“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-SIX, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Yūki 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.