Many will agree with me that it’s not hyperbolic to say that Puella Magi Madoka Magica was one of the biggest anime of the 2010s. Evocative, subversive, brutal, and dense, it took the anime world by storm when it aired in 2011. I personally love it; a perfect gateway anime that helped hook me on the medium and still to this day, one of my favorite anime of all time. While isekai ended up being the big anime craze of the decade, there were a number of magical girl shows that came and went in the hopes of emulating the phenomenon status Madoka achieved. Some of them are good…some of them not so much. And now here we are, nearly nine years later, with Magia Record, a new Madoka anime aiming to make lightning strike twice.
I’ll be blunt: I never wanted a continuation to Madoka. For me, the original 12 episode show was a one and done deal. Gen Urobuchi told what he wanted to say with it and the original ending to the story is perfect on a thematic and emotional level. There is simply no creative need to go any further. I’m so resistant to the idea of a continuation that I’ve yet to see Rebellion and that’s knowing that Urobuchi was hired back to write for it. Now, Magia Record is actually an indirect spin-off, presumably set in an alternate timeline no less, but it still feels like a cash grab to me. In fact, it’s based on the mobile game spin-off of the same name. You can’t get cash grabbier than that. If this show is to prove that it deserves to exist, it’s going to have to do a lot for me.
Even as a spin-off, the biggest challenge to overcome is still figuring out what you can still do with the Madoka mythos. The tonal bait and switch is out of the question as everyone knows and expects Madoka to be dark. And by now, every fan of the franchise is aware of all the reveals surrounding Kyubey, the witches, and the very nature of magical girls. The only way you could pull off a huge surprise is if you weren’t working on Madoka at all. Gekidan Inu Curry has quite the daunting task as the new directors and writers and whether or not they’re up to snuff is the biggest wild card in this show.
Right now, it appears that the show is relying on a couple of mysteries to hook the fans in. Iroha Tamaki (Momo Asakura) is the new pink-haired heroine and neither her nor her Kyubey (Emiru Katou) can remember the wish she made when she agreed to become a magical girl. At the same time, she learns from her peer, Kuroe (Kana Hanazawa), of a rumor that magical girls can travel to the city of Kamihama to be saved from the fates that await them. After an encounter with a different, smaller Kyubey, Iroha experiences visions that inform her that she had a sister named Ui and that Ui can be found in Kamihama.
It’s a pretty decent hook, actually. What I like about it is the conflicting kernels of information Iroha has. Kuroe tells Iroha about Kamihama but when the two end up there during a scuffle with a witch, they meet a local magical girl who claims there isn’t anything special about the place. The visions suggest that Iroha made her wish to cure Ui of some sickness and in doing so, Ui may have been “cured” by being erased from existence. This is supported by the fact that Iroha’s room is entirely empty on one side and that several pictures where she should be accompanied by someone only feature her. But at the same time, Iroha and the viewer is told that Ui is at Kamihama, thus begging the question regarding what the deal actually is with Ui. Whether or not any of this can come remotely close to the heights the original Madoka hit remains to be seen but it’s all interesting; that much I can safely say.
Another thing that I can say for certain is that the story is presented very well. Some shots do an excellent job accentuating the narrative. I particularly like how early on, there’s an emphasis on showing certain objects in two, be it Iroha’s hands or the lunches she made for school. This along with the empty side of Iroha’s room effectively foreshadows Ui’s existence before it’s confirmed. Another highlight is how the opening fight scene has Iroha catching a falling cat which is later paralleled with the small Kyubey that seemingly unlocks Iroha’s recollection of her sister. I figured Gekidan Inu Curry would have a strong sense for visual composition since they worked on the witch scenes in the original Madoka and they definitely confirmed it in this premiere.
Also, the show is incredibly gorgeous. Shaft bringing their A-game is a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning anyway and I legitimately had a screencapping addition with this premiere. And not going to lie, it is incredibly nostalgic seeing Madoka‘s art style again, especially when the witches create their labyrinths. Oh, how I missed the incredibly eerie paper craft aesthetic and jittery frame rate of these scenes.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is a curious existence. There’s no denying that. The question really is will it be good enough to justify itself? As resistant as I am to the idea of seeing more Madoka, I do hope for the best with this spin-off. And if it’s able to prove me wrong and convince me of its worth, I’ll wholeheartedly acknowledge that.
OP: “Gomakashi” by TrySail
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