It’s been so long since I first watched Madoka that it no longer has a place on my “current favourite shows” list. Not because it doesn’t deserve it, it’s just kind of been bumped down and off by more recent anime experiences. Another reason for this is that Madoka is one of the few shows that I’ve seen more than once. I think I’ve seen it 4 or 5 times, actually, if you count the recap movies. That in itself should be a testament to how highly I regard it, but it also means that the experience that remains in my mind is not the memory of watching it for the first time but the memory of the subsequent rewatches.
That is to say, the highs don’t feel as high and the twists don’t feel as surprising anymore. Understandably so, but it’s also very unfortunate, because Madoka is exceptionally well-suited for rewatching due to the way its story works. Not only does the stuck-in-a-time-loop trope mean that the story particularly appeals to me (I like time loop-style stories), it also means that there is a lot of foreshadowing and many hints at what is to come in the first episodes of the show. The fact that I, after having seen the show 4 or 5 times, am still finding small details that may or may not be foreshadowing or symbolic kind of makes each subsequent rewatch of the show, in themselves, iterations of a larger time loop, a meta time loop, if you will. After all, the point of time loops is usually to slowly progress the story by having each iteration be slightly different from the previous one. I really like that aspect of the show, and it’s probably a large part of why I can still enjoy Madoka after having seen it so many times. In a way, every rewatch is a new experience.
There are some things that don’t change, though, such as the relationship between Sayaka and Kyouko. After initially having issues with Kyouko being really mean, I grew to like her and Sayaka fairly quickly after that, and after my first time finishing the series they were pretty firmly my two favourite characters. It is with some amount of sadness that I have to admit that their stories are clearly not as important as the story of Madoka and Homura, but hey, that’s the way it is and I would definitely not want to change the story in that regard. In the end, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is primarily a story about Madoka and Homura, and I think it’s a great story. I just happened to be able to connect more with Sayaka and Kyouko on an emotional level. The special ED song for episode 9 probably affected that a lot as well, but I digress.
In contrast to the TV series and the recap movies, I’ve only seen Rebellion once. I really liked the first half or so of it, mostly because it gave me everything I wanted regarding more time loops and more Sayaka/Kyouko scenes. I did enjoy the second half as well, because I liked the attempt at making the story even more complex in terms of what’s actually happening and why, but I also felt like it maybe went a bit too far with the craziness and the whole Devil Homura thing. I don’t think the writing was necessarily bad, but the whole thing was very… esoteric. The cake song in particular felt bizarre. I know, I know, it could just be innocent artistic flair for the atmosphere of the alternate world, but the weirdness of the second half of the movie makes me feel like there’s some deeper meaning to it that I’m not privileged to. But, I’ll have to explore that in another essay, after I rewatch the series and Rebellion.