The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Iroha Tamaki

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.

Magia Record: A Review and Reflections on the First Season

“Today is the end of the Incubators, the end of a regime that acquiesces to disorder! At this very moment, in a city far from here, Incubators lie to magical girls while secretly supporting the treachery of the Law of Thermodynamics. This fierce machine, which you have built, upon which we stand, will bring an end to the system, to these false gods! All remaining magical girls will bow to the Wings of Magius and will remember this as the last day of the Incubators!” –Satomi Touka’s Final Speech

When Iroha learns the disappearance of individuals in Kamihama might be tied to the rumours that are floating around town, she is put in touch with Tsuruno Yui and learns of the Seance Shrine rumour, which alleges it is possible to meet with long-lost people here. With Yachiyo, Iroha enters the shrine’s labyrinth and comes face-to-face with a false Ui, while Yachiyo meets Mifuyu. They manage to escape, when Iroha manifests an unknown power that destroys the shrine Witch. Mami confronts Iroha and reluctantly leaves after warning Tsuruno not to trust Yachiyo. Later, Iroha encounters Felicia Mitsuki and the Lucky Owl Water: when she reveals what happened to Yachiyo and Tsuruno, the four hunt down the source of the water and discover an Uwasa, physical manifestations of rumours, as well as a mysterious faction known as the Wings of Magius. Defeating the Amane twins and the Uwasa in combat, Felicia subsequently joins Iroha and the other: Iroha moves into the Mikazuki Villa with the others and transfers to Kamihama Middle School. Here, she hears about the Electric Wave Girl rumour, which corroborates with a series of strange messages she’s received on her phone. With the others’ support, Iroha sets out to investigate and discovers the magical girl Sana. She manages to free Sana, who joins their group. When the girls get a mysterious invitation to the Memory Museum to learn about why Kamihama is where magical girls are “saved”, they attend a lecture held by one Touka Satomi, who explains that in Kamihama, she’s devised a system to prevent magical girls from transforming into Witches. Yachiyo arrives and declares that she’s disbanding the Mikazuki Villa team – her original wish was to survive, and people around her seem to meet unfortunate ends. Iroha refuses, and promises to stay with her. Their exit is blocked by Mami, who begins engaging them in combat. Sayaka Miki arrives to buy them some time, but the ferocity of Mami’s assaut causes the museum to collapse. Meanwhile, Tsuruno and Rena have joined the Wings of Magius. This is Magia Record‘s anime adaptation, or rather, its first season, which ended rather abruptly and while there is a continuation to things, the second season’s release date remains unknown at present.

The second season will doubtlessly answer the lingering questions the first half of Magia Record had raised: insofar, Ui Tamaki remains as much of a mystery as the Dyatlov Pass Incident, and Iroha is no closer to finding her. However, despite this, Magia Record‘s first half does a fine job of compelling viewers to stick around for the second act: the shadowy Wings of Magius and their plan to “save” all magical girls from a terrible fate are now explained, and while their intentions are dubious, at least viewers know what their goals are. Magia Record also establishes a rather curious theme in its first half: the Uwasa themselves, borne from rumours and whispers, act as a metaphor for the sheer quantity of misinformation, colloquially “fake news”, that exists in the world. These Uwasa resemble Witches, causing harm to the people who encounter them, and like Witches, are defeated by magical girls. However, there is a caveat: destroying an Uwasa drops no Grief Seeds, and so, the magical girls fighting them, though duty-bound to do so, gain nothing from engaging them in return. This is a vivid and clever representation of the damage misinformation can deal, as well as how fighting misinformation is a thankless task despite the challenges involved. Moreover, as Magia Record progresses and characters begin swearing allegiance to the Wings of Magius, including Momoko and even Tsuruno: while on first glance, what the Wings of Magius offers makes sense, their cult-like tenour and lack of transparency is troubling, suggesting that beyond a seemingly desirable outcome, there must also be some sort of trade-off in exchange for accepting this power.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Iroha’s pursuit of information leads her to Tsuruno Yui, a cheerful magical girl who wields flaming fans in combat and fancies herself as the Mightiest Avenger™. Her family was once powerful and respected, but lost much of that prestige. She runs the Banbanzai Chinese restaurant that specialises in making Cantonese cuisine, and when Iroha arrives, Tsuruno whips out what appears to be Banbanzai’s House Specials: beyond the ramen that Iroha ordered, Tsuruno also cooks chop suey, fried rice and fried wontons for her. Iroha finds their fare to be strictly average, and I take this to mean “comparable to restaurants in Hong Kong”.

  • Just to put things in perspective, weaker Cantonese restaurants in Calgary are on par with Hong Kong restaurants, and the better ones surpass those of Hong Kong. While Tsuruno is unable to help Iroha with obtaining any information on Ui’s whereabouts, she puts Iroha in touch with a close friend and calls in a favour. It turns out this friend is Yachiyo, and she’s investigating rumours surrounding a “Séance Shrine”, where people can allegedly reconnect with missing people. After going around Kamihama searching for clues and engaging a Witch in combat, the girls come up short.

  • Like its predecessor, Magia Record uses repetition in its imagery. If I had to guess, I would say that having the seemingly normal conversations of the protagonists set beside unusual sights, characterised by iteration at scale, is probably a representation of absurdism in social constructs: adults in the world of Madoka Magica, and by extension, Magia Record, have a limited presence and tend to be completely focused on their own problems, leaving no adult guidance for the magical girls. To someone like Yachiyo, then, the world is unreasonable and not to be taken seriously.

  • Upon realising the Séance Shrine is likely only active at night, Iroha, Yachiyo and Tsuruno returns to the first shrine. They successfully enter, and both encounter someone important to them: Iroha finds Ui, and Yachiyo encounters Mifuyu, a friend from long ago. However, both are only crude facsimiles, and it turns out the Séance Shrine is another Uwasa. During the combat, Iroha uses a Grief Seed to restore Yachiyo, but succumbs to despair during the fight as a result of not having purified her own Soul Gem. In the ensuing chaos, a mysterious power awakens in Iroha that allows her to destroy the Séance Shrine.

  • Iroha’s unknown power begins to engage in blue-on-blue, but Mami Tomoe arrives and stops its rampage. She is hostile to Iroha, suspecting her of being a Witch, and warns Tsurono not to trust Yachiyo before disappearing into the night. Mami of Madoka Magica had been presented as being composed and confident, taking Madoka and Sayaka under her wing, Magia Record‘s Mami is much less friendly: her attitude towards Yachiyo is reminiscent of how she regarded Homura, and because her intentions are unclear at this point, it is difficult to determine who’s an ally.

  • While seeking out more information about Ui, Iroha comes upon the “Lucky Owl Water”, which is supposed to grant the user a fixed amount of good luck and must be replenished daily, or the user will face bad luck equal to the good luck they had earlier. It is here that the rumours are given a formal name, Uwasa: while still a threat, they are unusual in not dropping Grief Seeds. After spending a day with Felicia Mitsuki, Iroha and Felicia come face-to-face with the enigmatic Wings of Magius,

  • Kyouko Sakura makes a reappearance in Magia Record, being enticed to hunt the more powerful Witches of Kamihama. In Madoka Magica, she was a lone-wolf who preferred fighting Witches on her own and maximising her reward, as a way of getting back at the world that took much from her. She seems quite unconcerned with the Wings of Magius and the rumours surrounding Kamihama.

  • It turns out that Mifuyu had joined the Wings of Magius; she attempts to coerce Yachiyo into joining as well, but Yachiyo refuses. The remark I raised earlier surrounding repetition as a metaphor for absurdity is reinforced with the Wings of Magius’ appearance, and all of the lower-ranked members are clad in the same black cloaks. By deliberately choosing to frame the Wings of Magius as being shrouded in secrecy and concealment, the viewers’ immediate response is one of mistrust and unease.

  • Felicia is, in a way, similar to Kyouko in that she fights for herself, but her perspectives begin shifting after meeting Iroha. Fighting with a large hammer, Felicia charges into situations that place her and her teammates in danger: she’s motivated by revenge and desires nothing more than to smash every Witch herself for taking her old life from her. Meeting Iroha convinces her that she’s not alone, and that she has a place in the world: she subsequently agrees to lodge with the others at the Mikazuki Villa, and takes up a job at Banbanzai.

  • Yachiyo’s methodical research of rumours and their resulting Uwasa bring to mind the process of someone who is dedicated towards lessening the flow of misinformation. Magia Record, with its origins in a mobile game, dates back to 2017: at that point in time, the problems and dangers associated with misinformation, colloquially “fake news”, had already been a problem; the impact of misinformation is nontrivial, and while both individuals and organisations have used their platforms to spread misinformation since ancient times, the rise of social media and digital communication makes it possible to reach large audiences quickly, amplifying the damage that lies can do. I personally prefer calling misinformation as such despite the increased number of characters taken to type it: the term “fake news” is a contaminated phrase frequently used by a politician I’m not fond of to the point of losing all meaning.

  • Yachiyo bears similarity to Homura in many ways: both have accumulated an incredible amount of experience, and both are taciturn individuals with not a whole lot to say. Similarly, having both experienced loss previously, both are reserved and distant. In spite of this, I found Yachiyo’s character a lot more likeable than Homura’s, and there’s one simple reason for that: Yachiyo is shown to be smiling at several points in Magia Record.

  • When Iroha begins receiving mysterious messages on her phone, she is compelled to investigate, but the others ask her not to do so. The latest rumours to manifest include an unknown space called the “Endless Solitude”, “Invisible Girl” and the “Electric Wave Girl”: all three are connected, and while Iroha is tempted to respond, it isn’t until Yachiyo and the others give her support that she goes ahead with looking into things.

  • In the labyrinth of the Uwasa known as the Endless Solitude, Iroha meets Sana, another magical girl who was so down-trodden at home that she wished to be invisible to all others. Here with the Uwasa, Sana found serenity, but when another magical girl allied with the Wings of Magius appears and begins attacking, Sana and the Uwasa say their farewells before exiting the labyrinth.

  • Back outside, the Wings of Magius have also arrived: twins Tsukuyo and Tsukasa Amane have long made an appearance representing the Wings of Magius. Both are haughty individuals who are utterly convinced that what the Wings of Magius are doing is correct, and appear to have the ability to control Witches. While I’ve not shown any fights here in this post, the fight sequences of Magia Record are detailed and well-choreographed, matching the quality of the fight scenes of Rebellion.

  • On the whole, the visual quality of Magia Record has been consistently good throughout the anime’s run. Environments are incredibly detailed, from cityscapes surrounding Kamihama to the interior of the Mikazuki Villa, giving them a lifelike sense. By comparison, cityscapes and interiors of Madoka Magica‘s original TV incarnation feels positively sterile. The dramatic differences in graphics has one curious side-effect: anime that use a more minimalistic art style in its backgrounds tend to emphasise character growth or their experiences, suggesting that the rest of the world isn’t quite as relevant, whereas highly-detailed artwork sells the idea that the characters are an integral part of their world.

  • Unlike its predecessor, Magia Record has a large number of characters. However, their introduction into the main story comes naturally enough, with everyone being given enough time together to really make them feel at home. With Sana’s addition to Mikazuki Villa, Iroha does feel like she’s part of an established magical girl team, and here, everyone goes out to buy personalised mugs, which would really give the Mikazuki Villa a sense of home. Seeing Yachiyo’s smile here really drives home the idea that she’s happy to have people around again.

  • In a world where happiness is transient, and where suffering is inevitable, such quiet moments accentuate the idea that everyday moments aren’t something to take for granted. As life at Mikazuki Villa settles into a comfortable routine, a gentle and relaxing incidental piece accompanies the scene; Magia Record‘s soundtrack is as enjoyable as Yuki Kaijura’s original compositions, and Ozawa Takumi’s soundtrack accompanies the anime very well. So far, only one of the soundtracks have been released, and I imagine more of the incidental music will release along with the BD volumes at a later date.

  • Witches can strike anytime, anywhere: while shopping for coasters, Iroha, Tsuruno, Felicia and Sana encounter a Witch. They quickly defeat the Witch and are on their way, planning a special surprise for Yachiyo. Sana is especially excited: having spent the past several years alone, she’s come to regard her roommates at Mikazuki Villa as family, stopping briefly at her old home for a final farewell of sorts. While the girls had an elaborate setup for giving the coasters to Yachiyo, Mifuyu suddenly appears at Mikazuki Villa with an invitation for Iroha and the others.

  • Mifuyu is recruiting and attempts to sway Iroha over to the Wings of Magius. When Yachiyo returns, she immediately tosses Mifuyu from Mikazuki Villa: though the two might have been friends once, an ideological distance now separates the two. Magia Record keeps Yachiyo’s past under wraps until the end of the series, and at the time of airing, the only hint viewers really have to Yachiyo’s past was that she and Mifuyu once fought side-by-side until something led Mifuyu to join the Wings of Magius.

  • While Yachiyo is against it, she reluctantly allows Iroha and the others to attend the lecture at the so-called Memory Museum, which is an archive of all the magical girls’ memories. This building resembles the Michigan Central Station in Detroit, which was once a passenger rail station that opened in 1914 and was in use until 1988. The building remained abandoned until 2010, when restoration work began, and in 2018, the Ford Motor Company purchased the building for re-development as a mixed-use site. With its distinct Beaux-Arts Classical architecture, the building has been featured in several films, including Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and in Magia Record, a look-alike of the building acts as the Memory Museum.

  • With the Madoka Magica community so committed to details, I am actually quite surprised that no one has once compared the Memory Museum to the Michigan Central Station. It’s a rainy day that the girls step out into, and while they head off to learn more about magical girls, Momoko reveals to Rena the truth behind Yachiyo: Momoko had once fought alongside Yachiyo, but after the girls became aware that their Soul Gems could be destroyed, killing them, and that spent Soul Gems mutated into Grief Seeds, their faith in Kyubey’s system was shattered.

  • This outcome is common knowledge for anyone who’d seen Madoka Magica nine years ago, but for newcomers, it can be a bit of a surprise. I would liken Madoka Magica‘s contribution to anime as being similar to Halo: Combat Evolve‘s contribution to gaming with its surprises. In both cases, the surprise appeared unexpectedly and comes contrary to expectations. The suddenness of the revelation, that magical girls are fated to become Witches in Madoka Magica, was out of left field and raised the stakes for Madoka Magica, just as the Flood did in Halo. Thus, Magia Record and Halo 2, being sequels, still needed to reintroduce this element, but because viewers and players respectively would’ve been familiar with this twist, it is no longer a surprise and becomes an expected part of the story’s progression.

  • Touka Satomi is one of the girls that Iroha had seen in her dreams. A child prodigy, she directs the lecture that explains the relationship between magical girls and Witches. I found it to be a rather stuffy and patronising lecture – Touka’s presentation on magical girls and Witches is almost certainly done in a way as to satirise the seriousness and lengths that the anime community went towards analysing Madoka Magica when it came out: the underlying principles of the anime are simple enough, and giving a post-secondary style lecture in the show itself is Magia Record poking fun at those who do believe that Madoka Magica and its spin-offs demanded a vigourous academic approach.

  • The feeling of being talked down to that viewers may experience when watching Touka speak, then, is the exact same feeling that more moderate fans of Madoka Magica experience when reading through endless pages of half-baked attempts to tie philosophy and psychology into explaining Madoka Magica. Most of these discussions are incomplete or outright wrong, since those that pulled in philosophical readings and psychology textbooks to try and predict character dynamics and actions ended up lacking the fundamentals to properly use these resources. That is to say, a large number of the analysis and speculation entries on Madoka Magica Wikis out there are unnecessary and won’t help one gain a deeper insight into the series.

  • As such, I’ve never bothered taking the walls of text out there as seriously as their authors demanded. Occam’s Razor definitely applies to Madoka Magica, and contrary to what some think, a graduate degree is not the minimum requirements towards enjoying Madoka Magica: back in Magia Record, Iroha learns that Mifuyu, after succumbing to despair, manifested a Doppel rather than becoming a full on Witch, and upon learning that Touka had created a system to undermine the Incubators, joined the Wings of Magius after seeing the merits of such a system. Shortly after awakening, Iroha demonstrates that she’s improved as a fighter: she is able to one-shot an Uwasa with her wrist-mounted crossbow now.

  • Yachiyo arrives and retrieves Iroha: Iroha refuses to accept Yachiyo’s aim of disbanding their team and promises to be with her always. The two prepare to exfil from the Memory Museum, but find themselves in a confrontation with Mami Tomoe, who has embraced the Wings of Magius fully now. Because she is looking after Iroha, Yachiyo is in no shape to fight Mami, and it is only Sayaka Miki’s arrival that buys the two time to get clear. In the original Madoka Magica, Sayaka is often seen by those same “analysts” as the series’ true enemy, whose altruism cost her dearly, but I disagree with this assessment; the motivation behind Sayaka’s wish is an honest and honourable one, even if it was not well thought-out. In Magia Record, Sayaka is not weighed down by her wish.

  • Realising her purpose and goals have amounted to naught, she succumbs to despair, but Touka’s system prevents Mami from becoming a full Witch: partial manifestations of despair are known as Doppels in Magia Record, whereupon the wielder can temporarily use them to increase their combat output. For Gundam fans, Doppels are equivalent to using Trans-Am or the NT-D. Mami’s Doppel is particularly powerful: since Doppels amplify a given magical girl’s power nine times, Mami’s already-formidable firepower is enhanced to the point of ludicrousness. She fires off a shot with a similar yield to a small tactical nuke, and while Sayaka is able to stop it, the initial impact tears her arms off: millisecond after she comes in contact with the shot, the flesh is sheared off her arms, exposing the bone that is splintered away. Thanks to her uncommonly strong healing factor born from her wish, she’s able to instantly regenerate, and she manages to deflect the shot, where it detonates harmlessly.

  • While Sayaka and Yachiyo engage the deranged Mami, Touka prepares to give her speech about the merits of the Wings of Magius. From a certain point of view, what the Wings of Magius are doing makes sense: Touko’s using her own skill to circumvent, to subvert (take stock, Tropers, this is the correct usage of the term) the system that the Incubators have created. In accepting Touka’s system, magical girls are spared from the curse of turning into a Witch. This is what “magical girls who come to Kamihama will be saved” means. However, this is all we know of the system insofar, and there has to be a caveat of some sort, although what this is remains something to be presented at a later date.

  • It turns out Kanae and Tsuruno have already have joined Touka’s cause, with Momoko on the precipice of joining, as well: when the truth behind magical girls was revealed to her, Momoko was shown as having the strongest reaction. Touka’s speech brings to mind General Hux’s speech from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and for me, the most sobering aspect of this final speech was the sheer numbers in the crowd listening to Touka. My remarks about repetition in Magia Record stand: the situation that Iroha and Yachiyo, who refuse to join the Wings of Magius, really hits home now, and it becomes very clear that the two now are more alone than ever in their quest to discover the truth.

  • What’s more, Mami has pulled Iroha into the abyss in the aftermath of their fight, and Sayaka extricates Yachiyo from the battlefield, feeling it prudent to retreat now and live to fight another day. Magia Record was a compelling ride throughout its run, and the first season was really more of a first act: while as a standalone season, Magia Record leaves viewers with more questions than answers, knowing there will be a second season to wrap things up helps considerably. As such, since we’re really only half-way through Magia Record, I do not feel it to be fair to assess an incomplete anime with a verdict. Instead, I will note that I will be back, once the continuation airs, to provide a more definitive verdict on Magia Record. With this, all of the series I were actively following for the winter 2020 season are in the books. I will be going through both Bofuri and Nekopara at some point in the future, but for now, I have plans to write about the spring season’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Oregairu‘s third season in some capacity.

While Magia Record‘s closing at present understandably prompts a reaction of surprise and disappointment, the revelation that there is to be a second season changes things: the rate of progression of events and lack of focus on Iroha’s main purpose (i.e. finding Ui) are satisfactorily explained by the fact that we are really only at Magia Record‘s halfway point, and as such, criticism turns to understanding. Magia Record had, after all, been a very enjoyable watch during its run, with episodic mysteries to captivate the viewer on a weekly basis. While Magia Record did appear to be losing its focus as it continued to run, that the thirteenth episode is only the first act’s ending means that the choice of pacing and narrative elements to cover make a bit more sense. Of course, the stakes have now been elevated, and the second season must rise to the occasion in properly depicting what happens to Yachiyo and Iroha, especially as their list of allies grows thin, on top of answering the question of Ui Tamaki. However, because the Wings of Magius are gaining momentum, and the fact that key players have now joined them, the threat that the Wings of Magius pose is something that Iroha and Yachiyo will need to find an answer for in next season, before any attempt can be made to find out what happened to Ui. Expectations are therefore high entering the second season, and I am curious to see what awaits both Yachiyo and Iroha, especially since Sayaka’s just forcibly extracted Yachiyo from the collapsing Memory Museum while Iroha’s fate is undisclosed.

Magia Record: Review and Reflections After Three

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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