The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Madoka Magica

Revisiting Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story, and Applying A New York Times Bestseller’s Simple Solution To A Complex Problem

“Alright, you put us here. How are you going to get yourself out?”
“You can bail out anytime.”
“How low you want to go, Rooster?”
“I can go as low as you, Sir, and that’s saying something!”

–Maverick versus Rooster, Top Gun: Maverick

On this snowy day nine years earlier, a chime on my iPad momentarily distracted me from my studies. My proteomics exam had been less than a day away, and I had spent the day at my desk. Feeling confident that I was as ready as was reasonable, I decided to call it a day and take a look at the notification. One of my friend’s classmates had Tweeted that he was about to head to the local screening of Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story (Rebellion from here on out for brevity). I felt a twinge of annoyance – I had heard about the local screenings, but after learning that the film was screening the day before my exam, I decided to sit it out. I shook this annoyance out of my mind and began clearing my desk of papers, notes and textbooks, giving the film no further thought until Rebellion‘s home release three months later. I was amidst a much more relaxed term, and this afforded me time to watch Rebellion. Two hours later, I found myself with a film that had been quite entertaining, and expressed an interest in seeing a continuation. However, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. The absence of a continuation to Rebellion had spoken volumes to one obvious fact: while Rebellion had been a technically superior film, Homura’s decision to seize Madoka’s power and rewrite the universe in her own image undermined the themes the original Madoka Magica series had sought to convey. Madoka Magica had supposed that great change demands great sacrifice, and that one could only reach such a conclusion by being exposed to the facts. Having Homura suddenly channel her own feelings, which she characterises as obsessive love, into taking control of all creation rather than accepting Madoka’s decision and continuing to act in Madoka’s memory, felt as though it had undone an entire season’s worth of effort. Although this was to set the stage for a continuation, the fact that no sign of said continuation materialised until nearly eight years later left Rebellion feeling quite unnecessary. Moreover, because Rebellion suggested that Homura and Madoka would eventually clash owing to their radically different beliefs, Rebellion created the impression that the story had now dug itself into a hole, one that could not seemingly be resolved without resorting to storytelling sins like deus ex machina or chalking things up to a bad dream. While at first glance, Rebellion can appear to be extremely difficult to resolve in a satisfactory manner, it should come as no surprise that a simple solution exists for what otherwise would be a complex problem. In other words, there is a way for the upcoming Walpurgisnacht Rising film to resolve everything in a satisfactory fashion, without falling back on the so-called cop-outs that degrade a story’s consistency and impact.

In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Manson proposes that life is a game of choosing what fucks one gives in response to their day-to-day lives. This book is broken up into nine chapters and suggests that happiness is largely illusionary because of how people approach it. Homura’s actions in Madoka Magica, and by extension, Rebellion, are wholly motivated by a desire for her own happiness vis-à-vis Madoka’s well-being. Because Homura’s definition of happiness is directly tied to Madoka, she goes to extraordinary lengths to try and achieve a world where they can be together, free of any struggle and suffering, even if it comes at a cost to Madoka herself. However, happiness cannot exist without dissatisfaction, and Manson argues that happiness comes from accepting dissatisfaction and knowing one can work towards lessening it. The remainder of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is given to exploring different mindsets one must be cognisant of in order to begin bettering their situations and finding happiness by solving problems, versus creating new problems for oneself in the pursuit of happiness. In the context of Rebellion, two points stand out: “You are not special” and “You are wrong about everything”. Homura, as a result of her rewinding time, gains a great deal of knowledge and insight into what happens. Over time, she believes that she alone can solve Madoka’s suffering, and that everyone else is merely an obstacle. Homura falls into the trap of seeing herself as special, and that she is right about being the only person who matters to Madoka. By Manson’s arguments, Homura believes that she alone has suffered more than the others, and as a result, everyone else around her is unremarkable and unworthy, rendering them expendable. Similarly, because Homura believes she’s right about everything, there is no reason for her to help Mami, Sayaka and Kyōko on the grounds that they’ll simply end up dying anyways. This is why in each and every timeline thus far, Homura is left without allies in her corner. Magia Record had already, and helpfully, established that individually weak Magical Girls can do so much more together. Applying this to Madoka Magica, the implications are simple: if Homura had help from a confident Mami, determined Sayaka and selfless Kyōko, then she and Madoka would stand a chance of taking down Walpurgisnacht directly. In order to reach a point where everyone’s alive to help her, Homura must realise that she’s not special, and moreover, she’s wrong. Once she spots this, it becomes possible for her to realise there is merit in opening up and trusting the other Magical Girls, be upfront about their circumstances and how in spite of this, there is value in fighting for what one can control.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I vividly recall watching Rebellion back in the March of 2013. By this point in time, I was already admitted to graduate school, so I wasn’t worried about the grades in my remaining courses, and I took some time to myself to relax. This included setting some time to go through Rebellion in full. Although I had greatly enjoyed the visual spectacle that was Rebellion, the film had left in its wake the expectation for a continuation: from a thematic standpoint, because Madoka had scarified her corporeal form and ascended to a different plane of existence to ensure the well-being of other Magical Girls, Homura’s decision to undo Madoka’s actions created a fundamental conflict within the narrative.

  • Homura herself stated as much: Madoka wouldn’t take these outcomes sitting down, and suggests that they would probably clash as enemies should Madoka learn of the truth. These comments appeared to back the franchise into a corner, since it didn’t seem conceivable that any sort of continuation could wrap things up in a satisfactory manner, short of using storytelling shortcuts, and until Magia Record, the Madoka Magica franchise only continued to be advanced through manga side-stories. I imagine that the lack of progress on a movie stemmed from the question of how to go about resolving things in a way that the writers could accept, and in a fashion that would leave viewers happy.

  • That Walpurgisnacht: Rising was announced after Magia Record hints to me that, while work on the latter was taking place, the writing team figured out how they could wrap things up without betraying the most essential aspects within Madoka Magica. This had, in turn, gotten me curious about seeing whether or not I’d be able to come up with a thematic approach for how Walpurgisnacht: Rising might be able to build upon Rebellion without resorting to storytelling sins, or more colloquially, “cop outs”. I’d been interested in such an exercise since Rebellion ended, but never could quite figure out how Madoka and Homura could set their differences aside.

  • The answer came to me after reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a self-help book that graces the shelves of my local bookstore and caught my eye owing to its distinct title. While Mark Mason doesn’t say anything I don’t already practise, or otherwise have a modicum of understanding of, seeing everything coherently laid out was a reminder that my approach towards life was sustainable to some extent. That is to say, I don’t pursue happiness so I can gloat about having more or better than my neighbours, but instead, I try to focus on the things in my life I can address, and I believe that the best thing about being me is that I’m an unremarkable person.

  • I am aware that amongst the Madoka Magica fanbase, highly complex theories, arcane philosophical principals and obscure psychological concepts are preferred for discussing the anime and its outcomes. However, these methods have never worked for me: reading the ideas folks write on Fandom Wiki, Reddit and Tumblr, I’ve noticed that a number of them all share in common the use of eighteenth and nineteenth century models of philosophy and psychology as the basis for their discussion. While works of these philosophers and psychologists are important in the sense that they form the foundations for contemporary knowledge, I argue that using these works in their original form leads to conclusions that may not be necessarily correct.

  • An analog I draw here is how, in the eighteenth century, mental health issues were viewed as a dæmonic possession, and symptoms were managed by means of exorcism. Today, such views are not mainstream, and as awareness of mental health improves, there is a greater emphasis placed on social and emotional support, as well as professional assistance and use of medication where appropriate. Similarly, the psychologists and philosophers that Madoka Magica fans refer to wrote their theories in response to observations made based on their time, and in the centuries that have passed, society has changed unequivocally.

  • This means that, to discuss a work like Madoka Magica, which was written in the twenty-first century, it makes sense to apply twenty-first century solutions towards the problems that Homura and the others face. Although Manson does not write with the same eloquence as Friedrich Nietzsche or John Stuart Mill, he does speak to problems that are more relevant to people today. This is why, where models like Utilitarianism or Nihilism alone aren’t particularly useful in the context of Madoka Magica, the cruder-sounding idea of “giving fewer fucks” about the things one can’t control that Manson describes ends up being more valuable to figuring out one set of steps for breaking Homura out of her self-destructive habits.

  • Manson doesn’t write about any –isms, and instead, uses plain prose to convey his ideas in a clear, concise manner. I appreciate this, since he ends up abstracting out complex ideas into terms people can relate to, and this is how Manson is successful in selling a particular idea. It is therefore with some irony that, by choosing to give fewer fucks about the philosophy and psychology models that other discussions emphasise, I was able to conclude that, unlike what the me of nine years earlier had thought, there had been indeed a way for Urobuchi and his team to neatly wrap things up.

  • In this case, I actively chose to approach things in the way that I was most comfortable with and ended up working out one possible path that Walpurgisnacht: Rising could take in order to produce a outcome that is respectful of Madoka Magica‘s themes while at the same time, solving the unanswered problem that is Homura. Homura’s actions are motivated entirely by selfishness, and one of the side-effects of this is that her decisions become increasingly self-destructive over time, to the point where she’s seen as passing over some sort of event horizon of sorts and therefore, cannot better her situation.

  • Manson would disagree; even if one can’t choose their circumstances, one can choose how they react to it. Homura chooses to let her attachment to Madoka dictate her actions, and while it is true that Homura can’t control how the Magical Girls around her act, or the overarching plot from the Incubators are, these factors alone are not responsible for how Homura feels about her situation. Instead, this falls squarely on her shoulders. This inevitably leads to the question of how Homura can better her situation, and the answer is perhaps as unintuitive as it is effective: Homura needs to realise that her approach is wrong.

  • This is apparent to viewers, who’ve seen her go through several timelines trying to set things right, and failing each time. However, what most viewers have not yet brought up is how Homura reacts to things. In a game where my objective is to defend an objective, and I’ve got AI companions helping me, if I choose to neglect the companions, and end up failing, on my next attempt, I would consider making a more conscious choice to keep my AI companions alive so they can assist me in defending said objective. Homura goes in the opposite direction, believing she alone can protect Madoka.

  • Manson’s approach explains why Homura continues to choose the path of isolation even though at the start of every timeline, she has the choice of saving the others with her knowledge and making an attempt to fight as a team: it is easier to go with a familiar path that requires no second thought, no second-guessing and allows her to dismiss everyone as being wrong. To accept that she needs the others would break down her identity and put her in an uncomfortable state, but this is actually less uncomfortable than messing up and resulting in the deaths of everyone around her.

  • Being wrong is simply a part of life, and while people have an aversion with being wrong because it challenges their sense of identity, the reality is that life isn’t a game of being right all the time. Instead, it’s a matter of being less wrong, more often, as one accrues more experience. In conjunction with being mindful of the fact that one must necessarily take responsibility for their decisions, one can begin reflecting on things and take a more active role in bettering a situation. With this being said, the sorts of decisions Homura take in Rebellion leave her further away from the outcome she desires, and I reflect on my own story with decision-making brought about by Rebellion‘s local screenings.

  • Owing to the timing of things, I had been unable to make it to the Scotiabank Theatre Chinook, which was the only theatre in town that was screening Rebellion. Ticket sales had begun shortly after my alma mater had released its exam schedules, and to my great disappointment, both slots conflicted with my prior commitments; the morning after the December 9 screening, I was set to write one of my exams, and on December 15, I was set to help with a kata tournament at my dōjō. As much as it pained me to do so, I sat out both Rebellion screenings. In the short term, I regretted my decision almost immediately: anime movies in my side of the world are exceedingly rare, and Rebellion had marked the first time that an anime film was shown in local theatres, and to commemorate this, attendees were given a mini autograph board.

  • In the months after, I fell into a bit of a depression, frustrated that I continued to miss out on things. However, in the long term, my decisions meant I would have the last laugh – I was offered admissions to graduate school, and this set me down my career path. This is where the importance of taking ownership of one’s decisions comes in. I chose to sacrifice short-term happiness for an uncertain future, and while I did miss out on both a once-in-a-lifetime moviegoing experience (and the limited edition mini autograph boards that were handed out to attendees), I gained something much more valuable.

  • If any anime movies do screen in the present, I have no qualms about skipping them if there are other obligations to attend to: one way or another, if I wish to watch a given film, I will end up watching that film. Back in Rebellion, one aspect of Rebellion that I found especially touching was its portrayal of Madoka Kaname. Soft-spoken, kind-hearted and gentle, Madoka felt like an innocent presence throughout Madoka Magica, but here in Rebellion, Madoka’s actions, and the imagery surrounding her character, is indicative of someone who can be a bit more playful when the moment allows it.

  • Madoka is the only person who is able to bring out Homura’s true self: around others, she maintains a facade of aloofness and detachment, but of all the characters, she’s the most fragile and in need of support. The following conversation between Madoka and Homura suggests that even if Madoka herself doesn’t fully understand what Homura’s going through, she’ll still do her best to help out anyways. What follows is one of Rebellion‘s most-scrutinised moments, with viewers taking to Fandom Wiki, Tumblr and Reddit to analyse the scene down to the last quark. However, the flower field scene is not as complex as people made it out to be, and as it turns out, people are focused on the significant of Madoka and Homura’s words, rather than what Homura is going though (and more importantly still, how Homura can unfuck her situation).

  • Homura’s remarks here about feeling completely alone, as though no one understands her, show that she’s her own worst enemy. This a consequence of having attempted everything possible to create a world where she and Madoka could be happy. We turn again to Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, whose first chapter openly, and boldly says, “don’t try”. Manson isn’t suggesting that one simply gives up and resign themselves to death. Instead, Mason is inviting readers to consider the idea of not pursuing positivity, but instead, accept negativity and using this dissatisfaction to overcome adversity.

  • In the context of Rebellion, it simply means, the more worried that Homura is about Madoka, the more she becomes anxious about succeeding, and the worse she off she becomes because instead of her game plan, she’s now thinking about what would happen if she fails again. Manson calls this the Feedback Loop from Hell. Logically, when one chooses to stop worrying (“don’t think, just do”), they relax a little, and then instead of being anxious, one can act with conviction. In conjunction with accepting she was wrong to push everyone away and acknowledge that she’s not more special than the people who are willing to help her, Homura does indeed have a credible way of fixing things.

  • I have noticed that almost all of the conversation out there tends to focus on the significance of the flower field scene, but these conversations invariably focus on the problems that Homura faces, rather than attempting to work out any solutions. I’ve found that the best anime discussions will attempt to draw out ways that characters can improve their situation because, by considering solutions, people are also compelled to consider their own problem-solving strategies and assess whether or not they’d work in different scenarios. Reflection is a valuable exercise and is a part of self-improvement, but admittedly, it’s also a highly personal exercise that may need some finesse to incorporate into an online discussion.

  • Reflecting on a given topic has allowed me to reason out why certain things are the way they are, and returning the problem of accessibility, I think I’ve got an explanation for why Rebellion was only given two screenings here at home. Anime movies are, by definition, for a niche audience, and the need to book out a screen means that, for a theatre, that’s one screen they’re not showing something more suited for local audiences. A theatre will therefore take a loss if they can’t bring in enough viewers for that screening. Moreover, Rebellion was released just before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a month earlier, Thor: Dark World had premièred.

  • Between competing local films, and the fact that theatres tend to become busiest during the last week of the year, Cineplex doubtlessly decided to schedule Rebellion in December, right before The Desolation of Smaug released. The timing (Monday evening, and Sunday morning) was chosen  because these are the times when things are less busy. Taken together, the inconvenient timing of Rebellion was made so the Scotiabank Theatre at Chinook could minimise disruption to their most popular screenings, and at times where fewer people were likely to be available to watch said screenings.

  • From a business standpoint, Cineplex’s decision makes sense. However, the end result was that the two screenings of Rebellion coincided with exam season, and this made it extremely difficult for me to fit things into my schedule. Other Madoka fans had expressed similar annoyance at the fact that Rebellion screenings were out of the way, and even if they were in a larger population centre, screenings were placed at odd times of day or otherwise conflicted with their exams. In the end, luck would also play a part in determining who would attend the screenings: some folks bought tickets even before their institute’s exam schedules were posted, and then, if luck had not favoured them, they simply sold the tickets off to other fans.

  • If I didn’t have an exam the next morning, I would’ve ordered my tickets without a second thought: hindsight is 20/20, and while Rebellion is a great film, it’s not so revolutionary or groundbreaking that I’d risk my degree for it. Having said this, I have heard rumours that one individual, a member of TV Tropes, actually did end up skipping one of their scheduled exams so they could go watch Rebellion. For their troubles, they wound up failing said course, which had been a programme requirement and ultimately, this individual was required to withdraw from their major, effectively undoing four years’ worth of effort.

  • Assuming there is truth in these rumours, we have a story here of someone who was so devoted to Madoka Magica that they more or less gave up their career and aspirations for the sake of an anime movie. I am reminded of the first chapter in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, where Manson describes how the constant search for happiness leads people to choose what feels good and is easy, over doing more meaningful things that can make one feel bad and almost certainly is not easy. For this individual, it was easier to go skip a difficult exam and go watch Rebellion. While the movie was running, life was good, but things turned out less desirable in the long term.

  • Unsurprisingly, the key to living a fulfilling life is to choose one’s struggles and then embrace the fact that it’s going to take some effort to reach one’s goals. For instance, as a software developer, I face problems I’ve never seen before, in parts of a system I’ve never seen before, on a daily basis. I’m not a passable developer because I fix bugs or deliver features, but because for me, there’s a sort of joy in tracing through a system, learning how it works and then trying to piece everything together like a puzzle. When I do figure something out, the accompanying sense of accomplishment makes the struggle worth it.

  • The same sort of mindset can similarly be applied to Madoka Magica: Homura is constantly seeking out an ideal solution for herself and Madoka, but along the way, she’s lost sight of what made it worthwhile and has truly become lost. By assuming the devil’s form at the end of Rebellion, it felt as though this film had undermined everything the series before had stood for, and this made the film a little difficult to accept for some. In the end, it is going to take a number of the points Manson raises in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck to fix things, and my hope is that Walpurgisnacht: Rising will accomplish this.

  • I have spent the whole of this post singing praises for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck while at the same time, applying it to the context of Madoka Magica. It should be unsurprising that this is a book I would recommend to readers; it succinctly explains how a change in perspective won’t help one become a happier or more successful person, but it can lead one to make peace with their lives and value healthier things. In the case of Rebellion, I’ve picked out some points that could be utilised to pull the story out of its hole: this is what motivates the choice of page quote.

  • While Homura is happy with the world she’s created, one which sidesteps the Incubator’s system and allows Madoka to have a corporeal existence again, the possibility of conflict remains quite real. Despite Homura’s confidence that she can handle things when the time comes, I imagine that a different approach was needed to properly wrap things out: this peace is built on a lie, and as is usually the case, such times do not last. With this post in the books, I remark that I’m now fully refreshed on Madoka Magica and quite ready to take on Walpurgisnacht: Rising.

  • At the time of writing, there’s still no news of when Walpurisnacht: Rising will come out, but once it does, I’m looking forward to seeing if my thoughts hold any water. With this in mind, whether or not Walpurgisnacht: Rising will actually screen on this side of the world remains to be seen. If there are screenings, and said screenings line up with my schedule, it may be worthwhile to go and watch the film. There’s always the possibility the movie will conflict with my schedule, but this time around, I have one of two options available: I could either skip the film again and wait for the BDs, as I usually do, or if there is a fair incentive to do so (e.g. new mini autograph boards are handed out), I could always request a vacation day if my workload isn’t too heavy.

On paper, this is quite easy to say, and although the specifics behind how this comes about will be Gen Urobuchi and his creative team’s responsibility to sort out for Walpurgisnacht: Rising, there is one final detail that makes Manson’s approach viable. Madoka Magica has established that Homura has a soft spot for Madoka, and where Madoka is concerned, Homura tends to show her true self. If Madoka and Homura were to conflict, the former would have the edge here. There isn’t a need to resort to more forceful measures because Madoka can utilise this aspect of Homura, guiding her down a path where she can begin to see the other Magical Girls as valuable friends. In this way, Homura would realise that she isn’t special: each of Mami, Sayaka and Kyōko have each suffered in their own right, but they would be committed to helping break this cycle together with Homura and Madoka. Similarly, Homura would also realise that she was wrong about needing to do everything alone, and that Madoka is the only person worth saving. As such, Walpurgisnacht: Rising could be thought of as being broken up into three acts to deliver such a story. After Homura takes another loss (perhaps depriving her of her godly powers) and encounters an incarnation of Madoka who is aware of what has happened, Madoka and Homura can work through things together and rebuild the Holy Quintet, coming to finally learn what trust looks like. With the team able to work as a cohesive unit, they can then square off against, and defeat Walpurgisnacht together, without falling on Madoka’s sacrifice or any other means that give the Incubators leverage over the outcomes. Having seen Madoka Magica and Rebellion anew, it is quite easy to spot that Homura’s worst enemy in Madoka Magica isn’t Walpurgisnacht, or even the Incubators. Instead, it is herself; if she can overcome this particular adversary, Walpurgisnacht: Rising will offer viewers a satisfying and decisive conclusion, one that longtime fans deserve and need. With all this in mind, I have presented merely one approach for how Walpurgisnacht: Rising can apply Manson’s lessons and apply it to solve a problem that has lingered in the Madoka community for the past nine years. I have no qualms with acknowledging that these are merely my thoughts on it, and if Urobuchi is able to sort things out in another way that proves just as satisfying, I would be quite happy to accept the outcomes. With this being said, Madoka Magica‘s themes are is contingent on what happens in Walpurgisnacht: Rising – there is always the possibility that this continuation could dig things into a deeper hole, and it will be interesting to see whether Urobuchi sees Walpurgisnacht: Rising as a conclusion or escalation. If it happens to be the latter, viewers are in for a helluva long wait; although Walpurgisnacht: Rising was announced back in 2021, the whole of this year has passed without news, and the reality is that the release itself is likely still a long ways off. However, there should be a modicum of solace now in knowing that at the very least, there is at least one way the story could be resolved in a consistent and satisfactory manner, without breaking what had been previously established – all Homura has to do is give a few more fucks precisely about the things she can control (with a gentle dose of guidance from Madoka), and this will allow her to overcome the cycle of failure she had seen until now.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Revisiting Puella Magi Madoka Magica A Decade Later, Understanding Magical Girls As A Metaphor For Mental Health and The Importance of Good Decision-Making Through Simplexity

“You thought we could be decent men, in an indecent time! But you were wrong. The world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance.” –Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Madoka Kaname is an ordinary middle school girl who attends class with her best friend, Sayaka Miki. When she encounters a mysterious cat-like being, Kyubey, Madoka finds herself thrust into the world of Magical Girls – she meets the mysterious and cold Homura Akemi, and the composed, regal Mami Tomoe, learning that Magical Girls are beings who preserve peace and stability by fighting monstrous beings known as Witches. However, the life of a Magical Girl isn’t fun and games; when Mami is killed during an encounter with a Witch, Madoka and Sayaka are left to discover for themselves the truth behind Magical Girls and Witches. It turns out that Kyubey and the Incubators contract young women into becoming Magical Girls after offering them anything their heart desires, and that when a Magical Girl succumbs to despair, they become Witches, with the transformation providing power to delay the impact of entropy. In the process, Madoka witnesses Sayaka becoming a Witch: Sayaka had become a Magical Girl for her crush’s sake, but was driven over the edge when he chose Sayaka’s best friend over her. Although Madoka ends up convincing another Magical Girl, Kyōko Sakura, to try and bring Sayaka back, the effort costs Kyōko her life – Kyōko had made a selfless wish that resulted in her family’s death, and had since fought for none other than herself, but understanding how Sayaka felt, she would sacrifice herself to take out Sayaka’s Witch form and spare them both of further suffering. Homura reveals to Madoka that her original wish was to protect Madoka, but they constantly failed against an uncommonly powerful Witch, Walpurgisnacht, and Homura had used her own magic to go back and try again each time. Understanding the suffering the Incubator’s system causes, and empowered from lifetimes of suffering that resulted from Homura’s actions, Madoka is able to make a wish to eliminate all Witches and permit Magical Girls to fade away peacefully when their time is up. With her memory struck from the world, Homura resolves to continue protecting it for Madoka’s sake. This is Gen Urobuchi’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Madoka Magica for brevity) condensed into a nutshell; when it aired in 2011, Madoka Magica was counted as a revolutionary series that dared to portray Magical Girls in a manner contrary to the heroic, flawless manner that other anime had previously utilised. Almost immediately, the community counted Madoka Magica as a work of intellectual significance and set about applying every known psychological and philosophical model to describe the characters and their actions. The end result was that Madoka Magica would gain an unfair reputation as being an immeasurably dense and complex anime demanding post-secondary knowledge of philosophy and psychology to appreciate. In reality, despite its subject matter and themes, Madoka Magica is highly accessible. The series themes are numerous and well explored, conveyed by a diverse cast whose backgrounds created credibility, and where the outcomes proved to be moving.

At its heart, Madoka Magica is a visceral presentation of mental health, especially amongst youth, and how circumstances can drive people away from the resources and decisions that would help them maintain wellness. The topic of mental health is one that comes up time and time again because it is a prevalent issue: in Canada, for instance, when polled in 2020, only 40 percent of youth report themselves as having excellent or good mental health, compared to 62 percent in 2018. Challenges in the world, ranging from climate change and geopolitical instability, to the global health crisis and difficult economy, contribute to uncertainty and hopelessness amongst youth. There is no easy solution, and Madoka Magica paints a picture of just how challenging the task of addressing mental health is – the series paints a vivid portrayal of depression. As Madoka becomes entangled in the world of Magical Girls, the colour and normalcy drains from her world. The settings become increasingly inhospitable, with monochrome and industrial structures replacing greenery and familiar sights. The Witch labyrinths, nightmarish places of death that Magical Girls do battle in, slowly displace the girls’ homes and favourite places to the point of consuming them. Over the course of Madoka Magica, Madoka and Sayaka become increasingly isolated from their peers. Kyōko lost her family, and Mami lives alone. Homura similarly becomes distant, a consequence of having lived several lifetimes of suffering trying to defeat Walpurgisnacht and giving Madoka a chance at happiness. Madoka Magica prima facie appears to be a very grim and pessimistic show of mental health. The characters end up dying without having achieved their aims or having found happiness, and while some do have support in their lives, it slowly slips away. Ultimately, it takes a miracle from Madoka to end the chain of suffering, and even this act costs Madoka, who ascends to a higher plane of existence to ensure that no Magical Girl suffers. These outcomes make it easy to suppose that Madoka Magica endorses Existential Nihilism, the belief that existence is futile and meaningless. While on its own, Existential Nihilism is simply the suggestion that anyone who seeks out meaning in their lives will be unsuccessful, contemporary interpretations suggest that because life is meaningless, there is no merit in regarding others with courtesy or respect, either. Because Madoka Magica appears to demonstrate how the world leans towards Nihilism, the anime is seen in some circles as being realistic and mature for seemingly vindicating the belief that effort doesn’t yield results, and that happy endings are a delusion.

Such a stance does not stand up to scrutiny, and represents a willful refusal to acknowledge that Madoka Magica‘s ending actually presents a different message. Having gone through the whole of Madoka Magica struggling to decide what the best course of action is, Madoka ends up learning about Witches and Magical Girls, the grim relationship between these conflicting entities, and why the Incubators have employed the means they’ve utilised to take away what is dear to her. Mami had initially advised Madoka against becoming a Magical Girl without an especially strong conviction and wish because of the costs associated with being a Magical Girl, and remains hesitant to become one despite the apparent perks because of doubts resulting from Homura’s warnings. These doubts soon become fact when Sayaka becomes a Witch, forcing Kyōko to sacrifice herself. When asked, Madoka finally gets a more complete answer from Kyubey. What’s occurred, and why, are irrevocable facts. There is no wishing “what if” or going back to change things, but Madoka now has a much more comprehensive knowledge of what becoming a Magical Girl entails. When she makes her wish, to eliminate all Witches, past, present and future, prevent Witches from ever manifesting, and to release all Magical Girls of their duties peacefully, it is done with this knowledge in mind, and with the knowledge of Homura’s efforts. In this way, Madoka Magica seeks to illustrate how complex issues cannot be approached blindly; in order to tackle adversity, one must act with a full understanding of the consequences of their decisions, and take responsibility for the outcomes resulting from the choice they make. This approach puts agency back in the individual’s hands and indicates that, at least in the context of Madoka Magica, suffering comes from being impulsive and making decisions on a whim. If one acts without thinking things through, the consequences can be devastating. Conversely, making an informed decision may still prove costly, but if one is certain of their choice and has the conviction to see things through, then they can accept the consequences without regret. This is why Madoka’s wish is vital to Madoka Magica’s themes – granted, Madoka has erased herself from existence, but it is on her terms, and she will exist knowing that no one would have to suffer as they had under the status quo. The end result of Madoka Magica places responsibility firmly in the individual’s hands, and in addition to presenting the idea that having a complete picture yields better decision making, it is also easier to make a decision if one knows their decision has a tangible impact on those around them. Madoka Magica‘s conclusion therefore is one of optimism: the stakes in reality aren’t quite as dramatic, but problem-solving entails a similar mindset.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a shade over nine years since I watched and wrote about Madoka Magica: I originally had praised the series for presenting a Magical Girls story that was quite unlike earlier works, saccharine portrayals of an idyllic life as a superhero where good and evil were clearly delineated. In Madoka Magica, notions of morality are blurred, and the price of being a Magical Girl is explored from another perspective – being a hero commands a cost, and ultimately, in this universe, Magical Girls are offered up as sacrifices. The premise meant that what made Madoka Magica worth watching was seeing how the characters would react to this information; in a given anime, how characters respond to adversity typically speak volumes about what that series intended to convey.

  • However, in the very beginning, Madoka Magica presented Madoka and her friends as living a peaceful life, free of any worries beyond going to school. The world is colourful, cheerful and calm; Madoka, Sayaka and Hitomi attend school together, and here, Madoka’s mother has given her new hair ribbons to bolster her confidence. Scenes of normalcy in Madoka Magica served to show that, prior to Kyubey and Magical Girls, things had started quite normal for Madoka and her friends. Thus, when the situation gradually deteriorates as Madoka becomes entangled in a much bigger plot, the impact from these changes become more pronounced.

  • As memory serves, I picked up Madoka Magica during the July of 2013, two full years after its original airing. Back then, the Great Flood had ravaged my hometown and created unprecedented devastation. As a result of these floods, my plans to travel the mountains and visit various parts of the city were put on hold – the highway leading into the mountains had been washed out, and the downtown core was closed for repairs. I thus found myself with a great deal of spare time, and while it had been melancholy during that time, I’d also just built a new PC, so I turned this time towards making my way through Half-Life 2 and its episodes, as well as getting a start on anime I’d shelved while working on my undergraduate thesis.

  • Madoka Magica had been one of these shows that I had been putting off: while I had heard of Madoka Magica, during my time as an undergraduate student, I had found it very difficult to follow anime seasonally because it’d been so busy, and as such, I didn’t watch the then-current anime. Constant weekly assignments, papers tutorials and midterms meant that in order to keep up, I eschewed seasonal series in favour of already-completed series, which I could watch at my own leisure. After I finished my undergraduate degree, during my open studies year, and then subsequently in graduate school, my scheduled had opened up, allowing me to keep up with a handful of shows every season.

  • With Madoka Magica, I watched it after it had fully aired, and when I found myself becoming captivated with the story, I was able to watch consecutive episodes. The saccharine beginning belies the direction that the anime would take, and out of the gates, Madoka Magica utilised darkness to create a feeling of unease amongst viewers: while at a mall with Hitomi and Sayaka, Madoka suddenly hears calls for help from a white cat-like being in her mind, and she encounters Kyubey, an Incubator. Madoka and Sayaka also run into Homura here; determined to prevent Madoka from coming into contact with Kyubey, Homura has taken it on herself to stop Madoka from becoming a Magical Girl at all costs.

  • Why this was the case is not explored to drive tension early in the game, and Madoka and Sayaka find themselves in a surreal scene as strangely-rendered parts of a circus begin wandering by. It turns out the pair have wandered into a Witch’s labyrinth, a place representing that Witch’s fixation. This Witch here, then, probably has regrets associated with the circus, typically a place of amazement and joy. With this being said, I have found that aspects of Madoka Magica have been over-analysed: during and after this anime’s airing, fans of Madoka Magica engaged in endless discussion and debate over attempts to fit real-world philosophical and psychology models with what was happening in-show.

  • While people have called their activities analysis, I disagree – per Bloom’s Taxonomy, analysis is understanding how observation and facts relate to one another within a given context, and using this information to draw conclusions, inferences or generalisations. The discussions online do not satisfy this definition and at best, reach the “comprehension” level in Bloom’s Taxonomy. That is, there is a demonstrated understanding of identifying characteristics of an idea. The current top search result on Google, is one of the best examples of this: when one does a search for “Madoka philosophy”, a list from Reel Rundown appears.

  • This list pertains to thirteen philosophical concepts that are present in Madoka Magica, and, at first glance, it appears to be a useful analysis on Madoka Magica and making sense of the characters actions based on known philosophical principles. However, one example in, the article already shows that it is not an analysis, and picking any of the items reinforces this fact. For instance, when the author writes about utilitarianism, they define it as “morality should result in the maximization of happiness and the minimization of pain” and then argues Kyubey is an example of one because their species’ actions bring happiness to other life in the universe. There’s nothing factually wrong with these statements, but the “so what” aspect is totally absent.

  • An analysis must answer the question of “so what” in order to be useful, and from a literary perspective, analysis would be present if one were to draw a new conclusion or inference based on what they observe and know. For instance, one might say here that, because Kyubey’s beliefs are at odds with those of Madoka and generally speaking, humanity’s, Madoka Magica suggests that utilitarianism is an arbitrary measure. Happiness cannot easily be quantified, and as a concept, has flaws because it fails to account for the fact that different, hypothetical sentient species may have different standards for happiness. Madoka Magica can therefore be seen as an example of how utilitarianism can cause conflict as a result of differing goals.

  • Being able to recognise something based on its traits is an early stage in learning, and while it is important an important part of things, learning doesn’t stop here. A lot of online writers tend to believe that it is sufficient to point out what they see in an anime and leave it at that – Reel Rundown’s article doesn’t offer anything deeper than pointing out how certain things in Madoka Magica have the characteristics of philosophical or psychological models, but the use of terminology otherwise gives the impression the author is sufficiently knowledgeable about these topics as to have drawn a helpful conclusion or inference for readers.

  • There is a substantial gap between sounding smart and offering something of value to readers, and while I typically do not like to suggest that there’s a right or wrong way of analysing or writing about anime, this is one of those rare exceptions – the Reel Rundown article is such an example in that it isn’t particularly useful for understanding Madoka Magica beyond learning that the anime incorporates things like free will versus determinism, or collectivism versus individualism, into its storyline. Thus, while the article sounds well-informed, it doesn’t give readers much about how philosophical and psychological concepts are applied to drive the story forward and impart a specific idea, or theme.

  • It is therefore somewhat disappointing that a large amount of discussions out there, whether it be fan wikis, anime forums or social media, ultimately boil down to an argument of semantics and how well Madoka Magica fits philosophical definitions. In these discussions, which I hesitate to count as analysis, participants do not gain anything of note because whatever the original aims were, the outcomes doesn’t yield any perspectives on what Madoka Magica says about existing models. When I first watched Madoka Magica and wrote about it nine years earlier, however, I wasn’t able to articulate this disappointment quite so coherently.

  • Instead, I made the erroneous remark that Madoka Magica was without academic merit. This is, strictly speaking, untrue; literary works are insights into what an author makes of their society and its beliefs, and when properly looked over, Madoka Magica can be seen as an excellent challenge to many philosophical concepts (such as utilitarianism). My claims would end up ruffling a few readers’ feathers, and I’ve not been able to state my stance on things more clearly until now. In the present day, I do not agree with my past self, but I will stick to my guns regarding the fact that some online discussions of Madoka Magica lack academic vigour because, despite using some impressive-sounding vocabulary, they do not go beyond identifying a specific concept and raising rudimentary examples of how Madoka Magica employs said concept.

  • I remain open to hearing why people stop at the comprehension step of things in these discussions and get hung up on semantics; the more exciting part of reading discussions and fully-fledged analysis is seeing how people react to a work, how their prior experiences and beliefs impact how they interpret a work, and whether or not said beliefs and experiences affect whether or not they agree with the story’s message. This is why I’m fond of blogging; in sharing my story, inquisitive readers may also share their own thoughts, and this opens both of us to different perspectives.

  • In Madoka Magica, tragedy kicks in within three episodes after Mami becomes overconfident; having been alone for most of her time, she’s elated to finally have friends, and as a result, lets her guard down during a fight against a Witch. Mami’s fate was a brutal show of where Madoka Magica was headed, and for many viewers, this was the magic moment. From this point onward, it became clear that Madoka Magica was no longer a run-of-the-mill Magical Girl series, and scenes of normalcy in earlier episodes give way to exceedingly cold moments.

  • For this revisit, I’m sourcing my images from the Beginnings and Eternal films, which were released in 2012 and present a remastered experience of Madoka Magica, with upgraded voice acting and animation. Madoka Magica has three different iterations: the original televised run had excellent, but rudimentary visuals, and the BD version would improve the amount of detail in scenes, as well as modifying lighting to better convey the emotional tenour of a moment. Beginnings and Eternal would overhaul visuals almost completely, while at the same time, adding new scenes to fit the movie format.

  • For me, Sayaka was Madoka Magica‘s most relatable character. She becomes a Magical Girl to bring back Kyōsuke’s ability to play the violin, hoping to gain his notice and have him reciprocate her feelings for him. Having seen what being a Magical Girl entails so far, especially through Mami, Sayaka contracts with Kyubey, and his hand ends up healing. In the process, Sayaka gains access to healing magic and wields cutlasses into battle. Her outfit suggests someone who’s concerned with justice and doing right; despite feeling elated at being able to affect what appears to be positive change in her life, things quickly break down for her.

  • Powerless to pull Sayaka back from darkness, Madoka asks her mother, Junko, for advice. The way things are framed, it was clear from the start that Junko wasn’t going to be of much help to Madoka: Magical Girls are a completely different beast to handle, and in this way, Madoka Magica indicates that their equivalent counterparts in the real world, mental health issues, can be similarly tricky to handle. It can seem as though one’s problems are of an unsolvable nature, being difficult to explain and even trickier to begin addressing. Even if Madoka had been able to explain the situation wholly to Junko, that Junko is seen with alcohol suggests she’s having struggles of her own despite the Kaname family appearing picture-perfect.

  • Sayaka and Kyōko had gotten off to a very rough start, clashing physically owing to their differences in ideology, but over time, Kyōko warms up to Sayaka because she saw her own past in Sayaka. Born into a religious family whose church was on the decline, Kyōko made a wish to save her father’s church, but when her father found out, he accused Kyōko of witchcraft, proceeded to murder most of the family in a blind rage and then committed suicide. Since then, Kyōko’s believed that Magical Girls should serve themselves ahead of all others to prevent tragedy from arising.

  • Through Sayaka and Kyōko, Madoka Magica demonstrates what happens when individuals make wishes blindly, believing that an ideal can be reached without effort. Because life is a system of interacting parts, altering one part will have knock-on effects elsewhere, and similarly, individuals do not exist in a vacuum, so using a miracle to achieve one goal may have unforeseen consequences elsewhere. Being mindful of one’s wishes is a common theme in works of fiction, and because so many people do often find themselves wishing for miracles, authors are fond of cautioning against this mindset. In Sayaka’s case, once Kyōsuke does heal and returns to his old life, Sayaka is shocked to learn that her best friend, Hitomi, intends to ask him out.

  • This was something Sayaka had never considered, and heartbroken, Sayaka resorts to fighting Witches with an increased ferocity, taking on assignments without really stopping to consider the toll this news, and her decisions, have taken on her. Sayaka’s response is natural: when I learnt the friend I’d been intending to ask out was suddenly seeing someone in her host family while travelling abroad, despite a promise to wait for me and give me a proper answer then, my world was similarly shattered. Like Sayaka, I responded in the only way I knew how, by working harder and pushing myself further. However, the gap was that I had guidance and channeled this energy into learning Unity for The Giant Walkthrough Brain project. Conversely, Sayaka only becomes more depressed and attempted to sort things out on her own, further isolating her from those who cared about her.

  • I hardly count Hitomi and Kyōsuke to be villains in this regard; they’re still young and are working things out for themselves. The online communities failed to comprehend this, and in being so hasty in branding the two to be evil or callous, demonstrates their own lack of willingness to see things from all perspectives. The community’s reactions to the love triangle and the ensuing problems it causes for Sayaka were misguided and based on incomplete information. In Sayaka’s case, an interview with her voice actress, Eri Kitamura, found that Sayaka actually wouldn’t have found happiness with Kyōsuke, and similarly, Urobuchi himself stated that Kyōsuke’s focus on the violin meant that he would’ve overlooked Sayaka had they started dating, creating a sitation where Sayaka would grow increasingly resentful that Kyōsuke kept standing her up.

  • Altogether, Sayaka was deserving of a relationship where she would be treated fairly, lovingly: while kind and devoted, Sayaka’s selflessness meant that in trying to put those around her first, this came at a cost to herself. A healthy partner for Sayaka is someone who is there to acknowledge her actions and support her during times of difficulty, to constantly act as a reminder that her deeds are noticed. Having this additional information from the staff would become invaluable for viewers: Kyōsuke was meant to catalyse Sayaka’s slide to despair and create one more tragedy that impacts Madoka.

  • Reading the supplementary materials from Madoka Magica helped me to understand that, in my own experience with unrequited love, what happened was likely for the better. By definition, I count myself as a pragmatic and level individual, preferring structure, discipline and order in my life, and the person I’d been interested in was fun-loving, enjoying travelling and adventure. Even if things had worked out initially, there is a strong possibility that we would have gone our separate ways or clashed constantly because our approaches to life were so different.

  • Sayaka ends up succumbing to despair, and without anyone to support her, she becomes consumed by grief and transforms into a Witch. At this point in time, none of the Magical Girls, save Homura, are aware that this is the fate that eventually awaits all Magical Girls. This is where the page quote comes from, and there is a modicum of truth in it: if one were to be around the block long enough or contemplate things at a large enough time scale, it can seem as though one’s actions have no weight or value. This is where the Existential Nihilists come in: they believe that our actions ultimately are meaningless, and contemporary Nihilism maintains the stance that this gives justification for treating one another callously.

  • While I do not have the same finesse as a philosopher or logician will, I counterargue that because we still perceive the world around us and must face the consequences for our decisions, there is merit in acting in such a way so that the world around us does not respond to our actions with hostility. Even if our actions are meaningless at cosmic timescales, treating people well, and acting in a way to benefit those around oneself means making the duration of one’s existence enjoyable, even fulfilling. In short, I hold that it is irrelevant that one’s actions might not have any  impact at cosmic time scales, because what matters is the existence one’s already got, and since we can viscerally experience the consequences for our actions, we would do well to pick the choices that make this existence an acceptable one.

  • Madoka’s list of allies begins growing thin once it is revealed that Magical Girls become Witches, and for the viewers’ benefit, Kyubey explains the system behind why such a mechanic exists at all. I have previously shared my thoughts on why from a physics standpoint, this system is unnecessary, but the reason why I am willing to accept it as a plot device is because it provides a sufficiently plausible reason for why Magical Girls need to exist within Madoka Magica. The psycommu, as it is portrayed in Gundam Narrative, is similarly unrealistic in that it allows a mobile suit to turn back time and surpass the speed of light, but because Gundam Unicorn and Char’s Counterattack presented the technology as being supernatural in ability, with unknown properties, it was still consistent with what was already known, making it easier to accept.

  • While it was always a stretch for Sayaka to be restored to her previous form, Madoka nonetheless makes an attempt to try. She extends an invitation to Kyōko to help out, and while Kyōko initially remarks that such a task is impossible, she ultimately relents because she feels it’s worth trying. Kyōko and Madoka’s attempts here resemble those of those who try to pull a friend back from the precipice: there’s a strained feeling of desperation in their conversation, and both probably understand that their task is futile, but decide to go through anyways because all other options are apparently exhausted.

  • The speculation that developed surrounding Madoka Magica produced theories that were typically wildly off the mark, but every so often, some observations held some water. The imagery inside a Witch’s labyrinth is one such example; early on, people had suggested that a labyrinth possessed Familiars that mirrored the Magical Girl’s obsessions before they transformed, and after seeing Sayaka’s labyrinth, this theory was shown to be valid: once Kyōko and Madoka enter, they are met with a faux concert being performed, which parallels Sayaka’s desire to be with Kyōsuke, a musician.

  • Although Madoka does her best to reach Sayaka, by this point in time, Sayaka’s humanity has been consumed entirely. As a Witch, Sayaka relentlessly attacks both Madoka and Kyōko. Realising the fight is loss, Kyōko demonstrates a side of her here that led me to see her as being someone who would have befriended Sayaka and Madoka. Seeing Sayaka’s Witch form led Kyōko to understand how much pain and suffering she must’ve been in, and while Kyōko herself had managed to compartmentalise this, discovering a new purpose in the process, she also spots that she could’ve gone down the same path. To this end, Kyōko declares that she’ll accompany Sayaka unto eternity, promising that Sayaka won’t be alone from here on out.

  • Nuanced characters contribute greatly to Madoka Magica‘s charm, and archetypes are dispensed with, as everyone is shown to have a reason for acting in the way they do. It definitely wasn’t a comfortable experience to watch Madoka Magica‘s cast go through the events they did, and this in turn elicited a particularly strong response from some viewers. I attribute the series’ successes to the fact Madoka Magica had taken a familiar concept and presented it in a clever “what if” type scenario, where Urobuchi supposes that Magical Girls aren’t all fun and games.

  • Madoka Magica‘s portrayal of mental health is a grim one: Urobuchi supposes that there’s an event horizon of sorts, and that after a certain point, one cannot be recovered by conventional means. In general, experts suggest that mental health is best maintained by practising good lifestyle habits (like eating and sleeping well), maintaining healthy relationships with people and giving voice to one’s concerns early on, and engaging in mindfulness. However, there are some situations where softer solutions won’t work, and when things pass over the event horizon, one must fall back on professional assistance and even medication.

  • Yuki Kajiura handles the incidental music in Madoka Magica, and this has resulted in the composition of iconic pieces of music, including my personal favourite, Credens Justitiam. The soundtrack to Madoka Magica is a consistently strong addition to the series, presenting everything from the gentle slice-of-life atmosphere at the series’ beginning and introspective moments associated with learning the ropes around Magical Girls, to Gothic horror pieces that capture the terror of fighting Witches. The Beginnings and Eternal movies have new music with a liturgical influence: following Sayaka’s death, Homura wanders the graveyards on her own and learns that Sayaka’s death was not preventable under any circumstances, a deliberately engineered choice so that Kyubey could push Madoka down the route of becoming a Magical Girl. The entire scene is accompanied by what I count to as one of Eternal‘s most poignant moments.

  • Kyubey reveals that in any given timeline, the entire plan was to isolate Homura and force her to take down Walpurgisnacht on her own. The story is simple enough: many timelines earlier, Madoka had saved Homura from certain death and was in turn destroyed by Walpurgisnacht. In a moment of desperation, and to repay Madoka, Homura wished for the power to protect Madoka. In the process she gained access to time magic, allowing her to go back and redo things as often as she wanted. Magia Record indicated that Magical Girls’ performance varied, and I’ve always felt that power is directly related to confidence.

  • Because Homura’s magic is limited to stopping and rewinding time, she initially doesn’t appear to being any combat utility on her own. However, she begins to employ time to her advantage: by freezing her perception of time, she is able to change the state of an object so long as her power holds, and this eventually leads Homura to fight Witches using creative time freezes. Here, Homura practises on an oil drum using a golf club, smiling at the realisation that she’s found a way to use her powers in a manner that can help. Originally, Homura was shy but friendly, and it was only after repeated failures that she develops an aloof, cold personality.

  • Eventually, Homura realises that she can apply her time-stopping powers to build up a conventional arsenal. Besides homemade explosives, Homura ends up utilising firearms plundered from the armouries of law enforcement agencies and the military, giving her access to extensive firepower. Homura’s preferred arsenal has a profound implication: that conventional weapons are effective against Witches. Weaker Witches appear vulnerable to explosions with as little as 240 grams of TNT equivalent, and as Homura discovers, her explosives are useful in a combat situation.

  • In this way, Homura is able to work together with Mami and Madoka to take out her first Witch, Patricia. This particular Witch was born of a Magical Girl who had once been a lonely student who wanted to be more popular, and when she succumbed, her labyrinth tortured her with a perverse version of what an ideal school life would be like. Unlike other Witches, Patricia’s labyrinth is simple in design, consisting of serafuku hung on clotheslines and an endless blue sky, making her a popular Witch that shows up elsewhere.

  • Despite making progress as a Magical Girl, Homura’s own existence is fraught with loss. No matter what choices she makes, those around her continue to die, and even though moments of happiness do come, Homura eventually becomes tormented by the fact that happiness appears to be transient. That the Madoka Magica universe presented this raised the debate of how determinism and free will was presented in this story: it had appeared that the characters are given the illusion of choice, since they were free to make decisions, but all of these decisions would eventually result in similar outcomes.

  • Again, it’s not sufficient to simply argue semantics about what determinism and free will are: if one wanted to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful manner, they must also express what their interpretations of Urobuchi’s story says about determinism and free will. Homura’s actions would give the impression that in life, individuals have a limited degree of control over what goes on around them, but determinism controls the more critical moments, and as a consequence, the only thing one can change is how they handle what happens in their life. While this prima facie appears to be a more pessimistic perspective of things, the flip-side is that accepting that some things are the way they are is, in fact, a form of freedom.

  • Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck spells this point out precisely. In Homura’s case, Manson would argue that Homura still had a choice in determining how she handled Madoka’s demise over the different timelines. She could continue to feel powerless and blame the world, or she could take ownership of how she felt and do something about it. Since Urobichi ends up having Homura do something about it, by Manson’s terms, Homura clearly takes responsibility for how she feels and actively chooses to act in a way that empowers her to make a difference.

  • Having said this, Homura fails to adhere to Manson’s next point about being wrong. In his book, Manson suggests that it’s okay to be wrong, and moreover, admitting that one were wrong is similarly a form of liberation. Homura, through her experiences, becomes certain that her approach is the only way to save Madoka, and that she’s the only person who can save Madoka. Rather than stopping to consider what being wrong about two core parts of her identity are, and then looking for new ways to approach the problem (i.e. trusting others to work with, and open up to others, so she’s not bearing these burdens on her own), she becomes stuck in a rut of sorts, believing that it’s her versus the universe, whereas in reality, it’s really an internal conflict.

  • This thought helps me to see a potential answer for elegantly handling the situation that Rebellion ends up creating, and I’ll save those thoughts for once I go through Rebellion. Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a brilliant read, and Manson’s genius lies in presenting complex topics, ones with nuance and subtlety, in a simple, approachable manner. While Manson doesn’t say anything I didn’t already do with my life (or at the very least, have an awareness of), he presents everything in a brilliantly clear way, outlining how easy it is to become a better, happier person concerned only about what really matters to them.

  • This is the sort of thing I strive for in my own writing, and I would hold that, had the Madoka Magica discussions out there on social media, forums, wikis and image boards taken this approach, as opposed to employing academic jargon and hiding behind the fog of purple prose, then participants in those discussions would have gotten a great deal more out of Madoka Magica. In applying Manson’s methods, I can say that the discussions of Madoka Magica out there don’t impact me in any way, and I don’t particularly worry about people who partake in it anymore than I worry about people being led “astray” by it. However, this is an anime discussion, and one of my pastimes in writing is to take both methods and ideas that don’t jibe with mine, and then point out why I’m not in agreement with them.

  • There are a lot of moving parts to Madoka Magica, and in retrospect, I am glad to have watched the series when I did; when I finished this series, it’d been the summer of 2013, and I’d completed my undergraduate defense. Back then, I praised the series for being similar to The Dark Knight in that it explored a side of being a hero, and being the villain, in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner, showing that things aren’t as black and white as they seemed. Having said this, the series also covers mental health, plus a plethora of topics.

  • My earlier discussion of Madoka Magica doesn’t even begin to cover all of the potential topics within this anime, and had I attempted to watch this series amidst my thesis year, I likely would have been overwhelmed by Madoka Magica and put the anime on hold to ensure my thesis could be completed. If memory serves, Beginnings and Eternal would’ve aired about a decade earlier, providing fans with a remastered experience in preparation for Rebellion. At this point in my year, I was now done my thesis proposal and was well under way with my project.

  • Because I only had three other courses (literary methods in science fiction, genomics and society, and introductory iOS programming), I was able to maintain a good balance between all of my coursework. English was probably the easiest of my courses because I’d had that instructor previously, and genomics was a qualitative course on how genomic sciences was impacting how we approached medical issues; because both courses were based on papers, I had no trouble with either. iOS development was a bit more involved since I didn’t know CocoaTouch, but as evaluation was based on a group project, I was able to contribute to my team in between my other obligations.

  • In this way, I was in an excellent position by late October, and for the first time, really felt that I was enjoying university. My experiences in this year is what led me to take an interest in writing, and while I was competent enough back then, I was a little weaker in discussing things like Madoka Magica. My first post on the series reflects on this inexperience, and in the past few weeks, I’d been considering giving Madoka Magica a revisit, ahead of Walpurgisnacht: Rising’s release. This fourth movie was announced last April and the name was revealed in July.

  • Like the Gundam SEED movie, the presence of a film piqued my curiosity, and I decided to refamiliarise myself with things by going through the existing Madoka Magica films again. Unlike Gundam SEED and SEED Destiny, however, Madoka Magica is significantly more manageable. I plan on rewatching and revisiting Rebellion in December, coinciding with the nine year mark to the day that the film was screened in local cinema. At the time of writing, neither the Gundam SEED movie or Walpurgisnacht: Rising have a known première date.

  • Madoka’s decision in Madoka Magica was a controversial one, and the armchair psychologists almost universally agree that this is an instance of deus ex machina, an undeserved magic bullet solution for what was otherwise a very complex problem. Kyubey explains, for the viewer’s benefit, that the accumulated suffering Madoka endures through the various timelines means that her potential as a Magical Girl is limitless, and in conjunction with Madoka’s decision to hold off on becoming a Magical Girl until she had a clearer picture of things, allows Madoka to make a choice that would not have been possible early in the series.

  • The sort of writing in Madoka Magica, at least to me, shows that short of miracles of this scale, there is indeed no easy solution, and in reality, people must learn to live with and manage the hand that they’re dealt. However, the me of nine years earlier wouldn’t have read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (which was published in 2016): having additional knowledge about how one can address life’s problems by choosing what to care about, and understanding what one can pay less (or no) mind to means that, even somewhere like Madoka Magica, there exists a workable answer that can be applied to neatly close things up without leaving things open. With this being said, had such an answer been employed in Madoka MagicaRebellion wouldn’t exist, and by extension, there’d be no need to produce Walpurgisnacht: Rising, either.

  • Madoka’s decision and the repeated tragedies other incarnations of Madoka had suffered put her in a position to become the most powerful Magical Girl of all time, giving her the power to wish for the eradication of all Witches from all timelines, past, present and future, as well as preventing new Witches from being born. This is a remarkably selfless wish and is a callback to Mami’s reminder not to wish for something trivial. Unlike Sayaka’s wish, which was admittedly made on a very short-sighted desire, Madoka’s choice comes from experience and knowledge driving a much better reasoned decision. Through Madoka, Madoka Magica shows how when people are given a chance to weigh all options and a full picture, they possess the knowledge to make better choices.

  • Of course, “better” is a relative term here: the end result of Madoka’s wish works well enough for Madoka Magica, resulting in an ending that was quite satisfying, but still left the door open for continuations. From a storytelling perspective, Rebellion was the much riskier approach, since it opened a new conflict that, until Walpurgisnacht: Rising is released, remains unresolved. Conversely, Magia Record was a much safer route, making use of an alternative timeline to tell another story about how Magical Girls have attempted to circumvent and defeat the Incubator’s system in a self-contained story.

  • Madoka Magica is now eleven years old, while the movies Beginnings and Eternal were released a decade earlier, but the series’ then-revolutionary approach left a massive impact on storytelling. Madoka Magica makes extensive use of elements common to Lovecraftian horror to convey its story: H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are characterised by themes of insignificance and powerlessness in the face of things far surpassing human comprehension, as well as how attempts to rationalise these elements would be nigh-impossible. In this case, fighting off Witches and the Incubator’s goals of staving off the universe’s heat death both are similar goals, of trying to keep the unknowable at bay by doing what one can.

  • While things like cosmic horror opens the floor to all sorts of interesting conversations, to this day, I maintain that a story with darker themes and tragic endings is not necessarily more “mature” or “realistic”. A story is effective if it can convey its themes: if it takes a tragic ending to accomplish this, the story has achieved its aims equally as well as the happily-ever-after story that clearly communicates to viewers its messages. Stories dealing with difficult topics are not, by definition, superior to other stories, and instead, it is the execution that counts. It so happens that Madoka Magica was able to tell a clear story with its topic of choice, but not every cynical, nihilistic message is necessarily right about the world or an accurate portrayal of reality.

  • While some segments of the internet persist with the belief that realism is directly correlated with how cynical and nihilistic a story is, the concept of realism in the context of fiction is actually impacted more by the portrayal of characters and their interactions within a setting that is believable. Simply put, actions must have plausible consequences consistent with those seen in reality. Madoka Magica does this well enough. For instance, when Sayaka makes a spur-of-the-moment wish to heal Kyōsuke’s hand, since she didn’t stop to consider what ramifications this wish would have, when the consequences begin manifesting, Sayaka succumbs to despair. This is a plausible outcome that might be seen as analogous to buyer’s remorse, something viewers can relate to.

  • In Sayaka’s case, the tragedy befalling her isn’t what makes it realistic, but rather, the fact that other factors become important as a cause for why she ends up experiencing tragedy. While some viewers place a great deal of emphasis on realism, I find that in a given story, realism alone doesn’t make a work excellent; consistency is what I hold as being of importance to a story. If a story is able to stick with its internal rules, then what happens becomes more believable, and this allows one to be satisfied that shifting rules won’t alter the characters’ experiences, leaving them to focus purely on what happens and what these events are meant to signify.

  • Madoka Magica is sufficiently consistent so that I was able to enjoy what the story offered. My original review of the series praised it for being able to present a different spin on the magical girl genre as a whole; conventional magical girl series have never really appealed to me because they are even more saccharine than the sorts of anime I prefer watching, and are very black-and-white in their themes. While these series do have their merits, it’s a genre that I’m not suited for watching. With this being said, parodies of the genre are always fun to watch: Machikado Mazoku is one example, similarly suggesting that there’s a price to being a magical girl, but unlike Madoka Magica, humour is present to soften the uncomfortable situations that characters find themselves in.

  • Despite the time that’s passed, Madoka Magica still offers a bit to consider, and while the me of today still enjoys the series as much as the me of nine years earlier, I feel that I am better equipped now to articulate what aspects in Madoka Magica worked best for me. This post speaks to some of these elements, and because it’s little bloated, the elevator pitch of what I sought to convey here is as follows: Madoka Magica is a great series that covers a breadth of topics worth discussion, but just because some discussions out there utilise specialised jargon and flowery prose doesn’t necessarily mean they end up draw any meaningful conclusions. As such, while internet conversations may give the impression that Madoka Magica is a complex series demanding intellectual prowess in order to appreciate, it is, in fact, an accessible series that clearly states its themes but also prompt discussions about other topics, too.

  • Having now revisited Beginnings and Eternal, I’ve had the chance to refamiliarise myself with the story’s events ahead of Walpurgisnacht: Rising, and in the process, have hopefully clarified both what ideas I found Madoka Magica to present especially well, as well as why I’m not particularly fond of all of the discussions and speculation surrounding the series on the ‘net if they stop short of saying anything about how Madoka Magica reaffirms or refutes existing philosophical and psychological topics. This leaves me to revisit Rebellion again, and once that’s done, I can say that I’m ready for Walpurgisnacht: Rising.

  • The ending of Madoka Magica concludes with Homura continuing her own fight. The ending quote, “Don’t forget. Always, somewhere, someone is fighting for you. As long as you remember her, you are not alone”, is one of encouragement, suggesting that as long as one lives on in another’s memories, they’ll continue to have a tangible impact on those around them. One of my friends, who had introduced me to Otafest, had a classmate who became very invested in Madoka Magica. This quote embodied what said classmate likely saw in Madoka Magica; the series was probably a parallel for their own relationships (i.e. longing for an outcome that would require an extraordinary effort to attain), and by the time Rebellion released, they’d put everything on the line to check out the local screenings. I’ll delve into things in greater detail when I write about Rebellion: I do wish to do this story justice, since I’d also wanted to see Rebellion when the local theatre announced they were going to show the movie, and the different choices we made then actually had far-reaching consequences that impacted us to this day.

My enjoyment of Madoka Magica came from seeing the portrayal of mental health challenges in a true-to-life manner, and then going on to suggest that while the path to recovery is difficult, having the right information available to oneself and knowing there are people in their corner will help with things. Despite being over a decade old, Madoka Magica has aged very gracefully; its themes remain relevant, and the animation still holds up. The series can be a little tricky to watch because the characters go through a great deal, but the journey remains meaningful. With this being said, Madoka Magica also has developed the reputation of being a series that requires extensive knowledge of philosophy and psychology to understand. This is untrue – while attempting to frame Madoka Magica as a tale of the validity of utilitarianism (“actions should be taken only if they contribute to well-being, and one should tend towards actions that maximise this well-being”), individualism versus collective well-being, free will versus determinism and other dense matters can give the impression that Madoka Magica is a series of immense depth, the actual themes in Madoka Magica can be discussed and appreciated in layman’s terms because the anime was meant to be, first and foremost, a work of fiction accessible to viewers. A work of fiction fails in its intended role if the author’s messages were not successfully conveyed to its audience, and there is no merit in obfuscating a story’s message in such a way. While more complex topics might be applicable in some areas, Madoka Magica itself requires no extensive knowledge in said topics to enjoy. Madoka Magica was originally written to be a self-contained story, one which followed Madoka and Homura’s journey as they navigated a world governed by unfair constructs, and where suffering was more prevalent than fulfilment. In spite of the odds being stacked against them, Madoka Magica sought to convey how, even in such a world, people could still find the strength to take a stand and do what they believed was correct, and in doing so, impart a tangible difference. While outwardly appearing pessimistic and dark, Madoka Magica ends up subverting these claims owing to how Madoka’s wish would ultimately alter the status quo. This was meant to show viewers that, at a smaller scale, they still retain the agency to better their situations to some extent. I had watched Madoka Magica during a tougher period in my life, when I’d been struggling to deal with the sorts of feelings that Sayaka and Homura had experienced. Watching Madoka Magica helped me to see these issues from another angle, and in time, I would come to spot that these problems were much smaller than I had made them out to be: I still retained the agency in my life to make decisions and better my situation. In this way, Madoka Magica did impart a positive impact on me, and as a result, is a series I would count a masterpiece. However, even though it’s been almost a decade since I watched Madoka Magica for the first time, I still contend that the human aspects of Madoka Magica do not necessarily demand an extensive formal background in topics like philosophy and psychology to fully comprehend. The approach I’ve taken towards Madoka Magica also acts as a fantastic example of how I apply “simplexity” here, of using common terms to describe more complex topics. Where applicable, I touch on topics within philosophy and psychology, while at the same time, strive to ensure that my thoughts remain understandable by steering clear of jargon, similarly to how a well-written wrapper class simplifies usage of a more complex object. A good wrapper class makes life for easier for software developers by abstracting away behaviours that may not be relevant in a specific function, and similarly, when it comes to anime discussions written with “simplexity” in mind, I aim to achieve something similar by touching on topics that do demand some familiarity in a way that is more approachable. Madoka Magica is one of the earliest series that required I apply “simplexity” to my writing style and methods, and looking back, this has helped me to write about all manner of anime without falling into the trap of turning my posts into an impenetrable fog.

Magia Record Season Three: Review and Reflections At The Finale

“Look where we are, who will know?”
“We will.”

–Mbizi and Jack Valentine, Lord of War

Desperate to see Ui smile again, Iroha had made a contract with Kyubey that miraculously restored Ui to health, but in exchange, Iroha became more scarce as her time was increasingly directed towards fighting Witches. After learning of this, Ui, Nemu and Tōka begin investigating on their own and conclude that all Magical Girls end up becoming Witches. Knowing this, the three plan to save Iroha and subvert Kyubey’s system by making wishes that effectively strip Kyubey of his power so that they can remove corruption from Soul Gems, transform it into magic and convert this into energy so that they can continuously cleanse Soul Gems in a region and spare Iroha of such a fate. However, within moments of making this wish, Ui takes on more impurities than she can handle and begins transforming into a Witch herself. Alina’s arrival allows Tōka and Nemu to transfer Ui’s consciousness into Kyubey’s now-empty body and concoct a new plan to save all Magical Girls. In the present, Nemu and Tōka imprison Iroha’s spirit in a pocket dimension so they can continue on with their plan, causing the Doppels of all Magical Girls nearby to begin manifesting. Momoko and Mifuyu end up transferring the negative energy onto themselves in order to save the other Magical Girls; while they are successful, they perish from the effort. In the pocket dimension, Iroha encounters Ui again, who promises that so long as Iroha knows happiness, she’ll remember her, too. Ui asks Iroha to stop Tōka and Nemu from realising their plan, and also implores her to save Kuroe. Exiting the pocket dimension, Iroha attempts to talk Kuroe back from the brink. Kuroe reveals that she most regrets leaving another Magical Girl behind some time ago, and that she’s unworthy of Iroha’s kindness. Despair overwhelms her, and she transforms into a Witch, forcing Iroha to kill her. In the process, Iroha herself begins doubting herself, but Yachiyo, Tsuruno, Felicia and Sana catch up to her, reminding her that as long as they’re around, everyone can bear one another’s burdens equally. Iroha’s spirits are reinvigorated, and the five catch up to Tōka and Nemu, who had planned to merge Embryo Eve with Walpurgisnacht. Although Tōka and Nemu are persuaded, Alina appears and refuses to back down, intent on creating an entity to punish the world for having idly watched while Magical Girls suffered. Tōka and Nemu end up sacrificing themselves in a desperate bid to stop Alina, and in the end, Ui appears to Iroha and reiterates her wish for Iroha to find happiness with those who are living. Iroha is able to manifest Ui’s ability to collect despair, and together with Yachiyo, who realises she now carries the hopes of those around her, the pair kill Alina, ending the threat that Embryo Eve posed. Madoka watches on, noting that while this is a story none will know if, she’s now committed it to a record for posterity. After a two year journey, Magia Record finally draws to a close, acting as a welcome return to the Madoka Magica universe and presenting another dimension to a world that Puella Magi Madoka Magica had only begun exploring back during its original run.

Throughout Magia Record, the idea of togetherness is reiterated time and time again: Magia Record is a story of mental health, and more specifically, how it is so important to confide in others and not allow one’s own doubts to consume them. In reality, depression is amongst the most prevalent mental health challenges individuals face. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 3.8 percent of all people are impacted, and individuals report a wide range of challenges, from poor self-esteem and constant exhaustion, to poor sleep patterns and even thoughts of suicide. Despite research efforts and awareness campaigns, depression remains difficult to tackle because individuals who are affected may not recognise it as such; they may believe it to be a short-lived issue and attempt to tough it out. However, this creates a positive feedback loop that only worsens things. Outside of clinical treatments and medication, it is found that social support is a powerful countermeasure, and it is this social support that Magia Record is portraying as being vital. Iroha had attempted to bear the burden of her sister’s well-being herself and began to pay the price for her choices. Kuroe had turned away someone who had needed her help, and since then, cannot help but wonder if things could’ve turned out differently. Both are weaker Magical Girls who were forced into a corner, but the key difference here is that after Iroha reaches Kamihama, she becomes close to Yachiyo, Tsuruno, Filicia and Sana. Throughout Magia Record, it is shown that “weak” Magical Girls gravitate towards the Wings of Magius, hoping for a silver-bullet solution to their problems, but in the end, even the Wings of Magius dissolve. It turns out that a “weak” Magical Girl is not necessarily weak in ability, but rather, weak in that they are particularly susceptible to negative feelings, of helplessness, worthlessness and isolation. Left to manifest, these feelings worsen over time. However, in the company of others, one is able to talk out their problems, and no matter how unpleasant it may be to hear other perspectives, this forces one’s mind to open. In this way, company allows a Magical Girl to voice out her worries, her doubts and weaknesses, coming to terms with their own inner darkness. As Iroha learns, one’s own negative feelings aren’t a part of oneself to fear, but rather, it’s a natural part of existing, and while these feelings can appear to be insurmountable at times, having others in one’s corner help to put things in perspective, giving one the strength to accept their own weaknesses, and embrace their strengths, too. Magia Record unequivocally shows that the journey to recovery entails opening up to, and trusting others; people are stronger together, and much as how individually weak Magical Girls are stronger when fighting together and opening up to one another, people can begin their journey to manage and even recover from their depression, so long as they have the right people and resources in their corner.

Beyond this, Magia Record also portrays the dangers of incomplete knowledge. Through Nemu and Tōka in particular, Magia Record shows the consequences of applying purely theoretical knowledge in a real world setting without considering the potential outcomes of a decision. The imagery is particularly vivid; Nemu is clad in academic garb with a mortarboard hat, and Tōka is dressed in a Victorian-era outfit. The pair are presented as being particularly gifted, driven individuals who began their journey intending to do good and save Iroha, whom they perceive as having sacrificed herself for Tōka, Nemu and Ui’s sakes. Longing to leave their own legacies on the world, the trio end up conceiving of their system out of good intentions, and fervently study how Magical Girls work in order to devise a system that could undermine and bypass what Kyubey had constructed. With their theoretical knowledge, Tōka, Nemu and Ui imagined that their system would have acted as the means of circumventing the fate awaiting all Magical Girls. However, almost immediately after putting their plan into action, Ui is sacrificed, a consequence of the trio’s failure to realise a simple truth: in academia, and in textbooks, model systems are defined with strictly controlled parameters in order to illustrate a concept. In reality, systems do not exist in a vacuum, and interact with numerous other systems to create highly interconnected networks. Changes in any one component may have knock-on effects on another part of the system in unexpected ways. This is precisely what ends up happening: for all of their brilliance, Tōka, Nemu and Ui failed to account for the fact that a human vessel cannot absorb vast quantities of negative energy without this energy impacting their body. The Incubators’ own system are not reliant on human vessels and therefore are not subject to this limitation, which is how things worked for them without deleterious effects, but for Ui, the consequences are grave. Unwilling to admit defeat, Tōka and Nemu end up committing the sunk cost fallacy and believe that since Ui was already lost, they needed to push forwards in order to make Ui’s sacrifice worthwhile. The decision to do so thus paints the pair as dullards, standing in sharp contrast with their refined, intellectual attire. Here, Magia Record implies that theory on its own is of limited value, and moreover, the worth of a given academic topic will not be fully known until something is tried in a live setting. Attempting to fit the events of Madoka Magica into models of philosophy or psychology may not be particularly meaningful, because existing models make assumptions that Madoka Magica does not necessarily adhere to for the sake of a story; much as how Tōka and Nemu’s plan collapses around them, shoehorning academia into Madoka Magica means missing the series’ emphasis on the importance of social support networks and conquering problems together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With the truth now in the open, one finds it much easier to sympathise with Tōka and Nemu: although their plans had eventually created the Wings of Magius Cult and threatened to endanger existence, it was born out of a sincere and genuine desire to save Iroha. In life, Ui had been cheerful and kind, never holding any grudges, but she’d been born with a rare disease that would ultimately be fatal. In spite of this, Ui quickly befriended two other patients, Tōka and Nemu. They quickly became fast friends, and their days were spent reading together.

  • To busy themselves, Ui, Tōka and Nemu decided to create a legacy of sorts for themselves. This gave rise to the uwasa, the rumours. Magia Record‘s first season had dealt extensively with the uwasa, which were unique to Kamihama: Magia Record‘s first and second acts present an interesting insight on things like how misinformation propagates, and of how people are persuaded into becoming a part of a cult. Both arise as a result of individuals who lack confidence in themselves, and in their insecurity, subscribe to something big and imposing in a bid to bolster their own confidence.

  • Seeing the bond between Ui and Iroha explains why Iroha ultimately contracts with Kyubey: despite visiting Ui and her newfound friends so frequently that Tōka and Nemu count Iroha as an older sister, she can’t stand to see the sight of Ui suffering, deprived of a normal life. Par the course for the Madoka Magica universe, every wish comes with a cost; as a result of her wish, Iroha must now do battle with Witches, and over time, this commitment forces her to even cancel appointments to visit Ui and the others, even as Ui makes a miraculous recovery in defiance of contemporary medical science.

  • Iroha’s primary armament as a Magical Girl is a small crossbow: with a low rate of fire and weaker damage, Iroha is not a particularly fearsome Magical Girl. While doing battle in the hospital’s morgue, Ui, Tōka and Nemu end up following her and learn of the truth: that Iroha had put everything on the line for Ui’s sake. Like Madoka, Iroha is kind to those around her, and tends to neglect her own needs in favour of looking after her friends. Fighting Witches alone, however, does take a toll on Iroha, and seeing this with their own eyes prompts the three to begin pondering the question of how to save Iroha from her fate.

  • The point of this extended flashback was to show how behind sinister plots, lies a genuine (but misguided) attempt to do good: Ui, Tōka and Nemu had initially wanted to save Iroha (and Iroha alone) with their research. The three make a promise to free Iroha from being a Magical Girl, forming the beginning of the plan that would later extend to saving all Magical Girls. Exposition is critical for this reason: until now, Magia Record had presented Tōka and Nemu as being quite disconnected from reality, so wrapped up in their plan that they were willing to sacrifice everything to realise their vision.

  • However, once the motivations behind this plan were known, it became much easier to spot how they ended up following the path that they did. By researching the theoretical aspects of Magical Girls and Witches, Ui, Tōka and Nemu determined that Kyubey’s aim had been to harness emotions as a sort of power supply to keep the universe from suffering from a heat death of sorts. The ultimate fate of the universe remains unknown, dependent on a factor known as the density factor (roughly speaking, the amount of “stuff” in the universe). In a closed universe, matter would eventually cause the universe to collapse back on itself, while an open or flat universe might reach thermodynamic equilibrium, which occurs when the state is such that no work can be performed.

  • The principles that Kyubey works on falls apart upon scrutiny: the universe can be assumed to be an isolated system, one where matter and energy cannot be exchanged with its surroundings, and since energy can neither be created or destroyed, the implications are that any “energy” harnessed from emotions would have already been presented in the system to begin with. Attempts to try and define parameters surrounding how things work in Madoka Magica has always been something that has been met with failure, but it does serve its purpose as a plot device, a minimally viable explanation to drive things.

  • Once Ui, Tōka and Nemu figure out how Kyubey works, they make separate wishes that allow them to individually carry out Kyubey’s functions in their own manner. Things backfire within moments of the trio using their powers, transforming Ui into a proto-Witch. Tōka and Nemu end up attempting to reverse things, but fail, and they end up transferring her consciousness into the now-depowered Kyubey. This answers the question of who the small Kyubey is: it’s Ui attempting to guide Iroha, as well as how Tōka and Nemu came upon the power to begin messing with the Witches and Magical Girls system. With Ui caught in limbo, Tōka and Nemu determine they’ll have to make the most of Ui’s sacrifice, and make it worthwhile for saving all Magical Girls, hence the Wings of Magius being formed.

  • Back in the present, the other Magical Girls attempt to breach the barrier keeping them from reaching Iroha. Even with their combined effort, things prove to be quite challenging, but in spite of this, Sana and Filicia continue to put up an effort. In Magia Record, the Connect mechanic was initially meant as a gameplay element, but throughout the anime’s run, it became a fantastic metaphor for how the Magical Girls were stronger together: while the Holy Quintet have fought alongside one another previously, once their group began fracturing, in most timelines, the results were catastrophic. However, Magia Record suggests that Magical Girls who do maintain stronger bonds stand a better chance against increasingly powerful foes.

  • The fact that Magia Record had deliberately chosen to give Tōka and Nemu academic clothing was meant as a visual representation of how theoretical knowledge has its bounds, that it was folly to suppose the world worked as neatly as described by textbooks. Through its portrayal of the pair, Magia Record as a whole suggests that just because the pair were well-read did not make them more right about things, and I’ve long felt that this is deliberate; Madoka Magica was subject to unprecedented scrutiny following its airing, and I’ve long felt that attempts to force concepts like Social Darwinism, Utilitarianism and Nietzsche down the throats of other viewers were insincere.

  • While Madoka Magica may touch on a principle, the aim of literary analysis is to see what an author is making of a given concept, and how this impacts the characters’ experiences. It is not sufficient to say that Kyubey’s actions represent Utilitarianism (this is simply comprehension on Bloom’s Taxonomy at best): a useful discussion would need to consider what Gen Urobuchi was trying to say about Utilitarianism through the Magical Girls’ response to Kyubey’s explanations (e.g. individuals are unwilling to accept sacrificing themselves for the greater good when they are not presented with a complete representation of the role, and this implies that, were individuals given the facts from the start, the Magical Girl concept would not be as effective, hence Kyubey’s need for deceit).

  • Doing this would then show what Urobuchi thought of Utilitarianism (it only works if one is upfront about it), and then it raises the question of whether or not there are circumstances that justify withholding the whole truth, as Kyubey does. I note that it is possible to have such discussions without throwing –isms around: while having proper terminology is important, in a more casual setting, jargon only serves to obscure, rather than clarify. Back in Magia Record, Tōka and Nemu appear to relent from their plans upon seeing Iroha, but in the end, are compelled to follow through, believing this is the only way forward. They promise to keep Iroha safe and lock her in a pocket dimension before activating Embryo Eve.

  • Outside Celation Land, Embryo Eve creates a phenomenon similar to that of a Psycho-field, amplifying negative emotions and forcing the Magical Girls’ Doppels to manifest. Weaker Magical Girls succumb more quickly, suggesting that the gap between a strong and weak magical girl lies in one’s own confidence and resilience. A weaker Magical Girl is unsure of their own conviction and ability to do good, while a strong magical girl accepts their emotions and continue to do what they can. In this way, it can be said that individually, most Magical Girls are weak because there are doubts holding them back.

  • The faces that Magical Girls take on when possessed by their Doppel brings to mind the Noh mask that No Time To Die‘s Safin wears. Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb explains in an interview that the choice of a Noh mask was designed to blank out Safin’s features, to render him anonymous and create a fear of the unknown. The mask thus obscures an actor’s face and is an attempt to separate them from their emotions, with horror arising from the uncertainty that this disconnect creates. The blank faces of Magia Record are likely cast from the same mold: as the expressive Magical Girls have their faces masked, their feelings become hidden away.

  • To embrace one’s Doppel, then, is to embrace nothingness, and to embrace running away from one’s emotions. Ironically, by distancing oneself from their emotions, one’s control is lessened. Much as how Safin is both calm and chaotic, unpredictable and purposeful, Doppels amplify a Magical Girl’s power at the expense of control, and this inevitably means lashing out and hurting those around oneself. This is something that Magia Record places a great deal of emphasis on: Magical Girls come to Kamihama because they want to be saved, because they fear the darkness within them.

  • The effect that Embryo Eve has on Magical Girls is not equal: stronger-willed Magical Girls are able to resist its effects more effectively, although in the end, the sheer raw power resulting from Embryo Eve begins affecting Mifuyu. Momoka ends up talking Mifuyu down from succumbing entirely; a friendly voice is enough to remind Mifuyu that despite the things she’s done, there remains a reason to stick around and lend a hand. Magia Record isn’t exactly subtle in its storytelling, but the choice to make certain things overtly clear is meant to reiterate the fact that Magia Record is not re-treading the path that Madoka Magica had in terms of themes.

  • Momoka ends up combining her power with Mifuyu’s in order to help purify and pacify the despairing souls of countless Magical Girls, including Tsuruno. Each of the Magical Girls at Mikazuki Villa entered with their own burdens, but Magia Record had shown how being able to spend time with, speak to and become closer with one another does wonders for everyone. Yachiyo has been shown to enjoy the company, and even Sana and Filicia open up as a result of their time here. Being a former resident, Mifuyu had similarly treasured her time here, and as such, is able to take on the surge of negative emotions resulting from Embryo Eve’s presence.

  • Because Mifuyu and Momoka are using their entire strength, the despair and doubts plaguing the Magical Girls are slowly being reversed. Encouraged by the support, Coordinator Yakumo Mitama does her best to look after her remaining charges even as everything around her begins to crumble. With everyone’s combined effort, the despairing Magical Girls are slowly pulled back from the precipice: although this had seemingly been impossible through conventional means, it turns out that the solution to overcoming the Doppel’s corrupting influence lies in support, and encouragement, from others.

  • In the second season, Kaede had succumbed to despair and became overpowered by her Doppel. Rena was desperate to save her, but Yakumo had mentioned there was no craft she was aware of that could be directed towards this task. With what’s happening now, even Kaede appears to be recovering, and Rena takes advantage of this moment to save someone whom she now counts as a friend; despite having spent much of Magia Record disparaging Rena, Kaede had genuinely cared for her, and during the series’ first season back in 2020, had become visibly affected when Rena disappeared.

  • Momoko and Mifuyu’s efforts are successful, although having given everything they had to save the others, the two perish in the process, hand-in-hand. Momoka had been one of my favourite characters in Magia Record: she reminds me a great deal of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Fū Inubōzaki, who had similarly had a cheerful spirit and an older sister type role among her peers. Although Momoko was not a direct part of Miakzuki Villa, I’ve long felt that someone like her would’ve probably been an asset in keeping spirits up: when Iroha first met her, she was coordinating other Magical Girls and agreed to help her look for Ui.

  • Alina Grey is ultimately the antagonist of Magia Record: she’d been the one to support Tōka and Nemu’s plans by using her barrier magic to isolate Kamihama from the rest of the world, and, being something of an artist, Alina desires a world where things are exciting, where everyone must pay the price for idly watching as Magical Girls suffered. Much as an artist would create their own worlds, Alina fancies herself a creator free to shape the world however she pleases: with a casual and flippant attitude, Alina is only loyal to herself and helped the Wings of Magius where it suited her.

  • Despite their words otherwise, Tōka and Nemu have never been particularly convincing that they might actually listen to Iroha’s wish to see them step down from their plans; I’d gotten the sense that since Ui was lost, Tōka and Nemu began seeing their plan to save all Magical Girls as the only way forward, of setting right the world and making sure Ui’s sacrifice was not in vain. This is, of course, a fine example of the sunk-cost fallacy: even though it’d been clear that Tōka and Nemu’s goals would only result in complete devastation and fall short of achieving their actual aims, there is no going back because to do so would imply accepting the idea that Ui’s sacrifice was meaningless.

  • The sunk cost fallacy is rooted in emotion, and a familiar example is insisting on sticking to one dependency or API despite its shortcomings being apparent. The reason why this happens is because of loss aversion (failures are felt more profoundly than victories), and this is why people commit to something even when the costs outweigh the gains. Emotions play a large role in things, and this is why it is rare that people can pull themselves back out. Unsurprisingly, overcoming the sunk cost fallacy entails making decisions with others who might see things from a different perspective and help one to work out a way of backing out without experiencing the guilt or feelings of wastefulness associated with changing one’s mind.

  • Ui’s soul had been transferred into a different vessel, leaving Embryo Eve to be the remains of Ui’s old body, and in locking Iroha into the same pocket dimension housing Ui’s spirit, Tōka and Nemu inadvertently give Iroha a chance to speak with Ui again. Despite what had happened, Ui remains happy to see Iroha and implores her to stop Tōka and Nemu’s plan, as well as saving one other person who’d been forgotten amidst the chaos. This determination gives Iroha the strength to break out of the pocket dimension, and she sets off, intent on saving Kuroe.

  • Kuroe’s story is that of a tragic one, and by the time Iroha catches up to her, she is powerless to persuade Kuroe that there remain things worth fighting for: Kuroe’s been wandering Kamihama, partially consumed by her Doppel, and it is here that viewers finally learn of her backstory. An anime original character, Kuroe is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whose roles are as varied as Garden of Word‘s Yukari Yukino and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Shirase Kobuchizawa. As it turns out, early on in Kuroe’s career, she’d encountered another Magical Girl, but found herself unable to help her: the Magical Girl’s Soul Gem had accumulated impurities, but Kuroe herself lacks the Grief Seeds needed to be of assistance.

  • Whether or not this is true is left ambiguous, but what is concrete is that Kuroe had long regretted not doing more in the moment. This thought has since consumed Kuroe. I am speaking with the perspective of someone a shade more experienced in life: very few people can look at themselves in the mirror and say that they regret exactly nothing about themselves. For me, what matters more is how one chooses to continue despite, or because of, the choices they’ve made previously. In hindsight, saving this Magical Girl, helping her and getting to know her better would’ve been the right thing to do, but Kuroe cannot have known this ahead of time.

  • If Kuroe had someone in her corner at this time, things may have turned out quite differently. Like Madoka, Iroha is able to spot this, and she believes that it is the present that counts for something. Although Kuroe may have left someone behind in the past, Iroha is willing to help her anyways. Iroha’s heart is in the right place, but here, her kindness ends up backfire, exacerbating Kuroe’s feelings of guilt further, to the point where she fails to see any out. Kuroe was meant to represent how there are some cases where people can pass over the point of no return if they’re left alone for long enough.

  • This outcome makes Kuroe’s story especially tragic: because no one had been around to support and reassure her, Kuroe’s guilt was allowed to fester and morph into something she saw as insurmountable, when in reality, it may have been possible to turn things around and take advantage of another opportunity to prove to herself that she’d learnt and overcome this particular barrier. In the end, after piercing Alina’s barrier, despair finally overcomes Kuroe, and she transforms into a full-fledged Witch. Although Iroha ends up failing in her promise to Ui, she still remains resolute enough to do what she feels is right.

  • Summoning a dagger, Iroha prepares to impale Kuroe’s Witch form. Unlike Madoka, Iroha is a bit more decisive, more able to make tough calls where Madoka would have hesitated. However, such decisions come at a price, and after killing Kuroe, Iroha herself becomes consumed with guilt, wondering if there hadn’t been more that she could have done to save Kuroe. These feelings of doubt manifest as her own Doppel, which threatens to overcome her. Throughout Magia Record, negative emotions, of doubt, regret, self-loathing and isolation are presented as being the polar opposite of what it means to do good.

  • However, much as how the theory of yin-yang indicates that light cannot exist without darkness, optimism could not exist without pessimism, and positivity cannot exist without negativity. Rather than fearing, or running away from the darkness, it is important to accept that these negative feelings, of worthlessness, uncertainty and regret, are part-and-parcel with confidence, conviction and trust in one’s own judgement. Strength comes from using negative feelings and driving all of that restlessness and anger towards something productive.

  • While it is the case that this series was meant to embrace a different spirit about Magical Girls, life is not going to be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Suffering is not the main driving force in this series, which strove to show how neither hope or despair could exist in a vacuum: while the game might be a more cheerful experience, the anime represents an opportunity to delve into things that gameplay alone cannot portray. In this area, Magia Record is successful: while Kuroe cannot be saved, Iroha herself ends up finding a new way forward because of her friends.

  • In the end, the fact that Filicia, Tsuruno, Yachiyo and Sana are there for Iroha means the world to her: Iroha may have just been forced to kill someone close to her, but the regret and guilt resulting from this act isn’t her burden to bear alone. Knowing she can voice her concerns and sorrows to Yachiyo, Tsuruno, Sana and Filicia makes all of the difference, and Iroha is able to now spot that light and darkness are merely two sides of the same coin. In particular, darkness is not something to fear or run away from, because it’s a part of everyone.

  • Instead, what separates strength from weakness is one’s ability to channel darkness into light, and this process becomes considerably easier when one is in good company. Having now understood what this means, Iroha once again finds herself with the resolve needed to try and talk Tōka and Nemu out of carrying out their plan, which shifted to using Embryo Eve in an attempt to fuse with Walpurgisnacht in a bid to create the magical equivalent of a gamma ray burst, and harness this energy to free Magical Girls of their fate.

  • Considering that the events of Magia Record occurred precisely because Tōka and Nemu had been messing with powers they thought they’d understood, it is likely the case that merging Embryo Eve with Walpurgisnacht would have unforeseen consequences of a hitherto unseen scale. Having spotted this, numerous Magical Girls to turn around and make an effort to stop Embryo Eve from reaching its target. It is ultimately a combined effort from everyone, and words from Iroha, where it finally looks like Embryo Eve is finally stopped.

  • At the last second, Alina appears and attempts to fuse with Embryo Eve: her plans had been to inflict suffering of a hitherto unseen scale, and when Tōka and Nemu both begin hearing out Iroha at last, Alina reveals she’d only followed along with Tōka and Nemu because it was convenient for her to do so. Alina Gray ends up being the antagonist for Magia Record: selfish and concerned with none but herself, her wish was to have a creative space for her alone, and for this reason, her powers entail creating labyrinths and barriers. With her help, Tōka and Nemu were able to isolate Kamihama from the rest of the world, allowing for the Wings of Magius to begin their plans of eliminating Witches.

  • Although exhibiting a boisterous personality, Alina is quick to anger when things do not turn out as expected; through Iroha, Tōka and Nemu are finally convinced that their plan is not viable, and this leads Alina to attempt to merge with Embryo Eve. Finally seeing what their actions have caused, Tōka and Nemu decide that the only way to make things right is to give Iroha the time she needs to stop Alina. They embark on one final charge against Alina, to Iroha’s chagrin, and in the chaos, Ui appears to Iroha again.

  • Ui’s words to Iroha, that so long as Iroha finds happiness, Ui will continue to live on in her, is a tried-and-true means of expressing how people aren’t truly gone from the world until they are forgotten. Here, Ui desires for Iroha to be happy again, to remember the good times they’d had, but to also find joy anew. With this, Iroha imbibes Ui’s power to absorb despair from her surroundings and convert it into energy. Meanwhile, Yachiyo is given another chance to speak with her former Magical Girl allies, and while she attempts to apologise for failing them, they remind her that so long as she lives, she carries their hopes in them, too. With this, Iroha and Yachiyo combine their firepower to create a single, titanic attack that finishes Alina Gray and Embryo Eve off, ending the threat they pose to the world.

  • Magia Record closes off by indicating that it is the combination of having support from others, and finding strength within oneself, that helps to improve mental health. This is a multi-faceted presentation of a complex topic, but the final message is that adversity can be overcome with a variety of means. Magia Record‘s themes are decidedly more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica, representing a welcome addition to the franchise that shows how hope can be found even in the grimmest of worlds. This, in turn, sets precedence for what is possible in the upcoming Walpurgisnacht: Rising film.

  • With this, Magia Record draws to a close, and it is with some surprise that it’s now been more than two years since the series first began airing: two years earlier, the world had been a very different place, and I’d entered the series with no idea of what to expect. After its first season ended, Magia Record had left me anticipating what would come next, but a lengthy gap between the first and second season meant I’d forgotten about the series. The second season had continued in the footsteps of the first, expanding out the story further and providing answers to most of the remaining questions, and more excitingly, showcased the likes of Madoka, Sayaka and Homura.

  • While not the powerhouse its predecessor was, Magia Record excels in covering numerous topics relevant to the world, from the propagation of misinformation, to how cults gain momentum, and ultimately, how people are stronger together. Overall, Magia Record earns an A- (3.7 of 4) for succeeding here and setting precedence for what could  happen in Walpurgisnacht: RisingMadoka Magica has developed a reputation for being dark, so seeing the series explore more encouraging topics indicates that, despite the outcomes in Madoka Magica, Homura may yet have a chance of securing a fate where she and Madoka can find happiness without foisting suffering upon herself or Madoka, and moreover, that this solution likely comes from a combination of honesty, trust and teamwork, something Magia Record had showcased to great effect. I will be a little saddened to see Iroha, Yachiyo and the others go, but seeing the return of Madoka, Homura and a newfound determination to face off against a previously unbeatable foe is exciting. At present, I’ve got no idea when Walpurgisnacht: Rising will première, but having become a fan of Madoka Magica over the years, I can say I am excited to see how this film will unfold.

With Magia Record in the books after a lengthy two-year journey, the end narration concludes on the note that while it was a touching journey that no one will likely remember, Madoka herself will remember, and this counts for something. This closing means that the events of Magia Record was one possibility amongst countless others, an ending that ultimately would be forgotten as Homura continues on her journey to save Madoka. However, the fact that there exists a timeline where Magical Girls can find their happiness together is an encouraging thought because, if there are infinite timelines, then there must also be a reality where Homura can find her happiness with Madoka, without Madoka sacrificing herself in some way for Homura’s sake. This aspect is what Walpurgis no Kaiten (Walpurgisnacht: Rising) will likely cover: at Madoka Magica‘s ten year anniversary, a fourth film was announced, and although not much more is known beyond the fact that the original cast and staff are returning to continue the story, anticipation for this film is surely to be strong. Seven years earlier, Rebellion had left viewers on a cliffhanger as Homoura captured Madoka’s power and rewrote reality to build a happy ending for her, but also realised that, should Madoka ever find out, she would inevitably clash with Madoka. The outcome of this story has, until now, never been resolve: Magia Record appears to be a hint of what’s coming, to build the expectations that even in a universe where the odds are stacked entirely against the characters, there’s the possibility that a good outcome can be reached. Moreover, with advancements in animation techniques and technology, Magia Record would also represent an opportunity to explore increasingly visceral ways of presenting the fights between Magical Girls and Witches, or Magical Girls against one another. While Magia Record‘s story might be consigned to the annals of history, its themes and the animation have the feel of a pre-game show, suggesting to viewers that Walpurgisnacht: Rising will be a powerhouse of a journey, combining all of the strongest aspects of the original Madoka Magica series with learnings from Magia Record to, hopefully, offer a decisive finish to a franchise that is deserving of a conclusive ending.

Magia Record Season Two: Review and Reflections At The Finale

“If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” –Master Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes back

With Kuroe’s help, Iroha and Yachiyo manage to locate the elusive Hotel Faint Hope. Here, Yachiyo engages the Amane sisters, while Iroha and Kuroe make their way into the complex and encounter Kaede and Rena, who’ve come around and are attempting to escape. An Uwasa ends up blocking their route, and Kaede manifests her Doppel in combat, but is consumed. While Kuroe and Iroha beat the Doppel by Connecting, Momoko and Mitama arrive and secure what’s left of Kaede. Sana and Felicia similarly have second thoughts about Magius and beat an exit, encountering Kyōko in the process, while Tōka finally unveils her plan: she’d created an artificial witch, Embryo Eve, and is planning to draw in Witches from a two-hundred kilometre region with the aim of using this power to bring the Doppel system to Magical Girls around the world. Sana and Felicia ultimately end up convincing Mifuyu to abandon the Magius and return to Mikazuki Villa, while Iroha arrives at Chelation Land. Here, she meets Madoka and her team: the latter are there to save Mami, while Yachiyo encounter Tsuruno, who’s partially fused with an Uwasa. Tsuruno’s fierce offensive forces the others to retreat. While regrouping, Iroha learns of the truth behind Embryo Eve, while Mifuyu and Momoko manage to persuade Mitama to give up the secret of how to extract the Uwasa from Tsuruno. While their initial attempt is unsuccessful, Iroha manages to form an uplink to Tsuruno’s mind, giving Yachiyo enough to understand what Tsuruno had experienced and Connect properly with her. Meanwhile, Sayaka, Madoka and Homura set off to rescue Mami with assistance from Kyōko. With their friends freed, Iroha and Madoka combine their powers and shatter Magius’ apparatus, causing the Witches to scatter. In the aftermath, Madoka’s team heads over to Mitakihara and prepare to face off against Walpurgisnacht, Kuroe is consumed by dark forces that seek to prevent her from linking up with Iroha, who heads off, alone, to confront Tōka and Nemu. Magia Record‘s second season draws to a close here, and while rumours suggest that the third season will air this year, I’ve heard nothing to confirm that this is the case, leaving viewers one step closer to sorting things out before the party returns to Mitakihara and Walpurgisnacht, a foe that has hitherto remain unbeaten through conventional means. With the mystery behind the Wings of Magius and their sinister plot unveiled, Magia Record excels in presenting a very visceral show of what goes on behind a cult.

Through its run, the mystery surrounding the enigmatic Wings of Magius permeates the whole of Magia Record‘s second season. The Wings of Magius purport to be saving Magical Girls, and those who are inducted into its ranks are promised glory and salvation from their otherwise inevitable transformation into Witches. However, upon joining, most Magical Girls simply become Black Feathers, low-ranking members that fulfil various odds and ends for the higher-ranking White Feathers, with Alina Gray, Tōka Satomi and Nemu Hiiragi controlling the whole organisation. By making vague promises of an easy solution to a frightening fate, and power for the weak, Alina, Nemu and Tōka easily manipulate the average Magical Girl’s deepest-seated fears of failure and defeat to recruit into their organisation, while at the same time, withhold much from members. The balance struck between making and withholding promises keeps members in line, and Magical Girls who do see what the Wings of Magius intend to accomplish are struck with sufficient revulsion, enough to get them to change their mind: upon seeing what happens to Kaede and Tsuruno, even the so-called neutral Mitama consents to help Yachiyo and the others out, while Mifuyu finally stands up for herself and lends her power to her old friends, rather than Magius, in their time of need. The common element here is that having support is essential for negating and dismissing the words cults throw at prospective members: Kuroe, Sana, Felicia, Rena, Momoko and Mifuyu had sought the Wings of Magius out, knowing they were weak, but the Wings of Magius had never intended to save them. Instead, they were to become sacrifices for Alina, Nemu and Tōka’s plot to kill off a staggering portion of humanity off for their own gain. Seeing the resolve that Yachiyo and Iroha demonstrate, as well as the lengths they are willing to go for their friends is enough to convince the others that there is no future with Wings of Magius. Similarly, cults will find it near-impossible to recruit and indoctrinate someone possessing confidence in their own abilities. Such individuals will exercise their own judgement and make their own decisions; they are not easily swayed. Conversely, the vulnerable fall victim to cults because the cults offer absolutes and simplify away things, playing to an individuals desire for acceptance and belonging. In this day and age, with fringe conspiracy groups and cults preying on people’s fears and uncertainty, it becomes more important than ever to have people in one’s corner – Magia Record‘s second season shows how even those who join a cult can yet be redeemed, so long as they have the right people supporting them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Magia Record, Yachiyo and Kuroe had liberated Iroha from Eternal Sakura Uwasa, and back at Mikazuki, Yachiyo only has the smallest of leads: the enigmatic Hotel Faint Hope. The Uwasa of Magia Record all have passive-sounding names to them that underscore their enigmatic nature. Kuroe attempts to use her credentials to get past security, but things quickly fail when the Amane sisters catch on, leaving Yachiyo to engage them. Magia Record‘s second season continues on in the first season’s path: the first season’s pursuit of Uwasa was a parallel for the handling of misinformation, and here in the second season, the theme is related to elements surrounding cults.

  • Cults are broadly defined as splinter groups with an unusual commitment and devotion to a charismatic leader or ideology, and the Wings of Magius possesses all of the traits present in a cult. Alina, Nemu and Tōka are the charismatic leaders with a transcendent belief system (e.g. saving all Magical Girls with the Doppel System), control lesser members through both coercion and force. They use a system of influence to create amongst the Feathers the belief that Alina, Nemu and Tōka’s way is the only way, and individuals who begin to have second thoughts are pruned.

  • When the fate of Magical Girls who’d utilised their Doppels excessively becomes known, Mitama dismisses Rena’s concerns, horrifying Momoko. Magia Record suggests that seeing what their participation in a cult is needed to make one aware of the folly they are committing by acquiescing to the cult’s beliefs: in this case, for Momoko, it’s the realisation that it is unlikely that Kaede can be restored to her normal form, and moreover, these partial-Witches are being held for a more sinister purpose. It turns out the Wings of Magius plan to create an artificial Witch and use its energy to bring the Doppel System to every Magical Girl in the world.

  • The Doppel System, in which a Magical Girl’s despair can be converted into raw power, had indeed sounded too good to be true; it was advertised as being a means of overcoming the Incubator’s system, and outwardly succeeds in its function. However, the caveat is that negative emotions can be difficult to control, and using the system eventually consumes the Magical Girl, as Kaede demonstrates. Under this system, Magical Girls would suffer anyways, and the Wings of Magius can be thought of as trading one flawed system for another, with the additional caveat being that this system’s properties wouldn’t be known to the Magical Girls until too late.

  • There are, of course, numerous parallels in reality: all cults prey on vulnerable individuals and play on their fears to impose control over them. The Wings of Magius argue that with the horrifying fate of becoming a Witch, Magical Girls can find salvation if they join up, and only then can they be saved. Further to this, the Wings of Magius claim being together also helps the Magical Girls overcome challenges they cannot on their own: indeed, weaker Magical Girls (not in terms of combat ability, but from a mental perspective) are eager to join, desperate to find companionship and camaraderie in a occupation that can be a very isolating one.

  • At the opposite end of the spectrum, cults find that they are completely unable to convert those who are naturally resilient: Kyōko is completely disinterested in the Wings of Magius and only shows up to collect Grief Seeds from the organisation under their nose. Originally, I wasn’t fond of Kyōko, but after fully watching Madoka Magica, along with the films and reading the manga, I appreciated her story to a much greater extent. In fact, the Kyōko of Magia Record is quite like myself, being quite disinterested in get-rich-quick schemes of the sort that the Wings of Magius attempt to peddle and is focused on doing what she knows works: collecting Grief Seeds through any means necessary in order to survive.

  • Mikazuki Villa’s biggest win comes when Sana and Felicia are able to convert Mifuyu back to the light side. Wracked with guilt, Mifuyu had joined the Wings of Magius hoping to prevent tragedy from happening again, but upon learning of Iroha’s safety, realises that there are no shortcuts or easy ways out of problems: Yachiyo had been right the whole time, and while she’s not quite ready to forgive Mifuyu yet, Yachiyo nonetheless accepts her return, since it’s all hands on deck to stop whatever the Wings of Magius have planned.

  • The fact that Nemu is dressed in a black cape and Oxford cap, in conjunction with her involvement to bring the Doppel System to the world, is a caricature of the academic whose head is in the clouds, far removed from reality. The ludicrous and dangerous nature of their plan stands in contrast with the imagery their appearance conveys, and Magia Record again pokes fun at these pseudo-academic types, much as it had done during the last season with Tōka’s overbearing and grating lecture. This was meant to show that the academic approach people have taken towards the Madoka Magica franchise was excessive and unnecessary; on the whole, Madoka Magica and Magia Record are easy to understand and do not demand from viewers expertise on obscure 17th century European philosophical writings.

  • The system Tōka and the others have created draw all Witches to their position, even the legendary Walpurgisnacht. The darkening skies serve to signify the foreboding fight that lies ahead for Madoka and her team: fighting a cult is never easy, and in this day and age, cults aren’t exclusively religious in nature. Individuals with the right platform can create their own cult of personality, amassing and manipulating followers into carrying out irrational and dangerous actions for anything ranging from politics and health right down to comics and video games. Most harmful of all are the calls to “do your own research” – this mantra dates back to the 1980s and made a resurgence on social media as a result of memes.

  • The problem with the “do your own research” meme is that, unless one is specialised in that field, people are largely unprepared properly look through primary, peer-reviewed literature and properly interpret the conclusions a given paper draws. For instance, a paper may conclude that their findings are statistically significant, but additional factors need to be considered before anything can be actioned. However, the layman at a media company may simply run with the conclusion, not fully aware of the implications of what they’d just claimed. Conversely, an expert will be aware of a study’s limitations and use the findings as a starting point for further research.

  • With the host of misinformation flying about concerning the global health crisis, most people are not equipped with the analytical skills or resources to proper research to decide for themselves on the efficacy of health measures, much less communicate them to others. This is where trusting expert knowledge becomes important: people who’ve spent decades studying their discipline are able to properly analyse data and interpret the results, as well as present them in an accessible and actionable manner. Back in Magia Record, Yachiyo drives Homura towards Chelation Land’s main gate: I never expected to see Yachiyo and Homura side-by-side together, but Magia Record‘s been full of surprises.

  • Indeed, at its best, the animation shown in the combat sequences within Magia Record rivals those seen in Rebellion: with the animation techniques and rendering software available today, highly intricate fight scenes can be created to really convey the sense of scale in every battle. By this point in time, Iroha is resolute on what needs to be done, and has no trouble in convincing even Kyōko to Connect with her. The Connect mechanic stands in stark contrast with the Doppels: both greatly enhance a character’s attack power, but Connecting requires teamwork, whereas using a Doppel is an individual trait. As it stands, Connect is something that allows Magical Girls to similarly rise to the occasion, but as a team, and without the dangers that using a Doppel may bring.

  • The point that Connect aims to make is simple enough – Magical Girls are weak on their own, and it is together they can accomplish things that would otherwise defeat an individual Magical Girl. Themes of loneliness versus group support are present in Magia Record, and while they were originally present as game mechanics, have come to create a very convincing set of messages for the anime adaptation, as well. Here, Iroha wields a massive crossbow firing one of Kyōko’s spears with the intent of breaking down the front gates to the Wings of Magius’ compound.

  • With four of the five Holy Quintet members in play, Magia Record is beginning to feel like old times – the last time I saw Kyōko, Madoka, Homura and Sayaka together would’ve been in 2013’s Rebellion. It’s been some eight years since I watched Rebellion, and with news of a fourth movie coming out, it might be time for me to go back and go through everything again so I’m up to speed on things once the film does become available. I ended up watching through the original series during the summer of that year before catching the film in 2014, after the home release became available.

  • The sheer number of Witches and the incredible light show at Hotel Faint Hope brings to mind the level of chaos Full Frontal’s Neo Zeong was capable of dispensing during Gundam Unicorn‘s finale. If memory serves, Rebellion‘s home release arrived in March 2014, and I had the chance to write about the film shortly after its release. At the time, North American theatres had already screened the film (a pair of screenings were held locally at the largest cinema in town on December 9 and 15), but because of my priorities at the time, I elected not to go watch the movie in theatres. At this point in time, I had enrolled in open studies, hoping to use the time to take the courses needed to drive a medical school application and leave me with enough computer science options so I could enroll in graduate school if needed.

  • In the end, I ended up going with the graduate school route, and the work I did during the winter term was the precursor to the project I was involved with that summer. By March 2014, I was looking forwards to graduate school, having gained admittance owing to my previous work with my supervisor. When I wrote about Rebellion, there’d been one fewer unknown in my life. Back in Magia Recordi, Uwasa-Mami proves is a formidable foe to face: while her normal self is powerful, she’s by no means terrifying because she fights with restraint. Conversely, the Uwasa-Mami leaves nothing held back, and against her fellow Magical Girls, puts up an an an immense fight that forces the others to temporarily retreat.

  • While the hour is grim, Sana and Felicia’s return raises Iroha’s spirits. However, what ends up being the game-changer here is Mifuyu’s revelation that Magical Girls fused with Uwasa can yet be saved: the Uwasa is basically linked to the Magical Girl’s mind the same way their minds link up when Connect is engaged. Initiating this connection presumably causes the previous connection to be discarded, and the remaining Magical Girls are hedging their bets that by forcing the Uwasa to disengage, once they Connect and disengage, they might be able to bring Tsuruno and Mami back in this manner.

  • Looking back to late 2013 and early 2014, I would not have done anything differently: I understand that the choices I made meant I wasn’t able to watch the movies I wished to, and in this timeframe, I was quite miserable (exacerbated by the fact the individual I’d asked out was on the other side of the planet). However, while my hobbies and personal desires have conflicted with my longer-term goals, choosing the latter over the former has always been a no-brainer. I may miss out on things as a result of my choices, but I have no regrets because in the very long term, facing adversity earlier means having an easier time later.

  • The Cantonese have an idiom for this: 先苦後甜 (jyutping sin1 fu2 hau6 tim4, literally “bitter first, sweet after”): to handle the tough things now, when their scope is known, makes things easier later. The opposite, 先甜後苦, means to put pleasure ahead of work now, and going with this means that later down the line, one may have to bear the consequences. Once Mitama is convinced to give up the mysteries behind the Uwasa, the Wings of Magius lose several of their more powerful members: the information they had over to Iroha and the others proves instrumental in retrieving their friends.

  • I experienced a certain amount of satisfaction in watching Nemu and Tōka as their plan begins falling apart around them. This schadenfreude comes from the fact that, to me, Nemu and Tōka represent the worst excesses of the Madoka Magica community, and their imagery suggests at the ludicrousness of attempting to shoehorn academia into entertainment. “Depth” does not contribute to Madoka Magica‘s successes; the series was appealing for daring to be different and challenging its characters to situations that magical girl series previously did not cover.

  • Uwasa-Tsuruno exhibits the worst traits of her usual self, being excessively cheery and even declaring she’s shipshape despite her spine and limbs being bent at funny angles after Yachiyo’s first attempt to Connect with her. Yachiyo’s failure comes from her lacking a proper understanding of Tsuruno, and upon realising that Tsuruno had adopted a happy-go-lucky persona after the death of a fellow Magical Girls, determines that she’d been suffering all this time.

  • With this newfound knowledge, Yachiyo reattempts to connect with Tsuruno, and this time, she succeeds. The old Tsuruno is returned to them, separated from the monstrosity fused to her. Tsuruno tearfully admits that she’s by no means the mightiest Magical Girl, a moment that lends the finale its name. People often do try to tough things out, thinking they can sort problems without troubling others. This is something that I’m guilty of doing, as well: overconfidence in my ability to sort out a problem meant that I used to try and deal with things on my own. While I was able to get my issues sorted out, looking back, it would’ve been nice to have the extra help in my corner, and these days, I try to make my problems known before they hit critical mass.

  • While Kyōko had been using her spears to keep Uwasa-Mami busy, once Yachiyo shows that it is indeed possible to separate the Uwasa from their friends, Sayaka goes in and prepares to evict the Uwasa that’s fused with Mami. Magia Record‘s portrayal of Sayaka is most similar to how she was presented in Rebellion, and this characterisation was one I particularly enjoyed: after the suffering she encountered in Madoka Magica, it was pleasant to see that in a timeline where she’s not troubled with regret by becoming a Magical Girl, Sayaka is effective in her role.

  • Magia Record makes no effort to conceal its themes to viewers: together people are stronger, strong enough to fight off despair and succumbing to those who seek to manipulate them. Whereas Magia Record had underlined the dangers that cults pose to the vulnerable and did a wonderful job with showing why people subscribe to a cult, the anime does not cover why cult leaders do what they do: these megalomaniacs possess a Messiah Complex, the belief that they alone were destined to guide the world down a path of their choosing. Such thoughts may manifest as a result of schizophrenia or other mental health issues.

  • As such, I believe that there is a story behind why some people see themselves as being responsible for leading society: because Magia Record chose to end its second season with eight episodes, it is possible that this side of the story could be covered in the third season. For now, viewers longing to see Madoka and Iroha fighting alongside one another will be satisfied with this outcome. With their friends rescued, one final enemy remains: the contraption that the Wings of Magius have concocted in their plan to lure all Witches to their area. Madoka and Iroha Connect, wielding a massively powerful arrow that one-shots the device. In the aftermath, the Witches begin leaving the area, and the imminent threat posed by Embryo Eve’s access to the Witches is paused.

  • Mami comes to, a little disoriented, but otherwise, is fine. The effects of merging with an Uwasa are not entirely known, and it’s not explained directly as to whether or not a Magical Girl remembers her actions while fused with an Uwasa. One can imagine that it must be a painful existence, however – the Uwasa themselves are supposed to be manifestations of unverified rumours, and defeating them generally yields no prizes, speaking to the difficulty associated with halting the spread of misinformation. As such, if one’s fused with an Uwasa, it can be said that they bought into a lie that became a part of them, influencing their actions – on this assumption, a Magical Girl would remember their actions while in this state.

  • Connecting with a Magical Girl is similarly symbolic of being guided back to agency by friends. With Tsuruno back in full, Iroha, Yachiyo, Sana, Felicia, Mifuyu and Momoko are all smiles, and the smiles here are as bright as those seen back during Magia Record‘s first season, when everyone at Mikazuki Villa bought their own mugs. Yachiyo’s little smiles are especially pleasant to behold: she’s usually wearing a stern expression as a result of what she’s seen and experienced, so whenever she’s happy, the moment is one to remember.

  • The two teams bid one another farewell: for Madoka and the Holy Quintet, Walpurgisnacht has headed back to Mitakihara, so they intend to stop it before it can deal massive devastation to the city. Homura is understandably worried, since she’s seen countless timelines where Walpurgisnacht was unbeatable and caused Madoka’s death in some way. However, for Iroha and Mikazuki Villa, they have some unfinished business with Tōka and Nemu. However, Nemu has one final trick up her sleeve – she promises to explain everything to Iroha, who was able to enter the castle alone, and freezes time itself, bringing this second season to an end.

  • Because Iroha started Magia Record with the goal of finding her sister, Ui, the series isn’t done until she at least gets some form of closure in this area. The best case would naturally be that Iroha is reunited with Ui, but the series could yet throw a curveball our way (e.g. Ui was sacrificed and became Embryo Eve). At the time of writing, I have no idea when the third season is actually coming out – there have been some suggestions that it’ll release before the year is out, and assuming this to hold true, it means that the third season should be shorter than the second (which was in turn, shorter than the first). However, considering that the gap between Magia Record‘s first and second season lasted some sixteen months, the wait isn’t long at all, and I’m looking forwards to seeing how things wrap up here.

  • The revelation that there is going to be a fourth Madoka Magica movie means that at the end of the day, Magia Record is merely a sideshow, a warm-up act that creates excitement for the main event. In this area, Magia Record has succeeded, although I found that this spin-off also stands of its own merits, cleverly incorporating the story and mechanic from the game into a functioning story. The unusual airing schedule notwithstanding, Magia Record has done a solid job of continuing what started out as an adaptation of the mobile game’s story. With this post in the books, I’ve done all the blogging I can for this month. Entering October, I’m kicking the party off with a talk on Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory and the Halo: Infinite open beta. After that, since I am following far too many sequels (86 EIGHTY-SIXYakunara Mug Cup MoYūki Yūna is a Hero and Tawawa on Monday), the autumn blogging season looks positively like a nightmare; I am continuing with The Aquatope on White Sand and picking up Pride of Orange, as well.

Besides a powerful and effective portrayal of what compels people to join a cult, as well as providing viewers with one potential means of bringing people back from the brink, Magia Record‘s second season particularly excelled with its inclusion of characters from Madoka Magica. Madoka, Sayaka, Homura, Mami and Kyōko make full appearances here, firmly linking the original series with this spin-off, and it was pleasant to see old faces return in a new light. Madoka is a kind-hearted but decisive Magical Girl, lacking the doubts that some of her incarnations did. Sayaka is at peace with being a Magical Girl and does her best for those around her, while Homura is not yet jaded from lifetimes of defeat. Magia Record provides a different context, which is needed to give the original Magical Girls a chance to be their best selves, and indeed, seeing the old crew fight alongside Iroha and Yachiyo was remarkably fun to watch. Combat sequences for several of Magia Record‘s episodes rival the quality of what might be seen in a movie, and the process by which the mystery behind the Wings of Magius was unravelled was handled with finesse. Each episode passed by in the blink of an eye. The second season of Magia Record thus ends up being a superb continuation: now that the formalities of introducing everyone and the world are done, the spin-off really has a chance to explore another side of the Madoka Magica universe. Here in the second season, Magia Record is able to expertly combine a solid narrative together with a chance to see old and new characters fighting alongside one another, creating a story whose conclusion is one that I’m eagerly anticipating, and also setting the stage for the fourth Madoka Magica movie, Restoration of Walpurgis (Walpurgis no Kaiten), which acts as a sequel to 2013’s Rebellion. Rebellion had long been regarded as the story that put the series on uncertain terms, so being able to get a proper resolution to Madoka Magica would represent a long-awaited bit of closure to this series. Restoration of Walpurgis is still a ways off, so for the time being, it’s all eyes on Magia Record‘s third season, Dawn of a Shallow Dream: we are down to the last anime season of the year, so I imagine that this third season will release somewhere in late October or early November and consist of a small number of episodes, just enough to wrap up Iroha’s story and hopefully, allow her to reunite with Ui once more.

Magia Record Season Two: Review and Reflections After Three

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” –Oscar Wilde

Madoka, Homura and Sayaka face off against Patricia, a Witch occupying a labyrinth of endless blue skies and a yearning for the classroom. However, their combined strength is insufficient to beat it, and they retreat to fight another day. While Homura feels as though she’s a burden to the others, Sayaka is disheartened by the fact that the fate of all Magical Girls is to become a Witch, after witnessing Mami’s transformation. Madoka manages to convince Sayaka that she’s needed and the three beat Patricia. Homura begins to feel that she might have a chance of saving Madoka. Back in Kamihama, Yachiyo manages to learn from a Magius member that their headquarters is at the Hotel Faint Hope. Nemu assigns newly-minted Magius member Kuroe with hunting down an Uwasa and reveals that the Uwasa are artificially created. Frustrated at the lack of information, Yachiyo asks Mitama about the Magius and learn that a black feather is needed to enter Hotel Faint Hope. She encounters Kuroe and Mifuyu; while Kuroe flees, Yachiyo engages Mifuyu and nearly kills her while in her Doppel form, but holds back the last blow. She leaves Mifuyu and takes off after Kuroe, encountering the Eternal Sakura, where Iroha’s Doppel form is found. Both Kuroe and Yachiyo are engulfed and enter a fantasy world Iroha’s Doppel has created, and despite Yachiyo’s mistrust of Kuroe, the pair manage to defeat the Doppel and frees Iroha, who tearfully embraces Yachiyo. Meanwhile, Madoka prepares to head over to Kamihama and rescue Mami. We thus return to Magia Record‘s second season: the first season had ended with almost the whole of Mikazuki Villa joining the Wings of Magius, and Iroha had seemingly fallen to darkness. This occurred over a year and a half ago, so getting back into things proved to require a bit of reading, but overall, the second season reignites intrigue in the story by bringing Madoka and Homura back and establishing that whatever the Wings of Magius have planned out, it will backfire.

Madoka Magica had long suggested that all wishes have a price, and moreover, if something appears too good to be true, there will inevitably be a drawback. The Wings of Magius have been selling the idea that they can circumvent the risk of a Magical Girl becoming a Witch though a hitherto undisclosed means. This method manifests as having the Magical Girls become Doppels instead, and by becoming Doppels, their Soul Gems clear up. However, the method itself has its risks, with the risk of becoming addicted to the additional firepower potentially leading one to remain stuck in Doppel form being the least of a wielder’s concerns. On paper, the idea of using Uwasa to create barriers and allow the Doppels to manifest appear to have overcome the Incubator’s designs: Soul Gems are being purified, and Magical Girls can revert to their original states after exiting their Doppel forms. This is the out that many Magical Girls seek: previously, after learning that their fates were consigned to suffering, Magical Girls would succumb to despair and become full-fledged Witches themselves. Unfortunately, the secretive and shadowy nature of the Wings of Magius leads one to wonder if they’ve hidden something. Indeed, the cult-like atmosphere surrounding the Wings of Magius creates a feeling of unease, and while their words outwardly sound appealing, Yachiyo has things right: she adamantly refuses to join and believes that there must be another way. As it stands, the unknowns continue to linger around the Wings of Magius, and one cannot help but be curious as to what precisely will unfold once the Magius’ plans are out in the open.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas Sayaka and Mami had made an appearance in Magia Record‘s first season, this time around, Homura and Madoka herself also make an appearance, with Chiwa Saitō and Aoi Yūki reprising their respective roles. Besides Homura, I know Saitō as Gundam 00‘s Louise Halevy, Francesca Lucchini of Strike Witches and ARIA‘s Aika S. Granzchesta, while previous works I’ve seen Yūki in include Sora no Woto (Nöel Kannagi, Oregairu (Komachi Hikigaya) and Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Mami Nanami). It was brilliant to see everyone back, and Magia Record brings viewers back to a familiar fight, where the original Madoka Magica had Homura cutting her teeth in a fight against Patricia, a classroom-themed Witch.

  • In every timeline, the revelation that Magical Girls become Witches drive everyone over the edge and casts doubt in their fight, whereas prior to this knowledge, Magical Girls fight with a sense of duty and devotion, viewing themselves as heroes destined for great things. The idea that Magical Girls inevitably become Witches presents a very cynical world view, intended to act as a parallel for the Big Freeze hypothesis (if the universe has an open topology and the dark energy is a positive cosmological constant, it will continue expanding indefinitely and eventually, all matter will reach a state of equilibrium). Madoka Magica aimed to show that regardless of what the universe’s outcome is, there is still good worth fighting for.

  • However, the combination of vivid imagery and reference to one of the hypotheses on the universe’s ultimate fate led some fans to pull in everything they picked up from their undergraduate courses, shoehorning them into discussions even where the topic proved unrelated. I’ve found that many individuals bring up an -ism and define it only to show “the anime does this” without elaborating on how the sum of everything contributes to how well the series is able to present its themes. Literary analysis is more than regurgitating definitions, and it is rare that works of fiction focus on a single element; instead, authors often draw from a pool of principles and allow them to play out in fiction to indicate what they make of a set of concepts.

  • As such, in order to be useful, discussions bringing up philosophy, religion and psychology must consider them in the context of the characters, their interactions and decisions. It is not often that contemporary discussions were able to successfully do so: an article from Reel Rundown, for instance, is useless because it only fits observations from Madoka Magica into an -ism. While the author of that article might demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of the -isms, there is absolutely no effort to synthesise the findings, nor evaluate how well everything fits together: how does Gen Urobuchi’s perspective of certain philosophies impact where the story goes, and how well do the different concepts interact in Madoka Magica (e.g. do different -isms conflict, create positive feedback loops, etc.)?

  • For instance, in the aforementioned article, the author argues that Madoka is a tabla rasa because she starts out without any defined traits of her own. However, this is as far as it gets. The “so what?” aspect is noticeably absent. This assertion only shows that the author knows what the blank slate is, but never specifies how this is relevant to Madoka Magica (e.g. “it allows Madoka to assess information as it becomes available and draw upon her own convictions to make a decision without bias resulting from prior knowledge”). In order for this sort of thing to offer value to a reader, one must go a step further. I find that -isms are only useful when they are used to answer the “so what” aspect in an anime.

  • One candidate for an answer I’d look for is that Madoka’s own decisions signify that, if Madoka Magica is about being mindful of one’s wishes, then the naïveté Madoka brings to the table is important because she is able to be unbiased, and therefore, this is what influences her final wish to wipe all Witches out. This final step, in connecting the dots, is what a lot of the period discussions is missing – it may sound impressive, but offers no insight into what the individual got out of something. One could cover this aspect of Madoka’s character without explicitly mentioning the concept of tabla rasa directly, and in fact, I prefer to explain what I made of things in layman’s terms purely because it’s more accessible this way.

  • The first episode to Magia Record‘s second season brought back a large number of memories, as I recalled that the reason I was able to enjoy Madoka Magica to the extent that I did was that I watched the series for myself three years after the bulk of the discussions took place, after all of the internet was ablaze with spoilers and conversation. Without this impediment, I was able to see things for myself and draw my own conclusions. To this day, I hold that possessing formal education in some of the topics Madoka Magica is not a requirement, and is at best, a “nice to have”.

  • Magia Record, on the other hand, never saw discussions quite to the same level of intensity; the anime is based off a mobile game, and shortly after airing, people became more interested in what mechanics would be portrayed, as well as where the story might head. Because Madoka Magica introduced the idea of infinite timelines, it was possible to fit Homura’s attempts onto at least one of these timelines. The Homura here seems to be a cross between the novice Homura who utilised her time magic to help Madoka and Sayaka score their first kill, and the cynical, worn Homura who’d lived a lifetimes’ worth of attempts to save Madoka.

  • Sayaka had always been my favourite of the Magical Girls in Madoka Magica because I related to her particularly well: her original wish was to heal Kyōsuke’s hand and listen to him play again. However, when his mobility is restored, he begins developing feelings for Sayaka and Madoka’s friend, Hitomi. While contemporary discussions painted Hitomi as the villain, I completely disagree with that assessment: Sayaka’s decisions were her own, and her fate was meant to outline how even with supernatural intervention, matters of the heart are not so easily resolved.

  • When Madoka manages to bring Sayaka out of her slump, Sayaka is able to lead her team to victory: I was particularly amused by Sayaka grabbing Madoka and Homura like ragdolls and using her speed in conjunction with Homura’s time magic and Madoka’s magic arrows top overwhelm Patricia. Magia Record allows players to approach their foes with some level of creativity, and while the game is still going strong in Japan, the English-language servers shut down back in September to general disappointment. This does demonstrate the dangers of investing so much time into always-online games, and I am aware that games like The Division 2 are subject to the same risks.

  • While at her worst, Sayaka can be seen as the tragic heroine whose desire to do good backfired, at her best, Sayaka is bold, courageous and kind, doing everything she can in order to do right by those around her. As Magia Record suggests, Sayaka is the sort of person who likes to be depended on, and while she eventually succumbs to despair in Madoka Magia, when the right people are in her corner, Sayaka can also lift up those around her. Here, after Madoka reminds Sayaka that she’s still needed, Sayaka picks herself up and spurs on the other two to fight as a team.

  • The rumours surrounding Kamihama are such that news of there being something to save Magical Girls, and the fact Mami was last seen in Kamihama, motivates Madoka to check it out for herself. This setup could mean that Madoka and Iroha will meet for the first time, and contribute to the effort to thwart whatever plans the Magius have. While we’ve seen allies fall to the Magius, and the fact that the Magius’ goals seem noble enough, the fact that the game has players fighting Magius-aligned Witches indicate that something is off.

  • This is nowhere more apparent than with Yachiyo, who continues to pursue leads on her own even as Mikazuki Villa empties out. Yachiyo is a powerful Magical Girl, but her biggest weakness is a fear that people important to her will leave her. This is why Yachiyo is so reserved around others, and prefers working alone. However, when she met Iroha, her world changed completely, and Magia Record has her seeking out Iroha because they’d made a promise to one another. For Iroha, Yachiyo has no qualms about cutting straight to the chase, and interrogating Magius’ lower ranking members gives her a lead.

  • Shortly after Magia Record ended, I made a parody featuring the audio from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, featuring Hux’s speech overlaid on top of Touka’s speech. While I found the juxtaposition amusing, it is evident that the rest of the community found my sense of humour difficult to follow, as evidenced by the low engagement with my video. I’m not too bothered, though – said video only took five minutes to make.

  • Returning to the Coordinator Headquarters (unrelated to Gundam SEED‘s Coordinators, and unfortunately, not known as the Sanctum Sanctorium), Yachiyo questions Mitama for information surrounding the Doppels: Mitama is strictly neutral at the present, refusing to give Yachiyo more information than is necessary, but I imagine that a time will come when Mitama might be forced to pick a side. It’s a shame that Momoko and the others have succumbed to the Magius’ ideology: I was rather fond of the group of Witches that had formed during Magia Record‘s first season.

  • Whereas Yachiyo once considered Mifuyu a friend, ideological differences drive a wedge between the two, and it does feel like Yachiyo is made to bear the consequences of watching a friend be taken in by a cult. While a little bit of logic will reveal that the cult’s beliefs are flawed, inconsistent and contradictory, they do have a particular talent for obfuscating reality and making it seem as though they could deliver one the world on a silver platter. Magius’ promise of being able to save Magical Girls from their fates is a tempting one, but since the Madoka Magica universe has empathetically stated that all promises come with consequences, one cannot help but feel that whatever Magius is doing will only cause harm.

  • Yachiyo’s fight with Mifuyu has both manifesting their Doppels in combat: if memory serves, Doppels greatly bolster a Magical Girl’s capabilities. In the games, the Doppel is similar to Street Fighter‘s revenge bar in that, upon sustaining enough damage, players can tap into their anger and unleash a powerful attack capable of massive damage. In the anime, Doppels are hinted as being dangerous to wield, and when Yachiyo brings her Doppel to the party, she very nearly loses control, only restraining herself before any serious harm comes to Mifuyu.

  • After letting Mifuyu go, Yachiyo continues following Kuroe until she encounters the Eternal Sakura, where Iroha is located. Kuroe was an anime-original character who assisted Iroha early on, but now, she’s become a member of the Wings of Magius, and answers to Nemu. Upon finding Iroha, Kuroe and Yachiyo are both engulfed by Iroha’s Doppel, whereupon they both awaken in a dream-world Iroha’s Doppel has created.

  • One aspect about Magia Record that is not well-discussed is the soundtrack: while Yuki Kajiura create a legendary collection of incidental music for Madoka MagicaMagia Record is composed by Takumi Ozawa. Consequently, the tone and style is completely different: Kajiura’s soundtrack is an immensely encompassing composition, speaking to the horrors of battle, the powers Magical Girls possess and lighter moments everyone spends off the battlefield. By comparison, Ozawa’s songs have a slightly more contemplative and mysterious tone about them, relating to how Magia Record is slower to surrender its secrets.

  • However, when it comes to combat music, Ozawa manages to recreate the style that Kajiura had established: Ozawa’s songs are able to retain the Madoka Magica feel, utilising familiar motifs, while at the same time, give a hint of Ozawa’s own interpretation of the universe and its aural aesthetic. As such, Magia Record does feel like a modernised Madoka Magica. However, while the anime may be using newer animation techniques, some things don’t change. Surreal imagery has always been an integral part of the Madoka Magica universe, and when Kuroe takes Yachiyo to the hospital, she finds a small city in the room that Iroha’s younger sister, Ui, is assigned to.

  • The surest sign that this world is not real was the fact that Iroha’s replaced Ui with a stuffed bear. There was a melancholy in watching this, and like Yachiyo, viewers can swiftly put two and two together to realise that Iroha’s dream world is deliberately made to suppress her pain – the first season, after all, had Iroha come to Kamihama with the sole purpose of locating Ui. Such a strong purpose is not so easily lost, and one can surmise that the Iroha of this dream world is not the Iroha from season one.

  • The small doorway behind Ui’s bed is adorable, and also speaks to the surrealism within Magia Record – it leads to a strange field, yet another mystery within an enigma. Yachiyo declines Kuroe’s help, intending to find Iroha herself. Despite Kuroe’s affiliation with the Wings of Magius, I suspect that Kuroe’s friendship with Iroha may win out yet. It is still a bit early in Magia Record to determine if this is the case or not, but in a series that has previously been full of surprises, I’ve learnt it’s easier not get too invested in speculations on what might happen next, especially where the series could pull the rug out from under readers.

  • In Iroha’s Doppel, old faces like Sana, Tsuruno and Felicia make a return – one of the joys about Magia Record‘s first season was that it brought a group of disparate Magical Girls together and allowed them a modicum of happiness. The mugs that everyone went shopping for act as a symbol of their friendship, a sign that even in a world as turbulent as this, it was possible to nonetheless share moments of peace together. Iroha greatly valued this, explaining why her Doppel would craft such an environment. Friendship is indeed something that is to be treasured, and I’ve come to accept that I’m the sort of person who doesn’t have a large number of friends, instead, I have a small group of people I trust implicitly. Being apart from everyone, and then meeting them again has led me to appreciate our time together doubly – earlier today, I had the chance to hang out with a mate from my health science days. I’m glad to hear he’s been well, and that we’re holding out (even thriving) in these uncertain times.

  • Our evening began with katsu at a local joint, where we both ordered their assorted katsu special (hire cut, cheese and ebi). The dinner combo also came with a side of yam fries and a drink. This proved to be a fantastic way to try out a little of everything on the menu. The hire (tenderloin) proved flavourful, and I’m a big fan of prawns; both katsu were delicious as expected. Most surprising of all was the cheese katsu: consisting of mozzarella cheese wrapped in a thin layer of pork loin, I had imagined this one to be quite rich and heavy, but the cheese was very light despite being so flavourful. After dinner ended, we agreed to a walk around the riverside park to burn off dinner. We exchanged work stories, thoughts on the government’s handling of current issues and the MCU’s latest works. Our discussions wandered towards what one can do with three weeks of vacation time. I had intended on staying at a ryōkan in the future, but on suggestion from my friend, a local road trip or visit to Winnipeg doesn’t sound bad, either. We were close to the area where the office for my first job was, and out of curiosity, I suggested we wandered over to see how the old building was doing.

  • To my utter surprise, the building was demolished, and in fact, the rubble is still being cleared. My friend joked that in my absence, the company had literally been run into the ground. I laughed; while the situation had been a little more complex, this was not an unfair assessment. Three years earlier to this day, I’d be in Denver right now after a day’s worth of work on chasing bugs in a Xamarin app. While I learnt a great deal from this project, it was utterly exhausting, and the time spent on it meant effort was directed away from my old startup, which contributed to its demise. On the topic of software development, I finished off a six-hour course on React development earlier today so that I’m better versed for some of the work I’ll be looking at. This course comes with a LinkedIn Learning certificate, which is cool, but this certificate really means “I’ve familiarised myself with the basics and are ready to begin my journey” – I’m quite excited to give things a whirl despite knowing that I’m a novice in React, and the course also demonstrated how versatile JavaScript is: with Express and MongoDB, one could easily spin up a server and the endpoints to communicate with things.

  • I see some interesting possibilities in this, since learning a little NodeJS would allow me to really build iOS apps entirely on my own. For now, I’ll focus on what I need for work: React is the priority, and while I won’t be as insightful or efficient as I am with Swift, knowing the basics behind a ReactJS application will hopefully give me the confidence to contribute meaningfully to this project. Back in Magia Record, Yachiyo is baffled by the mysteries within Iroha’s Doppel and ends up deducing that the Doppel is suppressing the more painful moments in Iroha’s life, rather similarly to how precisely how half her home was vacant. Without any more answers, Yachiyo destroys the doll, setting off the Doppel’s insecurities. Kuroe had returned to the others while Yachiyo was searching in a different region, and this action destroys the illusion: the Doppel becomes hostile as the dream world begins falling apart.

  • One would therefore suppose that punching through a delusion is to hit directly at the source of the problem; while initially, it’s just Yachiyo defending against Iroha’s Doppel, Kuroe soon shows up with the assist. The environment inside Iroha’s Doppel lacks the same sense of hostility as do many of the Witches’ labyrinths, and one can suppose that this is because it’s set in an open field, rather than a location without solid ground. Assuming this to be the case, it would suggest that Iroha’s despair means that she subconsciously desires a world where she can spend time with those dear to her.

  • During the fight, Kuroe chucks her batons at Iroha’s Doppel in an attempt to help out with the fighting. These weapons are misidentified as sceptres by some (they’re too short to be sceptres), and the way Kuroe wields them suggests that they’re actually Stielhandgranate rather than batons. Once enough damage is done, the dream world begins collapsing, and both Kuroe and Yachiyo return to the real world.

  • With Iroha liberated from her dream, she reunites with Yachiyo, and the two promise to never leave one another’s sides again. For Yachiyo, this is a major moment, since it shows her that those who leave her have a chance of returning – it did feel like Iroha and Madoka are characters that have a serious but kind individual doting over them (Yachiyo and Homura, respectively). These parallels would suggest that Homura’s endless efforts in saving Madoka might not be in vain, although for now, the joy surrounding Yachiyo and Iroha’s reunion is short lived, since the Magius pose a nontrivial threat to existence.

  • This post comes out just ahead of the fourth episode’s airing: I’m hearing that this season will be eight episodes in length, and that there’s going to be a third season, as well. Because of the unexpected airing pattern, I’ll aim to return after this season’s finale airs to offer my thoughts on where thing are, and then subsequently determine where to go from there. For the present, however, I will enjoy the fact that Yachiyo and Iroha are reunited; with whatever is coming up, I imagine that Yachiyo could use every bit of support she can get to thwart whatever the Magius have cooked up.

The Madoka Magica series has a reputation for allegedly demanding a formal background in religion, philosophy and classical literature amongst viewers: some individuals suppose that one needs a minimum familiarity with Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Locke to even begin appreciating what the series is doing, along with several courses in the nature of religion, its role as a response to existential questions, and the relationship of religion to contemporary thought and culture. During my time as an undergraduate student, I never took any courses dealing with such materials, and it would be expected that someone like myself would be completely unable to comprehend the messages in Madoka Magica. I ended up watching Madoka Magica after the final year of my undergraduate program ended, and when the series ended, the core message was really just “be mindful of what you wish for”, a moral that children are constantly reminded of, because every wish, when improperly thought out, can create unforeseen problems. While an enjoyable series, Madoka Magica certainly didn’t place unreasonable expectations on viewers. Magia Record is similar in this regard: the series similarly is forwards about its themes, and instead, creates suspense by slowly teasing at what’s coming. At least, this is what the first season was doing; here in the second season, it does appear that the curtain is slowly rolling back, and viewers will have a chance to see what Magius has planned out. Whatever lies ahead, I imagine that Yachiyo’s desire to stop Magius will turn out to be well-founded: she has, after all, considerable experience as a Magical Girl, and her conviction is strong. Having saved Iroha and demonstrating she does care for those around her, Yachiyo now has an ally in her corner, and it will be interesting to see how Yachiyo, Iroha, Homura and Madoka get along when their paths inevitably collide as they struggle to accomplish their goals in a universe where desires often morph into calamity.