Original Run: January 5, 2020 - March 29, 2020 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Drama, Magic Girl, Thriller
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story. Reader discretion is advised.***
To gain the fulfillment of a single wish, one must agree to become a magical girl and fight a never-ending war against terrifying monsters known as Witches. Regardless of the magnitude of a wish, the life of a magical girl quickly becomes a nightmare.
This is the story of one such girl named Iroha Tamaki (voiced by Momo Asakura).
Along with her mission to battle Witches, Iroha is on a quest to find her lost sister. Her search eventually brings her to the mysterious city of Kamihama, where enemies are unusually strong. There, Iroha learns of a rumor that suggests a way for a magical girl to break free of their deadly fate. However, much like the granting of a wish, not all is as it seems.
If you have not seen the original Madoka Magica series or the film trilogy, then you best put Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story (Magia Record) out of your mind until you do. This show was also based on a mobile game of the same name, but I didn’t learn that until after the fact, and I did just fine. So long as you are familiar with the franchise, you should do well with this one. At the very least, you’ll have enough information to form some conclusions.
First, here are three points of emphasis:
- I was excited and intrigued to get a Madoka Magica follow-up finally.
- The first series was much, much better.
- I am interested in seeing where Magia Record Season 2 will go.
Above all else, this show felt like it belonged in the franchise. There was no question that this was a Madoka Magica spin-off-sequel, and that, surprisingly, carried a lot more weight than I expected. After all, we have to remember what the original series was.
Madoka Magica was a thoroughly well-done deconstruction of the typical magical girl formula. It explored and twisted the classic tropes of the genre and gave the usually upbeat positive nature of these sorts of stories a much darker spin. Mix that with an excellent story and brilliant visuals, it is no wonder the first show was a massive hit. Therefore, it would have been evident if a second installment wasn’t given an equal amount of effort. As such, Magia Record was a proper companion piece in many areas.
By the way: Not only was this a Madoka Magica series, but Magia Record was also a Shaft series. Thus, there was an expectation when it came to visuals.
To put it bluntly, Shaft productions are usually a trip. Remember, this is the same studio that gave us the Monogatari franchise, and those fingerprints were all over this show.
Shaft relies heavily on its visuals to tell its stories, something I am always in favor of seeing. Accordingly, Magia Record’s was a visually-driven narrative as well. The artwork alone was enough to dictate the atmosphere of any given scene. Typically without a single word of dialogue, a real sense of tension and trepidation permeated throughout this series. This was especially true whenever the show entered a Witch’s layer.
To give away what I plan to talk about in the next section: Had Magia Record’s animation been any less than it was – and if it didn’t carry the Madoka Magica name – I would have found it to be far less engaging. Luckily, since the visuals were as phenomenal as they were, that kept me from losing focus, which, in turn, allowed me to notice something else about this show.
The characters were pretty good.
Now, was this cast as memorable as the one from the original series. Of course not, and I think this show knew that for reasons that I don’t want to spoil. Again, it needs to be said that Magia Record’s characters felt as though they existed in the world of Madoka Magica, with Iroha Tamaki being the best example.
To compare, Iroha was similar in temperament to that of the titular Madoka Kaname from the first series. They were both kind, friendly, and loyal to their respective groups. Where they differed was in their willingness to take action. Iroha was never hesitant to fight whenever it was inevitable. For her part, Madoka was always unsure of herself and took a long time to come to a course of action. Be that as it may, and this was the sticking point Magia Record could never get out from under. Madoka’s story had a lot more life than Iroha’s.
Given their circumstances, it was to Madoka’s benefit that she was as timid as she was. After all, she resisted becoming a magical girl, and thus, never needed to hold her own in a fight. Iroha, on the other hand, was a full-fledged magical girl, and from what I could gather, she had been one for some time. Despite that, in almost every battle she was in, someone had to get her out of trouble. Iroha, in other words, was dead weight and got in the way.
I’m standing by what I said. Magia Record may have looked and felt like it was apart of the Madoka Magica universe. Unfortunately, Magia Record forgot to include the one thing that made Madoka Magica so great – a story.
Recalling Madoka Magica for a moment: The series, as a whole, was as solid as could be. However, its ending was a bit underwhelming, overly complicated, and if I’m being completely honest, hard to follow. It was the weakest part of the original.
Considering that, what would happen if we took the worst aspect of an otherwise outstanding series and convert it into its own story. The result would be Magia Record. Nothing actually happened in this show; it was more like a collection of thinly connected events.
It was a while before I figured out when Magia Record took place. For most of this series, it could have gone three different ways – before, during, or after Madoka Magica. Hopefully, to give you a better context should you decide to watch this show, everything occurred after the original. And to be more precise, this story was set after what took place in the third movie, Rebellion.
How does knowing that help us? In the long run, it doesn’t. If anything, it hurts Magia Record because it meant that this series didn’t serve much of a purpose other than being an incredibly convenient retelling of Madoka Magica. Seriously, it was astonishing how many things just existed when they need to be there.
Granted, calling this show a “retelling” isn’t entirely accurate. This series didn’t have anything close to the same emotional impact as its predecessor, and there was no ever-present feeling of impending doom. The label of “retelling” has more to do with how Magia Record’s big reveal was the same one from Madoka Magica – discovering the true nature of the Witches, and that was the most substantial aspect of this narrative. Upon seeing that, suddenly, no one’s motivations made sense. There was no longer any goal to work towards achieving.
Earlier I said that I am looking forward to Magia Record‘s second season. My excitement comes less from wanting to know what will happen next and more from the possibility of Magia Record 2 being a proper sequel to Madoka Magica.
Sadly, since this series is based on a mobile game, it’s hard to say whether we will get any sort of resolution. The first show was an original production, so that allowed it to have a full story arc. That same flexibility doesn’t exist with Magia Record, and it could suffer because of it.
I’m not sure what to do.
This series was well made but poorly told. The same outstanding animation and music that existed in the original made a return. The characters weren’t as memorable as their predecessors, but they fit comfortably within the same universe.
Therefore, I think this comes down to a gamble. How will season two pan out? If there is a satisfying conclusion, then this installment would be worth checking out. That’s a pretty big “if,” though.
But looking at this as a stand-alone series, I can get behind it. Unless something drastic changes in the future, you can skip Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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