If anyone looks at the fanart for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, one character clearly dominates the fanart. The character is the shortest lived on the character, and Madoka is airing in a season where a lot of people die or suffer brutal fates in all the different animes airing. Yet Mami, with her death, has managed to make a strong impression. I don’t think I’ve seen anime fandom react this strongly to death before. (A disclaimer: I bet they have, and reacted even more strongly to other deaths, I just wasn’t there to see it.) I’ve stumbled across tributes to Mami in multiple places in the past couple weeks.
She’s just had one hell of an impact on those who witnessed her death. And I don’t think it’s because she was so cute with her curls.
So why has her death had such a momentous effect and she become such a stand-out character? A few ideas, and I think a combination of all these reasons (obviously different reasons for different people) is why she she is remembered so fondly even though she is now gone.
1. She was pretty damn bad-ass.
Up until her death, Mami seemed invincible. She didn’t just kill her enemies, she massacred them while coming out without a scratch (probably as one mistake meant death). And she did it with such grace! Curtsying with the result of rifles spilling out of her skirt, taking a sip out of her tea cup, and so much more, there’s one thing that can’t be questioned. Mami had style. I think that style made her manys’ favorite character.
2. She was such a sad character
Beneath that cheerful smile and happy demeanor is a very lonely girl. Mami is the lone survivor of a car crash, and the only reason she survived is because she made a deal with everyone’s favorite furry friend to be a magical girl. But thanks to being a magical girl, she as no time to make friends. Her own other socialization is with other magical girls, and those are her competition. Her situation is truly a sad one. Madoka and Sayaka are probably her first true socialization with other humans in a long time.
On top of that, being a magical girl for a long time has warped her. While Mami may be different then other magical girls, she has become somewhat cynical, and the dark parts of being a magical girl have started to creep into her personality as well. Tying up Homura anyone?
Luckily or unluckily for Mami, her situation starts to improve. She starts to get happier…
Oh sure, looking back, there was a lot of foreshadowing. But still, it wasn’t expected. People don’t die in Magical Girl stories. Well, if they do, they’re bad guys! It was safe to get attached to our main characters. So I don’t think many people were expecting someone to die. Then as stated earlier, Mami seemed invincible. Yet when her death came, it was swift, brutal, and shocking, leaving Madoka and the viewers feeling vulnerable and helpless.
I think the main thing that causes the fascination with Mami is she had so much potential to develop as a character–at her death she was the most complex and interesting character on the show. She could easily have developed to have gotten more mentally unstable, or into a happier character. She could have had more bad-ass moments.
Instead, she is gone, far too soon. Instead, if the fans want more of Mami, they have to draw or write what they wanted to see with the character. Or maybe the attention is just a tip of their hat to her having a good run while she lasted, and having gone too soon.