The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Magia Record: Review and Reflections After Three

“Kamihama…you fear to go into those streets. The Magical Girls delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Satomi…shadow and flame.”

In a dream, Iroha learns that Ui might be in Kamihama City’s Satomi Medical Centre and sets off to investigate, against Nanami’s warning. She finds herself amidst a Witch’s labyrinth; the Witch itself is locked in combat with a team of magical girls. These girls are successful in destroying the Witch, but Iroha is knocked out. When she comes to, she finds herself in a sanctuary for magical girls: this team introduces themselves to her as Momoko Togame, Kaede Akino and Rena Minami. It turns out they’re searching for the elusive “Chain Witch”, but in spite of their objectives, agree to help Iroha look for Ui (although Rena is reluctant). Iroha enters the Satomi Medical Centre and learns that there was never a patient by Ui’s name in the records, and after the girls go out to discuss options, a verbal argument breaks out, culminating in Rena leaving. Kaede attempts to reconcile with Rena, but is captured by the Chain Witch. Iroha meets Yakumo Mitama, a Coordinator who operates the sanctuary, and learns that Yachiyo is also a member of their group. They agree to an operation to lure out the Chain Witch; it turns out that feigning a fight won’t draw the Witch out, but Rena’s feelings get the better of her. The Chain Witch materialises, and Kaede turns out to be okay. The girls subsequently engage and destroy the Chain Witch, aided by the smaller Kyubey, who points out a weak spot. When the battle ends, the lack of a Grief Seed leads Yachiyo to conclude the Chain Witch is not a conventional Witch. Rena later learns that the two other girls beside Ui in Iroha’s dream, Toka and Nemu, were indeed patients at Satomi, and elsewhere, Kyubey reveals that he’s unable to enter Kamihama: he sends one Mami Tomoe to investigate. With the third episode and the appearance of Mami, it is established the series’ events are being set prior to the events in Madoka Magica. The third episode of Madoka Magica became infamous for its brutal killing of Mami, who was consumed by a Witch during combat, and the marked contrast between Magia Record‘s third episode indicates that the themes here are unlikely to be as grave and sobering as those of Madoka Magica.

Indeed, Magia Record‘s premise of having Iroha investigate a mystery surrounding someone dear to her is already dramatically different than Madoka Magica: whereas the former was really about the toll that wishes extract, Magia Record‘s themes and goals seem much more consistent with that of a game, favouring exploration and discovery. The episodes to Magia Record have insofar focused on presenting how limited and inconsistent Iroha’s recollections are, which compels one to follow the story with the goal of watching this mystery unravel. Along the way, Iroha meets a group of Magical Girls who will, in time, act as resources and allies to fall back on in her adventures, and Iroha learns that Soul Gems can be boosted to increase the Magical Girls’ power and ability in battle. Drawing elements from a game, Magia Record‘s progression feels more purposeful, leaving no doubt that Iroha will be finding something during and towards the end of her journey. However, Magia Record also lacks the same grim and uncertain atmosphere of its predecessor: with no major deaths early on, Magia Record feels much more laid-back and conventional. As such, Magia Record must strike a balance between creating novel new events to keep viewers engaged, while at the same time, avoid venturing into the melodramatic territory that Madoka Magica ended up in. It goes without saying that Magia Record has some large shoes to fill, and in the shadows its predecessor left behind, Magia Record is seen as being something that faithfully captures the atmosphere and feel of Madoka Magica while simultaneously exploring new directions that add to the franchise. Fortunately, three episodes into Magia Record, the anime has proven engaging and enjoyable in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Inconsistencies in Iroha’s memories and the memories of those around her will immediately lead viewers to wonder whose version of reality is the right one. Until more is explored, viewers will be kept guessing, which is the main draw of Magia Record. Conversely, Madoka Magica kicked off the party in a much more unassuming manner and surprised them with Mami’s sudden death, only to have the series spiral out of control after it was revealed that Magical Girls became Witches.

  • Witches and Labyrinths were a central feature in Madoka Magica, and viewers spent countless hours studying every detail in a Labyrinth to guess at what that particular Witch’s origins were: the revelation that Witches were born of Magical Girls and Sayaka’s transformation into Oktavia von Seckendorff marked the first time that the connection could be drawn between a Magical Girl’s past and current form as a Witch: Oktavia von Seckendorff’s Labyrinth was a demented concert hall and perilous train wheels, mirroring Sayaka’s connection to music. From this, attributes in other Labyrinths were thought to offer some insight into the Witches’ pasts.

  • When Iroha enters a Labyrinth, she finds herself in a vast field under a starry sky. She quickly finds herself in the middle of a fierce battle: Kaede, Rena and Momoko exchange blows with the Witch. Kamihama’s Witches are said to be stronger than standard Witches, and even with more powerful Magical Girls on station, it still takes a team of them to consistently overcome Witches. Right out of the gates, however, the team that Iroha encounters is only barely holding together.

  • It ultimately takes a combined attack from Rena and Momoko to wrap up the combat: Momoko and Rena use this attack on the core of the Witch to take it out. In Madoka Magica, viewers had few moments to watch Magical Girls fighting together during the TV series proper, but in Rebellion, it was fun to see each of Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko taking on a Nightmare using the combined scope of their abilities as a team, and with teams being a larger part in Magia Record, seeing groups of Magical Girls engaging a Witch together will likely yield more exciting combat sequences.

  • While the Magical Girls and their Coordinator headquarters are no Sanctum Sanctorum, Momoko notes that it does act as a place for Magical Girls to regroup and recover from their duties. This place is the one portrayed on promotional materials for the series; the use of blue lighting and geometric shapes gives a the headquarters a classical, holy feeling, but despite the cold, impersonal feeling such a space emanates, having good people present changes things dramatically.

  • In the space of about thirty seconds, Momoko has quickly become my favourite character in Magia Record: with the air of a responsible older sibling, Momoko takes on the role of supporting the younger Magical Girls. She’s said to be the middle sibling, which gives her both the perspective of a younger sibling and that of and older sibling. To this end, Momoko is easy-going and always has her eyes on her younger team members.

  • Right out of the gates, viewers get the sense that Momoko and Kaede are friendly, willing to help, whereas Rena is more hostile and distant: it is here that the “Chain Witch”, an unknown entity that’s said to whisk away the careless. Momoko and the others have been attempting to hunt it down for some time, with limited success, and so, when Iroha arrives, she and Kaede see an opportunity to help out.

  • Upon arriving at the Satomi Medical Centre and making inquiries, Iroha is shocked to learn that there’d never been a patient by the name of Ui Tamaki at their facility. The disconnect between Iroha’s memories and what’s being told to her builds up the suspense in Magia Record in a much more traditional sense than how Madoka Magica handled the progression: here, things seem much more gradual, while in Madoka Magica, once the defecation hit the oscillation, the story accelerated wildly and gripped its viewers.

  • Iroha (and the viewer) initially gains the impression that a pretty serious disagreement between Kaede and Rena has broken out, this time, over Rena’s casual use of her illusion magic to take on Momoka’s appearance. Behind Rena’s tough exterior lies someone who lacks confidence and is insecure; her original wish was to be anyone besides herself, having come from a family who moved a lot owing to her father’s job. Despite her difficult personality, she would open up to Momoko over time, although she still finds it difficult to accept Kaede.

  • The fast food restaurant the girls stop at after their unsuccessful attempt to learn of Ui’s whereabouts possesses an ultra-modern design and features a sophisticated set of windows that display various imagery. I’m certain that these are purely ornamental, although they do add an interesting visual break in things. After Kaede storms off, Momoko teasingly warns Rena that such actions may cause the Chain Witch to appear, and Rena runs off, feeling the joke to be in poor taste.

  • While Momoka might be the ‘big sister’ archetype, she readily admits that she’s got her faults, and apologises to Iroha, having felt that this time, things might truly be the end for Kaede and Rena. It is here that she explains to Iroha the story about the Chain Witch and its association with a staircase that’s said to end friendships. As the story goes, the two individuals interested in ending their friendship write their names on certain steps, and then from there, the first individual to want to reconcile with the other and apologise will be taken by the Chain Witch.

  • Owing to the way this story is framed in Magia record, there is no clear indicator as to whether or not the story coincided with the appearance of the Chain Witch in Kamihama, or if it has its origins in area folklore and urban legends even before the actual Chain Witch itself made an appearance. Madoka Magica made extensive use of large-scale to convey the notion that the girls were in situations far larger than themselves, and this created a sense of isolation. While Magia Record uses similar imagery, at least for the present, Iroha does not feel quite as alone on the virtue that she’s with Momoka, Kaede and Rena.

  • This is the stairwell mentioned in the rumour: by a curious turn of events, there is a very similar stairwell at the University of Calgary’s Social Sciences building: this narrow, winding set of stairs leads from the main floor to the roof, fourteen floors up, and I’ve made use of it in my time. The Social Sciences stairwell is very similar to the one in Magia Record in that there is also a legend surrounding it, but unlike Magia Record, our stairs have a different legend: the story Leon the Frog was written on the steps in 1974, and became somewhat of an institution around campus. A year after my graduation, restoration efforts led to the removal of this work, although students have since restored it.

  • My favourite part of the story can be found on the eighth floor, and since the entire poem is a lengthy one, I’ll leave a link to it here. The architecture and locations around the University of Calgary does bring to mind some locations in Madoka Magica, and in particular, the rooftop of Mitakihara Middle School reminds me very much of the Arts Parkade rooftop. This formed the basis for a special topics post I wrote some years ago about the choice of architecture in Madoka Magica. Back in Magia Record, after their fight, Kaede and Rena become more distant than before, and despite Kaede’s efforts at reconciliation, nothing seems to work.

  • The negative feelings amassing in Rena and Kaede manifest in a physical form, and as chains begin slithering across the screen, it becomes clear that this is the Chain Witch that has been the subject of much discussion amongst the Magical Girls. These spectral beings engulf Kaede, who subsequently goes missing. Rumours persist that those taken by the Chain Witch are lost forever, but this presumably only applies to civilians.

  • Besides the interior of the Magical Girls’ sanctum, the other location in Magia Record that stands out is Iroha’s room. While unremarkable in most cases, its main distinguishing feature is that precisely half of the room is empty. Since Thanos never affected the Madoka Magica universe, it’s another (not-so-subtle) sign that something is off: Iroha’s side has a very lived-in, welcoming feel, and the empty side is deliberately sterile to visually represent the extent of Ui’s absence.

  • When Iroha arrives at the sanctum next, she meets Yakumo Mitama. Unlike the other Magical Girls, Yakumo is not actively involved in combat: the game has her serve as a shop-keeper of sorts, and so, while she is capable in her own right, her primary role is support. Yakumo is seen making adjustment to another Magical Girl’s Soul Gem, which is simply stated to improve the Magical Girl’s overall performance in some way. Because of her unique role, Yakumo is well-respected by other Magical Girls and provides her services in exchange for Grief Seeds.

  • If I were to take up Magia Record, having a knowledge of the anime means that I would find myself more familiar with the mechanics of the game. This is unlikely to occur for the present: mobile games have never really been my forte, and for my part, I’ve always preferred titles that involve a combination of über-micro and reflexes. This is why my entire library is composed of shooters, with a few simulators here and there. It is not lost on me that most of the community is much more familiar with visual novels, JRPGs and the like, but for me, those move a little too slowly.

  • While Iroha and Rena might be ill-equipped to deal with an unknown such as the Chain Witch on their own, they do have Momoko and Yachiyo in their corner. The plan is set: Yachiyo and Momoko will feign a disagreement to draw out the Chain Witch, and then engage the Witch in combat to retrieve Kaede. The plan is simple enough, and all that’s left is the execution itself. Having taken a look around at things, Magia Record discussions have been quite disciplined so far, focused primarily on the progression of the story, differences between it and its predecessors, and how game elements are subtly present.

  • Up until now, we’ve not yet seen any of the Magical Girls of Magia Record do a full transformation; Yachiyo is the first to kick things off, and her transformation sequence is filled with water-related motifs. Wielding water magic means that Yachiyo’s personality is calm and fluid, adaptive and patient: her weapons bring to mind those of the Greek God, Poseidon, who was the patron deity of seas and storms. Poseidon wielded a trident, and Yachiyo’s spear is a three-bladed weapon that mirrors her affinity with water.

  • Momoko’s transformation is a very fiery one, and her primary weapon is a sword-sized machete. With her wish being to gain the courage to go through with a kokuhaku, her magic lies in the ability to support and encourage those around her. This is befitting of Momoko, who has similar confidence to Mami Tomoe. Her transformation sequence admittedly brings to mind Gin Minowa’s, which was also quite spirited.

  • Rena’s original wish gave her control over illusionary magic, and this is mirrored by the presence of mirrors during her sequence. Similar to Yachiyo, Rena has an electric motif, and fights with a trident. Traditionally, transformation sequences have been counted an integral part of Magical Girl series: while fun to watch, they can become repetitive and dull with prolonged exposure, so many series choose to show these sequences early on, and then have the characters transform much more quickly as the series continues. Mecha series take a similar approach: both the Unicorn and 00 Raiser saw lengthy, detailed transformation sequences the first time those were introduced, but later on, would transform in a much more concise sequence that better represents what the transformation actually looks like.

  • Iroha has a very unique transformation of her own: she runs off the edge of a building and gradually picks up her signature cloak and crossbow as she descends, giving off the vibes of an angel in the process. Because her wish is rooted in health, Iroha has a considerable healing factor, similar to Sayaka Miki. Her offensive abilities are much weaker: she’s only armed with an automatic crossbow that, while possessing a high rate of fire, does not deal very much in the way of direct damage. In spite of this, her role remains an important one, and being able to keep the health of one’s team up is an important function.

  • Momoko and Yachiyo are initially unsuccessful in bringing out the Chain Witch with their feigned fight. However, while up on the school rooftop, Rena begins to get lost in her thoughts. As feelings of resentment and regret come out, these negative emotions draw the Chain Witch out. With Yachiyo, Momoko and Iroha present, the Chain Witch feels like less of a threat: as Rena and the others begin probing its defenses and fighting it, they come across Kaede, who’s okay.

  • Kaede’s outfit and primary weapon resembles those of a mage, or perhaps one of the Istari: she carries a staff into battle, and with her original wish being to halt a construction project that threatened her family garden, Kaede is able to shift objects out of phase temporarily, reflecting on her wish’s nature. When the others find Kaede, she appears to be in fine spirits, and is immediately ready to join her friends in squaring off against the Chain Witch.

  • Being the weaker of the Magical Girls, Kaede and Rena provide support while Yachiyo and Momoko deal the real damage: they begin targetting a large bell-like object in the Labyrinth while hiraganakanji endless stairs and chains dominate the scenery: if and when I’m asked, the sum of these visual elements are intended to show how the fracturing of friendships begins with words, which bind two parties to a destiny, and where recovery is equivalent to climbing an unending flight of steps.

  • Even with the latter’s power, however, it isn’t until Iroha learns of the Chain Witch’s weak point from the small Kyubey and passes it along, that the girls are able to vanquish the Chain Witch. The Chain Witch, however, does not drop a Grief Seed. These constructs could either be willed into existence by the familiars (essentially, lesser Witches), and they would give birth to a full-fledged Witch over time, or else come from a Soul Gem that had given in to despair. While some have wondered how Grief Seeds can be used to purify Soul Gems when they themselves exude negative energy, as opposed to the Soul Gem’s positive energy, we would suppose that negative emotions work similarly to the phenomenon of coalescence: bringing a Soul Gem with some negative energy into proximity of a Grief Seed would cause the Grief Seed to absorb said negative energy.

  • With the Chain Witch neutralised, Kaede and Rena reconcile properly. It is here I note that the soundtrack for Magia Record is excellent: even just three episodes in, the combination of classic pieces of incidental music from Madoka Magica (like Sis Puella Magia) and new songs gives Magia Record a nostalgic feeling while simultaneously driving new motifs forward. The soundtrack is expected to release in parts, and the first will accompany the first BD volume.

  • Once Rena and Kaede’s relationship is mended, Iroha is able to turn her attention back to her search for Ui, and she grows excited when she learns that there were two other patients with her, per her dream. We’re now nearing the end of this post, and I note now that the bitter cold in the area has now passed. For the past week, temperatures have been exceedingly mild for this time of year. A few nights ago, I had the chance to use an air fryer to make home-made sweet and sour pork: unlike restaurants, the home-made incarnation was far meatier and had much less fat, yielding a lean and delicious result. This is particularly exciting, as it implies I have a shot at making home-made tempura, as well.

  • Whereas Mami lost her head in Madoka Magica‘s third episode, Magia Record‘s third episode has Mami making an appearance, promising to investigate an unusual phenomenon in Kamihama. I am rather curious now to see if Mami and Momoko ever meet up, and moreover, to see if Sayaka and the others might make cameo appearances in Magia Record. I’ve speculated that Mami’s appearance puts Magia Record as occurring before Madoka Magica, but there is a chance that this could be wrong, and I’m looking forwards to seeing what unfolds. With this post in the books, the last post I have planned for January will be for Halo Reach: after watching Room Camp, I’ve concluded that the three-minute episodes don’t offer me with enough to write about, and I’m going to do a single post for Room Camp once the shorts have concluded, similarly to how I wrote about Yama no Susume.

More so than any other element, the characters in Magia Record (and their interactions) have been the show’s strongest aspect: all of the characters, even Rena, are likeable in their own regard. Iroha represents the newcomer with limited experience and skill, but a strong motivation and open-mind that allows her to open up to others very quickly. Kaede is a girl with a gentle disposition who is willing to hear out Iroha, and Rena, despite her blunt words, is revealed to genuinely care for those around her. Momoko is similarly a captivating character, combining the maturity and confidence that Mami had, with the leadership traits from Yūki Yūna is a Hero’s Fū Inubouzaki. Friendly and composed, Momoko is also shown as being flippant and laid-back almost to a fault: when her friends fight, she makes off-hand remarks that worsens the situation. All of the characters have their strong points and flaws that make them relatable, giving viewers incentive to root for them as they work together to solve Kamihama’s mysteries, some of which could be as terrifying as Durin’s Bane. Of course, because Madoka Magica set the precedence for unexpected (and often unpleasant) surprises, it would not be unexpected for any one of Iroha’s new-found friends to suffer an untimely exit from Magia Record. With all of these items on the table, Magia Record is looking to put on a fantastic showing this season, and I look forwards to seeing what Iroha and the others find as a result of their quest for answers, as well as what these Magical Girls learn during the course of their time together. I will be returning once the series has concluded to write more comprehensively about Magia Record, and until then, I leave readers with a brief explanation of the page quote: we still don’t have a clear picture of what exactly is in Kamihama, but whatever it is, it’s going to be something at least as troubling as a Balrog of Morgoth.

One response to “Magia Record: Review and Reflections After Three

  1. Pingback: Kaginado: Reflections and Understanding the Effective Amusement in Crossover Parodies | The Infinite Zenith

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