Magia Record – 21 (S2 Fin) – Nor the Battle to the Strong

At first, Yachiyo and Iroha believe they failed to Connect with Tsuruno, but they end up basically inside her head, which takes the form of a theater where Iroha watches the past unfold, including the day Yachiyo and Tsuruno’s friend and comrade Meru became a witch. Because Tsuruno was working at her family’s restaurant, she blamed herself, and resolved to become not just stronger, but the strongest.

But she wasn’t strong. Against the Witches and Uwasa, no magical girl, is strong, really. It’s why they have to band together…though the Wings of Magius took it a bit too far into cult territory. As this episode demonstrates, small but close-knit groups can get it done. Thanks to Felicia, Sana, Mifuyu and Momoko, Yachiyo and Iroha are able to free Tsuruno.

Similarly, thanks to Kyouyko and Akemi, Madoka and Sayaka are able to free Mami. Like Tsuruno, she had been forced into believing she had to be strong enough for everyone even though in reality she wasn’t, leaving her exposed to Uwasa corruption…or something. I’m just glad Tsuruno and Mami are back…though the fact they were freed so easily somewhat blunts all of the built-up stakes.

It wouldn’t be a finale without Iroha Connecting with Madoka, and the two pink magical girls end up unleashing an attack so powerful, it disperses all of the assembled witches at the hotel/amusement park. With no witches their to lure it, Walpurgisnacht changes course for Mitakihara, somewhere Akemi pointedly doesn’t want Madoka to go because she knows it may well be the end of her.

But the OG gang soon says their goodbyes and heads to Mitakihara, leaving the Magia Record gang fully reunited. Tsuruno is a bit out of it but sure looks like she’ll make a full recovery, while all the bad blood between Yachiyo and Mifuyu seems to have dispersed along with the witches, which is good to see.

Less good to see is what becomes of poor Kuroe just as she exits the hotel and sees Iroha and the others celebrating their victory. Kuroe’s Doppel rises out of her shadow and stops her, saying she doesn’t belong with them. This must be at least a little meta, as Kuroe is an anime-only character.

Still, it seems almost cruel at this point for the show to torment Kuroe just as she seemed poised to deepen her bond with Iroha, and perhaps the other girls through Iroha. Her doppel clearly has other plans, though if Iroha & Co. could save Tsuruno, maybe they can save Kuroe too.

The only thing left to do is for Iroha to do what she came to Hotel Faint Hope to do: speak to Touka and Nemu. Touka, for her part, is recalcitrant and doesn’t even seem to recognize Iroha. She’s about to attack her when Nemu stops her. Nemu then reveals that she’s been keeping the truth about everything that’s happened so far from both of them. That said, she seems ready to come clean…in her way.

So ends the middle part of the three-cour Magia Record. This part had a nice focus and rhythm to it along with many satisfying badass magical girl moments, but still managed to end with me scratching my head, like the first cour. Not the worst thing, mind you; as long as the final third of the series helps alleviate that cranial itch with at least some solid answers.

Magia Record – 20 – Giving Their Best

In what are not their first rumblings of disagreement by any stretch, considering their very different personalities, Nemu voices her concern that she and Touka are hurting Magical Girls when they were supposed to be saving them. Touka, who has clearly drunk on power for a while now, says the only way they can do that is by becoming “gods.” If Nemu is going to stop her friend, the window is closing as that storm nears.

The bulk of those Magical Girls Touka is fine sacrificing are locked in battle with their respective friends-turned-opponents: Madoka’s crew dodging Mami’s impossible number of old-timey rifles while Yachiyo’s crew going toe-to-toe with the evil Tsuruno Aqua, who combines devastating attacks with creepy amusement park P.A. announcements.

Thanks to Sana and Felicia providing some cover, the two crews are able to withdraw for a spell, as it’s clear talking with Mami and Tsuruno is useless. When they’re in a safe place to regroup, Mifuyu contacts them via charmed origami, giving them a map of Chelation Land and the location of Touka and Nemu as well as Embryo Eye.

Mifuyu even does them one better and has the origami stream her meeting with Mitama, in which she attempts to get her to break her neutrality. Thanks to Momoko, the two learn that Mitama has been neutral all this time because she’s too weak to fight on her own; too full of shadows and despair. Were she ever dropped into a battle she’d become a witch immediately, but Momoko gives her a hug and assures her that she’ll help her carry those burdens.

Thankfully we check in on poor Kuroe, who is still being chased by Magius girls and is all alone except for her needy Doppel, who wants very dearly to help her out…no doubt at the cost of sanity and control. With only one episode left, it remains to be seen if Kuroe will reunite with Iroha and Connect with her and Yachiyo, as they do in the OP…or meet her ultimate fate in this cour.

Once Mitama tells them the best way to save their friends is to attempt to Connect with them (and Iroha & Co. tell Madoka and CO. what “Connecting” even is) The two groups head back out into the chaotic battlefield to attempt to do just that to Mami and Tsuruno. We’ve got big bold boss music as the projectiles and bodies fly.

But once the dust settles, Tsuruno falls from a great height, her human body is mangled, and the Uwasa she fused with seemingly takes over full control. If the Tsuruno Iroha and Yachiyo love is dead, her body is still being made to move like a marionnette by the Uwasa within.

Combined with the fact Madoka & Co. make little progress with Mami, and the eighth and final installment of Magia Record’s second cour will be a very busy and impactful affair. As penultimate episodes go, this was solid, but not groundbreaking. Hopefully the best Magia madness will be saved for last.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Magia Record – 19 – Not a Bad Fate

While Kuroe struggles with trying to keep her Doppel under control so she can get back to Iroha, Yachiyo encounters Madoka, Sayaka, and Akemi…and it’s just an extremely cool game-recognize-game moment.

This is what good fanservice looks like: pleasing the crowd without compromising the story. And the story is that Iroha and Yachiyo are going to need every independent thinking magical girl on their side if they’re going to stop Touka and Nemu from scorching the world.

After being shaken out of her state of despair and fatalism by Sana and Felicia (who themselves regret letting Magius lead them by the nose for so long), Mifuyu chooses friends and bonds both living, frayed, and dead over loyalty to Magius, and pleads with Touka to terminate the operation before too much damage is done.

But that’s the thing: Touka is determined to involve everyone in the world, as she’s convinced humanity has only advanced to its present state of development on the backs of suffering and dying magical girls. Nemu then siccs the reprogramed, aqua version of Tsuruno on Mifuyu.

Down in the bowels of the hotel she meets Alina, who seems to be neutral now. She’s not interested in “partying” with a bunch of sheep, but also not quite willing to help out Mifuyu more than the minimum, which is to toss her a grief seed.

As they all have people they want to save and know their best chance is to work together, Yachiyo, Madoka, Sayaka and Akemi pile into a pickup truck headed to the absolute bedlam that is the hotel fused with an amusement park. Couintless witches are battling the Magius witches, creating chaos and discord.

But as Yachiyo is busy driving the truck, the O.G. girls show what a well-oiled machine they are, dispatching all comers. When Madoka and Sayaka are sent flying, Akemi stops time and saves them. No doubt that ability, so crucial in the films, will play a pivotal role in the final battles to come.

As for Iroha, who is already inside the gates, she’s not content to wait for Kuroe or for Yachiyo to break through the gates from the outside; she’s going to smash them from the inside. When borrowing Kyouko’s white Magius robe doesn’t work and gets her surrounded, Kyouko saves her out once again.

Rather than retreat, Iroha asks Kyouko to Connect with her, resulting in the fusing of her crossbow and Kyouko’s spear into the perfect gate-smashing weapon. Teamwork inside the gates and out not only makes the dream work, but keeps Iroha’s and everyone else’s wishes alive. The moment when Iroha and Yachiyo embrace, finally reunited again, is definitely the most heartwarming moment of the episode.

That moment is immediately followed up by another one of the coolest and most satisfying: when Iroha and Madoka come face to face. The closest analog I can think of is in Avengers: Infinity War when Thor meets the Guardians of the Galaxy, making the crossover official. Madoka, Sayaka, Akemi, and Kyouko are no longer token cameos, but pivotal players in this newly-merged, exciting, and purposeful Madoka universe.

The good girls are amassing fast, and when Kuroe (who is hopefully okay), Sana, Felicia, Mifuyu, and maybe even Alina join their ranks, tit’s looking like they have a fighting chance, even against two very challenging sub-bosses in the Re-programmed Mami and Tsuruno. That’s not to say it will be easy, or devoid of sacrifice.

But as Madoka said in the back of the truck, if anyone can turn this situation with Embryo Eye and Walpurgisnacht around, it’s magical girls. So she’s glad she’s a magical girl, and her friends old and brand-new concur. It’s time to get to work!

Magia Record – 14 (S02 E01) – Don’t Let Go

We begin this second season of the Madoka spinof in media res with what else, a battle against a weird and unsettling witch. This one has a general spider form, only her legs are human limbs and her web in the sky is made up of clotheslines stocked with sailor fuku shirts. The combatants are a trio of familiar faces: Kaname Madoka, Homura Akemi, and eventually, my avatar, Miki Sayaka, who saves the other two from getting wasted.

Of course, this isn’t the timeline or story we know from the original series; this is an alternate timeline, one of countless Akemi has traveled through in a so-far-vain effort to save Madoka. This episode is the equivalent of the original episode where the girls learned The Truth from the famously blunt and unsympathetic Kyuubey, who will only ever insist that magical girls are getting a fair deal. The Mami Sayaka saw is no longer the Mami they knew.

Sayaka, classically one of the moodiest of the girls, goes home and sits on her bed, depressed, while Akemi prepares to take a train to Kamihara City, where magical girls—and thus Madoka—can purportedly be saved. Before she can depart, the spider laundry witch returns. Madoka, sensing Akemi went off on her own, soon joins the battle, and through telepathy urges Sayaka to join her, with Madoka saying “she wont be coming back”.

Sayaka can’t exactly keep sitting at home when Madoka says this, so she once again arrives just in time to save Madoka, who along with Akemi had been just barely holding serve against the quick and crafty witch. Now that Madoka knows the witch was once a magical girl like them, all she can do is apologize before firing her pink laser arrows.

With the battle stalled, Akemi calls a timeout with her escutcheon, and because she’s touching Sayaka, she can move along with her even though time is stopped. They collect Madoka, touch her so she can move, and then the three magical girls operate as a single entity bound by their arms, with Sayaka in the middle providing transportation around the frozen witch as Madoka looses arrows from all sides.

When time starts back up, the hundreds of arrows find their target, and Sayaka delivers an excellent coup-de-grace with her sword, leading to that ever-so-satisfying sound of the witch’s domain fading away and reality returning. Sayaka, Madoka, and Akemi won the day, but there are no promises for tomorrow, especially in Kamihara, where the witches are much stronger.

While I went into the first season of Magia Record with a healthy dollop of tempered expectations and was ultimately frustrated with how few questions it answered (and how many new magical girls it introduced), I also made clear the original masterpiece bought more than enough goodwill for me to not dismiss the second season out of hand.

I was rewarded for my loyalty to the franchise with a stunning barn-burner, but as with the OG magical girl trio this episode focused on, there are no guarantees for the future. Will we even see these three next week, or will we shift back to Iroha, Yachiyo & Co.? I don’t know, but I also know I want to find out.

Armed with the knowledge there will also be a third and final season in December means there is ample time to set up and execute a satisfying, coherent conclusion. Like Sayaka and Madoka held on to Akemi in the timeless zone, I’ll hold on to hope this is building to something. And if it isn’t, at least it looks and sounds like no other anime currently airing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 10 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 10 Mar 2011 – Did all that just flipping happen? After fleshing everyone else out previously, all that remained was Homura’s story. We got it, and it was fucking epic. Nothing in this episode would have made any sense without knowing everything that preceeded it, and at the same time, this added so much more dimension to an already excellent series by throwing time and causality into the equation.

Homura was once an innoncent, ditzy human, who transferred to Madoka’s school and befriended her. But in this timeline, Madoka and Mimi were already Maho Shojo. When the Walpurgis night comes, Madoka sacrifices herself to save Homura. Not yet a Maho Shojo herself, Homura contracts with Kyuubey with the wish that she be given the ability to change time – as in reset the timeline to the point she first met Madoka – and protect her instead of the other way around.

Not only is the initial role reversal of Madoka and Homura outstanding – Madoka is, in most timelines, a full-fledged, bow-wielding maho shojo – but the fact that things keep going so wrong – Madoka keeps dying and Homura keeps resetting – really drives home how tortured Homura is by the time we meet her in episode one. Hell, things go so awry, there’s even a scene where Madoka has to kill Mami by her own hand!

So Homura was never so much an aloof bitch. She’d just been downtrodden by so many lives and so many undesirable outcomes, and won’t stop trying to protect Madoka, out of her powerful friendship for her, no matter how many attempts she has to make.

This episode cuts back and forth through time a ton, yet stays expertly and confidently held together without a hint of repetition. We love Groundhog Day-type situations like this, but in this case the causality loop is neither involuntary or unwanted; it’s Homura’s will. The entire series we’ve seen thus far is only one of an untold number of timelines that have already run their course. And yet, Madoka seems almost fated to be seduced by Kyuubey – one way or another – fight Walpurgis, and become a witch so powerful she destroys the world.

The episode ends just as the series begins, only this time we hear what Homura is screaming in Madoka’s “dream”: “Don’t contract.” And to Madoka’s credit, she still hasn’t, as of episode nine. Will this finally be the time Homura is able to defeat Walpurgis on her own, without Madoka contracting? We’ll see. Fantastic stuff.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 09 (Retro Review)


Originally posted 4 March 2011 – Yikes, yet another one bites the dust, in short order. I’m tellin’ ya, this series has guts. It’s taking us to a very dark place. Sakura gets axed this week, fighing off the witch Sayaka has transformed into. Homura is now the only maho shojo that currently stands between the looming mayhem of Walpurgis and the city. This puts Madoka in a spot, and Kyuubey is going to exploit it.

Kyuubey also lets loose a little bit about what he is and why he does what he does. He and his ilk are after energy. The best way to get it is to contract with girls of a certain age, turn them into maho shojo, and then wait until they ‘mature’ into witches through the corruption of their soul gems into grief seeds. This means that all witches were probably human girls at some point, tricked into contracting and downloading their souls into gems by Kyuubey-types, though they don’t (and can’t) see it as “tricking”.

That would require an emotional position on the matter of turning girls, and Kyuubey, you see, lacks the capacity for emotion of any kind. As such we can’t necessarily label him as evil; he’s no different from a lion on the Savannah. It may seem cruel how they’ll pick off weak or tired prey, but that’s how a predator survives: by exploiting any and every advantage nature throws at it in order to acquire fuel to keep living. In this case, human girls are the prey, or rather a resource, that Kyuubey coldly, logically coerces into essentially destroying themselves.

This is why Homura, from episode one, has been so determined not to let Madoka contract with Kyuubey. Not because she doesn’t want strong competition; it’s because she doesn’t want her to end up like Mimi, Sayaka, Sakura, countless other girls…or herself. At this point, we really don’t want Madoka to contract either, and are glad she’s held out long enough to learn the truth. Why should she throw her relatively blessed, happy life, humanity, and soul away…just to become Kyuubey’s dinner?

Still, there’s no reason to doubt Kyuubey’s assertion that Madoka would be the most powerful Maho Shojo if she contracted. That could mean she’d ultimately become the most powerful witch…and later, a great feast for Kyuubey. Will Homura be enough to fend off Walpurgis on her own? We’ll see. Meanwhile, we predict it will be most difficult for future 2011 series top the consistent excellence of Puella Magi.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 08 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Feb 2011 – The episode wherein Sayaka loses her hope, her mind, and what’s left of her humanity, and meets her downfall, apparently transforming into a witch. This was a stark, cruel, unforgiving end for Sayaka, who never recovered from Kyuubey’s scathing words that her soul was in the gem she bore and no longer in her body where it should be. That gem continued to degrade, and Sayaka gave her first grief seed to Sakura and rejected it from Homura.

In case we weren’t already well aware, Kyuubey is the main antagonist here, at least so far. He seems absolutely hell-bent on making Madoka a maho shojo, and she actually asks him to do so! But before he can oblige, Homura kills him just in time. Of course, he comes right back, the bastard; one can’t expect an entity that can cause miracles to happen to be defeated so easy.

If Sayaka is indeed gone, Madoka’s choices have multiplied, and none of them are easy: she can contract with Kyuubey, and trust that he speaks the truth that she’d be such an unparalleled magician as to be able to perform any miracle she likes. He could well be lying, but then again, it’s telling that someone so unwilling to become a maho shojo would happen to be the one with the most potential.

Now that she has not one but two friends to try to save from oblivion, the urge to contract is as tempting as ever. But this is like the apple the serpent offers Eve: it may taste good for a time, but it will cause her to be cast out of the world she knew forever and into a life of hardship.

A contract with Kyuubey could also be compared to deal with a Faustian devil: whatever wish Madoka will have, there will be a heavy cost – just as there was for Sayaka, Sakura, and Homura – that could not only leave Madoka wishing she’d never contracted to begin with, but wishing she’d never been born. This series has become our run-away favorite of the Winter 2011 season – even though the main character is still just a ordinary, whiny girl!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 07 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Feb 2011 – Even though Sayaka loves her friend Kyousuke, whom she healed with her wish, she can’t even approach him after learning what the bastard Kyuubey has done to her. And her friend Hitomi has decided to stop lying to herself and will confess to Kyousuke – unless Sayaka stops her, which she doesn’t; at least not this week.

This is kind of the quid-pro-quo Sakura warned of while talking calmly with Sayaka in her father’s church. She gains a lot more depth this week by revealing that her whole family was destroyed by her impulsive wish to net her radical cleric dad more followers. After that, she learned that Maho Shojo can’t truly help anyone but themselves. If they try, people will get hurt or killed. By the end of the episode, Sayaka seems to be warming up to that idea as well. Rather than shouldering her pain and anguish, she lets the magic absorb it so she feels nothing – not even the attacks of her first bona fide witch hunt.

This series keeps getting better as we become more engrossed in the story. We daresay it’s our favorite of the Winter 2011 season so far. There’s a lot to like: complex conflicts; ridiculously-flawed yet endearing characters with deceptively cutesy design; awesome, often trip-tacular animation; kick-ass battles; great architecture; and a rippin’ good soundtrack from start to finish.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 06 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Feb 2011 – The more we learn about the world of Maho Shojo, the darker, more twisted and messed up it gets. While Sayaka didn’t think about it at the time, she’s come to the realization that most Maho Shojo aren’t like the kind, gentle Mami, but more like Homura and Sakura – in it for personal gain and/or self-ingratiation. Mami was the exception, not the rule. Maho Shojo aren’t (always) good people.

Still, strong in will and ideals, Sayaka refuses to back down. She’ll fight whoever threatens what she holds dear – even other Maho Shojo. The only problem is, living a good pure life means living as a weak Maho Shojo: grief seeds must be collected to gain the power Sayaka desires. It’s a vicious cycle, and the weight on her slight shoulders is palpable when Sakura corners her outside her boyfriends house. Sakura is not weak or inexperienced. She’s been playing to win. If they fought seriously, Sayaka would be toast.

Meanwhile, the more Kyuubey says to Madoka, the more her reservations mount about becoming a Maho Shojo herself. She wants instead to be the angel on Sayaka’s shoulder that will tell her not to fight. But this insistence on peace leads Madoka to carelessly toss Sayaka’s soul gem over a bridge. Sayaka, in turn, goes unconscious and limp, as if dead, revealing one more tidbit: A Maho Shojo’s soul resides not in the body, but in their soul gem.

This is something even Sakura didn’t know, and when she learns of it, she’s devastated, putting her petty fight with Sayaka on hold.  This Kyuubey is quite the trickster – stirring up trouble in every life he enters, and putting them on paths he sets up. We wonder if there are other Kyuubeys out there, and if they’re such cold, calculating bastards as this one is. There have also been numerous situations in which Madoka could have contracted and saved the day, but this has yet to happen. Kyuubey has to be growing impatient with her at this point, but we’re not, considering what contracting would cost her.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 05 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 3 Feb 2011 – As Madoka continues to weigh whether she should become a Majo Shojo for a surprising fifth week, Sayaka reaps the benefits of doing so right away, as her friend is able to play the violin beautifully like nothing ever happened. But the price of doing what Sayaka did, according to Homura, is too high. She tells Madoka she can’t hope to protect Sayaka, and she should give up on her.

Majo Shojos all seem to be resigned to losing their lives at any moment, because, as Mimi demonstrated, they can. Their cute, cheerful outfits belie a tortured, ephemeral existence. Contracting with Kyubei is almost like dying itself; you just stick around to fight witches until you have a bad day, and then…pfft. I can understand Madoka’s reticence, especially since her wish isn’t as specific or clear-cut as Sayaka’s was.

Madoka obviously wants to protect Sayaka, but that isn’t a proper wish. Furthermore, when a new, hardened Majo Shojo appears and tries to shoo Sayaka off, provoking her into a duel, Madoka is moments from contracting when Homura shows up, to do just what she said she wouldn’t: keep an eye on Sayaka. She must really not want Madoka to become a Majo Shojo. Perhaps she knows, somehow, that if she did, there’d be no stopping her.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 04 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 Jan 2011 – Booyah! This was, in our opinion, the most powerful episode of the Winter 2011 season so far. The fact that Mami “bit it” but no one in the normal world knows, and she didn’t leave a corpse, really puts into perspective just how harsh and merciless it is to be a maho shojo. The dark undertone of this series so far is exactly what we was hoping for; the girls can’t just automatically contract with Kyubei; there has to be a deep, heartfelt reason to do so.

Sayaka finds it, as she can no longer live with the injustice of her friend – a violin prodigy – losing the ability to move his hands after an accident. His life of music was taken away, and there’s nothing a normal Sayaka can do about it, which crushes her. However, magic and miracles, she has learned, do in fact exist, and she decides to make that contract, in exchange for her friend recovering his gift and hence, his life.

Equally moving is how she realizes that she isn’t just doing this for him; there is a part of her she detests that wants to be the one to save him, and for him to fall for her in return. This personal stake makes the situation a selfish fairy tale in her mind, but it also happens to be perfectly doable. Considering the good her wish will do, though, we think she made the right choice.

We also like how we don’t actually witness Sayaka’s contracting and transformation; but she shows up in the nick of time to save Madoka, who is still too scared and indecisive to contract, and trapped in the middle of a group of people (including a classmate) charmed by a witch into poisoning themselves in a warehouse, possibly for nothing other than the witch’s amusement. This is dark stuff, and the suspense around Madoka’s peril is very well presented.

We’re really enjoying how witches and the creepy, crazy, messed-up way they futz with reality and perception. They’re so far removed from conventional reality, and yet know exactly how to manipulate humans, including Madoka, into wishing they had never been born, or to kill themselves at the drop of a hat, or whatever. To anyone who thought Sayaka’s decision was rash: Madoka and those innocent people would be dead if she hadn’t made it.

Anyway, Sayaka is now a maho shojo. Will Madoka follow suit? Obviously; I’m really looking forward to how. I’m guessing for now that Sayaka will start facing challenges from rival shojos wanting a piece of Mami’s former territory; and the rookie Sayaka unable to hold them back without Madoka’s or Homura’s help. But even though our main character isn’t a maho shojo yet, this episode rocked.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 02 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Jan 2011 – By episode’s end, Madoka and Sayaka understand a lot more about how a Maho Shojo operates, and so do we. We also learn that Homura wanted to snuff out Kyubei (Kyuubey?) so he (she?) wouldn’t create more competition for her. A Maho Shojo’s job may be all about hunting witches, but the inherent rewards can make the competition fierce.

Mami expertly shows them both the tools of the trade (soul gems, grief seeds) and how to find and destroy a witch. The abstract, surreal, downright unsettling way in which witches are depicted is particularly well done here: the different animation doesn’t come off as a gimmick, but rather a strange and alien world a witch creates to discombobulate and weaken their opponent. Still, this particular witch, while powerful, isn’t a match for Mami’s awesome rifles. Everything about their duel oozes style, originality…and confidence.

So Sayaka and Madoka need to come up with an ultimate wish that will be fulfilled by Kyubei in exchange for risking their lives to the witch hunt. They live great lives, so it isn’t immediately apparent what to wish for. After witnessing Mami in action, however, Madoka essentially wishes to be like her: someone “useful” who is strong enough to protect the innocent.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)