Mami Tomoe: The Mentor

Mami Tomoe: The Mentor

Introduction

Mentors are an important part of shounen anime such as Naruto, One Piece, or My Hero Academia, but while they’re seen less frequently in shoujo series they still play the same roles. I don’t really think Madoka Magica counts as a shoujo series, but it is technically a mahou shoujo (magical girl) anime, so it’s close enough.

There are two primary roles for any mentor character in anime. These are the mentor in life and mentor in death roles. As the names imply, these roles follow a specific order; one cannot be a mentor in death unless they have first been a mentor in life.

Mami Tomoe is the character who fulfills both of these roles in Madoka Magica, and as is the case with any good mentor, her influence is seen less and less as time goes on and her pupils mature.

Mentor in Life

The mentor in life role is what we would typically associate with mentor characters. This is when the mentor is actively training their student(s) so that one day they’ll be just like them. I know this shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but let’s look at some examples.

Jiraiya is Naruto’s mentor because he teaches him how to be a ninja, and specifically, how to use jutsu specific to Jiraiya himself such as the Rasengan and Toad Summoning jutsu. In MHA, All Might is Deku’s mentor because he teaches him how to be a hero and passes on his own quirk to Deku.

Just as these two mentors trained their students to be just like them, Mami does the same thing with Madoka, Sayaka, Kyouko, and Homura. She’s the one who teaches the other four girls how to be magical girls and even attempts to instill her own ideals in them much like Jiraiya and All Might do for Naruto and Deku respectively.

While the effectiveness of Mami’s teachings are arguable, what’s clear is that she believes magical girls should work together in order to safely take down witches as a team, as well as to stop each other from falling into despair. The only one who follows Mami’s teachings from the beginning is Madoka, but in the end all of the girls appear to embrace this idea.

However, despite how important mentor characters are in life, they’re arguably even more important in death. But, as I mentioned previously, one must first be a mentor in life before they can be a mentor in death. This is simply because if the character isn’t set up as a mentor while they’re alive, their death won’t have as much meaning.

Mami Tomoe and the witch Charlotte from the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Mami Tomoe and the witch Charlotte

Mentor in Death

To be a mentor in death, a mentor in life needs to die either literally or figuratively. Jiraiya became a mentor in death after he was literally killed by Pain. However, All Might became a mentor in death figuratively after he used up his quirk and had to retire from being a pro hero.

Mami is a member of the literal mentor in death group, although she’s a bit of a unique case. In episode three of Madoka Magica, Mami is killed by the witch Charlotte while protecting Madoka and Sayaka. While she does die, she is later revived when Madoka recreates the world, and thus is a unique case because she actually transitioned back to a mentor in life.

Revival aside though, how exactly do mentors in death work? And, more specifically, how does Mami fill this role?

There comes a point in every mentor/pupil relationship where the mentor can’t really teach their pupil anything else. I mean, sure, they could probably always find something to teach, but it stops becoming worth it at a certain point.

The easiest way for me to express this concept is through a video game analogy, so let’s use Fate/Grand Order since that’s an anime game I’ve written about before.

If I have a level 1 servant, I can increase their level to 2 in a relatively short amount of time. However, if I have a level 89 servant, it takes a much, much longer time to increase their level to 90 even though it’s still only one level. This is essentially how the mentor/pupil relationship works.

At some point, it becomes so time-consuming or difficult to teach the pupil something they don’t already know, that the mentor must send the pupil off on their own to continue learning or training. In anime, this often comes in the form of a literal or figurative death which sparks the solo training of the pupil.

For Naruto, Jiraiya’s death forced him to seek out how to learn sage jutsu. For Deku, All Might’s retirement forced him to learn how to use his quirk in new and unique ways. For the magical girls of Madoka Magica, however, Mami’s death meant something different for each of them.

For Madoka and Sayaka, her death forced a choice upon them. Will they choose to follow her path and make a pact with Kyubey or not? Madoka chose not to follow Mami’s path, but Sayaka chose to become a magical girl in her place. This choice wasn’t something Mami could force on Madoka and Sayaka while she was alive, but her death was able to.

As for Kyouko, Mami’s death sparked her movement into Mami’s old territory where she then came in contact with the other girls. Kyouko and Mami had split up previously because of their differing ideologies, as I explained in Kyouko Sakura: The Rival, but once Mami is dead, her teachings are finally able to reach Kyouko.

Homura is the one for whom Mami’s death is the most interesting to me. While Mami’s death was likely a motivator for Homura initially, as it was for the other girls, because Homura has experienced Mami’s death countless times, it becomes more of a tool for her.

By using her knowledge of Mami’s future demise, Homura attempts to convince Madoka and Sayaka not to become magical girls, but in the end this has no effect.

However, the most effective use of Mami’s mentor in death role appears to be stopping Madoka from choosing to become a magical girl. The only timeline that we know Mami survives past her fight with Charlotte in is the original timeline. This is also the timeline in which Madoka becomes a magical girl the earliest as far as we know.

While I recognize that Homura’s role is also different in the first timeline compared to the later ones, Mami’s death can’t be overlooked. One of the things Mami was teaching Madoka and Sayaka is that they need to decide for themselves whether or not they want to become magical girls, and in the later timelines, Mami’s death seems to have a profound effect on Madoka’s choice to refrain.


Conclusion

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to click the like button down below. You can also check out the previous entry in my Madoka Magica characters series here. This is the fourth of five parts, so the final entry, Sayaka Miki: The Sacrifice will be uploaded next week.

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