In the opening flashback scene, we see a couple of conversations where Mifuyu (Mai Nakahara) and Yachiyo discuss the rumor that magical girls can be saved at Kamihama City. While Yachiyo doesn’t believe in the rumor, Mifuyu does and it’s implied that she disappeared seeking out that purported salvation.
Ever since the premiere, I assumed that what magical girls would be saved from is their inevitable transformation into witches but after watching Episode 5, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the implications such a possibility brings. When you think back to the original show, Madoka’s wish did save all magical girls from becoming witches but in a manner that’s within the logical constraints posed by the mythos. There is still no going back for a magical girl once they become one and they still have to fight. What if they regret their choice? What if they want a normal life again? That seems to be the case with Mifuyu who desires to live long enough into adulthood with Yachiyo.
Naturally, I’m a little wary about exploring an alternative. Even if Madoka’s solution isn’t technically perfect, it really suited the kind of story her show was. There’s also no denying how bittersweet it was as an ending. Magia Record is admittedly set in an alternate timeline (as far as I can tell) but I do worry that revisiting the dilemma posed in the original might nevertheless undermine what the original settled with (again, it’s why I refuse to watch Rebellion).
Skepticism also extends to this new middle state between magical girls and witches. I knew Iroha wouldn’t turn into a witch but this show did throw quite the curve ball when she fell unconscious and becomes the host to a similar looking monster. It was a surprising, I’ll give the show that much, but I don’t really like what it might bring to the table. When I think in terms of game design, I can see how this would make for a fun risk reward mechanic that deals massive amounts of damage during a battle. In terms of the actual mythos though, the idea that magical girls can now revert back before they’re permanently witches kind of undermines the cruelty and permanence becoming a witch is supposed to evoke. Believe me, I love anime teenagers calling for a familiar represents their inner psyche as much as the next person. My favorite game of all time revolves around the very concept. It’s just that within the context of Madoka, it doesn’t feel right.
To be fair, I’m willing to think of where these changes might work. Perhaps that even if there is an alternative solution to the salvation of magical girls, there’s a catch just like there was with Madoka’s wish. And as for the pre-witch familiar thing (I’m sure the show will drop the name ASAP), it could be worthwhile to consider who might benefit from it. Mami (more on her later) suspects that Yachiyo is hiding something but I frankly got my eye on Mitama (Yui Horie), the so-called coordinator in Kamihama. Yeah, I neglected to mention her in past posts but her appearance in this episode is definitely peculiar. Right after Kaede goes berserk to protect Rena and Momoko from a witch, Mitama shows up and searches for her. Combined with the fact that she can tune up people’s soul gems, I wonder if she might gain anything by the new transformations resetting the soul gems’ purity.
Regardless of where these threads may go, the characterization has been shaping up nicely. I must admit that I’m growing to really like Yachiyo. She does remind me an awful lot of Homura but I think she’s proving to put a different spin on that template. Whereas Homura didn’t really give up on saving Madoka until the very end (of the original show), Yachiyo sees her efforts to find Mifuyu completely in vain. She only searches for her friend (maybe lover?) because it’s her only means of catharsis and mourning. If she manages to find Mifuyu, that’s a bonus. I wonder if the passage of time might also play into how different Yachiyo is from Homura. Homura was able to reset her time with Madoka but Yachiyo doesn’t have that luxury. The days go by, she’ll get older, and her time with Mifuyu will eventually be a fleeting memory.
Learning more about Yachiyo also makes her developing chemistry with Iroha more engaging. Last episode, she asked Iroha if she’s stuck in the past trying to find Ui but if that is the case with Iroha, then she’s no different. It also makes more sense why Yachiyo is so indifferent towards Iroha’s goal. Aside from her default attitude, perhaps she wasn’t too willing to help Iroha because she thinks her peer will be in just as wild of a goose chase as hers.
I also really enjoyed the illusions of Mifuyu and Ui that appeared in the labyrinth of the week. The writing does a great job using to articulate what they mean to the people they’re appearing for. With Ui, we technically don’t know much about her but evidently, neither does Iroha. The latter knows she wants her sister back but that may mostly stem from the instinct of knowing you have family and naturally wanting to be with them. Perhaps that’s why Ui does nothing but repeat the message that magical girls should travel to Kamihama if they want to be saved. Other than her faint recollection that she’s her little sister, Iroha‘s only bearing on Ui is the perceived connection with Kamihama. It’s a pretty unsettling interaction, challenging Iroha’s feelings and deliberately treating Ui as more of a plot device than a legitimate character.
Conversely, Mifuyu’s illusion is far too exact, right down to her ability to transform into a magical girl. She does seem less sane than the one we see in the flashbacks but that may be reflecting what Yachiyo expects to see if she is able to find her friend. Trapped in the labyrinth, desiring for Yachiyo to stay with her, attacking anyone who dares take her friend away. It’s entirely possible that this is how Mifuyu would behave and it fits in line with the vanity Yachiyo feels about her search. It’s so on point that I have to wonder if we might’ve actually saw the real one here. It would certainly make Yachiyo killing her to protect Iroha and her convincing herself that she didn’t kill the real one all the more gut wrenching and tragic if that is to be the case. Not to mention, it’d be a very Madoka thing to do go.
As for Mami, I’m still wary of involving any of the original in the new spin-off series but goddamn it, it is nice seeing Mami fight again. Considering that her most famous scene is…you know the one, I could use a reminder on just how badass she really is. And that theme! I forgot how good it is! It’s a cheap move but I’m forced to admit that it did work to a degree. While she backs off from labeling Iroha as a witch and putting a bullet to her head, she does warn Tsuruno about Yachiyo, suspecting that the veteran knows more than she lets on.
I’m more curious however by the fact that Mami doesn’t notice the small Kyubey at all. It’s strange considering that she knows that Kyubey can’t enter Kamihama. Maybe she did notice and is putting on a poker face. Maybe she just didn’t look down at the ground (that would be insanely dumb if that is the case). Either way, the small Kyubey is looking a little bit more suspicious and that’s kind of saying something considering that this is Kyubey we’re talking about.
Thanks for reading!