Big surprise: Touka doesn’t recognize Iroha, let alone remember Ui. There goes Iroha’s best lead in her investigation. I had a feeling that would be the case but it does feel frustrating because of how little this show has progressed in what is technically its A plot. As for Touka herself: I roll my eyes. She’s apparently a head researcher for the Magius and therefore likes flaunting her “superior” intellect in front of everyone. There’s a lot of things about Magia Record that I don’t like but the villains are easily the element that pushes my buttons the most. You’d think them being cartoonish could work given how stylistic Madoka is but save for Mifuyu, they’re too annoying and one-dimensional.
Anyway, Mifuyu was not kidding. This seminar (which you’d think would be attend by others besides Iroha and co.) serves to educate its attendees on the truth surrounding magical girls. I guess our heroines didn’t know the truth after all. Also, it turns out that Momoko is actually relaying the same exact information to Rena at the same time so I’ll concede that my confusion over this scene in the last review has been addressed. Curiously, Kaede shows up as well, acting less timid and very disconnected instead. My guess is that Momoko told Kaede first, what with her having a Doppel and all, and there is an implication that Kaede desires to join the Magius given the knowledge she now has.
There are two ways to look at this episode’s rundown of Madoka lore. If Magia Record happens to somehow be your first foray into the Madoka franchise (if so, why?) than I suppose this episode answers your questions about the lore such as Soul Gems, Grief Seeds, Witches, and all the various truths related to them. To this episode’s credit, all the exposition is digestible and Magia Record incorporates the usual sytlism with Touka giving a fancy slideshow presentation and Mifuyu guiding Iroha and co. through her and Yachiyo’s memories (somehow, don’t ask how).
If however, you’ve previously seen Madoka, the original TV series at least, then a lot of the information relayed to you isn’t anything new. Worse is that they don’t carry the same weight here like they did back then. With the original, all the twists happen overtime and via the characters’ own actions and mistakes. The sixth episode had Madoka throws Sayaka’s Soul Gem off a bridge to appease a fight involving the latter, Homura, and Sayaka, causing Sayaka to drop lifeless and reveal that the Gem literally contain the soul of its owner. Two episodes later, Sayaka gives into her despair after many bad decisions and transforms into a Witch right before Madoka and Kyouko’s eyes. Compare all this to Magia Record where all the same information is relayed to you via a slideshow presentation and a string of flashbacks, all in the twelfth episode of this season’s thirteen! One series clearly did it way better than the other.
I somewhat appreciate the flashbacks if only because they provide context to what viewers have inferred about Yachiyo. She’s been a magical girl longer than most have, or ever will for that matter, and has seen friends and go. You also see her, Mifuyu, Momoko, and their friends go through the same motions the original five did — horrified at their discoveries, demanding an explanation from Kyubey, only to receive the same cold and pragmatic response. But because of how these flashbacks are used and presented, they fall so flat. Who dies is incredibly obvious and the episode rushes through their introductions in order to get to their deaths. Little time is dedicated to showing Yachiyo’s gradual descent into disillusionment and detachment, instead being explained to Iroha with a line or two by Mifuyu. Not only does it suck because Madoka has done powerful death scenes in the past, it also sucks because it does Yachiyo’s character dirty. Best Girl deserves better than this.
This episode does address one of the twists it has thrown into the franchise’s mythos: Doppels. Why are magical girls spawning Doppels instead of transforming straight into Witches? Because Touka created this new system of course! That’s it. I’m not kidding. That’s the only explanation Doppels exist. How exactly Touka pulled it off is left unexplained though it clearly must be in effect across all of Kamihama in order to explain why the city is so strange and why non-members of the Magius such as Iroha can summon their Doppels. Maybe it’s best that I don’t know how. It could actually make Doppels even harder to accept as a concept.
I still don’t like the concept of Doppels. To me, it severely undermines the cruelty and permanence surrounding the Witches and it’s so blatantly conceived to be a gameplay mechanic for the source material. I suppose the connection they have to Witches is a little interesting, how they’re products of corrupt energy getting separated from the Soul Gem. And what I do find intriguing is how Touka and the Magius seem so convinced that Doppels are the solution, or at least part of it for the time being. Sure, Doppels bypass the witchification but there has to be a catch. Either there’s a limit or the magical girls are forced to do this indefinitely, both of which make Doppels more problematic than its advocates believe.
The question to ask after watching the episode is how any of this “new” information will Iroha and her friends. Now that they know the truth about magical girls, does this mean they’re now siding with the Magius. Iroha certainly has the strongest case to do so since she also has her investigation to consider. I’m going to go on a whim and assume no, they won’t. Yachiyo seems to forever be against what the Magius are up to and I can’t imagine the other four main characters wanting to betray their friend.
Thanks for reading!