Here's another hero whose abrupt departure caused some concern for unwitting viewers. Not just because it was unexpected, but because of what her death meant for the show going forward.
Mami Tomoe is a veteran magical girl in a series that is, ostensibly, about magical girls. Even among other magic wielding middle-schoolers that fight the forces of evil with perseverance, friendship, and enchanted weaponry she's a bit of a badass.
That should put her in a pretty safe place, all things considered. Assuming one of those considerations wasn't the series we're talking about.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica starts off harmless enough with Sailor Moon-style school antics, talking animals from space, and characters learning to care about each other over meticulously drawn desserts. Slowly but surely, however, things start to seem a little bit... Off. One of the magical girls, Homura, seems just a little bit too solemn for the source material. The vociferous space-cat, Kyubey, seems just a little bit too detached.
By about the third episode the reason for all this becomes clear: Madoka Magica is some dark shit. The main cast get magical, monster fighting powers alright. Except it's at the cost of their very souls. A price that eventually leads to them turning into the very creatures they were fighting the whole time. Just so their emotions can be harvested to power the extraterrestrial feline's home world.
And what is it that happens in episode three that kicks off this chain reaction of painful realizations? Nothing short of Mami's death at the hands (or in this case teeth) of a colorful, cartoony witch made from children's books and pastries. Drunk on the power of friendship, Mami takes on the malevolence solo -- after tying up the only person who could have helped her -- before turning her back on the danger. The result is a Mami missing several very important inches above the neck.
It doesn't stop there, either. Mami's would-be reinforcements were Homura Akemi, the sullen magical girl from before. Homura has been traveling back in time over, and over again to stop not just Mami's death, but that of the whole human race. Her constant timeline hopping means Homura has seen Mami die time and again, including one reality where the veteran spell-slinger snapped, murdered her friends, and had to be taken down herself. These magical girl clichés, right?
Speaking of multiple deaths in multiple timelines, here's Mayuri Shiina, aka Mayushii, childhood friend of Stein's;Gate protagonist Rintarou. The sweet, somewhat naive young woman is the centerpiece of the series (as well as the visual novel on which it's based). More specifically, it's her death that inspires Rintarou to repeatedly time traveling microwave to undo all the good he and his nerdy friends managed to do with it in the first place. Just roll with it.
To specify, we're talking about her repeated death. Between the anime and its source material Mayuri is shot, run over by a train, run over by a car, shot again, has a heart attack, gets liquefied, gets shot again, and is stabbed just once for good measure.
What's upsetting about Mayuri's death in the anime isn't the whole of what makes this story so traumatic. Though that would probably be enough, given how in a cast of cynics and nervous wrecks she's just about the most genuine character in the medium. What with her basically LARPing as Rintarou's "hostage" in an elaborate fantasy the two concocted to combat depression. Just keep rolling with it.
What's more upsetting is how her death affects the rest of the cast. Naturally, everyone is upset to see Mayuri take a bullet the first time 'round (fired by a character they all thought was their friend, no less). None more-so than our hero Rintarou who realizes that the only way to save her is to undo nearly every change he and his gang made to the timeline.
Which would be fine, except the geeks weren't exactly petty in their chronological meddling. One used it to save her father from dying when she was young, while another managed to change her biological sex to match her gender identity. There's also the minor wrinkle of Rintarou being the only subject to remember alternate timelines, so all of the happy memories they made together before Mayuri's death have to go instead of her.
It's heavy stuff that just keeps on getting heavier as the series progresses. Stein's;Gate doesn't give the audience an easy out with a last-minute rescue, either. From Mayuri's death to the series finale the writers decided that each episode should open some new, melancholic wound for all to witness. Ultimately, things wind up working out for most of the roster. Either through closure, or the new timeline they forge together. Though in this case it's the journey, not the destination, which brings out the tears
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