October comes to a close today and as this blog post Monday falls on Halloween this year, we felt it would be appropriate to talk about magic. We see it in a lot of animated movies through such works of Frozen, The Black Cauldron, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Lucky, and the list goes on. However, have you ever wondered if magic is what we really think it is? Is there a wizard atop a mountain conjuring up a spell or is there an old woman who lives on the outskirts of town who can perform wonders? At best these people are only replicating miracles (like the magicians int the book of Exodus).
It is true that magic is an illusion of sorts and there are handful of verses that warns us against magic Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Leviticus 19:31, andColossians 2:8). What of those that embrace magic to do good in the world? Well that is a slippery slope in my opinion. This is where Puella Magi Madoka Magica (or Madoka Magic for short) comes in. This series came out in 2011 and has been noted for its Christian symbolism and philosophy. A brief description is this revolves around a girl named Madoka and her friends who fight the forces of evil (witches) in the supernatural in order to protect the natural world. For those unfamiliar this is described as a magical girl anime, though much darker (think Sailor Moon, but grittier).
The reason I bring this series up in today’s post about magic is the conflicting nature of Madoka in deciding to become a magical girl. She takes almost the whole 12 episodic series to decide this (and it was a bit frustrating to be honest). Though her friend Sayaka is the first to jump on the bandwagon. When approached by this cat like figure named Kyubey to become a magical girl in exchange for one free wish, this sounds like a no brainer to most. However, Kyubey is symbolic of sin in this series. Offering the best of both worlds and it seems real harmless until it isn’t. In the same sense, this can be related back to magic. When used in stuff like Harry Potter, it seems harmless with flying on a broomstick to play a game to catch a small flying ball or make things float. However, it becomes real once the dementors come after you. The more one indulges in the occult the more it becomes all consuming and all to real. This is when you have made a deal that cost you more than you realize. In the case of Sayaka, she makes a selfless wish that ends up kind of backfiring on her. What she though was noble, ended up costing her greatly.
Going back to the notion of using magic to fight against the forces of evil, I get a bit squirmy when it comes to that. Take for example in the Wizard of Oz, we have Glenda the Good Witch and of course the Wicked Witch of the West. It is obvious to see who the “real” witch is even though they both are witches. Another example is Hocus Pocus (1 and 2) and the Sanderson Sisters, again both on opposite ends of the spectrum here. There are other series in anime that revolves around magic and witches would take too long to name here. Is there such a thing as a good witch though or using magic for the greater good even though it goes against the word of God? I don’t think for those of us who are Christians that we could justify using magic (if it were what is shown in movies and TV shows) would be wise. Though there is something to be said of Madoka and her wish in all this talk about magic, if there was ever an exception of a “good” witch or sacrificial magical girl it would be her.
If you made it to the end of this rambling, you are probably asking “well does this mean we shouldn’t watch anime/animation that uses magic or has witches in it”? Of course we are not advising this or saying that because such and such has A,B and C, that it should be avoided. What we are saying is that magic while an illusion of sorts, it is very much real in the sense that it isn’t what we see it portrayed as (something much darker I am afraid). Though that is why we must combat the present darkness with the Word of God who uses who own might and power and through miracles shows us what true “magic” is.
If you are looking for a series (or set of three movies to watch) this Halloween (or anytime) we would recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This will give you both your anime fix and your spiritual fix. Also be sure to check out our podcast this Friday as we discuss this series with a guest from Beneath the Tangles.