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Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the most serious deconstructions of the maho shoujo genre to date. At first glance, one may pass it off as another moe bait show: all the girls are cute, the palette is very pastel-like in the first episodes, and while the witches’ design is very original, the cuteness may turn off some viewers.
And then there’s chapter three. Once past that particular episode, the story takes a sharp turn to the darkest side of fantasy; and this made it infamous among viewers due to the tragic tint that permeated the story until its end.
But of all the stories within the Puella Magi Madoka Magica series –and movies- which one is the most tragic? Which character is the one that suffers the most and deserves our sympathy? Here we have our list of choices for your consideration. Just be warned, there are spoilers ahead.
10. The Witches
This may look like cheating, but there’s no way to choose one witch over the others given the small amount of information we have for most of them. With the exception of Oktavia, Kriemhild Gretchend, and later Charlotte, we have no idea who they were before they became witches. And that is the tragedy that envelops their stories and their ends.
Because we know that witches are not born, but made. That every single enemy that the magical girls face was once a magical girl; a girl who, like them, made a wish and a contract with hopes to help people, and whose wish turned against them. We don’t know their names, or their wishes. We only know that in the end, the suffering and pain was stronger than their dreams. Which is why they collectively end up in the tenth place in our list.
9. Hitomi Shizuki
Hitomi Shizuki is one of the very few girls in Puella Magi Madoka Magica who doesn’t become a magical girl. This alone could mean that she is saved from the anguish that her friends suffer, but that only holds as long as we don’t see the story from her point of view.
Because Hitomi never finds out why suddenly her friends Madoka and Sayaka, her best friends in school, suddenly start shutting her off from conversations and meetings. She suspects it could be due to her love for Kyousuke, especially as she gave Sayaka an ultimatum about revealing her feelings; but then Sayaka disappears. While she never finds out what happened to her friend, we know that she blames herself for Sayaka “running away”. The pain of losing a friend and feeling responsible for it gives her the ninth place in our list.
8. Kyouko’s Father
We only learn about Kyouko’s father tragic story as Kyouko herself tells it to us, but from what we know, it’s pretty tragic from his point of view. First, he is fired from his job for preaching what he really believes in. He loses his congregation, the means to support his family, and they all end up homeless. Then, just as it seems people are listening to him and he can rebuild his family’s lives, he finds out it was all due to his daughter giving him the power to control people’s minds.
Is it any wonder that Father Sakura lost his mind? We think not. It is tragic that he then reacted by killing his whole family, and that he died thinking that his eldest daughter was an evil witch. The most tragic part of it all is that he died not knowing that Kyouko did it because she loved him. This is why he gets the eighth place in our list, despite being just mentioned in a flashback.
7. Nagisa Momoe
The first time we see Nagisa Momoe she is already a witch. Charlotte, the witch of sweets, has her barrier in a hospital. The series itself never gives us a reason for this, but the movie materials tell us that she was there to visit her sick mother when she asked for the wish that would turn her into a witch eventually.
The Movie gives us a bit more background on her, as she chose to leave the unending peace provided by the Law of Circles in order to help Madoka save Homura. It is there when we find out that she was a very lonely child, and that she remembers what she did as Charlotte. While the movie ultimately gives her a happy ending, the fact that she remembers what she did, as well as the possibility that her wish was what caused her mother’s death, is what gives her the seventh place in our list.
6. Mami Tomoe
Mami Tomoe is the most experienced magical girl we met during Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as well as the oldest. But despite her constant smile, she hides a deep loneliness. Kyuubey found her in the wreckage of the car accident where her parents died, and she wished to survive. However, this meant that she would live alone in an apartment as she worked as a magical girl.
While Mami seemed happy with her life, once she met Madoka and Sayaka she was given the chance to see how it would be like to have friends. She really hoped that both girls would become magical girls to fight with her; it was then when she accepted that she had regrets over her wish. If she could do it again, she would like to have more time to consider her words carefully.
Despite her experience, Mami is also one of the most impulsive. At some point she chooses to kill her friends before watching them turn into witches; even if that timeline was erased we still know what she did. Due to her eternal loneliness, and her untimely end just as she found new friends, Mami earns the sixth place in our list.
5. Kyouko Sakura
Kyouko Sakura is the other experienced magical girl that we met in the series. Her first appearance is as an antagonist, when she comes to Sayaka and Madoka to tell them that magical girls don’t fight for what it’s right, but for themselves. In this sense, she is a very selfish girl, who apparently doesn’t care for others. At some point, she even lets familiars go so they will grow into witches, killing humans in the process.
However, Kyouko hides a great suffering. Her wish destroyed her whole family, and she only survived because magical girls can live as long as their soul gem is intact. Later on, her friendship with Mami was broken for reasons unknown and she decided to go on her own. Finally, when she found new friends in Madoka and Sayaka, it was at the same time when they all discovered the truth behind witches and magical girls. In that discovery, Kyouko lost a new friend, and ultimately her life. And because of that, she is in the fifth place in our list.
4. Junko Kaname
Junko is Madoka’s mom. As many other mothers of different magical girls, she is not informed of what her daughter is doing but she notices Madoka’s conflicts and tries to advise her. Although she is a busy business woman, she always took her time to be there for her daughter, even as she felt Madoka drifting away.
As with Father Sakura, the true tragedy of Junko’s life is only implied in the series. It’s not until we think about how the series’ events affected her life that we realize how terrible things are. The last time she saw her daughter was as Madoka was leaving a hurricane shelter, and then, when the hurricane ended, she had forgotten Madoka.
Only, she didn’t. Not completely. At the end we see Homura talk with Junko, and Junko confesses that she feels something is missing. A daughter she wishes she had. And for that longing, Junko lands in the fourth place of our list.
3. Madoka Kaname
Madoka Kaname is the main character of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and it’s through her eyes that we see the whole tragedy unfold. Naïve and gentle, it seems that she will never ask for her wish; that she will only see her friends die or become witches. The truth is that Madoka has made her wish many times, and has died in terrible ways.
Our Madoka, the Madoka we see through the series, knows about this. Knows about the version of herself that died becoming a witch; about the one who begged to be killed before becoming a witch; about the one who lost her life trying to defeat a witch. And that is what inspires her to ask for a final wish, one that saves her friends, but it costs her whole existence. Because she loses her family and friends, Madoka has the third place in our list.
2. Sayaka Miki
Sayaka Miki is Madoka’s best friend, a tomboyish and brash girl who strongly believes in justice and in doing the right thing. Unlike Madoka, Sayaka was not originally targeted by Kyuubey to make a contract. She was there because she couldn’t leave Madoka alone to face danger. After that, Sayaka used her wish to heal Kyousuke, a childhood friend she loved. And that’s when the tragedy began.
First, Sayaka found out that she was no longer human, that her body was practically a ghoul that could feel no pain if she wished. Then Hitomi dared her to tell Kyousuke of her feelings, or Hitomi would act on hers. As Sayaka fell into despair, she became a witch, and ended up killed by her new friend, Kyouko.
Sayaka’s suffering is visible in the shape of Oktavia von Seckendorff, and because of that, she earns the second place in our list.
1. Homura Akemi
Homura Akemi is the first magical girl we met in the series, and she is the opposite of everything a magical girl should be. She is serious, methodical, wants Madoka and Sayaka to stay away from Kyuubey and attempts to kill Kyuubey in her first appearance. In short, we are led to believe she is the antagonist of the series, someone more dangerous than the witches themselves.
But as everything in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this is not exactly true. After spending most of her life in the hospital, due to a heart condition, she used to see herself as useless. It was not until she met Madoka when she started to think she could be worth something. It’s not surprising that her wish is basically to save Madoka. However, in the process of fulfilling that wish, she became colder.
She saw Madoka die at least a hundred times; She saw herself fail a hundred times. Even at the end, she had to see Madoka sacrifice herself for every single Magical Girl in existence. No matter how hard she tried, Homura was never able to save her first friend. And that is why she is without a doubt the most tragic character in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a series built upon tragedy. The world that it describes is one that could only prosper on top of the suffering of thousands of young girls who saw their dreams turn into nightmares. And it’s success also depends on that tragedy. Because as viewers, many magical girl fans have grown accustomed to a happy ending. Madoka Magica refuses to give us that happy ending. And we love it for that.
However, deciding who suffers the most in the series is a hard job. Do you agree with our suggestions? Do you think we missed someone that also deserves to be on the list? Let us know in the comments and let’s keep Puella Magi Madoka Magica alive.