So onwards we go with the manga adaptation of the acclaimed twelve episode anime of the same name. Magical Girls are teenage girls who are picked by a small bunny-cat creature called Kyubey who offers them one wish in return for creating a Soul Gem and turning them into a Magical Girl. They have enhanced strength, healing, ability to create magical weapons and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Their job is to fight Witches who are Lovecraftian abominations that lurk in Labyrinths luring humans inside to eat. Defeating a Witch gives the victor a Grief Seed, a Witches egg which is used to cleanse the corruption caused by using magic from the user's Soul Gem. In Book 1, veteran Magical Girl Mami was killed by a witch in front of Sayaka and Madoka who Kyubey had tapped as potential Magical Girls. This frightened Madoka off the idea, which pleased the mysterious Homura who is a Magical Girl with unknown motives attempting to prevent Madoka making a contract with Kyubey. At the end of the previous book Sayaka revealed she was now a Magical Girl and saved Madoka from a Witch. We were also introduced to Kyoko Sakura, who is the one in red on the cover at the very end. Her and Sayaka's (in blue on the cover) complicated relationship will play out through most of this volume as some terrible secrets about the true nature of Magical Girls are revealed.
The manga is unflipped so reads from right to left, and honourifics have been kept for those who use them. A note about Kyoko's name. It's spelt "Kyouko" in the book, but the "u" is silent, it's a guide to how you stress the "oh" sound, which makes it pronounced "Kyoh-ko" to us. Also I use her name sans the u as a forum handle so I'm just used to seeing it like that. Also you should know I am team Kyoko x Sayaka, my shipping goggles might affect my view of things. Anyway, let's crack on.
|A wish granted.|
After school, Sayaka and Madoka sit on a grass verge and Sayaka admits she feels "good for the first time in a while". Madoka asks if she is scared and Sayaka says maybe a tiny bit. But the thought of losing her and Hitomi frightens her more.
Sayaka: "From now on, the peace of Mitakihara Town is in the capable hands of Magical Girl Sayaka!"
Then she muses that she does have one regret, not making a contract earlier which might have saved Mami's life. Madoka looks very miserable as she contemplates her words.
Sayaka reassures her that she shoud only become a Magical Girl if she has a wish she is willing to stake her life on, "I became a Magical Girl because I had to!". So Madoka shouldn't feel guilty. Then she leaves to visit Kyosuke in the hospital.
|A boy healed.|
Kyoko is standing atop an observatory spying on Sayaka. She thinks she looks like a "pushover". Kyubey tells her not to expect things to go to her plan, there is another Magical Girl about and it knows nothing about her. She hasn't a contract with Kyubey, "she's exceedingly unusual. I don't have any clues as to what moves she'll make." Kyoko says it suits her fine, "It means I won't be bored!"
Madoka and Homura are sitting in a cafe, Madoka wants to talk to her about Sayaka. She says she's afraid of what'll happen to her, if she'll die like Mami. But although she gets into fights, she's a "very good girl". She is sweet and brave and willing to do anything for people she cares about.
Homura: "That could be fatal for a Magical Girl. Too much of that sort of kindness leads to mistakes. Those who are reckless let their guard down. And there is no reward given for self sacrifice."
That's why Mami lost her life and Sayaka should never have entered into the contract. Homura says she should have guarded her more carefully but now, "I regret to say that you must give up on her." And she leaves an upset Madoka thinking "but... why...?"
That night Sayaka gets ready to go out on patrol, Kyubey asks if she is nervous and Sayaka admits she is. Outside is Madoka and she shyly asks if she can come along with Sayaka to support her. Sayaka says of course she can, she holds Madoka's hands saying hers can't stop shaking, but with Madoka along "I'll feel a whole lot better".
|Off on a witch hunt.|
The person who interfered is Kyoko. When Sayaka tries to go after the Familiar, Kyoko points her spear at her throat. Sayaka says that it'll murder someone. Kyoko says that's the point, after it eats four or five people it'll become a Witch and give a Grief Seed when it's killed, "what's the good of killing the chicken before it lays its eggs?"
Kyoko: "The Witches eat the weak humans. And we eat the witches. That's an obvious natural law, don't you think? You learned it all in school, right? That 'food chain' thing?"
She then sneers that Sayaka made a contract based on justice and rescuing people which she considers a joke. This enrages Sayaka and she attacks. But Kyoko slashes her brutally sending her bleeding body flying.
|Kyoko and Sayaka meet.|
Madoka watches in horror, saying neither of them are witches so why are they fighting? Kyubey can't stop them but he says she could if she makes a contract with him. As Sayaka is knocked to the ground and Kyoko leaps in the air for the final blow, Madoka starts to make a wish but Homura glides past saying "that will not be neccesary" and somehow Sayaka is now behind Kyoko whose spear has hit empty ground.
|Homura somehow saves Sayaka.|
Homura: "I am an ally to the level-headed... and an enemy to fools who start useless fights. So which are you Kyoko Sakura?"
Kyoko is surprised and wonders if they have met before. "Who can say?" Homura says gnomically. Kyoko decides she's had enough of this and leaps up and over the alley roof and is gone.
Madoka thanks Homura for coming to the rescue. Homura shows signs of irritation and anger saying she told her not involve herself with all this, "just how much of a fool are you?" She turns and leaves while Kyubey watches her intently and Madoka sits by Sayaka's unconcious body.
|Proper disposal of dangerous waste.|
Kyubey: "The more magic you use, the more your Soul Gem becomes packed with impurities. To be able to exert your full magic power, you have to take out the impurities.... and restore the gem back to peak condition".
Kyubey goes on to say that Kyoko is strong because she fights with her gem in top form, and has natural talent and lots of experience. Mami was the same. Sayaka think this is unfair, that she apparently doesn't have any natural talent. Kyubey then says there is someone with natural talent alone who could beat Kyoko - Madoka Kaname. But Sayaka refuses to get her involved saying this is her battle.
Kyoko is playing on a DDR machine in an arcade as Homura comes up to speak with her. She asks Kyoko to leave Sayaka alone, that she'll deal with her. She tells Kyoko in a fortnight's time a witch called "Walpurgis Night" (named after the German festival of the same name, literal meaning "Witches Night") will be coming to this town. Once it's defeated, Homura will leave and Kyoko can take over the town. Kyoko finishes having got a new high score and agrees to help, offering Homura a Pocky to seal the deal.
|Kyoko, DDR demon.|
She starts to get angry, yelling that Mami died because the "transfer student" didn't come and help and just wanted the Grief Seed. Madoka tries to tell her Homura was tied up, but Sayaka rants on saying if there is a human out there that is worse than a witch then she'll fight that person. She says if Madoka doesn't want to come she shouldn't, it won't be a pleasant scene and she marches off. Madoka asks Kyubey to say something to her but it says she's not in the mood to listen.
|Yeah.. great advice.|
She ruffles Madoka's hair saying she's grown up to be a good kid. She should make her mistakes now, because adults have "our pride and responsibilities.. so it becomes harder and harder to make mistakes." Then we cut to Sayaka outside of Kyosuke's house, he hadn't told her he'd been released from hospital. She stands outside and enjoys the sound of him practicing.
Then Kyoko pops up and asks why she came all the way here and is leaving without trying to see him. She identifies the fact Sayaka made her wish for the "little master of the house.".
Kyoko: "Geez! You had one chance in a lifetime to make a miracle, and you waste it on a useless gesture like that! Listen, magic is only for granting wishes for yourself. Nothing good happens when you use it on other people. Didn't Mami Tomoe teach you anything?"
She then tells Sayaka now she has magic she should march in, break his bones and he'll have to depend on her for life. Sounds harsh Kyoko, your flirting could use some work. This pisses off Sayaka of course and they move to a motorway bridge for a showdown.
Then Madoka and Kyubey show up to try and stop them. Homura also shows up, irritated that Kyoko has broken their baragin already. She says she'll fight Sayaka instead of Kyoko who says she has as long as it takes her to finish eating what's in her mouth.
Sayaka manifests her Soul Gem and Madoka, thinking of her mum's amazing advice, grabs it and tosses it off the bridge saying she's sorry as she does so. Homura says "this is bad" and vanishes. Sayaka starts to shout at Madoka when suddenly her eyes go blank and she pitches forwards onto the ground.
|Madoka does something wrong, predictably it backfires.|
We see Homura climbing onto the truck Sayaka's Soul Gem fell on to. Kyubey says it couldn't allow their frail bodies to fight witches normally, so by placing their soul in a compact form they are safe to take any amount of damage, and with a little magical repair work they can go right back into battle:
Kyoko: "You creep...! Are you saying you just turn us into something like zombies!?"
No c'mon Kyoko, not zombies. You might be undead but you are sapient, have magical powers and carry your souls around in phylacteries. You're liches. Let's keep to the right terminology here. Anyway as long as their Soul Gem isn't broken, they are virtually immortal.
|"Is it worth it" I imagine Homura thinking.|
Sayaka returns home with Kyubey having been filled in on what Soul Gems really are. When she asks why it didn't tell them, Kyubey says "because you didn't ask." And not knowing like Mami didn't, doesn't hurt. He says it's because they can fight witches more safely. Sayaka isn't treating battle with the gravity it deserves. For example if she was pierced through the stomach with a lance, it would be a huge shock to the body's pain receptors.
Then it puts its paw on her Soul Gem and forces her to feel how much pain that would be if she was feeling it in her body. As she writhes in agony on the floor it carries on lecturing her:
Kyubey: "The reason you were able to fight Kyoko and live is because any pain that was too strong for you was stored away. That could only happen because your conciousness and physical body are no longer directly connected."
Kyubey then tells her she can shut the pain off completely but it dulls movement so Kyubey doesn't recommend it. Sayaka gasps and asks why they have to go through all this. Kyubey perkily says she made a wish and it was granted in return for a life of battle, "and that has certainly come true, hasn't it?"
Next day Sayaka is absent from school, lying in bed under the covers holding her soul in her hands. Then suddenly she gets a telepathic message from Kyoko, "how long are you planning to stay depressed, you half-wit?" She tells Sayaka to come outside, she has some things to say to her.
|"Come out" I promise I won't kill you!|
She tells Sayaka this used to be her father's church, "he was way to honest and way too kind". He'd cry reading the newspaper and wonder why the world coudn't get any better. He started preaching things which weren't in the church doctrine. His congregation stopped coming, he was excommunicated by the main church. His family wasn't able to feed itself (which scarred Kyoko as her food obssession shows), and Kyoko became frustrated that "nobody would even try to understand him. I couldn't stand it anymore."
She made her wish, "I wished that everyone would seriously... listen to my father's words." Suddenly he had parishioners aplenty and she was admitted into the world of the Magical Girls.
Kyoko: "I was a fool to be so excited, a fool to think... that between father preaching sermons and me fighting witches... we were going to save the world, from the inside and outside..."
But her bargain was discovered. Her father lost it when he realised people were only following him due to magic. He accused her of being a witch, "and it broke him. He drowned himself in liquor and lost his mind. In the end, he murdered our family, then killed himself. Leaving me alone in the world." Another orphaned Magical Girl.
|Kyoko's tragic past revealed.|
Kyoko: "Miracles don't come for free. For every iota of hope that goes into a wish, that same amount of despair gets scattered around. It's that very zero-sum game that keeps the world in balance."
They both made the same mistake, but shouldn't live a life of regret anymore. Sayaka pauses, then says she misjudged Kyoko and apologises for that, but she has no regrets about her wish and doesn't think she paid too high a price for it. She knows they can accomplish many things with their power, but those apples Kyoko has are stolen and she can't have any part in that.
As she turns to leave a frustrated Kyoko yells that "we're Magical Girls here! There's nobody else out there remotely like us!!" Sayaka turns and says she'll fight using her own methods and if she inteferes with Kyoko she can try and kill her, but she won't hold a grudge against her anymore. And she leaves, with a vexed Kyoko lustily chewing on an apple watching her depart.
Next day Sayaka returns to school, reassuring Madoka she is OK. Hitomi joins them and they all note Kyosuke has been released from hospital and is back at school. In the classroom, Sayaka refuses to go and greet him, watching him with a thoughtful look on her face.
|Hitomi confesses to Sayaka.|
That night, Madoka meets her outside her apartment to come witch hunting with her. Sayaka starts to cry saying why is Madoka so nice to her? She briefly, for a moment today, regretted saving Hitomi, "a total failure at being a hero!" Madoka hugs her and Sayaka wails that she's going to lose Kyosuke, she can't do anything about it because she's already dead. Just some walking zombie. Funny thought, she feels awfully entitled to Kyosuke just because they have been friends a long time. Damn I just realise Sayaka is the female equivalent of a Nice Guy. And a White (ish) Knight as well. I'm surprised her Magical Girl outfit didn't come with a fedora she could tip while "M'ladying" people.
Later Homura finds Kyoko watching Sayaka fighting a witch called Elsa Marie. Kyoko notes Sayaka is having a hard time with it. Masses of branch-like tentacles attack Sayaka, cutting and slicing her. Kyoko drops in saying she'll show her some moves, but Sayaka coldly tells her to leave her alone. In a frenzy of hacking and bludgeoning Sayaka, drenched in her own blood takes down the witch while she hysterically cries:
Sayaka: "Ah ha ha... if I get in the right mindset... I can block out the pain completely!"
And she laughs madly as Kyoko and Madoka watch in horror. Madoka can only whimper, "please... stop it". And I invite you to check out the same scene from the anime, which is my favourite moment from the show. A magical blend of music, art and voice acting all to give us a young girl spiralling down into suicidal self harming behaviour.
|Yes, that's sane.|
Madoka and Sayaka wait at a bus stop. Madoka says she shouldn't fight like that, it's not good for her. Sayaka tiredly says she has no natural talent, it's the only way she can win. Madoka says winning like that doesn't do her any good. Sayaka scowls and says angrily, "what can possibly 'do me good?'" She's just a worthless rock whose only job now is to kill witches. Madoka says she just wants Sayaka to be happy. "Then you fight those things!!" yells Sayaka.
She rants that she heard from Kyubey that Madoka has more natural talent than anyone. So she should become a Magical Girl to "do me good".
Sayaka: "You can't right? Of course you can't! Nobody would sacrifice her humanity simply out of pity!!"
She doesn't want to get into the hellish fights so she shouldn't talk like she knows what Sayaka is going through. And she runs off into the night shouting at Madoka not to follow her. But even as she runs, she cries wondering what she is even doing, and black blotches appear round her Soul Gem.
At Homura's place (she's also an emancipated teenage orphan), Kyoko and she are discussing tactics for the forthcoming Walpurgis Night battle. Homura throws out various facts and figures and Kyoko wonders how she knows all this stuff, but Homura keeps her cards close to her chest. Then Kyubey appears, and angrily Kyoko manifests a lance coming out of her Soul Gem and points it at it.
|Kyubey oh how everything from your mouth is manipulative and shitty.|
Next day Madoka is hunting for Sayaka who never came home that previous night. We see Sayaka hiding as she watches Hitomi and Kyosuke holding hands. Later that evening she goes and takes out her frustration on a Familiar. Then Homura finds her and tells her she needs to just go after witches and tosses her a Grief Seed to cleanse her Soul Gem.
Sayaka refuses to use it, Homura says if she doesn't she'll die. "That's fine with me" says Sayaka. She says she's a different Magical Girl, she won't let people die and she doesn't want rewards, "if I can't beat a witch then this world has no more use to me." Homura says she just wants to save Sayaka's life, why doesn't she trust her?
"Because you're a liar" says Sayaka. Homura looks at everything through resigned eyes, she uses empty words, she says she is doing it for her sake but "in reality, you're thinking something entirely different, aren't you?" Homura pulls a scary faces saying Sayaka is perceptive. She is uninterested in saving Sayaka but she wants to protect Madoka from seeing the state she's in, "everything I do is for her sake."
|Kyoko to the rescue!|
Sitting on a train, Sayaka hears two chauvanist pig men talking about how they use the women in their lives, treating them like dogs and dumping them when they get clingy. Sayaka confronts them, and demands to know more about these women they treat so badly. They are bewildered at being stood up to by a fourteen year old, while Sayaka says to them why she is protecting this world, they must tell her. NOW. Later she gets off the train, dragging a bloodstained sword behind her before changing back into her school uniform.
Madoka is still hunting for Sayaka. Kyubey says he can't undo what happened to her, but Madoka would be such a powerful Magical Girl she could do it no problem. She would likely be "an omnipotent god". It doesn't know why she is so powerful though. Madoka decides to make a contract for Sayaka's sake, but before she can wish, Kyubey is instantly shredded into bits by a full clip of bullet holes and Homura stands there pointing an automatic pistol at where it was.
|Homura's fave weapon, a Berreta 9MM.|
Homura: "Why can't you realise that there would be people who'd cry if you were to vanish!? What do you think would happen to someone who's been trying to protect you!?"
She grabs ahold of Madoka who looks at her curiously asking if they have ever met somewhere before? Homura just collapses, crying and completely overwhelmed. Madoka apologises and says she has to go and find Sayaka and leaves.
Out of the shadows comes Kyubey. It tells Homura she should know by now killing it is a waste of time. "It's little vexing to be ripped to shreds for no good reason" it says and it starts daintily eating the remains of its previous body. It says it now knows what magic she uses now though - time manipulation. "You're not from this timeline, are you?" it casually asks her. She says she knows exactly what it's plotting and she will change Madoka Kaname's fate. She says she will make sure the future doesn't go as it plans, Kyubey "or should I say... Incubator."
Sayaka is sitting slumped on a bench in a railway station. Kyoko comes running up and sits next to her. Sayaka apologises for being such a pain to her, which surprises Kyoko. Sayaka says she doesn't know what was important anymore, what she was trying so hard to protect. She had saved some lives, but balancing it out her heart filled with spite and hatred and she even hurt the friend she loves the most.
Sayaka: "What an idiot... I am".
And her Soul Gem transforms into a Grief Seed with her tears splashing on it and the existence that was Sayaka Miki comes to an end as with a hideous scream the witch Oktavia Von Seckendorf is born. Sayaka's lifeless body falls to the ground as amongst the chaos of the forming labyrinth Kyoko screams Sayaka's name. We end with Kyubey watching the birth of Oktavia from afar as he smugly says girls who are fated to become witches are naturally called Magical Girls. He's such a shithead. To be continued...
|Anime version here.|