The Construction of Puella Magi Madoka Magica

It's believed, that Madoka is a deconstruction of mahou-shoujo genre, in the same way as NGE is a deconstruction of mecha/shounen genre. There are no doubts that NGE is actually a deconstruction, but it's unclear is Madoka a deconstruction too, is it brings or discloses something new, or the device of deconstruction was used just to get an original meaningless work? To verify this, we need to make out what deconstruction and mahou-shoujo is, and what Madoka is about.

Structures, Patterns and Values Everywhere

The deconstruction originates from post-structuralist linguistic and cultural analysis, but only philosophers know what exactly it is in detail. According to A. Easthope [now I'm actually using a reference on postmodernism and wish to read this book sometimes] there are at least five different kinds of deconstruction which could be used for analysis or criticism, but probably only original Derridean deconstruction could be used (and easily detected) as a device to create a work of art.

At the beginning of the 20th century philosophers of structuralism found that the world, society, language and so on are governed by complex structures and systems, which are composed from patterns and entities which in turn could be analyzed. There was very interesting situation with the analysis of language, when it was discovered that words and terms could be defined not only structurally but also by a degree of opposition or affinity to other words or terms (for example, good may be defined through the opposition to evil, ultraviolet through the relation to violet so on), and it was thought that meaning of words themselves exists only due to their oppositions. This situation implies that culture and language should contain hierarchies of such oppositions where one of the opposed terms is preferred or valued more than another (for example good may be valued more than evil and vice-versa). Moreover, words or terms could have more than one meaning which should be resolved (interpreted) from the context and the meaning may be resolved ambiguously. So, here is the post-structuralism begins.

There are at least three context exist for any given text or narrative in the post-structuralist world: author's context, linguistic context and reader's context (this may be cultural, structural or any special contexts). This eliminates the author as the source of a concrete meaning of the text and a precise meaning itself, because the author may add some meaning to the text unconsciously, a hidden meaning may be contained in the linguistic structures and the reader may give additional interpretation to the text using his own context. This not means that the text contains no sense at all or it may contain an arbitrary sense as it was perceived by a reader. The sense in some degree is defined by the semantic structure of the narrative and also by the interpretations of facts, so the text may contain several different (even opposing) senses, and ambiguity between them is defined by the width of context, (so only a text without a distinctive structure and infinitely wide context would have an arbitrary sense). But if structure of a text is not detailed or if it's very vague (allows too many interpretations) it's may be very hard to find any sense at all, so this is how a pure post-structuralist or postmodernist text looks like (although this is only one of several properties of such texts). Authors use vague texts to make the reader to choose between several possibilities in the hierarchies of values and meanings, and because of this postmodernist texts look not so straightforward as traditional ones.

Is the analysis of texts became so hopeless? Philosophers believe that it is not so, they propose deconstruction as a tool to unveil hidden (unconscious, hierachical or linguistic) meanings of the narrative and believe that it may work. On the other pole some traditional tools such as Occam's razor (which are also invented by philosophers) may be used to eliminate not so credible senses.

Basically, to perform a deconstruction of a narrative in Derridean sense, it's necessary to reverse the hierarchies of values mentioned above, replace entities with the opposite ones and check is any structure and sense could be obtained in this case. If the result contains no contradictions the presence of an additional sense may be discovered.

Let's see how NGE is constructed (the deconstruction was used to create it, and because of this NGE is a deconstruction of the whole genre). At first, NGE has attributes of mecha/shounen such as giant fighting humanoid "robots" and a weak protagonist. At the same time meanings and values are reversed: the "robots" are not machines but living things (this produces large amount of drama and other consequences), and despair and decay of the protagonist was shown instead of maturation as it is customary in shounen (and the sense of the story revolves around this). But NGE is more just a deconstruction, it's also a cruel joke, because author's context is semantically disconnected and you need to consciously connect it to reconstruct the structure of the narration before you can start interpretation in your own context. You will connect it unconsciously in the opposite case, so there would be almost no correct author's context and non-contradictory author's sense (which actually exists and it is very solid because the story is very detailed).

What Madoka is About? [spoiler warning]

There are of course some patterns in the mahou-shoujo genre, such as magical girls and magic themselves, an aide animal and friends, the confrontation of good and evil and so on. At the first glance all this presents in Madoka, so this is definitely a mahou-shoujo. But what should we expect in the case of a deconstruction: an ordinary girl instead of a magical one, science instead of magic, an evil animal and enemies instead of friends, and finally the fact that good is evil and vice-versa instead of the confrontation. Oh, God, we actually have all this in Madoka!
And indeed, Kyubey appears to be not a loyal aide but a being with its own interests, Madoka is an ordinary girl and a magical one at the same time, friends are friends and rivals at the same time, good is evil and evil is good at the same time and magic is science and science is magic at the same time. It's incredible, how could this be? Only due to dualism and paradoxes.
The central  law of the Madoka's universe and story is the law of the conservation of good and evil which is analogous to the law of conservation of energy; because of it the the ratio of good and evil is constant, so good produces evil and vice versa. There is also constantly increasing entropy, so the universe should experience a heat death sometimes in the future. To prevent this Kyubey and incubators (they're analogues of the Maxwell's demon) collect energy from the fight of good and evil (which is analogue of the adiabatic process). Because good is convertible to evil, all magical girls (who are good) are collect despair by doing good and finally become witches (who are evil) with power equal to the amount of the collected despair (or just die). And since this is profitable to incubators, they lure girls to become magicians (by carrying out their wishes in return) to support this eternal fight. Madoka understands this (she was upset by Sayaka's transformation, and her transformation to a witch will cast the shadow of despair to Homura) and breaks this desperate circle by sacrificing herself and potential energy of her despair to change the way of the production of energy by incubators (so, girls are not doomed to become witches anymore and just die). Being a super-powered magician because of multiple time paradoxes created by Homura, Madoka could easily do this through her wish.

Is Madoka a Deconstruction?

Formally, definitely yes. We got uncontradictory structure of the narration by the interpretation in the context of physics (the story is not obfuscated and connections between the most of facts are directly available, so there is no need to reconstruct it as NGE), but does it contain some hidden layer or sense? It's obvious, that the central layer (the fight of good and evil) doesn't contain an easily discoverable non-trivial one, and the layer which should be thoroughly analyzed is the friendship and sacrifice. But even there is very hard to find something other than common tsundere/kuudere patterns and the fact that the law of conservation of good and evil should not make any sense for friendship or love even if it exists in the reality. So, there is probably no any non-trivial hidden sense in Madoka (it's actually may be very hard to formalize it and it may be hidden somewhere in the wishes or in the difference of the motivations for Madoka's and Sayaka's actions), although the found sense may be meaningful for the genre itself.

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