Kyouko Sakura: The Rival

Kyouko Sakura: The Rival

Introduction

It’s finally time to discuss my favorite character from Madoka Magica, Kyouko Sakura. In case you aren’t aware, this is the third part of a five-part series on the characters of Madoka Magica. The first part was about Homura Akemi and the second was about Madoka Kaname.

Why do I love Kyouko so much? Well, besides the fact that she has a ponytail, she’s vastly different from the other girls in the series as I’ll be illustrating throughout this post. It’s fair to say that Kyouko is actually the opposite of the other girls, specifically Mami Tomoe.

A New Challenger Approaches

Kyouko is the final magical girl to make an appearance in the series. The other girls, those being Madoka, Sayaka, and Homura, have been around since episode one, and Mami is already dead by the time Kyouko makes her entrance (spoiler).

She enters the series as a new antagonist for the girls to go up against. After Mami’s death we learn that Homura isn’t actually the enemy we thought she was, so we need a new antagonist to show up for the girls to face off against besides the witches: Kyouko.

But what makes her such a good antagonist? Exactly what makes her stand apart from the rest of the magical girls, her experience. Some of you may not know this, but Kyouko is actually the oldest of the girls. Homura is 13, Madoka and Sayaka are 14, Mami is 15, and Kyouko is estimated to be between 14-17, meaning she’s likely around 16.

So not only is she the oldest, but she also has the most experience as a magical girl (other than Mami, but she’s dead). There’s actually a manga that goes into Kyouko and Mami’s history (which I haven’t yet read) that tells of how the two of them used to work together before splitting up.

As I’ll go into more when I get to the part about Mami, she serves as the mentor for the other girls and as such believes that magical girls should work together in order to safely bring down witches. However, Kyouko believes the opposite, which is why I consider her to be Mami’s rival (hence the title).

Magical girl Kyouko Sakura with her chain spear from the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Kyouko Sakura

Unlike Mami, Kyouko is a loner by choice. Mami was alone because there weren’t other magical girls around for her to work with, but Kyouko chooses to be alone because she understands the harsh reality of being a magical girl: only one grief seed drops from each defeated witch.

But, not only does she think about her job as a magical girl differently than Mami, she also thinks about magic itself differently. Kyouko’s wish was for everyone to listen to her father’s sermons, but in the end it backfired and she was branded a witch by her father who then killed himself and the rest of his family, leaving Kyouko alone.

Because of this experience, Kyouko believes that magic should only be used for oneself and not for others. If she happens to save other people by defeating witches, so be it, but that’s not her primary motivation. She defeats witches simply because she needs to in order to survive.

This is what truly makes her an antagonist, although not the primary antagonist. Her philosophy is that magical girls shouldn’t be working together, but should instead be competing against each other for the limited resource known as grief seeds, even if it means killing each other.

We also have to remember that the reason Kyouko enters the story in the first place is because she came to claim the territory that was once controlled by Mami. She doesn’t do this in order to save people, Sayaka is already there for that, she does it in order to collect more grief seeds.

Redemption

But, despite how I’ve been saying that Kyouko is the enemy of the other magical girls and has an opposing ideology, she does “redeem” herself in the end. I use the word “redeem,” but in reality she never did anything wrong to begin with, just something contrary to what the others were doing.

It’s actually Sayaka who causes this change in Kyouko, and no, not because she loves her, although she definitely does later on. Kyouko sees Sayaka as her younger self and wants to prevent her from going down the same path she once did which ends with isolation.

They both started out wanting to save others, but learned the harsh reality that saving others only hurts themselves. The difference between the two is that Kyouko chose herself over others in the end, while Sayaka chose saving others over herself.

Kyouko choosing to save Sayaka is essentially her choosing to save her former self, and so still makes sense within the context of Kyouko’s selfish personality. However, Kyouko doesn’t end up saving Sayaka, she fails, which is the real turning point in her character.

By failing to save Sayaka, Kyouko sees what could have happened to her if she had completely fallen into despair. This is why even after Sayaka becomes a witch, Kyouko is so determined to bring her back; she doesn’t want to accept the reality that this could happen to her too some day.

This is when she finally realizes how important it is to have friends to help her. She saw Mami’s death as inevitable because she relied on others, but when Sayaka, someone who tried to take everything on herself, becomes a witch, Kyouko understands that being alone leads to a worse fate than death.

Conclusion

At this point I’d like to pose and discuss some questions regarding Madoka‘s new universe after she becomes the Law of Cycles. The main question I have is, “to what extent did this affect Kyouko’s background, personality, and motivations?”

We might never get an exact answer to this question, but I think that’s what makes it such an interesting one to ask (maybe it’s answered in the Wraith Arc manga). In the new universe, Kyouko fights wraiths alongside the other girls as if she had always been a part of their group, so was she ever a loner in this universe?

If not, does that mean she no longer has her tragic backstory? The fact that witches no longer exist shouldn’t have anything to do with how Kyouko’s wish backfired, so her family should still all be dead, which was the primary reason for her beliefs about magic and how it should be used.

I’d really like to know what exactly caused the change in Kyouko’s ideals in the new universe because as it stands, it appears that Madoka changed Kyouko’s personality completely. I’d argue that even at the point of her death in the original universe, Kyouko still wasn’t really a team player, she just didn’t want Sayaka to be alone anymore.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Does Kyouko’s sudden teamwork seem out of character in the new world to you as well? Let me know in the comments and leave a like down below if you enjoyed this post.

I know this entry into my Madoka Magica characters series was shorter than the previous two, and I feel like I’m forgetting something I wanted to say in the “New Challenger Approaches” section, but I think I’m going to end it here anyway. Feel free to bring up anything I left out in the comments.

As always, follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, or subscribe to my blog via email if you want to be notified every time a new post goes live. This series goes live every Monday (for the next two weeks), but I’m not sure whether next week I’ll be writing about Sayaka or Mami next. They both pair well with Kyouko for different reasons.

I also have a post on my Kyouko Sakura Nendoroid if you’re interested in more Kyouko content.

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