Magia Record – 03 – My Friend Whom I Hate

As Iroha finds herself witnessing a friendship of three girls strain against deep-seated resentment, she has another dream about Ui, this time with her two friends Toka and Nemu. The three are very smart and build amazing things together (which also make amazing messes) but Ui is constantly the glue holding Toka and Nemu together; the Momoko to Kaede and Rena.

Before Iroha can investigate the lead her new dream has provided, her new Kamihama friends Momoko and Rena have a more pressing problem: Kaede is trapped in a Staircase!

The three visit Coordinator Yakumo Mitama, who offers to “adjust” Iroha’s Soul Gem to possibly awaken more power, and also connects them with Nanami Yachiyo, the unfriendly magical girl who already warned Iroha not to return.

Yachiyo puts aside her animosity for Iroha (whom she believes to be so weak as to be a nuisance) and agrees to help the others rescue Kaede. The four have their Magical Girl transformations, all of which are very cool and very stylish. Yachiyo’s sandals and Iroha’s sheer top are particular fashion standouts.

 

Yachiyo and Momoko attempt to draw out the Witch by writing their names on the steps and then apologizing, and when that doesn’t work, Rena tries to apologize to Kaede, but it’s insincere. Finally she goes off on a rant about how she actually hates Kaede, and she’s sorry for “making” Kaede her friend.

That brings for the Witch and an elaborate Labyrinth of branching staircases. They find Kaede, and she and Rena eventually reconcile, promising to compromise in their relationship so that Rena isn’t always made out to be the villain.

Momoko and Yachiyo detach the Witch’s core (in the form of a bell) from the Labyrinth’s summit, and Rena and Kaede combine their powers to eradicate it. But oddly, there’s no Grief Seed, which means the entity they just defeated might not be a Witch.

Rena disguises herself to gain access to the medical center, and learns that while no one remembers Ui, they do remember her friends Toka and Nemu. They were eventually discharged, though they don’t remember where. It’s the first concrete proof Iroha’s dreams aren’t just dreams. They contain truths about the past.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence in which a Magical Girl from the original Madoka series makes an appearance: Madoka’s mentor and friend, Tomoe Mami. Kyuubey has summoned her to investigate the strange goings-on Kamihama City—including the phenomenon that renders him unconscious whenever he tries to enter.

We know that Iroha interacts with a “Baby” Kyuubey in Kamihama of whom “Adult” Kyuubey isn’t aware. It seems inevitable that Iroha will cross paths with Mami at some point. As mysteries continue to be revealed and twist together, my enthusiasm for this new series grows.

Magia Record – 02 – With Friends Like These…

Iroha keeps dreaming of her little sister, Ui. Kyuubey questions if Ui is or was even a real person, wondering why anyone would bother erasing her. But let’s not forget: Kyuubey is a trickster and can’t be trusted! Iroha’s apparent wish was to cure Ui, a wish that might result in Ui being cured, but doesn’t preclude her from disappearing, both from Iroha’s physical world and her memory.

There’s a medical center in her dream that’s a real place in Kamihama, so she sets off in the off-chance Ui is still a patient there. Her bus ride is interrupted by a Witch, who charms all of the passengers and lures them into a Labyrinth. Iroha transforms and follows, but again she is outmatched, as is a red-haired magical girl Akino Kaede. Fortunately Kaede has friends in Togame Momoko and Minami Rena.

Momoko, ostensibly the Mama Bear of their Kamihama trio, offers to help Iroha find her sister. Iroha supports Momoko, but Rena is opposed to any activities that deviate from their mission to investigate and stop the Chain Witch.

Iroha inadvertently serves as the catalyst for a huge dust-up between Rena and Kaede that leads to the latter saying their friendship is over, and Momoko only makes things worse trying to smooth things over. It’s clear that it’s hard in any universe for magical girls to get along, let alone maintain amicable friendships.

The thing about Rena is, she can shift her form to someone else, making a search for her the next day difficult. Momoko and Kaede want reconciliation, and so does Rena, but she’s held back, be it from pride, shame, or regret.

That’s when the infamous “Chain Monster” arrives, fulfilling the urban legend about writing your name and the name of a friend on a certain staircase to formally end your friendship. Just two episodes in and things get dark in a hurry, as the most cheerful and innocent of the magical girls is swallowed up by chains and dragged into the staircase. Rena and Momoko can do nothing to stop it.

The question is, is the Chain Monster the same as the Chain Witch, is the staircase a Labyrinth? If so, perhaps they can go in, rescue Kaede, and defeat the witch in one stroke. Or maybe Kaede is gone, forever. You just don’t know with this show!

Magia Record – 01 (First Impressions) – Changing of the Guard

Same system, new universe. Magia Record’s English subtitle is quite clear: this is a side story, starring a new pink-haired protagonist in Tamaki Iroha (Asakura Momo). She’s an independent, reliable, somewhat lonely low-level magical girl whose school friends are unaware of her double life. Once in a while a Witch will interrupt her elevated train commute and force her into a trippy Labyrinth where she must do battle.

Lately Iroha has been trying to determine what her Wish was—the one Wish granted by Kyuubey in exchange for becoming a Magical Girl—but she’s forgotten, possibly due to part of the wish itself being for her to forget. Meanwhile, a number of Magical Girls are having the same dream about a mysterious girl telling them they’ll be “saved” if they go to Kamihama City.

Iroha’s comrade Kuroe (Hanazawa Kana) intends to visit the city to see for herself. Iroha misses her stop and accompanies her, but on the way they’re enveloped by another Labyrinth and attacked by another Witch, this one too powerful for either of them. In the ensuing fracas, Iroha encounters a tiny, apparently younger version of Kyuubey.

Madoka Magica’s trademark radical shifting of visual styles carries over into this series, and I can say with confidence that whether inside or outside of a Witch’s Labyrinth, this first episode looks like a million bucks. Iroha’s hometown of Takarazaki with its skinny, towering apartment blocks and hanging gardens are among the standout vistas to which we’re treated. The Labyrinth also blasts the girls high above the clouds at dusk. Gorgeous.

Iroha and Kuroe eventually come down to earth, crashing into a huge arcology-like skyscraper in none other than Kamihama City. Their savior is a dark blue-haired witch whose powers vastly surpass theirs, but more than anything she’s miffed to find two interlopers operating in her territory. She tells them that contrary to the dream, Kamihama is no haven for Magical Girls. There are more of them, and they’re more powerful because they have to battle tougher Witches.

Iroha and Kuroe return home with a warning from the third girl not to return, and to discourage any other girls from attempting to visiting; they’ll be considered enemies. Iroha ends up having another elaborate dream as she watches scores of seemingly brainwashed girls headed to Kamihama, luggage in hand, assured of their salvation. Then she remembers her Wish to Kyuubey: to save Ui, an ill girl who may be her sister.

With a stylish presentation, super-cool wardrobe, stirring soundtrack, and cloudy mysteries waiting to be tackled, Magia Record looks to pick up where Madoka Magica left off, showing us the darker sides of Magical Girldom in a new setting with new players. I for one am full steam ahead on this one!

Senryuu Shoujo – 12 (Fin) – The Day They Met

During a rooftop lunch together on a beautiful day, Nanako asks Eiji if he remembers the day they met, and the final episode proceeds to re-tell that reliably adorable story. It was indeed their mutual love of senryuu poetry that brought them together, as they meet, and are the only two young people, at a poetry workshop around Christmas.

When Eiji comes in late with a head of steam, everyone is content to take him at face value—as a thug. Nanako, on the other hand, claps when he quickly comes up with a senryuu asking Santa to stop his dad from smoking so much. They exchange pleasantries outside, but Eiji warns Nanako not to get too close lest people speak ill of her.

But Nanako isn’t interested in what others think of Eiji, she feels she’s connected with him on a major level, and can’t stop thinking about him. They don’t see each other at a workshop again, but begin exchanging senryuu on a public bulletin board, essentially becoming senryuu pen pals. Nanako arranges for them to meet up when the cherry blossoms bloom in Nishi Park—truly a poetic setting for their next rendezvous.

When she sees no reply on the board on the day they’re to meet up, Nanako asks around, but no one knows what has become of Eiji. She starts running in a tearful panic, worried she let the one person she connected to most slip through her fingers. But she had no reason to fret: Eiji shows up under the same cherry blossom she envisioned for their meeting.

Back in the present, as Eiji lazes in the sun and Nanako sits beside him, she simply casts a big, beaming smile at him, and the two of them couldn’t look more content, regardless of whatever relationship boxes Amane thinks they still need to check off. It’s a pleasant, cozy end to a feel-good series about two very different people with the same very specific hobby.

Senryuu Shoujo – 11 – Peonies in the Sky, I Can Go Twice as High

It’s summer festival time, and both Nanako and Amane are resplendent in their yukata; the proverbial garden peonies while standing, tree peonies while sitting, and lilies while walking. Eiji looks pretty good too!

But Amane soon detects a problem: she’s definitely a third wheel, even if Eiji’s the kid of dude who spends entire days catching bugs like a five-year-old (he makes Takumi in Ao-chan look like Gene Simmons).

Even so, sometimes he’ll surprise you, like when he tenderly slips a glow ring he won on Nanako’s dainty finger. It’s like he’s already proposing! When Amane and Eiji go to the bathroom, Nanako stays behind and gets snatched up by three classmates who saved a spot for the fireworks.

The thing is, Nanako’s one wish on this night was to see the firworks alone with Eiji. Eiji knows this, so when the two are separated and fireworks time draws near, he starts searching for her.

While doing so, he leaves Amane and the bulky “Famistation” she won behind, but fortunately she runs into Eiji’s family and thus isn’t alone. Eiji manages to find Nanako thanks to the glow ring, and takes her hand just as she’s tearing up from having to watch the fireworks without him.

It’s a very well-orchestrated, powerful moment when the two lovebirds finally reunite at just the right time. I’ve maybe witnessed dozens of this kind of scene before, but it gets me every time when executed well, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer pair of kids here.

Senryuu Shoujo – 10 – Buggin’ Out

When Amane catches Eiji showing Nanako a beetle, she knows she’s gotta do something to get these two into a more age-appropriate relationship. Nanako still suggests they check out some fireflies at a pond, but Amane can work with that, and arranges another club field trip, using the nighttime setting to make it a test of courage that brings the two lovebirds closer together.

It works like an absolute charm—which is incidentally what Eiji and Nanako are full of—as Nanako naturally clings to Eiji when she gets scared, and he brings her even closer when he senses she’s in danger.

Unfortunately for Tao, she wasn’t let in on the plan for Koto to impersonate a ghost and grab her in the dark tunnel, but her real fear made it more likely Eiji and Nanako would run off together, which they do. When they get to the pond, there don’t seem to be any fireflies, so Nanako makes one with her phone, fooling Eiji with a giggle.

Then the fireflies do indeed appear, and the two get to share in another lovely experience together. When Eiji suggests they write senryuu to mark the occasion, she almost tells him how glad she is he’s there with her, but decides to be coy instead. Some things are better left unsaid…particularly when Eiji likely wouldn’t understand exactly what she meant!

Senryuu Shoujo – 09 – Is Your Dad Okay?

Nanako’s dad, eager to assess his daughter’s “Yankee” friend (and threatened by expressions she makes when he brings him up), tells her she should invite Eiji to the house during summer vacation. When Eiji sees her text, his phone slips out of his hand and into his ramen.

While waiting for repairs at the store, he ends up having chance encounters with Koto (handing out tissues), Amane (trying/failing to look sophisticated at a cafe), Tao (dressing down for the summer) and Kino (carefully observing a mailbox but drawing a gorilla detective).

He observes that he’s managed to run into everyone today…except the one person he wants to see most. Turns out he saves his best chance encounter for last; the wind blowing her straw hat onto his head. Eiji admits he was thinking about her, missed her, and wanted to see her; Nanako admits she felt the same way about him.

With that, it’s off to Nanako’s house, where her dad is dressed in a traditional kimono and is poised to bare his chest and pounce on Eiji should he put a toe out of line. Ultimately, when he asks Nanako if she’s okay with Eiji’s affirmative answer to the question “are you just friends”, and sees her expression, all the energy drains out of him and Nanako and her brother have to help him to bed to lie down.

That’s when Nanako’s much more accepting mom has a one-on-one chat with Eiji. She explains her husband’s protectiveness as a result of how seclusive and melancholy she used to be, since she was bullied for communicating via senryuu.

That is, until one day, she came home cheerful and beaming, having met someone else who loved senryuu; the first person not in her family “she’d want by her side.” Eiji knows she’s talking about him, and Nanako is listening in the hall, but he doesn’t admit it’s him, and instead rushes off to grab his repaired phone.

Senryuu Shoujo – 08 – Grand Unveiling

It’s Summer, which means Summer Vacation, which means swimsuits. Amane wants to attract a man, and asks Tao to use her crystal ball to help her pick one out for that purpose. For her part, Nanako doesn’t even own one, as she hasn’t been in a pool since she was little.

Amane takes Tao, Nanako and Kino to the store where they are faced with far too large a selection. All the while, Tao’s ball suggests a slingshot bikini for Amane that is “just strings,” while Eiji is ambushed in his room by Koto in a stunning black bikini. If he’s going to have eyes for another girl, she’s clearly making sure he knows what he’s missing.

Nanako, by nature a modest person, starts out with a swimsuit indistinguishable from a dress, then a sarong, but eventually settles on a white bikini that catches the attention of everyone at the pool. It happens to be the same pool where Eiji is taking his little sister, which means he’s present for Nanako’s “grand unveiling” (Amane’s term, not mine!)

She runs back into the changing room, and when Amane tells him what the deal is, he apologizes to Nanako and tells her he’ll keep his distance and avert his gaze. Of course, Nanako wants neither of those things, and so rushes back outside to grab him and assert that it’s okay for him to look, a little—all using a tanzaku she seemingly conjured out of nowhere!

Senryuu Shoujo – 07 – Rabbits and Umbrellas

Nanako hates the rain because it makes her hair frizzy, but Amane tells her it’s not that bad—if she walks home with someone while sharing an umbrella, they’ll be “together forever,” and that’s something with which Nanako can get on board.

As a result of the last storm, a tree destroys the school rabbit hutch, so it’s up to Eiji to fix it, but while picking up branches his hand get riddled with splinters, necessitating a trip to the nurse…who is just Koto in nurse cosplay. Even not in the running, she’s going to have her occasional fun with him.

When Kino joins the reconstruction effort, she envisions a grand, avant-garde, Gaudi-like creation that’s simply too much for a rabbit hutch. Yet, when the hutch is rebuilt, the door falls off the hinges and all the rabbits escape, making Tao’s prophecy come true.

Thankfully, Amane sends a message through the PA for anyone who finds a rabbit to capture it and return it to the hutch, and all the rabbits are retrieved. All that’s left is for Eiji and Nanako to walk home, but since both of them forgot umbrellas, Amane provides a key assist by giving them one of hers. All’s well that ends well!

Senryuu Shoujo – 06 – My Daughter’s a Yankee!

Nanako’s Papa needs to watch what he reads in the papers, as he starts to compile a list of signs his Nanako is rebelling based on poor data. First, he she glares at him in the morning and ignores him, but she has earplugs and no contacts.

Then she won’t answer when he knocks on her door, but she’s already gone out. Finally, her brother says she’s out with her thug friend and might stay out later. Pops envisions Nanako in classic delinquent garb, nail bat and attitude, but the same sweet voice threatening in haiku. I agree with him…that would be pretty dang funny if true!

Of course, her dad is overreacting—he’s a good dad and has raised Nanako right (his instances of “being too harsh” show a laughably light touch), and Eiji isn’t a thug, he just looks like one (and Eiji may have a former thug for a dad, as he steers Nanako away from coming to his house lest his dad ask for her measurements).

Nanako is just out to meet Eiji’s big fat rabbit, who poops constantly. His little sister tags along, and immediately pegs Nanako as girlfriend material, for which she’s flattered (she also invites Eiji to sit on her lap). Her next stop is a friend’s house for a baking session, and when she gets home, her dad is fully prepared to cut ties with her forever, only to be presented with a freshly-baked cake just for him.

He had no reason to fear rebellion. Nanako is rebel-proof!

Senryuu Shoujo – 05 – Wearing Stripes, Feeling Sparks

This week swaps one new girl out for another: the fortune-telling, purple stripe-loving Hanakai Tao, whom Nanako and Eiji learn about through Amane. When they go to have their compatibility assessed, she determines from their names that they’re the most incompatible couple imaginable. Only problem is, she used the wrong kanji for Eiji’s name. Still, Nanako is happy because Eiji is so quick to dismiss the unfavorable verdict. Turns out Tao also attends their school.

Her Tarot reading points towards a night of good luck for Nanako…and Eiji getting struck by lightning. Of course, one shouldn’t take the cards too literally. Nanako probably would have had a good time regardless of luck—just spending time with Eiji makes her happy—while the “lightning” that strikes Eiji is the shock of discovering the size of her bust after she removes an outer layer after their rollerskating. Nanako and Eiji enjoying each other’s company simply never gets old…especially in this half-episode format.

Senryuu Shoujo – 04 – A Very Sketchy New Friend

Eiji gets the feeling he and Nanako are being followed. When Amane suggests it could be a cute girl stalking him, Nanako springs into action to “protect” him. Turns out Amane is half-right: it is a cute girl, but she’s not stalking Eiji. She’s been trying to return his student handbook, but could never find the right time to approach him.

Making matters trickier? Kino, like Nanako, is too shy to talk, but instead of senryu, she draws what she wants to say, like a live manga. The ensuing totally silent conversation between Kino and Nanako is a delight to behold, and Kino turns out to be quite the chatterbox (speaking abstractly). Her inner voice is provided by the immensely talented Kuno Misaki, making this a mini-reunion of Kawamoto sisters.

Because Kino makes it look so fun (not to mention easy due to her skills) the whole club has a drawing session, and we learn the sketching styles of Amane (everything is naked), Eiji (everyone looks sinister) and Nanako (everyone looks adorable).

When Eiji stares at Nanako to draw her she becomes bashful, but when she tells him she hardly has to look up from her sketchbook because she knows his face so well from seeing it every day, he gets bashful, much to Amane’s amusement!

Senryuu Shoujo – 03 – Bemusement Park

President Amane is all about trying to get Nanako and Eiji together, which includes eavesdropping on a truly bizarre game of charades in which Nanako somehow makes the upward wind you get on a roller coaster. I would have barged in too…where did that come from?

It’s a 4-koma kind of playful comedy that doesn’t always have to, say obey the laws of physics. Or something absurd, like when younger Nanako had temper tantrums, she still wrote senryuu to express herself. Amane’s challenging of Eiji asserting what a “manly man” he is was also amusing.

This all leads to the three making plans to go to an amusement park, but Amane bowing out at the last second in order to make it a date for Nanako and Eiji. The latter is your typical mostly-oblivious fella, who is almost appallingly late on the uptake despite the fact Nanako is flirting with him in writing.

I enjoyed the little white lies Nanako employed to try to get a little closer, whether with the shared soda cup or informing Eiji that her shoelaces broke, possibly implying that the only way for her to go home would be if he carried her.

Alas, Eiji notices she’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. As with Nanako’s inexplicable wind-summoning, Amane can’t help but spring out from her hiding spot to protest Eiji’s denseness.