Magia Record – 13 (Fin) – Disbanding the Team

Yeesh…that was rough. Even though I felt my expectations for a Puella Magi Madoka Magica “side story” were sufficiently tempered, I wasn’t prepared for an ending this awkward and frustrating. It’s a shame, because we finally learn why Yachiyo is so aloof—her wish was to survive, but that means everyone she teams up with eventually dies—but it’s too little too late.

The fact that Yachiyo’s need to self-isolate is so deep-seated makes it that much more implausible when Iroha pulls her out of the witch, takes her hand, and tells her she’ll defy the effects of that wish and stay alive by her side. Even having lost comrade after comrade, both to death and the Wings of Magius, Yachiyo is convinced.

That’s when things start to fall apart, both literally and narratively. Touka sics Tomoe on Yachiyo and Iroha to prevent them from leaving. Perhaps Tomoe has been overwhelmed by grief over losing her own comrades, but seeing her character reduced to a glorified attack dog is disappointing to say the least. I also wish I could say I was excited by the sudden appearance of Miki Sayaka…if only I had the slightest clue how she got there and what she was doing there!

The episode doesn’t bother explaining Sayaka’s presence, because it’s too busy setting up an interminable battle between the team of her, Yachiyo and Iroha (who both go into Doppel Mode), and a totally berserk Tomoe.

The battle has some cool moments but is undercut by several issues, among them choppy frame rate, half-baked CGI, bits of sloppy animation…and an almost complete lack of emotional investment on my part. This battle felt like it only existed to run out the clock on the season, while the technical shortfalls prevented me from enjoying it for its own sake.

Barely ten minutes after promising she won’t die, Iroha ends up being dragged into an abyss by the defeated(?) Tomoe; Sayaka only manages to save Yachiyo, who is again alone and apparently the victim of her wish to Kyuubey. Baby Kyuubey, whose nature and motives were notably never explained in these thirteen episodes, dives in after Iroha.

From there, we get a The Force Awakens-style address by Touka before thousands of Magius followers, which include the newly-converted Tsuruno, Felicia, Kaede, and even Kuroe, a character who was only in the first episode and then forgotten. Sena and Momoko remain robeless, though one wonders how long.

And that’s pretty much that! I would say that at least there’s a second season on the way, but this episode couldn’t make me less excited about it, except to see if it can pull itself (and Iroha) out of the hole it dug. Magia Record was only ever a pale shadow of its subversive predecessor, and its first season little more than a lengthy prologue to the real battle between Magius and “free” magical girls.

In the end, Magia Record was a show primarily concerned with not saying as much as possible, and employing nostalgia and fanservice to string us along. For proof, look no further than the pointless final battle mostly between two characters from Madoka.

I’d like to say I won’t get fooled again, but I also won’t dismiss a potentially stronger second season out of hand. The first Madoka series and its movies built up a lot of goodwill Magia Record didn’t fully expend. But season two will have its work cut out for it.

Magia Record – 12 – Class is in Session

In the latest blow to Iroha’s eternally troubled investigation, Touka tells her that not only does she not remember any Tamaki Ui, but she never had any memories of her to begin with, because they never met. We and Iroha have no reason to trust Touka, but perhaps something even Touka isn’t aware of stole her memories of Ui, along with everyone else’s.

Meanwhile, at the Villa, ghosts of Yachiyo’s former roommates—and friends—ask if it’s really okay to let her new friends be. Yachiyo protests that Iroha & Co. are not friends—she’ll never make friends again—but as fellow magical girls, she still has a duty to protect them, so she heads to the museum.

Touka is the lecturer for a series of lessons, starting with the basics: When a magical girl’s soul gem shatters, the girl dies, even without any physical harm done to her. That’s because the gem is their soul, and a person cannot survive without it.

This is what happened to Yachiyo and Mifuyu’s former roommate and friend Kanae in a battle with a witch. She was the first casualty on Yachiyo’s road of misery and regret. Tsuruno, Momoko, and third magical girl Mel eventually moved into the villa, and life slowly returned to some kind of normalcy.

Tragedy struck again when the second way for a magical girl to meet her end happened to Mel: witchification. In a witch battle in which Mel protected Yachiyo, her soul gem became murky, turned into a grief seed, and Mel became a witch.

That was probably the beginning of the end of the Mikazuki Villa, and Yachiyo had to endure the unendurable: not only was a second good friend and comrade gone, but she had been transformed into their apparent “enemy.” Kyuubey tells the girls that this is just the way it is, and in the long run it’s good for humanity.

Touka rejects Kyuubey’s system, and preaches a third way: the Doppel. It already happened to Iroha on accident earlier, and she watches it happen to Mifuyu in another recorded memory: the soul gem is murky and she transforms into a witch, but only temporarily. She can return to being a magical girl essentially at will, in direct defiance of Kyuubey deemed a one-way-only road with no U-turns.

In light of all these revelations and clarifications, we can be happy this third way exists, because it mean Iroha could come back from witchification. But one wonders…what is the catch? Why is Yachiyo so opposed to the Wings of Magius? Is the ordinary order of human life now interrupted?

I don’t know, and with only one episode left, I hope there’s a second cour to explore this further. All I know is that Kaede has already gone to her side, which clearly troubles Rena. Will Yachiyo be able to make it in time to offer the other girls the case against conversion?

Magia Record – 11 – The Timing’s a Bit Off

While the rivalry between Magius and independent magical girls continues to escalate, but for Iroha, this isn’t about factions or loyalties. It’s about her sister Ui. As soon as Sana mentions Nemu, she seeks out Amane Tsukuyo at her school, where her family name is “Akatsuki” and she leads the koto club. Tsukuyo demonstrates the contrast between she views Iroha (a threat who intends to interrogate or even torture her) and how Iroha views her (a someone she can have a calm coffee chat with).

By the time they’ve had their calm chat, Tsukuyo has learned that there need not always be rancor and mistrust between their sides. She can even relate to Iroha’s need to find her sister, being so close to her own. That said, she’s still not ready to say anything about Nemu, and tells Iroha she’ll have to clear things with Miufuyu first.

While waiting for an answer, Iroha joins Tsuruno, Felicia and Sana on another shopping trip, this time to purchase some coasters as a thank you for the personal mugs Yachiyo bought them.

They find some pretty sakura-themed ones, but they’re immediately stolen by a witch, which they make quick work of to secure the gift. They set up a cute plan to surprise Yachiyo, who is coming home late.

What was to be another goodwill bonding exercise to bring the girls of the Villa closer together and feeling more like a family is pretty much ruined with the unexpected arrival of Mifuyu, who strides right in and treats the place like it’s her own home—because it was, for seven years.

Mifuyu dismisses Iroha’s attempts to play hostess and grabs her own mug from the cabinet Yachiyo warned her never to open. But Mifuyu isn’t there for Yachiyo—whom she’s apparently given up trying to convert—but Iroha. If she wants to learn about Nemu, she should consider joining Magius.

Mifuyu also invites Iroha and the others to a Saturday afternoon “lecture” on how Magius is “liberating” magical girls, at a place called the “Memory Museum”, itself home to another Uwasa. Yachiyo comes home shocked to see Mifuyu, and Mifuyu doesn’t hesitate to prick her in the side with a verbal thorn about having “made friends again,” and how it will probably go as well as last time.

This puts Yachiyo in such a sour mood she simply retires to her room, before her roommates can present her with a gift. It’s just not the right mood anymore anyway. But once she’s in her room, she’s greeted by her witch-ified reflection (perhaps her Doppel) thanking her for “bringing more friends” to her. Could this be Mikazuki Villa’s Uwasa? Should Iroha and the others be worried for their safety?

Clearly against Yachiyo’s wishes, Iroha, Tsuruno, Felicia, and Sana head to the lecture, leaving her alone. Iroha asks Yakumo and Momoko for the location of the museum, and Momoko later tracks down Rena to tell her the truth about Yachiyo’s Villa. It’s a good thing Iroha told them where she was going, since the Museum looks more and more like a trap the deeper they explore.

That said, after climbing a wall full of drawers (no doubt containing memories), they are met by a voice expressing surprise they actually showed up. It’s not Nemu, but the other girl who was with Ui in the hospital: Satomi Touka. It may have been a circuitous path, but maybe Iroha will finally get some answers about her sister’s whereabouts.

Magia Record – 10 – Home is Where They Call Your Name

In a dream, Sana reaches out to her parents, but trips and her doll—who looks just like her—falls to the ground and shatters. But after Ai says goodbye and she’s spit back out into the outside world, Iroha is there to grab her hand and not let go. There are a lot of people gathered by the Uwasa exit, including Iroha’s crew, the Twins, and Alina—three parties with different agendas, all in conflict with one another.

Alina, seemingly in this all for herself, messes around with the normally Magius-administered Uwasa controls, releasing the witch. It clones itself and attacks Yachiyo, Felicia and Tsuruno, all in service of what Alina calls her “artwork.” She also unleashes toxic paint that Iroha warns will make you crazy. The thing is, Alina Gray is not that interesting a baddie, at least not yet.

Alina’s performance is cut short by Tomoe Mami, now a member of the Wings of Magius. She covers the escape of the Twins and Mifuyu, whom Yachiyo glimpses again briefly before Mifuyu teleports herself the Twins, and the recaptured witch away. Before withdrawing, Mami tells Yachiyo & Co. that everything the Wings do is for “the sake of salvation”.

With all the excitement over with for the time being, Sana slowly but surely settles into life at the Mikazuki Villa, aided by the kindness of the others. The five girls go on a shopping trip for individual mugs (at a massive and very SHAFT-y mug store), making the house feel like more of a home, and the five of them more than a family than a coven.

Sana makes a quick trip back to her old residence, but sees no semblance of family there (they look more like fast food statues like Colonel Sanders, Bob’s Big Boy and Ronald McDonald), and hurries back to the villa, where she’s not just seen and heard, but welcomed, valued, and liked.

Meanwhile, before we conclude the WoM is an evil cult, it must be said they don’t consider themselves as such. We see the Twins checking in on a gloomy-seeming Mifuyu, and offer to cook her a meal as a break from konbini food. It shows there’s a family dynamic here, and that her break from Yachiyo and the others comes down to methods, because they’re all trying to save the world.

Sana also recognizes the name of one of Ui’s friends in the hospital—Hiiragi Nemu—as the name of a member of WoM. It’s possible Nemu and Touka are the two figures in shadow to whom Mami and Mifuyu report. With Sana now settled in perhaps Iroha can make some fresh progress in investigating her sister’s disappearance—a phenomenon that could be the result of another Uwasa the WoM manages.

Magia Record – 09 – Do A.I.s Dream of Moe-lectric Sheep?

Iroha and her Magical Girl friends decide to open a dialogue with the Uwasa known as Endless Solitude, which is also the name of the realm (essentially a labyrinth) where Futaba Sana currently resides. The Uwasa is being used by Wings of Magius to lure girls in one after the other.

The realm only holds one (hence “solitude”) so when a new girl enters, the other is released. The Uwasa doesn’t want to do this anymore, and wishes to be deleted. Since Iroha was the Uwasa’s contact, she volunteers to leap off the Chuo Radio Tower.

Flash back to a little over a month ago when Futaba Sana first entered the Endless World and met the Uwasa, a former AI that was abandoned as a failure. Sana had become resigned to the fact she didn’t belong in the same world as everyone else, since nor peers acknowledged her existence.

Her “invisibility” was only strengthened when she became a Magical Girl, and made that quality her wish. It was then when Sana heard of the rumor about jumping off the radio tower and was enticed. She was an invisible girl here anyway, so why not try to reside somewhere else…a world just for her?

It was there where Sana met, befriended and named Endless Solitude’s Uwasa “Ai”. She spent her days playing around this fantastical, infinite world, where she didn’t have to worry about seeing or be seen. It was just her and Ai, and that’s where things get tricky for Ai: Sana is content in this world and never wants to return to the real world.

Knowing Sana would never attempt to leave, Ai reached out via radio waves to Iroha, another Magical Girl who’d not only survive the fall, but be able to destroy her, the Uwasa, in order to end the cycle of captured girls. However, she doesn’t tell Sana about any of this.

As such, it’s a huge shock to Sana to finally be face-to-face with a second person in a world that’s supposed to be hers and hers alone. And yet, Ai has already decided that returning to her world is what’s best for Sana, even if it’s painful at first.

Needless to say, Sana isn’t pleased by these events, and asks if this is being done because Ai has come to hate her. Ai responds that the opposite is true: because she loves and cares for Sana so much, this has to happen…and Iroha stands ready to help.

That’s when another magical girl/Wing of Magius (not exactly sure which) appears out of nowhere and is introduced as Alina Gray by Ai, as if that’s someone we’re supposed to know! Alina mixes Japanese with English as she moves to prevent Ai from being destroyed. I was a little confused by this sequence, but I’d guess Alina wants to keep Ai around as her own Doppel.

Ai manages to teleport Alina away temporarily, but they have to act fast to foil her plans, as Alina’s “paint” has already started to affect Ai’s programming. She turns to Sana, not Iroha, to put the proverbial (and later, literal) dagger into her chest, revealing herself as Sana’s Doppel, which explains why they got along so well; they are two sides of the same coin.

Faced with the prospect of Ai being corrupted and stolen from her, Sana does what Ai asks and destroys her after a heartfelt goodbye. Back in the real world, the other girls don’t notice anything happening where they are at the radio tower, but deduce that Endless Solitude’s exit is at the other high point of the city: Kamihama Central Tower, and head that way to await Iroha’s return.

With this, the final character in the promo art is introduced, and it being a bit late, her story feels a bit rushed and shoehorned in with a lot of exposition, while Futaba Sana’s “I’m all alone” storyline has been done to absolute death. At least the Shaft-style visuals keep things relatively interesting during all the backstory.