Of course this ends on a cliffhanger.
I mean, I figured as much. A second season got greenlit shortly after this episode aired. This show is based on a mobile game and those sure go on and on (from my understanding, it’s currently on a second story arc). Still, I can’t help but feel annoyed. With how much this show meandered for thirteen episodes, finding out there’s more where that came from isn’t exactly good news. It feels more tiring actually.
But back to the actual episode at hand. To start off, Iroha chooses not to side with the Magius. All she wants to do is find Ui. That much was to be expected and yet, the execution of this development does bug me. Thing is, Iroha doesn’t give much of a reaction to finding out the truth about magical girls. Admittedly, I think that’s more the writing brushing that aside than Iroha not actually caring though it still creates a disconnect. These twists were such a big deal in the original Madoka. It’s bad enough that Magia Record tried to make lightning strike twice, it’s worse that it doesn’t have its own protagonist act concerned about it.
In addition to that, you have the whole Ui plot. I’m sorry but why I should still care about this girl? We’re thirteen episodes in and not only do we still know squat about Ui as a character, it’s weird to see it treated with so much weight when the Magius is so obviously the more important issue. Really, the only person who cares about this matter is Iroha; everyone else doesn’t have a real stake in this. It frustrates me more because I would have rather had Magia Record lean into it more. A magical girl looking for her lost sister sounds more personal and way less weird than what we’re getting right now.
I think what ended up carrying this series for me is Yachiyo. That partially has to do with the fact that she’s the only smart one out of the main five and is actually tied to the conflict at hand but her actual characterization really did grow on me. The concept behind her is great, a young adult magical girl who’s been in the business for years and has become ice cold from all that experience. It does remind me a lot of Homura (which almost might be why I like Yachiyo) but I do think Magia Record puts a strong enough spin on the archetype. Yachiyo is a good character in her own right and definitely one of the better parts of the show she’s in.
It’s the Yachiyo-centered moments in this episode that I enjoy the most. We find out that her wish was to survive and because of that, everyone around her is dies at some point, presumably to take whatever fate is meant for her. Hence why she keeps her distance to Iroha and the others despite clearly growing attached to them; she’s afraid of the same thing will happen to them. This leads to a moment where Iroha sees Yachiyo’s more vulnerable side and assures her that she won’t die in front of her. Finally, Yachiyo opens up to Iroha, even calling her by her first name, and decides to put faith in the hope Iroha promises to her. We’ve certainly see this type of relationship play out before (hint: Iroha has the same hair color as a certain someone) but this is nevertheless one of the more emotionally effective moments in Magia Record and I’ll gladly take it.
As they try to escape the museum, Iroha and Yachiyo bump into Mami. Apparently, the latter has been brainwashed by the Magius which sounds redundant but it’s probably still a smart move since this is Mami we’re talking about. Luckily for them, Iroha and Yachiyo are joined by Sayaka Miki (Eri Kitamura), Mami’s friend and one of the five main characters from the original Madoka. Apparently, Sayaka has been looking for Mami this whole time; keyword being “apparently”. One potentially important tidbit comes when Mami mentions Madoka by name. Judging by the dialogue, Madoka has gone missing and Mami is desperate to find her. A bit coincidental considering that Ui is nowhere to be found as well. As for what this means about the Madoka canon, I’ve long since assumed that this is a seperate continuity…and I also don’t care anymore.
On a technical level, the ensuing fight is pretty cool. Shaft once more delivers the goods with quality animation, Sayaka pulls off some really badass moves, and it’s nice that Madoka still remembers how strong Mami is (she shows off a new form of hers). Along the way, the show even takes the liberty to expanding on some things. Yachiyo reveals she knows about Doppels and can control hers just fine (though if I’m being honest, her Doppel looks really stupid). At one point, Iroha gets frozen up and possessed by her Doppel, implying that there is a drawback to using this power. All things considered, this should be something I’d enjoy.
There’s just one problem: I find myself asking what’s the point of having Mami and Sayaka around. As much as I buy Mami being a member of Magius, she’s really just a glorified henchman and nothing more. Meanwhile, Sayaka just shows up out of nowhere and her only incentive to help Iroha and Yachiyo is simply because her friend is so obviously off the rocker right now. When you think about it, you easily could’ve done the fight scene without these two and they’re really just here because callbacks is the cheapest way to get fans invested. Honestly, do I even want to see Madoka and Homura in this series if this is how said series treats its returning characters? Maybe not.
To this episode’s credit, it does end on a wild note. The Magius has essentially raised an army which I find fucking hilarious. What, are they going to take over the world or something? Tsuruno, Felicia, and Sana have been brainwashed into the ranks. Kaede and Momoko have willingly joined. Rena is there and while she thinks all this is bullshit (thereby establishing her as the second smartest character in this whole series), it quickly becomes clear that leaving isn’t an option. Mami forces Iroha to fall into a pit with her, separating the latter away from a desperate Yachiyo. Obviously, the probability of Iroha actually dying here is 0.01% but nevertheless, this is an intense note to end on. The odds are so clearly stacked against what few heroines there’s still left to root for and honestly, I can see someone wanting to watch Season 2 to find out what happens next.
But do I want to watch more of this? I don’t know. Ask me again when Season 2 is right on the horizon. Right now, it’s complicated between me and Season 1.
Do I hate Magia Record? As critical as I have been in this long and, not to mention, belated series of reviews, I actually hesitate to say that I do. There are some aspects that I do consider to be good. From the visuals to the direction to the music, the presentation remains as good as it always has for Madoka. Yachiyo, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is a standout character. Even though the other four are okay at best, I found myself enjoying their chemistry at times. The story has its moments such as Iroha’s dream of Ui in Episode 1, the Seance Shrine scenes in Episode 5, and Sana’s entire introductory arc in Episodes 9 & 10. Bright spots such as this are what prevents me from hating Magia Record.
But at the same time, there’s a lot holding this series back. The story gets horribly sidetracked and slows to a serious crawl. The cast is too stinking big which is exacerbated by the fact that the show isn’t that cruel to them like its predecessor was with its much smaller and much more interesting cast. Iroha’s quest to find Ui is horribly shoved to the wayside and lacks the gravity the show wants you to think it has. The concept of the Magius is just plain bizarre and most of its individual members are unbearable. Any callbacks to the original Madoka are redundant and underwhelming. On top of all that, Magia Record still feels incredibly unnecessary. I’ll give it credit for not trampling on the original TV series’ story but it also doesn’t expand on the mythos in any way that I find to be particularly meaningful. The best reason it seems to have for existing is to make money and that’s always the worst reason to make a spin-off for anything.
That’s where I currently stand with Magia Record. It’s not awful enough for me to hate it but it’s not good enough for me to like it, let alone love it. It’s underwhelming and in some ways, that actually frustrates me more.
Thanks for reading!
Watch Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story on Crunchyroll, Funimation, & HIDIVE
Read my Magia Record: Puella Magic Madoka Magia Side Story reviews