thomas, nor do I believe Madoka’s narrative to be a direct reference to Jesus Christ. However, the parallels are certainly there, and they are interesting to explore or use as a framework of discussion. Additionally, I love Homura for how she reminds me of myself, and in contrast my mother, who is one of those exceptional people able to believe so readily without having seen.