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Tag Archives: Mami Tomoe

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, besides the news that it’ll release in 2021 I have no idea when the third season is actually coming out. 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.

Distant Wishes: The school rooftop in Madoka Magica as a visual metaphor for the implications of being a magical girl

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” —Alan Turing

While it may be a subtle component within Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the architecture and interior design aspects within the anime have a substantial role in setting the mood. Previously, the architecture within Tari Tari was the central focus, and Madoka Magica was briefly mentioned as another example of where architecture is able to impact the atmospherics within an anime. In Madoka Magica, however, the architectural elements are used to both deceive the viewers and alienate the characters from their settings to emphasise the anime’s point: that magical girls become highly detached from their surroundings. Beginning from the warm, brightly-coloured settings in the series’ openings and the girls’ frequent hangout spots, to the mechanised, predominantly metal construction in the industrial areas, the settings serve to draw a juxtaposition between the girls and their environment. This use of architecture and interior design is nowhere as apparent as in Mitakihara’s school rooftop, which Madoka and her friends frequent during lunch hour. The unusual combination of familiarity and distance come together at this unique location, acting as a visual metaphor for the intermediate stage of doubt and mystery that Madoka and Sayaka experience after befriending Mami and learning of the existence of magical girls.

  • I have an inkling that readers often do not read the main paragraphs and choose to stick with reading the figure captions. They aren’t the entire post! Returning back to the image itself, Mitakihara is a relatively modern city, featuring buildings of a relatively modern design. Despite being similar to that of the Mega City in The Matrix, the Mega City was intended to create a sort of hyper-reality with its massive urban build-ups such that the inhabitants did not challenge their living environments. In Madoka Magica, the city’s size allows the writers to constantly alter the mood as things gradually worsen, presenting different sides of the city as the story calls for it.

  • In the series’ beginning, Mitakihara is presented with predominantly blue lighting to emphasise that, contrasting the greys and greens of the Mega City within The Matrix, Mitakihara is set in the real world. At this point in time, things are reasonably normal, and the characters (Madoka and Sayaka) lead normal lives as ordinary middle school students.

  • The Neo-Classical design found at the school rooftop bears some resemblence to Pietro Perugino’s Delivery of the Keys; the keys are supposed to represent the power of forgiveness and the right to enter heaven. The original painting gives the sense of an infinite world that stretches across the horizon, giving the sense that everything in their world is visible from their perspective as responsibility changes hands.

  • Madoka Magica probably drew inspiration from this painting to give the series a similar feeling: the keys depicted in Perugino’s painting are represented by contracts and magic, while the sense of space is conveyed by a vast cityscape rather than hills and trees. Here, Madoka and Sayaka wonder whether or not they could make a meaningful wish because their lives have been reasonably trouble-free insofar.

  • The deliberate inclusion of vast fences reminiscent of Renaissance architectural forms suggests that Mitakihara Middle School’s rooftop was deliberately intended to be a gathering place for students; the fences prevent any students from accidentally falling off the roof. The general architecture brings to mind the forms that Renaissance-era cathedrals took. Associated with the Church and the sort of mysterious higher powers, cathedrals were grand places of worship.

Given that the school rooftop is a highly prevalent location in anime, it is not unreasonable to surmise that the location might hold some significance. In typical anime, the school rooftops are used as a location for solitude by students; in Kanon, Yuichi and Mai train using bamboo swords on the school rooftops, while CLANNAD has Nagisa asking Ryou about joining the drama club. Students hang out on the school rooftops for lunch in Azumanga Daioh, go out there to vent off steam (K-On! Movie), or even discuss what it means to be idols (Locodol). Why the school rooftops are chosen is probably to confer some solitude, offering a tranquil spot amidst the hustle of an urban locale for individuals to relax or look back on things. In densely built areas, especially in Japan, the skyline might be visible, providing a distant backdrop for the events that occur in the school rooftop. This forms a juxtaposition; the school is a well-traversed, familiar location, but beyond their world is another, one that is perceived to be more unfeeling and detached. In Madoka Magica, when Madoka and Sayaka discuss their wishes up there, the locale immediately gives the impression that the girls are considering things that are equally as distant in a relatively friendly setting, subtly mirroring the fact that individuals become a part of that “distant” world once their education is complete. It would therefore be logical to be discussing the future (in this case, wishes) in a location where the familiar and the unknown are simultaneously visible and become things that must be considered.

  • Mitakihara Middle School is probably composed of multiple structures: the student classrooms, main entrance and other areas of the school take on a Neo-Futurist design, and the rooftopis nowhere to be seen from the main entrance. In the original TV series and Blu-Ray release, the school rooftop had significantly less detail, having a pure white surface. In the movie, the environments are far more detailed, although for the most part, the dialogue and flow of events have remained unchanged.

  • Sayaka and Madoka find their world has completely changed following Mami’s death. With its impact still sinking in, they remark that their school feels completely foreign to them. The school’s interior, with its minimalistic glass classrooms are highly modern, although this sort of minimalism serves to distance Madoka from her surroundings even earlier on in Madoka Magica, before she becomes entangled in the world of magical girls.

  • This image captures the level of detail in the fences that enclose the school rooftop. I’ve actually been meaning to do this talk for quite some time now: when I first watched Madoka Magicathe school rooftop immediately struck me as something worth mentioning, although for the longest time, I could not put my finger on why it was worth mentioning. Thoughts of this topic fell from my mind, but upon visiting a similar part of my campus, I soon found an answer, and this post began taking shape.

  • After Sayaka takes a day’s absence, Homura confronts Madoka. The school rooftop is shrouded in shadow, darkening the atmosphere and sharply juxtaposing Madoka’s comfort level when she speaks with Homura with how she feels when speaking with Sayaka; typically, Madoka and Sayaka’s conversations are under sunlight, even if their topics are darker, showing how Madoka may trust Sayaka to a greater extent before Homura reveals the truth to her.

  • Readers are probably wondering if I would make a contract and wish, provided I had the same level of knowledge as Madoka and Sayaka by episode two: the answer would be no. I do not make decisions until I am reasonably satisfied that I have enough information to make an informed, rational choice. Given the limited information Kyubey and Mami have provided, I would probably inquire for more details and make my decision from there. Given Madoka Magica‘s outcome, I would imagine that deciding against making a wish is probably the best course of action.

Ultimately, Madoka and Sayaka do not come to a final conclusion here, as Homura interrupts their conversation. The next time Madoka and Sayaka spend time together up on the school rooftop is after Mami’s death by Charlotte’s hands, and it is here that the setting truly becomes disjoint: as Madoka later learns, no one else will know of Mami’s death. The world is indifferent, apathetic to Mami’s fate, and this sense of detachment is reflected in the architecture, which coldly adjourns the scene. It is from here that Madoka Magica steps away from a traditional magical girl series and begins to depict the magical girl’s role as one of tireless, thankless effort, rather than the idealistic, optimistic approaches taken by more traditional anime. This element is subtly enhanced by the choice of architecture within Madoka Magica; locations gradually become more industrial and minimalistic as the series progresses to emphasise that the girls are alone. Their settings (and the people that inhabit them) will only observe without compassion, leaving the magical girls alone as they struggle to come to terms with what their decisions led to. These visual elements are seamlessly integrated with Yuki Kajiura’s “Sis Puella Magica!” (Let’s become magical girls!) in several scenes. “Sis Puella Magica!” is a cold piece that accompanies scenes explaining details behind the magical girls, to give the sense that being a magical girl entails much more than is immediately apparent, and like the song, is a role filled with enigma that, paired with the visual elements, produces an atmosphere that leads even the viewers to ask themselves: is there something you want so badly that it’s worth putting your life in danger for?

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion Movie Review

“Your world as you knew it is gone. How far would you go to bring it back? Kyubey created despair… but only we knew the truth.” —Madoka Warfare 3: Rebellion

The third movie in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica film series, Rebellion, is the final installment. A hundred and eighteen minutes after I started watching, I initially felt that I had been left with a film that raised more questions than answers. The ending itself leaves the possibility of a sequel completely open. Of course, this is part of of the entertainment factor: the Madoka Magica series has in the past, excelled at presenting a brutal re-imagination to the magical girl genre, stripping away the idealistic approaches previous anime have taken and placing human emotions at the forefront of the story. The third film doesn’t deviate from this approach: through the Incubator’s intervention, Homura’s consciousness was confined within her soul gem when despair placed her on the edge of becoming a witch, with the aim of ensnaring Madoka to understand and control her powers. As such, much of the film is set within a surreal Mitakihara and the barrier projected by the partial form of Homura’s witch. This is somewhat inconsistent with the parameters outlined at the end of the second film and TV series (where the Law of Cycles helps despairing magical girls fade into oblivion instead of becoming witches), although I will simply pretend that there may be an exception somewhere to have allowed things to reach where they are at Rebellion‘s exposition. Things are initially slow to start, easing the viewers into the ever-so-familiar sights of Mitakihara and the lives the magical girls lead: in this universe, it was quite comforting to see all of the girls fight as a team for the first time. Whereas the previous films and TV series had most of them fight alone, here, the girls come together to take on nightmares, but soon, Homura realises something is amiss and in one of the more exhilarating battles, fights Mami Tomoe to a standstill. As the film wears on, all of the pieces fall into place, with the Incubators having turned out to somehow maniplate the turn of events for their own ends, answering some of the abnormalities initially seen. By the film’s climax, a combination of a spectacular battle to save Homura and the exchange of dialogue reminds viewers of the true nature in Madoka Magica: that the ideal, happy ending people are wont to expect in a story is simply not going to be the case in this series. Instead, there are no free lunches. Homura is able to save Madoka from her fate at the end of the second film (and TV series), but has become a being that will likely clash with Madoka in the future.

Rebellion excels where its predecessors excelled, although as per usual, underneath all the plot twists and unexpected events, the central core of the movie is rather simple. Homura’s determination to protect Madoka transcends love and friendship, becoming an obsession to prevent Madoka from succumbing to an unpleasant fate. She acts out of a combination of wishing to help Madoka as a friend, as well as to stave off her own loneliness. This type of behaviour is innate in any social animal, whose evolutionary wiring encourages social behaviours over being solitary. In part, this forms the bulk of Homura’s motivations: the sacrifices she makes for Madoka are done primarily to fight off loneliness, suggesting at just how far individuals will go to avoid being left alone in the world. This is my take on Homura’s actions: despite coming across as being aloof and arrogant, having seen the story, I realise that Chiwa Saitō does a phenomenal job playing Homura’s part. On one hand, Homura is a shy and timid girl who desires companionship above all else, but on the other hand, she has no qualms about doing all that is necessary to ensure Madoka’s happiness and is even willing to exchange her life for it, regardless of whether or not the others understand her intentions. In fact, after the movie ended, I held mixed feelings about Homura’s decisions throughout the movie, but the reality is that extreme circumstances force individuals to extreme actions. In Madoka Magica, the fact that there are magical girls and witches acts as this catalyst, so under such conditions, it is plausible that, when human nature is put to such a test, that these consequences may arise. These are merely my thoughts, though: my approaches to all anime in general is that of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is the most effective one until further evidence necessitates greater complexity, and for me, the movie merely illustrates the destructiveness of Homura’s single-minded goal of making the world a better place for Madoka.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I imagine a large number of individuals will initially be looking for screenshots of the movie. Unfortunately, the complexity of this beast means that 1) this post will by definition be filled with spoilers and 2) contain screenshots taken in a stochastic manner, so not all moments in the movie will be equally represented. As is typical of my movie discussions, I have thirty, and although I probably won’t have the most screenshots or philosophical discussions, this is probably one of the first set of screenshots to arise.

  • As is typical of Madoka Magica, the movie starts out with a dream, followed by Madoka heading off to school. The environments are one of the strongest elements in Madoka Magica, as they convey a sense of distance and detachment. Of all the places in Mitakihara, Madoka’s house is the most warming and welcome.

  • Initally, it would appear that nothing is out of the ordinary: the full cast is present, and curiously enough, Kyouko is a student, as well. There’s a substantial amount of fan-art depicting Sayaka and Kyouko as friends: the latter admits that had they met under different circumstances, they might’ve been friends in the TV series (or the first two movies). The third movie finally gets to showcase how that works.

  • The amount of visual elements in Madoka Magica pertaining to the witches’ labyrinths and designs, as well as the composition of some scenes, have led to numerous projects to interpret, analyse and catalog every theory conceivable to the fans. I personally find that Madoka Magica isn’t inherently complicated, although some fans do derive fun from coming up with analysis of the different elements seen in Madoka Magica to produce some interesting interpretations.

  • I personally don’t have an inclination to analyse anything from Madoka Magica in great detail as a hobby because I already spend enough of my time working on things that demand a great deal of mental power (iOS software development, visualising fluid flow in the nephron, and trying to learn simulation paradigms, to name a few). I prefer to be doing things that don’t require much brain power in my downtime, such as playing Battlefield 3 or reading Tom Clancy novels.

  • The magical girl quintet deploy for the first time in the movie proper after Hitomi’s discontent about being unable to spend time with Kyousuke produces a physical nightmare, Madoka, Sayaka, Mami, Kyouko and Homura set out to set things right. The love triangle between Sayaka, Hitomi and Kyousuke had dramatic consequences in the TV series, leading Sayaka to succumb to despair and take on a witch form. Kyouko’s final decision to keep Sayaka (in her witch form) company was perhaps one of the most poignant moments in the entire franchise.

  • Rebellion takes some liberties to reintroduce elements common to the magical girl genre, through excessively long but entertaining transform sequences, announcing attacks and so forth. For me, it was most welcoming to see everyone operate as a group for the first time in this franchise’s history: to the best of my recollection, everyone has more or less been operating independently for the TV series and first two movies.

  • People have waited a very, very long time to see and hear the cake song again. Set in a “Sprechgesang” style (lit. “spoken song”), the lyrics are nonsensical and have a very light-hearted feel to them that stands in stark contrast to the remainder of the movie. While amusing, the girls probably would not have beaten Bane’s skill at freestyle. I imagine the cake song is supposed to give the impression that being a magical girl is fun and games, even though viewers would doubtlessly be aware that this is clearly not the case in this franchise.

  • After the magical quintet defeat the nightmare, Hitomi is released from her nightmare. The movie incarnation of Sayaka seems to be at ease with Hitomi dating Kyousuke and comforts her, reassuring Hitomi that things will be alright.

  • While the series might be called Madoka Magica, it might be more appropriate to characterise Homura as the main protagonist of the series, as her actions catalyse everything that had transpired. I feel that Homura, whatever her intentions might be, was a remarkably difficult character to sympathise with until her story was told, and even then, her means to an end are oftentimes questionable.

  • Surrealism dominates the movie, whether it be the unusual bus routes or appearance of other-worldly entities. This is the earliest hint that something is off, although Homura is the only individual that notices. I draw a comparison to the mega city in The Matrix, where the immediate world is built to mimic reality but is limited in scope. This pseudo-Mitakihara cannot be departed from, and in The Matrix, the mega city is a massive metropolis that forms the setting for everything: it is left ambiguous as to whether or not the rest of the world exists.

  • After Homura begins challenging her environment, Rebellion begins to take on a Matrix-esque feeling as what is and isn’t reality is thrown into question. Emmanuel Kant’s Theory of Perception is involved to an extent in both: Kant stated that one’s understanding of the external world has foundations in both experience and a priori knowledge. In other words, both the Zion rebels and Homura are able to reject their respective realities because they understand there is much more to their worlds than what is immediately apparent. Because I am ill-equipped to discuss perception and knowledge, I won’t pursue this any further.

  • I made a parody of this scene and uploaded it to this site’s Facebook page purely for amusement a while back, depicting Homura interrogating Bebe to figure out where the other drugs were going. One thing is for certain: they definitely weren’t going to the Narrows.

  • Homura’s old tendencies draw Mami’s attention after the former holds Bebe hostage and demands answers about their world, under the impression that Bebe was responsible for creating this illusionary world. Besides Kyouko and Sayaka’s friendship, Mami is exceptionally close to Bebe, a nod to some of the interactions fans have long been wishing to see in Madoka Magica.

  • Homura is seen wielding a Škorpion vz. 61 submachine gun in her duel with Mami. Despite being said to be inferior to Mami in terms of raw power, Homura has experience on her side and is able to fight Mami to a standstill. Homura also has an LMG of some sort, although I can’t readily identify it.

  • Anyone who has seen the fight scenes from The Matrix will probably find some familiarity in what is the movie’s first serious one-on-one duel. It is thrilling to watch Homura and Mami counter each other using their respective weapons, leading to the same kind of destruction seen in the lobby scene from The Matrix.

  • Being masterful at deception, Homura tricks Mami into thinking she is rage-quitting, and manages to escape. However, it turns out Mami was using a duplicate of herself during the engagement, hinting at the extent of her skills, which Homura must overcome with resourcefulness.

  • Before she became the witch Charlotte, Nagisa Momoe was also a magical girl. Her wish and origins aren’t explored in the movie, but she is shown as being quite perceptive and remained as Bebe until this point. She has a particular fondness for cheese.

  • An unusual boat glides the canals in Mitakihara: Homura encounters Madoka here outlines her beliefs that the individual who created the barrier had abandoned the responsibility of fighting wraiths, giving up and escaping into a Utopian prison. There is a bit of foreshadowing here as to who the culprit is.

  • The flower fields scene reveals that Homura’s feelings for Madoka have never wavered; despite everything that has happened, and wonders why Madoka would have made the sacrifice knowing she would lose everything.

  • This scene reminds me of the lyrics from DragonForce’s “Soldiers of the Wasteland”: Riding through the starlight and smashing the boundaries as hellfire falls from the sky/A shadow of pain will arise from the ashes of those fallen ones who have died. Homura eventually comes to understand that the barrier she’s encountering, as well as all the abnormalities, stem from the fact that she herself is the witch.

  • It turns out that the Incubators have somehow managed to break even Madoka’s Law of Cycles, isolating Homura’s soul gem as it undergoes corruption: Kyubey realises that the old system, prior to Madoka’s wish, was more efficient and set about figuring out how to introduce this system into Madoka’s current universe.

  • There is a limit to what images are capable of conveying, so I have reduced the number of images in the actual combat between Madoka, Sayaka, Mami and Kyouko against Homura’s witch form. The combat is beyond words, and must be seen to be believed.

  • This moment sent chills down my spine when it occurred: Homura’s desire to create a universe where Madoka can exist happily undoes reality itself, illustrating how strong these feelings are. It is precisely this that makes Homura so difficult to sympathise with, and indeed, one might consider Homura to be an antihero, lacking the same moral character and integrity as Madoka. Instead, her actions are selfish, motivated by her desires to be with Madoka regardless of the cost. This stubbornness lends the movie its title, as Homura is rebelling against the system Madoka created for her own ends.

  • By now, this moment has been duplicated, and duplicates of the duplicates have been made as fans began uploading fan-arts of this moment to all image boards. Through her actions, Homura has surpassed Madoka in existence, driven entirely by the single-minded desire of making Madoka happy regardless of the cost to herself. This behaviour has transcended what one might normally consider to be admirable and borders on insanity.

  • A new equilibrium  is reached, and as such, the world returns to a cleaner, more realistic design. The skyscrapers of Mitakihara can be seen in the background, and the environments feel far warmer than they did for most of the movie.

  • The newly created reality bears much resemblance to the previous ones, although given how the entire Madoka Magica franchise is constructed, the new equilibrium may be disrupted yet again in the future. If memory serves, this will entail a third rebirth, and I imagine that the creators will have become exceedingly efficient and writing out such a path.

  • Madoka is re-introduced as a transfer student in a familiar setting. The locations depicted over all three movies are rather more impressive than those of the TV series, and for individuals who have seen the TV series but not the movies, I recommend that they give the movies a shot. Despite having near-identical stories, differences in the details make the movies worthwhile.

  • Homura finds Madoka and, in conversation, finds out that this Madoka retains her powers and continues to believe that the greater good surpasses personal desire in terms of importance. Homura is unable to accept this and warns Madoka that their paths may cross again in the future, with the two on opposite sides. This aspect may potentially lead to future works, and if this is the case, I will rather look forward to seeing how that is handled.

  • This ends my reflection, a monstrosity that weighs in at nearly three thousand words (including the figure captions) and took some three hours to finish. Before I depart, I will note that this reflection was primarily designed to express my thoughts on Rebellion‘s execution as a movie and its contribution to the Madoka Magica franchise.

At the end of the day, Rebellion represents a somewhat surprising conclusion to the Puella Magi Madoka Magica film series. I’ve come to expect nothing less than a thrilling film, and Rebellion delivered as expected. While the story is a little difficult to follow at times, the build-up of tensions and conflict kept me engaged for the entire film’s duration. In particular, the fight between Mami and Homura, the girls’ final push to try and save Homura and the exchange Madoka has with Homura illustrate the movie at its very best, showcasing the tensions the characters experience throughout the film and kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire running duration. This is saying something: the last two films to have done that for me were The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. Now, those are particularly good movies, which should bear testament to the quality seen in Rebellion. The film is a must-watch for all fans of the series, although it is not a film that is accessible to first-time viewers in that there is far too much background. Individuals considering watching Rebellion should at the minimum, watch Beginning and Eternal in the Madoka Magica film series, or the TV series, or both. With stunning visuals and sound, the film has been nominated as one of the Best Animated Features for the 86th Academy awards, testifying to its impact. The ending of Rebellion is open to interpretation, and as it stands now, I wouldn’t rule out or mind seeing a future iteration of this series.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Rebellion: Blu-Ray release date set for April 2

Those seeking screenshots and my own reflection may do so here. Spoilers follow, so don’t click if you don’t like spoilers!

The Puella Magi Madoka Magica Rebellion movie now has a known home release date: said date will be April 2, 2014. Released in North America back in December 2013, Rebellion quickly became the highest grossing movie in Japan, earning 1.93 billion yen to edge out the K-On! Movie, which premiered back in December 2011. The film is praised for its gorgeous visuals and creativity, as well as the fluidity of the character emotions. The home release will come in three different editions: a standard edition DVD (4500 Yen, roughly 48 CAD), a standard edition Blu-Ray (5500 yen, or 58 CAD) and a complete special edition Blu-Ray that will retail for 9500 yen (100 CAD). The special edition will feature the movie’s original soundtrack (so the Rebellion OST is also releasing on April 2), a movie booklet and other bonuses. That is to say, the “cake song” that everyone’s been looking forward now has a known release date.

  • For this post, I’ve decided to go with something that doesn’t involve spoilers, since those are problematic for some. Apparently, Rebellion is serious business, and some individuals see it necessary to add meaning where there is none, resulting in discussions that lack coherence or direction. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is not complicated: what the anime is really about is the duality of miracles and the costs associated with miracles.

Earlier predictions suggested that the release window for Rebellion would be somewhere in July or August 2014: a long ways away. This turned out to be incorrect, although predictions from the same sources correctly supposed that the soundtrack would accompany the Blu-Ray release. I am greatly looking forwards to this release, for it will represent a chance for me to finally see the movie in high quality. As per my typical operation, I will publish the review here, coupled with screenshots taken from the movie, to produce what will probably be the internet’s first (if not best) reflection on the movie after April 2.