Feline Friday: Kyubey (Madoka Magica)

Kyubey Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Feline Friday is my chance to celebrate famous cats across the arts, whether their origins are in gaming, film, anime, literature or anywhere else.

If you have a request for a future feline, please let me know on Twitter.

キュゥべえ (Kyūbē)

First Appearance: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 1 (2011)

Before we delve into the fascinating story of today’s (kinda) kitty, I would like to front-load this entry with a significant spoiler warning. Part of the joy in watching Madoka Magica unfold is that it subverts expectations of your average “magical girl” tropes.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to check out the original series first. It’s only a single twelve-episode season, and the journey it takes you on is gratifying beyond words. Else, if you’ve already done so — or if you’re an Incubator who just don’t give a fuck — then by all means, let’s proceed.

When we initially meet Kyubey, it appears to be a helpless critter being ruthlessly bullied by a callous, stone-faced assailant. It is a downright adorable cat-like creature with mysterious powers, rescued by middle schooler and titular protagonist, Madoka Kaname.

It professes to be a Messenger of Magic, capable of granting a single wish in exchange for the recipient becoming a magical girl and fighting off sinister beings called witches. Get a free wish, plus some sweet mystical powers and a kawaii dress? Where the heck do I sign up, right?!

What it neglects to note, however, is the steep cost of this deal — magical girls forfeit their humanity as consequence, obligated to constantly fell witches to replenish their soul gem. Should they fail to do so, or be plagued with so much doubt and misery that it is depleted, they themselves transform into witches. It looks pretty painful, in fact.

Madoka, Sayaka & Kyubey Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Shaft via Funimation

We later learn that this was Kyubey’s intention from the start, as this process of feeding off human emotions releases incredible amounts of energy that can combat entropy on a galactic scale. No matter how they might try to fight it, magical girls are condemned to succumb to this cycle, forever at the mercy of an ethereal, immortal neko stalker.

What makes Kyubey the perfect villain, is that it is the truest embodiment of the chaotic neutral. Devoid of emotion, it operates out of sheer reasonability. Its kind has found in humans a sustainable source of energy to stave off universal extinction, and it will leverage this relationship to see its goals met.

Even after we know of Kyubey’s true intentions, its demeanour does not change. Why would it, exactly? It’s not some moustache-twirling scoundrel mwaha’ing at the seeds of deceit it has planted. It remains nothing more than a pragmatic, ruthless beast, more than willing to have a quick chat with whoever would seek it out.

Kyubey doesn’t outright lie, per se. It manipulates with incomplete details, exploiting young women at their most vulnerable to ultimately see its results bear fruit. It is expressionless beyond a vacant, plastered smile, and unflappable in its resolve — the further you get down the rabbit hole, the more it will explain its rationale, but you have to wonder what else it is hiding. That agenda is always looming large.

Kyubey Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Shaft via Funimation

As Kyubey itself uses livestock as a tangible comparison to the relationship between its race of Incubators and humankind, so too could a detached viewer. Framed differently, this species is sustaining life across the cosmos and ensuring the continued existence for all. The source of said energy pays dearly, and yet, they are delivered all that was promised to them. Sickeningly, some might even call Kyubey a hero, broadly speaking.

It is really emblematic of what makes Madoka Magica so engrossing, as a whole. On the surface, it looks cute and unassuming, but this appealing exterior is merely a thin veneer that hides something truly monstrous within.

So when this darling little sprite appears on your windowsill, you might want to reconsider asking for that sweet new Apple Vision Pro. Just like its $3,500 price tag suggests, you will end up paying dearly…

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