Every episode of Madoka is like a new wrench of a knife in your gut. Starting with Episode 3, each new episode exposes a darker side to the pact that the magical girls made with Kyubey, the Intergalactic Dick who acts kind of like the used car salesman who points out that he didn’t tell you the car lacked an engine because you never asked.
But with Episode 9, Kyubey lays bare the full details of his scheme. Sayaka has just turned into a witch – the very creatures the magical girls are supposed to be fighting. And Homura reveals to them the ugly truth: they’re all destined to become witches. Later, Kyubey enters Madoka’s room, and she presses him for a full explanation. The magical girls, he explains, are part of a larger scheme to create a renewable source of energy that can fuel the needs of the universe. They are, in essence, intergalactic cattle, bred and exploited as energetic food for the galaxy. His explanation leads a sanguine Madoka to ask: “Are we just disposable energy supplies to you, then? Are you saying we should die for you?”
To which Kyubey’s answer is, essentially, “yes.”
Kyubey is considered one of anime’s great villains. But, seen from his perspective, he’s not. He treats humans the same way humans treat other living beings – and he does so for the greater good of humanity. As many Japanese commentators have noted, Kyubey is the personification of the Noble Truth of Buddhism that All Desire is Suffering. In the end, it’s the highest desires the girls possess that prove to be their undoing.