Somali and the Forest Spirit – 10 – In Accordance With Determined Tasks

We’ve seen it in the OP every week: the moment Golem encounters a human girl in chains in his forest. The first word she says to him is “Dad.” But we learn it was hardly fatherhood at first sight! For several days Golem considers the child an outsider who must leave at once, for her care simply doesn’t fall under his forest guardian duties.

The child is persistent in following him around, however, and when it’s clear there’s no one else around to see she gets food and water, Golem lets those previously rigid edicts slide. He removes her chains and names her Somali, after the cat-like beast that first led him to her. Henceforth, everything he’s done is so he can keep her happy and smiling.

In the present, Shizuno asks if he can see the state of Golem’s body, and…it’s not pretty. Most of his ceramic skin is gone and he reports that even his inner body is starting to crack and leak fluids. Even if there are a set number of days until he “shuts down,” he may cease to function properly well before that.

Considering how he’s committed to spending seven of those days in this town bouncing for the innkeeper, the continued search for humans becomes less paramount than simply ensuring someone is around to care for Somali when he’s gone. Thankfully Shizuno is fine with being that someone, but doesn’t want Golem to give up on repairing himself.

While Golem and Yabashira work in the town, Shizuno and Somali procrastinate on cleaning, as Somali wants to make a gift for Golem. Her attempt at a portrait doesn’t meet her perfectionist standards, but when the innkeeper’s gentle, kindly wife Rosa arrives with supplies, she suggests Somali weave a good-luck bracelet for her dad.

Unfortunately, Auntie Rosa recognizes Somali’s smell as human while locked in a big hug, and unlike Shizuno is not okay with that. Such is her hatred for humans that as soon as she returns to town she reports Somali to some unsavory fellows who will no doubt come for her in short order. Are Golem, Shizuno and Yabashira strong enough to protect her?

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.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 09 – The Secret Ingredient is Love

Golem and Somali seek refuge at a charming sapper’s lodge built into a tree. Since it’s not harvest season, it’s vacant, so Golem leaves some cash to pay for accommodations and food they use. It’s an opportunity for Golem to cook something from scratch for his daughter, and he picks a tasty-looking souffle. After a few instances of pretty intense drama it’s nice to get back to the show’s cozy slice-of-life roots.

There’s precious little to threaten lil’ Somali this week, as the additional visitors to the lodge turn out to be their old friends Shizuno and Yabashira, who are on their way to the Bygone City. However, after a bite of souffle (ironicaly, considering how soft it is), Somali notices one of her lower teeth is loose, and is afraid to tell anyone lest she get in trouble.

Coincidentally, Shizuno is travelling to the otherwise somewhat rough and unsavory Bygone City to seek out the advice of one Sowak, an itty-bitty dentist. All dentists are of the hydromys (water rodent) clan so they can literally step inside a patient’s mouth to work on their teeth.

Somali grows more and more distressed as Sowak describes the work he does in mouths, and how “teeth don’t grow back”. Later, Golem can not only sense something’s wrong with Somali, but it has to do with her mouth.

Somali panics and runs off—not a good idea in a seedy city full of thugs—and bumps into one of them. He and his two pals try to extort a penalty from Golem, claiming “might makes right” in Bygone.

Fortunately, they’re no match for Golem, while Yabashira strikes the first blow in an effort to “learn local customs”, while Shizuno demonstrates his agility and the power of his kicks. In the fracas, Somali trips and takes a tumble, and her tooth pops right out.

They visit Sowak, who confirms it was only a baby tooth that will be replaced, and Golem accepts a little container for the remaining teeth as a memento, making Somali happy.

An initially threatening-looking innkeeper who heard of the butt-kicking wants Golem and Yabashira to serve as bodyguards during the busy snowy season, offering free lodging at a cabin just outside town as payment.

They accept the offer and settle into their comfy digs. That night, Shizuno mentions to Golem that he knows Somali is a human, and had suspected it since he smelled her blood. That said, Shizuno isn’t the type to suddenly hate Somali or wish her harm. On the contrary, he’s more curious how and why Golem started “playing as her father.”

Golem replies honestly: the day he met Somali, he became more than the guardian of the forest, but an individual—one who existed to protect her. Considering how cool Shizuno is with Somali’s status, Golem could do worse than leaving her with him and Yabashira, in the event he never finds the humans.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 08 – Two Hearts at a Time

Thanks to Praline’s library guide and the Head Librarian’s own voice, Golem and Somali are able to locate Isolde Nebsolv, who not only was the last person to check out Chronicles of Haraiso, but actually wrote it. One of her head guards, Leigle, is suspicious of the intruders, but Isolde is glad to see them and all too happy to tell them the story from the now-destroyed book, the events of which took place many centuries ago.

Isolde’s ancestor Feodora was flying on her broom and got caught by dragon twister winds that blew her off course and wrecked her on an island. She’d later learn that Haraiso is not only the name of the island, but its “god”, a skinless golem. The rest of the island’s population are humans, who distrust all other “grotesques” except Haraiso.

Knowing this, and knowing of humans’ nature to fear the unknown and exterminate anything that is too different, Haraiso assures them the witch Feodora is actually a human and they have nothing to fear. Feodora quickly befriends Miya, the little girl who rescued her, and the rest of the villagers, as she slides into a pleasant, idyllic daily life.

The golem Haraiso eventually determines that Feodora will be able to fly home by riding the dragon twisters as they circle north to her home, but she’s hesitant to leave such a lovely place full of such kind people, and Miya doesn’t want her to go either. That’s when a “grotesque” appears: a large, two-headed beast that insists he has no quarrel with them.

The humans don’t believe or listen to their pleas for mercy, and they tie up, stone, beat, and cut the beast to death without mercy as Feodora watches. Even Miya tosses a stone. It’s clear now that her secret is a knife at her throat; she has to get out of here before she ends up like the beast.

But the morning of the day she’s to cast off, the villagers go looking for her, and Miya knows she’ll be at their spot: the bluff under the tree. When the winds pick up and toss Miya off the cliff and into some brittle branches, Feodora has no choice but to use her broom to swoop down and save her before she’s dashed on the rocks below.

All this happens in full sight of the villagers, who quickly ignore her heroics and start to call for her execution. Haraiso intervenes in time, pardoning Feodora for saving Miya but banishing her from the island. Feodora flies off, and only Miya bids her farewell. In the end, Feodora got through to Miya, and the friendship they shared overwrote her prejudice and fear.

Feodora shared her story with others, but considering how starkly it laid out how far apart humans and other clans were, it was decided not to write about it for a thousand years. Isolde wrote the book earlier than that, and for that, blames herself for the humans being wiped out. Still, Golem only sees it as a string of coincidences. Bottom line; humans and monsters were going to clash with or without this tale as ammo for the latter.

Before Isolde passes away in a cloud of butterflies, she considers herself fortunate to have not only met a human in Somali, but one who has friends among non-humans. It means perhaps she wasn’t wrong to write a book that, for all of the ways it depicted the humans as utterly incompatible, was at its core about two people: Feodora and Miya, who were able to reach an understanding and a bond.

There’s still hope for Somali, even after Golem dies, because of the friends she’s made. But it looks like Golem is still determined to find her fellow humans at the ends of the earth…just in case.

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.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 07 – The Witching Hour

As he did with Shizuno and Yabashira, Golem confides in Haitora the truth of his dwindling lifespan, and how like Haitora he won’t be around to see his charge grow up. It’s like he’s getting the weight of the lie off his chest; dropping the facade of pretending everything’s okay with Somali.

Even so, Haitora considers Somali all too lucky to have found Golem, as she gets to live her life with a smile on her face and with peace of mind thanks to her guardian’s care, despite being a human.

Haitora’s words make Golem feel lighter in the chest. Anyone who thinks Somali hasn’t made him more human isn’t paying attention. The next day, Golem and Somali say goodbye to Haitora and Uzoi, but Uzoi promises Somali they’ll meet again once she’s found a cure for Haitora. I for one would have enjoyed them remaining together longer, especially since it makes sense for all four of them should be headed in the same direction.

That’s because Golem and Somali’s new destination is a village filled with witches who bear a solemn duty to amass all of the world’s knowledge. If there was a cure for eating harpy flesh, you’d guess you’d find it there. Alas, it’s just Golem and Somali, who are greeted by a bevy of witches selling all manner of delicious food an drink, in which the food-crazy Somali is all to happy to indulge. The village is gorgeous with its whimsical architecture and glowing light.

The pair are directed to the Witches’ Crest Library, a huge and grand structure containing millions of books of every conceivable topic. Just being led into the libarary and hearing the various voices bounce off the walls has a major impact, a feeling of being truly immersed into this gradually expanding fantasy world. Somali is eager to read a book about food, and I’m surprised she knows how to read!

Among the myriad non-human clans of this world, one would think witches, like harpies, would be able to “sniff out” a human in disguise. But if their magical hosts detect Somali’s true nature, they don’t make an issue of it. Instead, friendly librarian witch Hazel and her bookworm older sister Praline are happy to escort Golem to the location of a biography that makes mention of humans.

Things are derailed a bit when Somali locates the book in question on a shelf and recklessly pulls it off the shelf, dislodging a school of skeletal book-eating fish who are particularly interested in that particular book. Praline summons several little blue penguins to eat the fish, while Hazel produces a cloud of rose petals that squash the remaining beasts out. Their magic, and the accompanying music, adds the whimsical, wondrous atmosphere.

Even Hazel’s spell isn’t enough, however, as the surviving bookfish coalesce into a single giant subspecies. Somali refuses to give up the book, runs off, and inevitably trips over her feet. The book goes flying and the bookfish destroy it before a single page can be written. Worse, Golem must sacrifice the remaining “skin” on his arm and enter into a reflexive Attack Mode to rescue Somali and defeat the fish boss.

Somali is tearfully apologetic for getting Golem hurt, but he’s not concerned as long as she’s okay. Praline also suggests that all is not lost if they can find the previous person to have read the book, who could then share its contents with Golem and Somali. It turns out the last borrower of the book was Isolde Nebsolv, their boss and Head Librarian.


Magia Record – 07 – If You Can’t Join ‘Em, Beat ‘Em

Felicia is escorted by Black Feathers to a pair of higher-ranked White Feathers of the Wings of the Magius, Amane Tsukuyo and her twin sister Tsukasa. True believers in their organization, they are committed to the “salvation” of magical girls, though let’s be honest, that could mean anything!

Nevertheless, their goal of destroying all witches is very much enticing to the vengeful Felicia, as is the prospect of free room and board for an essentially homeless orphan. Kyouko also likes how all of the things she’d rather not worry about are taken care of, freeing her to do what she loves: defeat witches and collect grief seeds.

However, the longer they stay in the company of the Wings of the Magius, the worse and worse the deal looks. Yachiyo has a GPS fix on Felicia, so she, Iroha, and Tsuruno follow after her, prepared for anything. They are blocked by the Amane twins, who are polite and inviting, but also very clear that Felicia and Kyouko are now new members, while the other three are intruders.

With Kyouko already questioning why she’d have “no need” for Grief Seeds (I guess as long as she drinks the Owl Water her luck will keep her Gem clear?), Felicia suddenly feels betrayed when the Amane twins unleash a huge group of captive witches on Iroha, Yachiyo and Tsuruno. She doesn’t care if the Wings “control” them with magic or not; she hates witches!

When the witches are mostly defeated, the Amane sisters’ gems become very murky, but they were apparently hoping for that, and undergo a transformation similar to what happened to Iroha, when a witch-like version of herself emerged from her gem and went berserk. This happens to the Amanes, and then it happens to Iroha, who manages to defeat the Uwasa’s core all by herself.

Turns out she’s not so weak after all…but controlling her “witchy side” won’t be easy. As for the Amanes, thy seem worried about how their boss will react to their failure, and that boss turns out to be Mifuyu, the real version, not the Seance Shrine echo. She claims to have been “left behind”, insinuating Yachiyo and the others had something to do with it, but Yachiyo has no intention of joining the Wings, so they part ways with the rift intact.

With the consequences for running out of luck now gone, Iroha offers Felicia a place to stay, even though she’s about to move herself. Yachiyo offers a room at her empty boarding house, and Iroha cooks everyone a nice meal; Felicia’s first. Then the last lucky happenstance occurs: the boarding house Iroha’s parents assigned to her is…Mikazuki Villa, Yachiyo’s house.

This episode ends with the magical girls learning a bit more about their Wings of Magius rivals and in a comfy, amicable new living situation that’s conducive to further cooperation and bonding. It’s a shame Mifuyu may be lost to the cult of Magius, but at least Felicia seems to be on firmer ground, now that she’s starting to understand that she is her own most important client for her “mercenary” work.

Magia Record – 06 – Dark Wings, Dark Deals

After waking up to breakfast at Yachiyo’s sad, lonely, empty boardinghouse, Iroha decides to do a little more exploring around Kamihama before heading home. Her unyielding desire to find Ui literally leads her down the wrong road, in this case a sketchy underground market populated by witch-like beings.

Yachiyo warned Iroha to be cautious and hide her magical girl identity, but within a minute of arriving at the market, she meets another magical girl, Felicia Mitsuki, and the two drink a mysterious “Lucky Owl Water” offered for free by the beings, which they market as a “distillation of joy” to anyone who drinks it.

The Felix Felicis-like bevvy sets in immediately, with Felicia easily dispatching a witch, Iroha treating her to ice cream, and both of them getting good luck messages on the sticks. They hit the arcade and casino to let that good luck ride, winning at everything they play and raking in the cash.

Cash that Felicia needs, by the way, as she was orphaned by witches and must take care of herself. She labels herself as a mercenary, offering her not inconsiderable witch-hunting skills in exchange for cash money. As the two celebrate their luck, numbers everywhere gradually count down from 24, portending doom.

Meanwhile, there’s another new old face in Kamihama: Sakura Kyouko, from the original series. She’s still fond of perching on roofs and is looking to kill some witches. Yachiyo, who encounters her, tells her there’s plenty of witches to hunt as long as she abides by the rules: no harming other magical girls, and no poaching.

Both Felicia’s on-again, off-again party and Yachiyo learn through Yakumo of a new rumor of Lucky Owl Water, as well as the catch: after 24 lucky things happen to the drinker, they start experiencing bad luck, at least until they drink more Owl Water. It’s basically an addictive drug, only instead of affecting your body or mind, it affects your luck.

Yachiyo and Tsuruno meet up with Iroha and Felicia in order to find a way to cancel the effects of the water, which Yachiyo believes can be achieved by destroying the main body of the Uwasa, or rumor. But first they have to find it, which means returning to the market where Iroha and Felicia first encountered the water pushers.

Predictably, they offer nothing but more Owl Water as a corrective, and Felicia loses her temper and lashes out at them, causing them to disperse. Yachiyo laments that Felicia didn’t just drink more water for now, in order to buy them more time to find the Uwasa.

Instead, Felicia and Iroha are down to 13 lucky events before shit starts going down. The quartet are soon surrounded not by witches, but mysterious girls in black cloaks who all finish each other sentences and call themselves “Wings of Magius.” Like the magical girls, they want to destory all witches, but they go about it in a very different way.

When these Wings fail to recruit the magical girls, they appeal to Felicia’s constant need for income and offer to hire her as a mercenary. Her reward will be what her wish to Kyuubey probably was, but is naturally yet to be achieved: revenge.

Iroha had already hired Felicia to help her find Ui, offering her a home-cooked meal, but I think she just got outbid, and Yachiyo is proven correct about the dangers of getting involved with someone who puts their own desires before the safety of her peers.

Magia Record – 05 – The Ones They Lost

Unsurprisingly, the Seance Shrine isn’t so much a means of reuniting with someone you’ve lost as it is a magical girl trap. “Ui” looks like Ui, but the moment she starts talking the illusion is broken for Iroha, as the girl can only string together a few words in various combinations over and over again: “If you want to change your fate, come to Kamihama City.” Iroha is understandably disappointed; her search has hit a dead end.

Meanwhile, “Mifuyu” is far more convincing to Yachiyo, to the point Yachiyo is entranced. But while Mifuyu can draw from the memories they share, she is singlemindedly dedicated to making sure Yachiyo stays put right there, assuring her she’ll perfectly fit the hole in her heart. The whole time both Iroha and Yachiyo convene with their lost people, the chaotic visual cues of witches dance on the margins.

Iroha is able to break Yachiyo from Mifuyu’s hold, but when a witch arrives and neither they nor Tsuruno can easily defeat it, Iroha fights too hard, her soul gem becomes murky, and she transforms into a second witch and fight viciously attacks the first. This felt like a huge deal when it happened, and like the protagonist of the show was going to die in the first five episodes.

Iroha is “rescued” by none other than Mami, marking the first time characters from the two shows meet. Only Mami had no intention of saving Iroha, but to finish her off, assuming she’s a witch in human form. Yachiyo is able to get Mami to stand down and take her leave without further harm to the unconscious but unharmed Iroha, but not before warning Yachiyo and Tsuruno not to trust Iroha, as she’s still “hiding something.”

Iroha comes to at Yachiyo’s house. It’s too late for her to catch a train home so Yachiyo suggests she spend the night. Iroha take her up on the offer and returns to bed to rest, grateful for the hospitality (it’s apparently been a while since anyone has cooked for Iroha—I guess her own folks are too busy).

When Yachiyo checks in, she notices Iroha has been crying, and has a short vision of Mifuyu, whose room this likely once was. I imagine that despite her initially cold attitude towards Iroha, Yachiyo is happy to be hosting someone in that big lonely house.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence that is all over the map, with Kaede encountering both Momoko and Rena passed out while she takes the form of a witch. She isn’t any more sure what’s going on than I was, which is comforting, but it’s clear trouble is brewing for this magical girl trio.

Magia Record – 04 – The Price of Miracles

Iroha is worried she’s already put out her fellow magical girls, but Mitama, Momoko, Kaede and Rena are happy to continue helping in her search for Ui. Turns out the aloof Yachiyo is the exception and not the rule in Kamihama magical girls. Iroha is sent to the restaurant owned by the family of Yui Tsuruno, who is also a magical girl eager to help, but she does know someone who could.

Demonstrating that the network of Kamihama magical girls is a small world, Tsuruno introduces Iroha to…Yachiyo, who has a lead on a new rumor: the Seance Shrine. The three team up to search the nearby Mizuna Shrine, which has a legend of tragic love in which a woman sacrificed an entire town to be reunited with her lover.

However, their stamp-collecting circuit turns up no further clues. Yachiyo still uses the time to impress upon Iroha the importance of becoming stronger, for the times when more powerful magical girls aren’t around to bail her out. She also asks Iroha and Tsuruno to help her out with a limited-time sale at the supermarket.

In the middle of their shopping trip, a Witch’s Labyrinth appears, and the three are locked in a battle. Iroha is overeager and very nearly gets herself killed, but she’s saved by Yachiyo (she may not like Iroha much but she’s not one to let a fellow magical girl die needlessly).

Tsuruno ends up defeating the Witch with authority, demonstrating why she has a strong claim to the title of “mightiest magical girl.” When the Labyrinth is dissipated, Iroha finds that her Soul Gem is starting to become corrupted. Yikes!

On a hunch, Yachiyo decides to give Mizuna Shrine another chance, this time at night, and sure enough, it and Seance Shrine are one and the same. She and Iroha write the names of lost people they wish to see and then pray; Tsuruno is harassed by a Witch for not writing down a name so she can stand guard.

Then Yachiyo and Iroha are transported to a dreamworld full of bridges where they each encounter the one whose name they wrote down. In Yachiyo’s case, a girl named Mifuyu whom both she and Tsuruno knew (perhaps the three were once a team together). In Iroha’s case, Ui. But even if it’s the real Ui, there’s sure to be a not inconsiderable cost to seeing her.

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!

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 21

In an episode that opens with Chise sharing a bed with Elias, these two splitting up would have been at the absolute bottom of things I expected to happen. But with her condition deteriorating and the meeting with the witches ending up almost completely fruitless, Elias decides to take Chise’s life out of her own hands, for what he believes to be her own sake…as well as his own happiness. Before they part ways, Mariel reminds Elias that only life can pay for life.

Elias has always been called “half-assed” or a “monster” but Chise was the first and only one who would “look at just me.” Well, thanks to his actions this week, she may never look at him that way, or any other way, ever again.

Just as she relays her suspicions Elias and Ruth are up to something behind her back and asks for Ariel to back her up, Elias knocks Chise out. She guides herself out of the dream with an image of Nevin, telling her that whatever others have planned for her, all she can do is be clear on what she needs to do.

With that, Chise breaks out of the dream by stabbing herself in the leg and does what must be done: stop Elias and/or Ruth from sacrificing anyone to save her. When she finds Elias has brought Stella into the house to be the sacrifice, Chise is, understandably, furious.

Even worse is when Elias tries to explain himself: not liking how Chise looked at Stella (i.e. their friendship), and not being able to stand it, and stating as long as Chise can continue to live he’ll be happy. After urging Stella to run away, she punches Elias in the face and storms out.

Of course, what Chise didn’t know is that Stella had already been possessed by Joseph, AKA Cartiphilus, who only pretended to be Stella in distress. But it doesn’t matter; Stella or Cartiphilus-possessing-Stella, Elias sought to transfer Chise’s curse to them. That makes Elias no different in Chise’s eyes anymore. He is a monster after all.

But here’s the thing: human beings are perfectly capable of becoming monsters, or doing monstrous things, if they feel there are no other options. If anything, Elias taking the steps he did were simultaneously appallingly naive and contemptuous of Chise’s wishes, and just plain wrong, but incredibly human nonetheless.

Chise isn’t the kind of human to put her life or welfare before anyone else’s. Cartiphilus knows this, and also knows how angry Chise is by Elia’s betrayal. So he offers her Stella’s life and a spell that will save her own, in exchange for her cooperation. And Chise accepts without hesitation, teleporting away with Carty and leaving her necklace behind.