It would probably take me a dozen posts and perhaps some tens of thousands of words were I to try and dissect the entire Madoka series. It is a series rife not only with symbolism, but also with meaning that to try and encompass it to a single post would be a sacrilege and a disrespect to its greatness. Other pundits of anime have also spoken volubly on it that I have no desire to reiterate what a lot of them have already said.
I have been almost three years removed from any meaningful study of philosophy or literature that I cannot write intelligently about literary theories any longer. I have also never properly tackled the concept of deconstruction so I cannot give any rational comment on Derrida and Foucault. As much as I would like to analyze the series in those lenses, I have been inundated with only medicine these past few years. Instead, I would like to merely recall and expound on certain points that have resonated within me as I was watching the series.
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From a helpless girl who was always saved ...
Before I start with the article proper, shout-out goes to Conor, Angelus, and Ryan A for sticking with me even though I haven’t been updating much lately. I really appreciate your reading my posts, Conor. I’m downloading Madoka next, Angelus.
One of my earliest introductions to classic literature was Poe’s ‘Casque of Amontillado.’ My father badgered me into reading it, and I obeyed in due time. I’m glad I obeyed, because I started reading good literature at an age significantly earlier than my contemporaries. I was about 10 during that time. When I was 11, I decided to read more of Poe’s works, because I liked the horror stories he wrote. To my surprise, however, I discovered that he also wrote detective stories and was arguably the first auteur of modern detective stories. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes, but the detective that introduced me to the mystery story was clearly Auguste Dupin in The Murders of the Rue Morgue.
Although I moved away from mystery stories and focused on realistic classics, I have never stopped appreciating the sophistication and the apollonian artistry found in the detective story. In fact, through the years I find that the classics I end up liking the most have significant elements of a detective story: there is the initial confusion and obfuscation, followed by piecemeal plot development that culminates in the story fitting everything together beautifully in the end. I certainly think this can be said about Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Bely’s Petersburg: while the stories are extremely jarring and disorientating early on, the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit into the big picture. When the big picture is finally seen, the scenery is explosive, moving, and cathartic.
They're so destined for one another, the space between their kiss forms a heart.
I think it’s not coincidental that the two works are also recognized to be challenging works of literature precisely because of the novels’ method of narration. Temporal shifts occur without warning, and the reader is left to figure things out with few guides. The non-linear technique further makes things difficult: much effort has to be expended to understand the flux of the plot, but there is also much reward when one figures it out, as behind the confusion lies a truly potent story.
This is where the beauty of Steins;Gate lies in, as well. I’m actually reminded of one of my most favorite series, Tatami Galaxy. And yes, while eyes of some readers are rolling, one can’t help but admit of the similarities with its methods of narration: both tell the story non-linearly, with highly intelligent and kind female deuteragonists, and initially conceited but ultimately endearing protagonists. There is the Groundhog Day rewinds found in both series, as well. Although there wasn’t a physical establishment of a time machine in Tatami Galaxy, both series tackled the immutable and tragic alternate realities suffered through by its protagonists while seeking for a solution to their pressing problems. Tatami Galaxy was simply more of a series of internal catharsis than Steins;Gate: it focused on self-transcendence and self-realization more than it did on the concept of transcendent filial and romantic love in S;G.
Steins;Gate, given that it had more time for explication, was more patient and deliberate than Tatami Galaxy. It was afforded more time in the development of its world than Tatami Galaxy: I simply prefer the primacy and immediacy of Tatami Galaxy, however; but I do admit that the execution and finesse of Steins;Gate is at the apex of anime series.
The central reason why I think quite highly of both these series, however, lies in the fact that these two execute their stories with such intelligence and sophistication without pandering to its viewers. Tatami Galaxy is the more brusque, artistic entity, whereas Steins;Gate is the more refined, aristocratic one. I prefer the rawness of Tatami Galaxy particularly because its roughness allows more interpretation within established limits: it’s more secretive and mystical than the polished, structured glamor found within Steins;Gate. It simply takes a certain kind of prescience and artistry to properly map out a series so beautifully and so accurately that everything coalesces at the end of it all. It takes even more to execute this beautifully, and both series have done so majestically without foregoing of the emotional drive that is pivotal to any series’s success.
At first glance, people may be very mistaken about Steins;Gate. After all, it has a 3:1 ratio of ladies to men (considering that Ruka’s actuations are heavily feminine despite her sex). I’ve been among those people who have prejudged the series to be little more than fluff, as I have read about what happened to Chaos;Head. I didn’t expect anything, and I still don’t, despite countless reviews and ratings probably proving me otherwise.
I have to see and adjudge for myself before jumping to conclusions, after all. I knew it was something quite palpably good even when I followed its earlier episodes as they aired because they held the technical aspects of the show in high accord. While the physics is of course, lacking, what was presented in the show was not incorrect, at least based on my previous physics subjects. Time travel is, at this point, a parascience rather than a true science, and Kurisu’s objections were not unfounded.
Yes, please be my professor.
I may be wrong, however, seeing that it’s been years since my last physics subject. Credit must, however, be given to the show because of its attention to detail: case in point would be the possibility of time travel is black holes could be synthesized at will. While I can’t present the specific publication, I have read about that in the past. The problem with this hypothesis is that, of course, black holes can’t be made perfunctorily: they can’t be made from out of the blue. It’s these small things that heighten my enjoyment of the show alongside the highly attractive Kurisu Makise.
I was also impressed with the commentary of Titor (and seemingly the enactment of time travel in the series) on how people could actually meet themselves in the past because the one coming from the future is actually on a different world line. It somehow reminded me of the Schrodinger’s Cat phenomenon, that one can never really know whether the cat is alive or dead in the different universes unless one opens the sealed pillbox. Since I’m not knowledgeable at quantum physics, I hope people can explain this idea to me.
On a tangential note, I loved the idea of time-travel that The Prestige held: there was something symbolic in Hugh Jackman’s character killing his clone just to execute his trick well. His teleportation came at the cost of his soul.
I may write about characters who have situations oddly similar to Okarin’s. Seeing that I’m just in the earlier parts, that will have to wait until later on. 🙂
I wonder why I haven’t restarted Steins;Gate. I know it’s good, at least from what I’ve seen, and thousands of people probably have seen something good to praise the series so avidly, even going so far as naming it as truly the best of the year. I’m actually troubled because I don’t know whether to restart it, seeing as it’s been months since I’ve last seen an episode of it, or just to continue it and recall as time passes. I’m leaning toward the former, however, as it’s better to have a more solid grasp of the matter especially with series so full of information as Steins;Gate.
I have this problem with anime. It’s so hard for me to start one if I’ve stopped watching, but it’s also so hard for me to stop once I’ve started. I watched Cross Game in a span of three days in medical school, no less, so after I did my assignments I just blazed through the night, slept through the classes, and continued this for two days more. I have no doubt that S;G is going to be good, because I just had that feeling during the summer break when I was watching the aired episodes. I couldn’t continue because I had already watched everything to be seen during that week, and just put that on the back of my mind when class started the following week. It didn’t help that I busied myself with a lady, as well. 😛
Oh well – that’s all in the past now. I really just want to watch Steins;Gate because of Kurisu, as intelligent, nice, and attractive ladies turn me on in any medium. I guess that was the reason why The Return of the Native was so memorable for me; it’s also probably the reason why I’m magnetized to heroines like Jean Grey. I find myself attracted to ladies who do not make themselves up or wish to attract attention to themselves, but who are smart and most definitely beautiful in their subtility. That may be quite a bad reason to start (or restart) watching a series, but I’ve stumbled on some gems because of that.
And yes, Akashi-san is totally my type: she’s an intelligent student of Engineering who’s quietly caring for Watashi. She’s also very attractive. So who’s your type?