The Girl in Yellow: Mami Tomoe, My Least Favorite Madoka Magica Character

mami tomoe madoka magica

I guess to some this will be taken as a shot across the bow.

Somehow, recently, the matter of Puella Magi Madoka Magica characters came up, and I noted that although I wasn’t much a fan of the series itself, I did generally like the characters quite a bit. I believe it came up since one of my favorite bloggers, the Patches of What About the Waifuz?, was just finally watching the show, but it ended up rolling into a question of favorite character from the show, which itself then rolled into, “Hey, bros, why not do a series of posts on favorite character?!”

And then I dropped the ball!

Luckily, not everyone did, and I’ll have links at the end to a couple of posts on favored characters. I also intend to badger those who had said they’d do a post to begin with to actually do so, and I wish to extend the invitation to join in with a post of your own, dear reader; that said, you can talk favorite or least favorite, both, whichever, but I do ask that you ping my with the URL so I can add it to the list of other posts. I will also do the favorite character post myself, soon, but today I would rather just talk about the girl I didn’t really like – the meant-to-be-tragic Mami.

So, Mami, our piece of tragedy trotted out to let us know that this show means business, that it isn’t your “usual” floatsy, frilly magical girl show – oh, no, this is a very dark show, audience! It is very serious, and you will pay attention and not simply write it off as another member of the frothing, be-ribboned masses. So Mami gets her head bitten off in service of establishing tone, and, unfortunately for her, Homura doesn’t care about her as she does about Madoka, so no time-travel resets to save her from that unfortunate fate.

You may note that I sound a bit snide, and that would be correct. The fact is, part of why I’m not a Mami fan is that she ultimately isn’t really a character. I’m tempted to use the term “fridged” in her case, although I’ll admit that isn’t quite accurate, as fridging is generally understood as something done to spur the protagonist into action, while Mami’s demise does more to scare Madoka off than anything, and also serves to spur the plot forward, not really a particular character. The fact is, we know next to nothing about Mami – we never spend any time alone with her, we only get the tiniest of hints about her past, we simply see her as a confident magical girl who is willing to put others in danger because those others keep telling her how cool what she’s doing is.

Ah, and here we move to my other big issue with Mami – quite simply, Mami is fairly selfish. While Madoka and Sayaka do wander in by accident initially, Mami does nothing to discourage them from doing so in the two subsequent engagements she has with witches. No, instead, she allows them to accompany her, even as she knows how dangerous it is to do so, even when Sayaka demonstrates how little she gets what the true risk is by showing up with a baseball bat. And when Homura attempts to interfere, she ties the girl up, which ensures that she has no possible back-up if something goes wrong; while Homura is able to arrive in time to keep Madoka and Sayaka safe when Mami is killed, it could’ve ended disastrously. Again – it is more important to Mami to show off to the other girls than it is to make sure they’re actually safe. I feel like the cover of the second DVD volume says it all:

mami showing off DVD cover

And then there is the fact that Mami is not at all up-front about the true dangers of being a magical girl, or about some of the other less pleasant details involved (remove soul, stick into gem). She permits Kyuubey to keep talking up how freaking wonderful it is to become a magical girl, and also even talks positively about it herself. Neither Kyouko nor Homura give prior warning about some aspects, either, but Homura doesn’t want more magical girls to begin with, and Kyouko is initially a hostile force, not a friendly one.

Going back somewhat, let’s look at Mami’s death – I’ll certainly allow that it sucks for her, but she ends up getting killed because she is so pre-occupied with impressing Madoka and Sayaka that she leaves a big opening for Charlotte to surprise her.

While it may be understandable why Mami behaves as she does, enjoying the attention, it doesn’t excuse it at all given that she was putting other people at risk for the sake of her own ego. Is it sad that Mami is lonely? Yes, in a theoretical sense, sure (but I never felt anything about her demise or her life to that point since she’s barely fleshed-out)… but that still doesn’t provide an excuse for her actions.

So, no, I don’t really like Mami much.

Anyway, links to posts about favored Madoka Magica characters:

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Part 1: Beginnings
The Doubting Homura

Looking forward to getting some more….!

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12 Responses to The Girl in Yellow: Mami Tomoe, My Least Favorite Madoka Magica Character

  1. kadian1365 says:

    “Mami is not at all up-front about the true dangers of being a magical girl, or about some of the other less pleasant details involved”

    While I mostly agree Mami’s characterization is shallow as the token sacrificed mentor, it was evident she was just as naive to the aims of Kyuubey and the true nature of being a magical girl as Madoka and Sayaka were. At least a couple times in Homura’s time travels did she reveal the truth to the shock of everyone, including Mami. Mami is the symbol of the viewer’s ideal of what a magical girl is, so when she is taken down it’s important to show her fall was because of her naivete as an unwitting pawn in Kyuubey’s grand plans, to catch those viewers who were as green as she. It’s also important that she’s fairly innocent to use her idealized version of magical girls as fighters for justice and peace to contrast with Kyouko’s self-centered attitude towards power and later Homura’s world-weary stance.

    Homura is easily my favorite character, as she is the focus of one of the single most outstanding episodes of Chinese girl cartoons I can remember. 25 minutes showed iterations of effective, concise character transformations many stories of longer duration can’t hope to emulate.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Well, then I’ll mark the whole not knowing about the soul gem matter down to poor plotting on the part of the staff since I find it difficult to believe that neither Kyouko nor Mami manage to go outside of the accepted radius of the soul gem at all.

      I like Homura a lot, and the episodes centering on her were absolutely the best, but she isn’t quite my favorite.

      • zakufan says:

        This is bad. You did not link ep 11 to why Mami did not tell the other 2 about soulgems and refuse to accept that you failed to understand it, instead pushing it to “poor plotting”?

        Sorry, this sort of mindset refuses any sort of correction because you never accept failure on your own part. Good luck on your blog. Not coming back

  2. TheBigN says:

    From what I call, it was only when the issue with Sayaka’s soul gem occurred did the subject of the literal definition came into play. Only Homura knew at that time because of her history, and Kyouko didn’t know and was shocked and angered like the rest of them after Kyuubee’s reveal. Given Mami’s thoughts about how wonderful it is to be a magical girl at the time of her demise, she likely did not know about that either.

    That being said, one of Homura’s pasts did shoe Mami learning about the secret, and not taking it well at all.

    I agree with her selfishness though in wanting to look cool. On the initial run of the series, she definitely seemed like a lonely person who was elated to finally have some people know her situation and want to join in. And while she did hint to Madoka that her work was dangerous, she did not stress how much (though I doubt she knew quite how dangerous it was till about 0.5s before her end).

    • A Day Without Me says:

      As I said above, I find it a bit of a stretch to think that neither Kyouko nor Mami managed to exceed the acceptable radius from the soul gem at some point. We don’t think that, say, Mami left it in her desk during gym class at some point?

      • TheBigN says:

        Given that they soul gem can be modified into any type of wearable item, like a ring for example, I could see that happening. And given the nature of their job, I’d doubt they would feel comfortable enough to leave their soul gem alone. And Kyouko’s reaction to QB’s statement about the nature of the soul gem gave me the impression that she seriously had no clue about that range limit.

      • TheBigN says:

        That is, “couldn’t see that happening”. 😛

  3. zakufan says:

    Mami’s character is simple. She’s a scared, lonely young girl (remember she’s not an adult by any means) who has no one who can actually help her and is so forced by circumstances to spend time to keep fighting as to be unlikely to many friends, if any. Is she selfish? Yes she is, because she wants to not be the only one fighting and wants an ally to be there to look out for her. Its the same as going into a dark deserted house alone in the middle of the night vs going with a friend.

    However to fault her for not telling the others that the soul gems was their soul is over doing it. She did not know and when she did, she broke (ep 11). Suffice to say, her calmness is fake.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      I would point out that going into a dark house at night with a friend is a bit different than what Mami does – for one, it isn’t guaranteed that a deserted house could kill you, whereas Witches are pretty clearly capable of killing people. Secondly, presumably when one enters a deserted house, both oneself and one’s friend are on roughly an even playing field, whereas Mami has magical powers and neither Sayaka nor Madoka do. Bit apples and oranges.

  4. dm00 says:

    Mami seemed a bit creepy at times — like that time she was lurking on a nearby rooftop as Madoka and Sayaka talked (even if she seemed to be giving them backup when they confronted Homura moments later).

    She certainly was a show-off though. I found it a pleasure to watch (e.g., her musket ballet in the second episode, complete with concluding cup of tea). But I can see your point.

    On the other hand, she gave Sayaka good advice about making her wish for someone else’s benefit. Perhaps she spoke out of a recognition of her own selfishness? Or that was her selfishness speaking — she couldn’t really imagine someone making her wish out of true selflessness.

    But Mami is only about sixteen, I think? A lot of the flaws you list more-or-less come with that territory.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Mami’s creepiness does come off a bit as just being overly thrilled to have some friends at long last, which does contribute to her as a tragic figure, although I still find myself not feeling any sort of personal sadness toward her plight.

      As for her being sixteen and the flaws being inherent to such, well, again – understandable, sure, but not quite excusable as a reason for putting other people in harm’s way. For comparison, in Rebel Without a Cause, two teenagers play a game of chicken, racing their cars toward a cliff; surprise, surprise, one of them careens over the edge and dies because he doesn’t veer off quickly enough. Understandable that they’d take a risk to show off? Sure. Excusable? Nope.

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