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 – 08 – Solitude Killed the Radio Star

Iroha has a new home with Yachiyo and Felicia in Kamihama and has transferred to the same school as Tsuruno, Kaede, and Rena, but still feels like something is “missing” from herself. This is probably due in part to all of the recent upheaval in her life—not to mention the normal isolation that comes from becoming a magical girl—but for now she’s determined to fill that void with the investigation and search for Ui, and hopefully Ui herself.

To proceed, she needs more rumors, so she goes to the rooftop and finds Rena, who along with Kaede hadn’t been answering texts, but didn’t receive any. What with the strange behavior of Iroha’s phone in the cold open, it’s a good bet something is up with peoples’ devices. Rena is still uncomfortable being friendly with…well, anyone, but appreciates Iroha reaching out enough to share two rumors: “the Invisible Girl” and “Endless Solitude.”

Like Rena, Felicia seems unaccustomed to the give-and-take of a conventional friendship, and even flashes a bit of tsundere when she reveals she got in trouble fighting high school girls who were talking shit about Iroha and Rena. Felicia accompanies Iroha to the Chuo radio tower where a third “Radio Wave Girl” rumor was started, and sure enough, they hear the voice of a girl. Only she’s not crying, she seems to be giggling; never a good sign.

As Iroha deals with the other girls in class talking about her, she continually receives odd texts on her phone she dismisses as spam, but eventually grow specific, and start to overlap with the rumors about Radio Wave Girl. That leads her back to the tower, where she encounters one of the twin sisters with the Wings of the Magius, who mentions the name “Sana Futaba” when Iroha mentions the texts, but isn’t about to let Iroha leave.

Reinforcing the overall feeling that many magical girls are often uncomfortable or awkward in friendships but still come to each others’ aid in a pinch, Iroha is backed up by Yachiyo (whom she texted earlier just in case), Tsuruno and Felicia.

The twin’s “pet” witch is dispatched by Yachiyo and the four magical girls regroup at a restaurant, where Iroha finally responds to the spam-that-is-more-than-spam. The mystery text-sender urges Iroha to come to the Endless Solitude. No doubt that’s where they’ll find this Futaba girl.

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!