Kyubey: Is He Good or Evil?

Ok, I’m not sure this has a point or is just rambling, but I needed to get some thoughts organized on electrons. The “magical mascot” of Kyubey, in Puella Magi Magical Madoka… is he good or evil? I’ve been all but convinced for the last few weeks that he’s actually evil, and is behind the creation of the witches as well as the puella magi, either to serve some sadistic sense of humor, or as a way to generate his own sustenance.

Only thinking over episodes 6-8, I’m not so sure now. I’m coming around to the point of view that Kyubey is neither good nor evil. Those are merely human philosophies that we apply to him in an attempt to classify and understand his actions. I suppose I’m being a bit of a solipsist, but it seems to me that for an entity to be evil, it has to understand evil, even if it disagrees over use of the label. For instance, the Nazis gassed six million Jews — they thought it was the right thing to do (!), but they knew it would be considered an evil act, which is why they tried to hide the evidence and kept so few records of the orders. In other words, even if their value system was so different as to be sickening, it still encompassed an understanding of the base concepts of good and evil. Why try to cover up their actions if they didn’t even understand the concept of evil? Why try to excuse it by saying “I was only following orders,” if good and evil are totally alien?

Kyubey, on the other hand, professes bewilderment at why puella magi are upset to learn that he’s sucked their souls out and rendered their bodies into automata
. He appears to hold no malice when Homura kills him for the second time
. He doesn’t even seem to be malicious or uncaring when subjecting Sayaka to intense pain, to demonstrate that removing her soul was a good idea.

Is it because he’s playing a much larger game, to which such trifles are irrelevant? Or is the reality that he is what he is, with zero concept of what we consider right and wrong? Have we just assumed he’s the good guy because he was helping against something we consider evil, and now we think he’s evil because his methods are questionable? Is he on one side just from convenience? Conviction? Personal advantage? Or has he gone ’round the far bend of “the ends justify the means?” Everything he does seems to have expediency at it’s core — if he acts friendly to puella magi, it’s because that works better than being indifferent. If he’s helpful, its because it works better than ignoring the puella magi. Is looking like a “good guy” is just a tool that he’s developed by years or even centuries of trial and error? (All this leaves aside the questions: where does Kyubey come from? Are there any more like him? Someone making witches, perhaps?)

Another question, not directly related: Does he make girls into magi because of some inherent sex-based restriction, or is it because they are more trusting and less likely to ask inconvenient questions?

This entry was posted in Fan Speculation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Kyubey: Is He Good or Evil?

  1. Wonderduck says:

    Or is it, as one fansub group puts it, that “Kyubey is a dick”?

  2. AvatarADV says:

    Spoilers. (Is there a comment spoiler tag?)

    Well, now we know that Kyubei actually has a plan, which knocks out some of the ideas. He’s not just a bunny that eats corruption-filled Grief Seeds and spreads magical wishes around; at a minimum, he’s an agent of some kind of other malevolent entity. (Whatever is going on, is bad enough that Akemi, who’s otherwise a smart cookie, jumped backwards in time to correct it; generally a dumb idea and probably not going to work out any better here.)

    Why do people say “well, he’s not evil”? Because he doesn’t lie. He’s clearly trying for the hard sell on Madoka, and considers recruiting Madoka to be job number one, and is not above threatening her life or her friends in order to put her in situations that make her want to sign on. But he has not actually said anything that isn’t true, to the best of our knowledge. Oh, he’s lying by omission like crazy! But it would be trivial for him to claim that the bad stuff associated with what was going on was the fault of witches, or some other entity, and he hasn’t done any of that. Why not?

    He has enough “gee, I don’t get people” moments that (assuming it’s not all just a huge evil act) you can reasonably conclude that Kyubei’s idea of ethics is radically different from human. In which case, he’s not “evil” in the normal sense of someone who had a choice between good and evil, and chose evil; if he just plain doesn’t understand the difference…

    What I don’t get is the idea that he understands that he’s doing terrible things to people, but is justified by some higher goal. A nice-Kyubei could say to himself “well, if I don’t do anything, the witches will kill more and more people and get stronger and stronger and then eventually end the world or something.” But Kyubei isn’t like that. I get the feeling that it doesn’t occur to him that his actions are something that has to be justified in the first place.

    He could just be so inhuman that the idea that he would have to justify himself to a human is absurd. Not distasteful, or silly, but not even sensible to consider. Or he could just lack that capacity whatsoever, because he’s a tool of something else and was created just for this function, or because he’s just that weird.

    We do know that his understanding of human interaction is far too simplistic. As far as he’s concerned, the only thing someone would accept being a magical girl for is to receive a wish. The idea that Madoka would sign up just to help Mami or Sayaka hasn’t even occurred to him.

    The one big problem I have about the show is that the girls are all far, far too combative. The idea that little Japanese girls would turn into territorial lone wolves instead of making, at the least, little cliques… it just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s a side-effect of becoming a magical girl? Sayaka, especially, turned combative as hell once she signed on.

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    Spoiler brackets are done with spoiler and /spoiler inside square brackets. The message (and behavior) was altered by the upgrade to WP3 and I haven’t fixed it.

    You’re pretty much thinking along the same lines I am, though I notice in Jason’s write up, he had something that either I missed or was different in his translation: all magical girls become witches eventually. If so… holy sh*t.

    I don’t think Sayaka changed all that much; even before becoming a magical girl, she was the one swinging the bat and being aggressive when they accompanied Mami. She definitely started pushing the boundaries even harder, once she had power — drunk with it, perhaps. Once she realized her body was all but invulnerable, then she REALLY went overboard.

    As for cliques… How long do puella magi last? Why are there no older witches around to lead the younger ones? If they only last a couple of years, not much chance for them to form (and Kyubey might be trying to prevent them).

    If you look at her actions, Mami was trying to form such a clique. Homura, by her nature and mission, wouldn’t want to, and Kyoko… well, lets face it. Kyoko, until Kyubey’s revelation shocked her into questioning herself, was an amoral, selfish, hot-tempered, murderous wretch. The strangest thing about her is that now for the first time, she feels like she’s got something in common with the other puella magi, which is why she went to Sayaka’s rescue.

  4. Wonderduck says:

    I’m unsure where Jason got that from, but it makes some sense. As far as the older witches go, maybe we just haven’t seen them? We’ve been so concentrated on the five or six magi we know that there hasn’t been time for the show to go a-wanderin’.

    Or maybe [spoiler]we have seen them… as witches.[/spoiler]

Leave a Reply