A late post again. I was celebrating Chinese New Year last weekend and then got tired from work on the weekdays. This doesn’t bode well about my output for the season…
Last time, I expressed hope for the third episode of Magia Record to be where the show comes around for me. Madoka very much pulled something similar after all. Granted, that show knew what it was doing and this show possibly doesn’t but whatever, the optimism still stands. Does the show succeed in that respect? Well, I won’t say there isn’t a hook at the end but it is thin and the episode as a whole is very pedestrian.
I mean, you’ll have to pardon me if I sound unimpressed but I couldn’t care less about Rena and Kaede. Madoka certainly had its fare share of friendship drama but that stuff worked in tandem with the lore and tone, personalizing and giving an emotional element to the latter two elements. Here, my only takeaway is “friendship good”. The drama and reconciliation between Rena and Kaede doesn’t seem serve no greater purpose. Maybe that could’ve been fine but the set up from the previous episode was generic and here, the follow up provided here is as predictable as you’d expect. They reunite, they reconcile, and they beat up the witch of the week together (or I guess it isn’t a witch, apparently). The only surprise to come out of this plot is the fact that no one dies during it (and call me cruel but it’d be more interesting if someone did).
For a second, I thought the show did something interesting when Rena got trapped in the not-witch’s illusion and was sulking in front of a TV, watching an idol. I figured that the idol was supposed to be Kaede and Rena was literally idolizing her. That’d be on the nose but it’d at least be something. But no, I double checked and that idol is some other character (who’s maybe important since she has her own page on the Madoka wiki). The show couldn’t even do something so obvious. I honestly think more was done with Rena’s relationship with Momoko as it’s implied that her shapeshifting to the latter is a subconscious habit. Perhaps, deep down, Rena wishes she has Momoko’s more sociable attributes. I kind of wish was more was explored there. Momoko doesn’t have much to do in this episode apart from hitting things really hard.
Just as an aside, here’s a slight plot hole: the not-witch captures Kaede to prevent Rena from reconciling with her…and the next day, it captures Rena for trying to reconcile with Kaede. As result, the girls are able to reunite and reconcile. I can’t be the only one who finds this counterproductive.
I’m still hoping that Iroha and her trying to find her sister will win me over. This episode sheds some more light on the mystery by having Iroha remember Ui’s friends, Toka and Nemu. Peculiarly, you don’t see Iroha in the flashback so one has to wonder how she remembers Ui and her friends almost setting the hospital on fire. A random theory that popped up in my head is maybe Iroha and Ui will be revealed to be the same person but that doesn’t entirely work since you still have those altered pictures. Who knows.
You also have Yachiyo (Sora Amamiya), the powerful magical girl we saw in Episode 1 who shows up again in this episode to help rescue Kaede. The OP and ED heavily on Yachiyo’s mental state and her relationship with Iroha and you do see an inkling of it here. She’s clearly very guarded and she currently doesn’t think much of Iroha, even calling her weak (which, now that I think about it, it does seem like Iroha does jack shit in a lot of the action scenes).
If there is a highlight in this episode, it’s definitely the girls’ transformation sequences. Hell, they ended up making up the majority of my screencaps this post. Not only does Shaft take the opportunity to flex their animation skills, these scenes do a great job showing the personality of the characters. Let’s go over them one by one:
- Yachiyo – Stands with confidence and moves gracefully. She easily presents herself as the veteran in the bunch. And yet, the use of rain and stars as well as the brief where she sheds tears evokes a more melancholic tone, hinting at the girl’s possible vulnerable side.
- Momoko – Literally fires herself up, fitting given that her sociable and energetic personality as well as the fact that she’s the fighter in her clique. I also just really like that she kicks her sword while it’s hot in order to finalize its design, as though the one the magic provides isn’t to her liking so she’s adding her own touch to it.
- Rena – Constantly changes her facial expressions and being surrounded by mirrors reflects (pun not intended) her struggle to be more open about her feelings. Her sinking through them and gaining her magical girl outfit in the process comes across as her becoming more true to herself.
- Iroha – Arguably the least impressive one visually but that’s maybe the point since, as Yachiyo points out, she’s not as the strong as the others. Her jumping off a building and the fact that she’s the only girl who audibly gasps and grunts convey a sense that she’s convincing herself to be brave and ready to fight.
Seriously, I briefly got way more interested in these characters due to these visuals than the scripts themselves. That technically and admittedly doesn’t bode well for the show but I’ll take what I can get.
The real hook and by far the most curious moment in the episode comes in the post-credit scene and that’s entirely because it involves Mami. What is it with her and the number three? That can’t be a coincidence. Gekidan Inu Curry had to have been deliberate in putting Mami in the third episode of their show. No, she doesn’t die here (maybe that’s later) but her appearance makes more for an eerie presence. Kyubey reveals he can’t enter Kamihama (for some reason, he’ll fall unconscious as soon as he sets foot there) so he asks Mami to investigate. I’ll relent and say that I am curious as to what Mami will do. Is she going to be a good guy or a bad guy? Also, is this the Mami we know and love(?) or is this effectively a different character altogether? God, I hope this doesn’t mean that I finally have to watch Rebellion.
That said, I am kind of against involving any of the original five magical girls. The risk whenever you involve old characters is that doing so prevents the new ones from standing out, not to mention it’s a cheap way to keep fans invested. Mami showing up is by far the most the most interesting development that’s happened so far in Magia Record and that’s a potential problem.
Thanks for reading!