The Ultimate Madoka Recap and Homura’s Lost Paradise


It has been over a decade since Puella Magi Madoka Magica mainline story received an anime project. It’s now 2024, and the long-awaited movie follow-up to the controversial Rebellion film, Walpurgisnacht Rising, is set to come out soon. As it’s been so long since the original TV series and its sequel film aired, let’s do an ultimate Madoka recap before discussing the series’ other star character and conflict driver in both films, Homura. Contrary to the memes and my adoration for her character, Homura did do something wrong. She shares more than a few parallels with Lucifer from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. After Homura, I’ll speculate on what to expect in the upcoming sequel. Spoilers ahead.

Ultimate Madoka Recap – TV Series

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Woken up from a nightmare – a clockwork woman atop a floating girl and a city in ruins – Madoka Kaname prepares for another day of school. After checking in with her family and meeting up with friends, homeroom begins with a mysterious transfer student, Akemi Homura. The normally bubbly Madoka recognizes her from her dream and is shocked. She becomes doubly unsettled when Homura asks for her help to visit the nurse’s office. Now just the two of them, Homura turns to Madoka and asks if she’s happy with her life and her loved ones as they are now. Madoka answers yes, and Homura replies that’s good and she should stay where she is.

Homura reappears again in a peculiar outfit, hunting a bunny-cat creature. The hunt takes them where Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki are hanging out. The bunny-cat calls for their aid; Sayaka, weirded out by Homura hurting the cute critter (and her earlier attentions towards Madoka), runs off with Madoka and the bunny-cat. They stumble into a witch’s labyrinth, mundane reality warping into a fairytale nightmare as the labyrinth’s denizens attack them. Another girl in a peculiar dress, Mami Tomoe, saves them. Mami is a magical girl, which makes Homura one too. The bunny cat, Kyubey, immediately offers to make Madoka and Sayaka magical girls in exchange for a wish.

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According to Mami, curses are manifestations of humanity’s negative feelings – the worst of which take the form of witches. Left unchecked, witches influence people into committing self-destructive acts, and it is the magical girls’ job to fight them. Madoka and Sayaka are intrigued, but Mami takes them out on hunts first to show them the ropes. Mami shows off how amazing she is, handily dispatching a witch while saving a bewitched suicidal lady. She shows them her soul gem, something all magical girls possess. It stores magic and gets duller after magic use. She shows them the grief seed the witch dropped and demonstrates how it can be used to revitalize soul gems. She offers it to Homura, who is watching from the shadows. Homura declines.

Mami sees helping people as her magical girl code, but many magical girls aren’t like her. Grief seeds are necessary to keep soul gems healthy, yet drop so sparingly that there’s more incentive for magical girls to take on witches alone. Grief seeds also only drop from witches, so hunting cursed beings that haven’t become witches yet is a net loss in magic. For this reason, Mami feels lonely, so she’s excited new and like-minded people might join her despite the job’s dangers. She believes a wish for a magical girl is a fair trade, one she unfortunately couldn’t take full advantage of. Immediately after an accident, she wished to save her own life when she could have also asked Kyubey to save her parents. Madoka tells Mami she’ll become a magical girl with her. Mami is ecstatic.

Mami is eaten, and her delight at finally having a friend leads her to underestimate a witch. Kyubey presses a devastated Madoka and Sayaka to sign magical girl contracts now before they’re also consumed, but then Homura arrives. Previously bound by Mami’s ribbon magic after her warning about that specific witch triggered Mami’s paranoia, Homura methodically takes it out and turns Mami’s death into a lesson (for Madoka especially): being a magical girl can get you killed. Two more magical girls enter the stage: a shaken but undeterred Sayaka makes a wish to heal a boy she coincidentally has a crush on and becomes a magical girl in Mami’s vein, and new character and veteran Kyoko Sakura moves in to operate in Mami’s old witch-hunting grounds. Madoka backs off from contracting.

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More conflicts and revelations ensue. Sayaka wants to be selfless and battle all the curses to save everyone she can. Kyoko wants to be more selfish and prioritize hunting witches for grief seeds. Sayaka sucks at fighting despite her self-righteous attitude. Kyoko is great at fighting despite her self-centered beliefs. Soul gems are then revealed to contain their owners’ souls, ripped out from their bodies – a fact left unmentioned by Kyubey. Sayaka tailspins into a negativity spiral, Kyoko rethinks her self-absorbed ways, and Kyubey’s eagerness to sign magical girl contracts takes on a sinister light. Meanwhile, Homura is trying to keep Sayaka’s issues from harming Madoka while trying to enlist Kyoko for a different fight.

Sayaka doesn’t take it well when the boy she wishes to heal goes steady with someone else, making her realize her altruistic wish wasn’t so selfless. Kyoko relates to her altruistic wish backfiring and recalls why she became a magical girl, to begin with, to help her dad. Sayaka despairs over her feelings, ideals, and body while Kyoko tries to befriend, comfort, and reassure her. Then the worst reveal yet hits: Sayaka becomes a witch. Magical girls (魔法少女, literally girl) “mature” into witches (魔女, literally woman). With no hope of restoring her and knowing how painful loneliness is, Kyoko sacrifices herself to put Sayaka’s witch down. They go down together, and all that’s left is Homura, Madoka, and Kyubey.

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We’re treated to two last bombshells. (1) Kyubey is from an alien race called the Incubators, whose single-minded purpose is to produce energy to counteract entropy and prevent the universe’s heat death. Far from caring about the magical girls themselves, they regard them like poultry farmers raising chickens for slaughter. Soul gems are incubating eggs. Grief seeds are hatched ones. After “hatching,” magical girls release enormous amounts of energy. (2) Homura’s a magical girl with time travel abilities, looping 100+ times in a Sisyphean struggle to protect Madoka and defeat the clockwork witch Walpurgisnacht in Madoka’s “nightmare” (which were memories from the last loop). Once a weak and timid girl who received her first-ever friend in Madoka, the loops have made her stronger and more experienced, but have also traumatized her and turned her colder to everyone but Madoka.

Homura is the only magical girl left to face Walpurgisnacht, and she certainly won’t let Madoka become one. Madoka’s the only person to have believed in and supported her through the hardships and trauma of her 100+ loops. Thinking of her first, best, and only friend, Homura fights with everything she has. Lacking offensive magic, she fights using all of the military hardware she’s gathered, a staggering amount. It’s still not enough, and she begins to despair and turn. Madoka steps in, unable to bear more people suffering through her inaction, and makes a wish to Kyubey. She wishes to prevent all witches past, present, and future. Drawing on the karmic strength of 100+ loops centered around Madoka becoming a magical girl (and Homura trying to stop her), she becomes a deific being that easily defeats Walpurgisnacht and saves Homura. She saves all magical girls from becoming witches and resets time one last time… with her old life absent from it.

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That wasn’t what Homura exactly wished for, and she expresses as much in one last conversation with Madoka. Homura despairs that Madoka must give up her old life. She despairs that Madoka will be alone and that she’ll be alone without Madoka. Madoka reassures her she’ll be with every magical girl in spirit because she’ll be watching, and that’s her wish, including the one she fought so long and hard for her: Homura, her best friend. Homura returns to the new timeline where no one but her remembers Madoka. She nevertheless decides to fight on as a magical girl to help people like Madoka. However, she only does it because she loves Madoka more than she agrees with her selflessness, which, combined with Homura mentioning Madoka and witches to Kyubey, sets up the events of Rebellion.

Ultimate Madoka Recap – Rebellion

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A fantastical yet off-putting experience of all the magical girls palling around and fighting together like every other happier magical girl show turns too good to be true to Homura, as she senses things aren’t as they should be. Who is Beybey? Sayaka shouldn’t be alive. Madoka shouldn’t be here! She discovers it is the Incubators again. Intrigued by Homura’s tale of witches with their energy and this Madoka who works behind the scenes as the Law of Cycles, the Incubators lay a trap to capture Madoka so they can observe and control her. They isolate Homura, induce her into despair, and lock her soul gem in an isolation field before it can fully hatch. They hope to lure in Madoka, as she’s supposed to save magical girls like Homura before they become witches. For her part, a part-way transformed Homura subconsciously creates a witch’s labyrinth, projecting an idealized version of the city and life she always wanted for Madoka, capturing people dear to her while altering their memories.

Horrified and furious at the Incubators and herself, Homura plunges herself purposely into the abject despair to completely transform and foil the Incubators’ plans, trusting that the other magical girls can put her down, break the isolation field, and protect Madoka. Despite their addled memories, Mami and Kyoko spring into action, but Sayaka and another girl in Beybey’s place called Nagisa also enter the fight, knowing exactly what’s happening. A divine Madoka anticipated the Incubators’ plots, inserting herself and an already deceased Sayaka and Nagisa into the labyrinth to save Homura. She temporarily entrusts her memories to Sayaka so the Incubators won’t observe her divinity. Together, the magical girls prevail without needing to destroy Homura. Madoka is reunited with her memories and divinity, but Homura is too far gone to continue living. In her deific splendor, Madoka reaches out to reunite with Homura and take her away.

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Homura responds by pulling Madoka towards her, stripping her divinity of some of her, and incorporating it into herself. Homura and a Madoka without her memories have one last conversation before this moment, one where the latter comforts the sobbing former and claims she could never give up her old life with her loved ones, contradicting the Madoka from the end of the TV series. Proclaiming herself a devil to Madoka’s divinity, Homura edits everyone’s memories and remakes an idealized world for Madoka, but consciously this time and without anyone else manipulating her. From now on, Madoka won’t need to sacrifice anything to protect Homura or anyone. Only Homura has too.

Homura’s Paradise Lost

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Ostensibly, Rebellion was about the rebellion of the Incubators against Madoka’s ascension and reconstruction of the former magical girl system as the Law of Cycles. The compassionate person that she is, Madoka believes in the potential goodness of magical girls to save people from curses, in the idea that magical girls should be heroic and altruistic. She was then horrified when it was revealed the magical girl system often encouraged the opposite: promoting competitors instead of comrades, despair instead of hope. By design, magical girls were destined to suffer, despair, and become those same witches that would inflict curses on people. Magical girls trying to be selfless and heroic only caused them to suffer sooner, despair deeper, and become worse witches more quickly.

Madoka wished to have the power and duty to erase all witches in the universe that are, were, and will be. In making that wish, she gained the ability to arrive at the moment magical girls are about to despair and transform – relieving them of the agony of the transformation and the knowledge of the monsters they’d otherwise become, taking from them their gems, souls, corruption, and sadness. She can’t save their lives (i.e. Sayaka’s), but she can allow them to pass away peacefully with someone kind to watch over them. For this wish, Madoka had to become a new existence capable of accomplishing these feats, like a goddess or a bodhisattva. Becoming this entity required abandoning her old one which exists at a fixed point in time. History is rewritten to account for her absence. All memories of her by those who knew her are erased…

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…except for Homura, who by some miracle, Madoka’s influence, or residual karmic power, overrode the new universal order in this small way. That defiance and its effects – Homura remembering and missing Madoka – paved the way for Rebellion’s second rebellion: Homura’s rebellion against Madoka. Homura would describe her actions differently, though. It’s her rebellion for Madoka. If she was forced to use “against,” it’s her rebellion against Madoka’s decision. Homura’s usurpation has seemingly given not only Madoka but all the mainline magical girls a wholesome alternative to the Incubators’ and even Madoka’s designs. Mami is besties with the girl whose witch killed her. Sayaka isn’t a witch or dead, either. Kyoko is no longer alone. Friends and family surround a normal Madoka, remembering and loving her, and Homura proactively ensures things stay that way.

The Devil is watching, and all seems right to Homura and everyone in the world. Yet even disregarding Homura’s doubts of forever pushing Madoka’s will and memories down – as Madoka is still part divine and that aspect keeps leaking out – Homura… did something wrong. Regardless of how language is twisted, Homura’s rebellion for Madoka disregards Madoka’s agency. Homura’s rebellion against Madoka’s decision disrespects her whole prior character arc. Her doing this for Madoka is a delusion; Homura’s rebellion is for herself. Homura has possessed these controlling tendencies toward Madoka since the TV series, not only begging but berating her not to be a magical girl hero. These controlling features were never thoroughly examined then because she wasn’t ever powerful enough to act on them until Rebellion.

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The TV series manages to give its magical girls complete character arcs that reaffirm their values for selfless heroism, all except Homura. Mami finds other magical girls who believe in helping others as comrades and friends. Sayaka realizes her sacrifice to be a magical girl for someone’s sake wasn’t in vain, and after much doubt, she reaffirms her belief in helping others. Kyoko regains her faith in helping others as a magical girl, despite an experience that backfired terribly. In the end, all three are not alone. They aren’t alone because Madoka – after witnessing all their suffering and good intentions, despite all her fears and faltering – wished to be there for them if all else fails, and beyond that, making it easier for magical girls to be drawn to each other as partners and more. Yet Homura was never fully convinced to care for others as she does for Madoka, only to fight for her until the end as a consolation prize.

Homura struggled and suffered to protect Madoka from becoming a magical girl and a witch. Despite all her efforts, they alone weren’t enough to do the job and defeat Walpurgisnacht. Granted, those efforts weren’t all in vain, probably inspiring Madoka’s wish most of all the magical girls, but the fact remained that Homura couldn’t protect Madoka herself, on her terms. Like in the most recent time loop and many before, Homura tried to discourage Madoka from becoming a magical girl but failed. Homura sacrificed so much so Madoka wouldn’t have to but failed. Madoka avoided becoming a witch from a magical girl by becoming a magical girl god, yet doing so forced her to sacrifice her freedom, her normal life, and everyone’s memories of her. After exhausting all that time, effort, desperation, despair, and madness for the person she loved, Homura got a suboptimal outcome and was effectively told by Madoka to deal with it. She was impotent, but Rebellion gave her a chance to become powerful.

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Homura never fully consented to Madoka’s decision but was forced to live with it because it was a fait accompli, so when suddenly presented with the power to shake things up and the possibility that Madoka has regrets about her decision, Homura fell to temptation, dragging Madoka down to her level and stripping some of her divinity for herself. She rebelled to finally save Madoka from being a magical girl like how she wanted. Like the fallen angel Lucifer from Paradise Lost, she became a devil and rebelled against her god, Madoka, because of pride and selfishness.

Yet the Madoka trapped in Homura’s witch labyrinth was a genuine article, and she said she wouldn’t sacrifice her everyday life for anything, so Homura naturally respects the more normal Madoka’s wishes. If Homura was committing evil, then it was only because she was rebelling against the divine Madoka, which makes her the Devil and her actions evil by default. However, just because her actions can technically (and reductively) be evil in this one light doesn’t mean calling them wrong is an unfair and unjust characterization in other ways.

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The problem with this tortured logic of attempted absolution for Homura’s actions is that the “Madoka” that implied she wouldn’t want to become a magical girl out of fear isn’t the same “Madoka” that eventually wished to become a magical girl to help people despite those fears. Both Madokas Homura spoke to are authentic, but both reflect Madoka at different points in time. The former Madoka is the kind but timid version bereft of her memories, while the latter is the even kinder and resolute version that remembers everything.

For comparison, the 5-year-old me and the current me are both genuinely me, but the 5-year-old me was hyperactive and egotistical and the current me is mellower and anxious. People change and grow over time. We don’t stay the same people even if our name stays the same. It’s absurd to think that the pre-character arc of Madoka deserves to be listened to more than the post-character arc. Those two probably wouldn’t agree with each other if put together in a room.

What’s going on – and the current Homura won’t admit it because she’s deluded, and shattering that delusion would break whatever’s left of that poor girl’s mind – is that Homura prefers a weak and timid Madoka who’s dependent on her. She prefers that over a stronger and more independent Madoka because the former is more controllable. She shares that desire for control over Madoka with the Incubators, even if their reasons differ. It’s borderline abusive, if not outright. Like Lucifer to God, Homura arrogantly believes she knows better for Madoka than Madoka herself.

Walpurgisnacht Rising Speculation

With Walpurgisnacht Rising continuing where Rebellion left off, will Homura be able to keep her grip on Madoka intact after a struggle, or will Madoka fight Homura off and be able to break free? I think it’ll be closer to the latter. As surely as the Devil is opposed to God, even Homura, who is always desperately trying to suppress Madoka’s divinity, predicts that she’ll have to come to blows against her one day. Her isolation field is too unstable.

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Will Homura ultimately accede, though, or will she have to be destroyed? With Madoka as kind as she is, I don’t think she would see Homura permanently damned. Homura’s her friend, and she is doing all this because she’s a broken person. Homura’s love for Madoka broke her, and any compassionate solution to her issue should involve a more down-to-earth engagement with Homura’s perspective. Maybe a room together and some therapy and counseling?

There’s also speculation that Madoka allowed Homura to successfully “rebel” against her as a roundabout way to rehabilitate and redeem her. As the Law of Cycles, Madoka exercises something like omniscience where magical girls are concerned, as she wouldn’t be able to watch over and protect them from becoming witches otherwise. Unless she didn’t know what an insurgent Homura was planning, would a divine Madoka have gotten close to Homura like that unless she anticipated her?

Does everyone have any other thoughts or guesses about what will happen? Feel free to comment!


Social Scientist & History Buff. Dabbles in Creative Writing & Anime Criticism. Consider checking out his blog, Therefore It Is.



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