Almost neared a month since the last review. I did say in June’s announcement post that Magia Record is a low priority for me but I didn’t mean that low. Whatever, let’s talk about Episode 9.
Last episode introduced a bunch of different mysteries all connected by one individual by the name of Sana Futaba (Yui Ogura). Here, Sana is confirmed to be the Invisible Girl and the voice you hear near Kamihama’s radio tower but she is not the one behind Endless Solitude or the one contacting Iroha. The credit for those two mysteries actually goes to the Uwasa of the week, an artificial intelligence-like being named Ai. And yes, she’s named Ai because artificial intelligence abbreviates to AI. That may be the least inspired name since Zero Two in Darling in the FranXX.
Despite being an Uwasa, Ai is not the least bit malicious. In fact, the reason she contacts Iroha is because she wants the magical girl to destroy her. She explains that Sana has been her prisoner for some time and after spending time together, she’s grown to feel remorseful about the situation and has decided to let Sana be free. For that to happen, she needs someone to destroy her and look after Sana, hence her enlisting Iroha’s aid. I’m a little confused about the exact nature of Ai. That she’s both a supernatural monster and also a computer program doesn’t really add up to me. At the same time however, I like the idea of an Uwasa developing their own sense of self and a conscience. Not only does it better distinguish them from Witches, it’s refreshing to have our monster of the week as more a legitimate character and less a stylistic prop for the characters to beat up.
I can’t help but find it funny that Iroha is the one Ai directly asks for assistance. I suppose she would believe the Uwasa’s story the most. Boy has this series shown how gullible she can be. But I don’t know, is Ai sure Iroha is right for the job? Besides her Not-Witch power up, this girl’s track record in battle isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. But whatever, Iroha obliges, entering Endless Solitude by jumping off of the radio tower. As for why her friends don’t join her…I don’t know…
The core of the episode comes in the form of a flashback detailing how Sana came to be in Endless Solitude and her relationship with Ai. As turns out, Sana entered the realm of her own volition due to her what’s going on in her life and (big surprise) the wish she made with Kyubey. At school, she’s picked on by classmates and finds little support by the faculty. At home, she’s judged harshly by her family for her average academic performance and for simply being a child from her mother’s previous marriage. Unable to handle the disdain, Sana makes the wish to become invisible, unseen by everyone save for other magical girls. But by becoming invisible, Sana makes her situation worse, feeling more lonely and her sense of not belonging anywhere even more pronounced.
That alone is enough for a compelling and emotional backstory but it gets even more interesting when you factor in Sana venturing into Endless Solitude. Sana becomes curious about the place after overhearing her classmates talk about it but I think the real reason she went investigating is out of discontentment. Like, being invisible to pretty much everyone isn’t enough for her. She truly wants to disappear and Endless Solitude is the perfect solution to her “dilemma”. It certainly feels that way when you see her jump off the radio tower to enter Endless Solitude. When Iroha does, it’s courageous but seeing Sana doing makes her look suicidal. It’s as though Sana realizes that what she truly wants is to die but she can’t do that as a magical girl, not unless you become a Witch (which I guess she couldn’t do since she’s in Kamihama). So again, Endless Solitude serves as the solution, a purgatory Sana could use to disappear from the world entirely.
Sana and Ai’s friendship is pretty much the old “human helps robot gain a heart” plot but surprisingly, it doesn’t feel all that cliche. In a way, Sana is using Ai for her own gain. The fact that Ai is there fixes Sana’s problem of being alone and since Ai is (initially) an emotionless computer program, Sana would never have to deal with contempt or rejection. If anything, it is Ai who grows as a person. At first, she gives Sana company solely because of intrigue, curious as to why this girl has no issues with the situation she’s in. The more she learns about Sana’s past, the more she begins to sympathize with her. And the more she sympathizes with Sana, the more she realizes that their current arrangement is wrong and that she wants her friend to be free.
Magia Record has been a very stylistic series but this episode really does stand out to me more than others in this department. Endless Solitude has a very distinguishable look to it. Its main area has skyscrapers in the background and strange, glowing lines running across the space to convey Ai’s technological nature and her overlooking Kamihama through its networks. Other areas from a gigantic chess board to an underwater labyrinth are more dreamlike, justifying Sana’s desire to stay in Endless Solitude and befitting her desire to be away from the real world. Ai’s appearance is also worth noting. She looks humanoid but she’s noticeably much taller than the average human and her body often glows and glitches out to remind you that she’s a computer program. At same time, the white dress gives off a pleasant impression and the green hair makes her resemble Sana a bit. It’s as though Ai takes on the look to be something familiar to Sana, like the mother Sana wishes she had in her life.
Really, this episode only loses me a bit towards the end. We get introduced to Alina Gray (Ayana Taketatsu), a member of the Magius sent to capture Ai who is also in possession of a Doppel, what the Not-Witches are officially called. I frankly don’t enjoy her entrance all that much. Her sassy, unstable personality comes across as hammy and I’m convinced she shows up here just to get some last minute action in the episode. It’s not even good action either. Alina’s Doppel comes in form of paint that she can freely control which could be interesting but it creates a barrage of different colors that blends too well with the already stylistic vista of the scene. Sana barely gets to show off her Shield Hero powers and, big surprise, Iroha barely does anything to help (again, why her for the job?).
The ending is largely salvaged by Sana and Ai’s last scene. I’m more convinced that Ai letting Sana kill her is more symbolic than literal as you do see her self-terminating Endless Solitude which would likely include herself. The symbolism is extremely on point however. Ai adopts Sana’s likeness as she dies and I see that as her representing the Sana that’s been in Endless Solitude. Essentially, Ai is telling Sana to be rid of her old self and begin her life anew. It’s a bit cruel of Ai to do but that may be the kind of wake up call Sana needs to realize it’s time to move on.
Surprisingly, this episode is only part two of what I presume to be three. The next episode is likely going to focus on Iroha befriending Sana, them dealing with Alina some more, and Iroha’s friends giving them a hand. However the conclusion fares, I most certainly enjoy this middle chapter a ton. In fact, I’d say this is my favorite episode of Magia Record so far. The whole backstory and relationship between Sana and Ai taps into the cruel and tragic aspects of the Madoka mythos and is just a terrific story in its own right.
Thanks for reading!