Rumor Has It: The Grief-less Origins of Magia Record's Uwasaby Mark “Kai” Haseman,
Madoka, Sayaka, Homura, and Kyoko faced terrifying Witches in the original Madoka Magica anime series. With each Witch's defeat they were granted a Grief Seed that could be used to purify their Soul Gems. This was the magical girls' only respite from turning into what they feared the most. This season's Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story introduces new (and old) faces but while the enemies resemble the dreaded Witches, there's something very different about them. What separates these "Rumors" from "Witches" and what are the "Uwasa" things? If you're confused that's no problem, because we're here to run down what's in a Rumor in our own rendition of the Kamihama Rumor Files!
But first a little backstory. [Potential spoilers for 2011 anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as well as Magia Record newcomers]
Magia Record is a “Side Story” to the Madoka Magica we know, taking place neither before nor after the events of the hit anime. The series is in an as-yet undetermined timeline where characters and events concurrently line up with the moments in time from the 2011 series.
Kamihama City is a bustling city not far from the Mitakihara we're familiar with, filled with many different colorful Magical Girls, each who have made their own wish and contract with Kyubey. But one year prior to the events of Magia Record, the unexpected happened. Kyubey suddenly vanished without a trace from Kamihama City, making no new contracts and leaving no new instructions to the myriad girls left behind to fight off the ever-increasing tide of Witches popping up around town, seemingly more powerful than ever. Magical Girls had to rely only on each other to collect and dispose of Grief Seeds on top of dealing with territory disputes and their own interpersonal quarrels. And lately, Witches have been increasing in number all over Kamihama, seemingly being pulled to the city by an individual force, more powerful than ever.
Iroha Tamaki, Magia Record's protagonist (with the necessary pink hair and everything) is drawn to Kamihama to investigate the gaps in her memory and the missing pieces in her life. After inquiring about these idiosyncrasies with Kyubey (who seems to be doing just fine OUTSIDE of Kamihama City, having time to mooch lunch off of her inbetween exposition, munch munch).
What's the difference between a Uwasa and a Witch?
But there are more than just powerful Witches lurking in Kamihama City. Whispers of strange disappearances all over come manifest as odd new creatures that each follow their own set of rules and behaviors, their calling cards being the rumors themselves they seemingly embody. These “Uwasa,” while not dissimilar to Witches, have distinct differences from Magical Girls' known nemeses. Here's what we know so far about the Uwasa:
1. They have Labyrinths and Familiars like Witches, and feed off of the life force of their human victims like Witches, but don't appear to just anyone. Their victims are those who adhere to the Rumors they follow and thereby increase and legitimize the legend behind them. People drawn to them are marked with a symbol akin to a Witch's Kiss. Again, like Witches, their forms and wonderfully creepy Labyrinths are still designed by animation duo Gekidan Inu Curry.
2. Their magic differs from Witches, and doesn't seem to be despair-based. This makes them harder to kill in battle than Witches, as Magical Girls' hope-based magic isn't the natural antithesis of this brand of bizarre energy.
3. While they prey on and feed off of those who meet the Rumor's conditions, they only seem to turn hostile and appear in-person with their main body when someone (usually a Magical Girl) purposefully goes AGAINST the Rumor while inside their Labyrinth or prevent the Rumor's completion, breaking the code the individual Uwasa lives by. An example being, since a Western equivalent to these stories would be repeating “Bloody Mary” in a bathroom mirror, I guess saying something... different when she shows up would really set her off?
4. They spread among Kamihama's citizens by means of strange human-shaped visages that gossip and whisper their Rumors in crowds. While neither Witches nor Familiars, they're definitely not human, yet normal people can see them, and don't think anything strange of their appearance, forgetting who exactly they were looking at or talking to after the Rumor is told to them. While Witches are invisible to everyone except Magical Girls, Uwasa can be seen by anyone.
5. This is probably the most important part. Since they are NOT Witches, even once defeated, they don't drop Grief Seeds. This poses a huge problem for Magical Girls who need a way to replenish the huge amount of magic it takes to put these strange Rumors down in the first place. For reward-driven Magical Girls only in it for the stash of Grief Seeds they're hoarding (looking at you Kyoko!) this would make fighting Uwasa a fruitless endeavor, since there's nothing to be gained from killing them.
But you can't just let them kill people, right? And quashing a harmful Rumor that hurts people has to count for something. Isn't the truth it's own reward, in that sense? Well, in a world where you literally need Grief Seeds in order to live, no, I guess it's not. Here are some Uwasa that have appeared so far in Magia Record (as of episode 6 of the anime), and what these Rumors entail.
Uwasa of the Friendship Ending Staircase
Constantly bickering friends are sure to spring up nasty rumors, and this one has grim consequences. The Friendship Ending Staircase served as a cautionary tale about not meaning what you say or standing by your decisions. If you break off a friendship with someone, and write their name on the sixth and seventh steps of their school's staircase, this rumor was said to guarantee to break things off for good. But, if you were to change your mind and attempt to apologize and patch things up with said former friend, the “Chain Monster” would take you away and make you clean its endless steps for eternity.
This seemingly harmless rumor came true when hotheaded Magical Girl Rena Minami ended her friendship with her more passive teammate Kaede (for the umpteenth time, apparently), but later tried to make things up with her, suddenly opening up a bizarre new type of Labyrinth that yanked Kaede away! This confrontation became our first clue that perhaps malevolent forces beyond just Witches were at work in Kamihama City.
Anime sure does appear to have a tragic relationship with stairs, doesn't it? Landing a job as an unwilling janitor for the crime of going back on your word sure does seem like a childish punishment, certainly befitting the gossip of middle-schoolers. Curiously, a similar apparition appeared in this very anime season's Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun as well! It seems that Rumors spread quickly, even into other anime! Frighteningly potent. Fortunately Rena and Kaede's touching reunion was perfectly punctuated by them clocking this bell tower a new one. Adios, chain chump!
Uwasa of The Commoner's Horse/Rumor of the Seance Shrine
A long time ago, a lady who lived in Mizuna Castle fell in love with a man from the town. However, they were from different economic classes and her fiance grew jealous, eventually murdering the man. Every night she pleaded at a shrine for God to revive her lover, and on the 1,500th night her prayer was answered. However, the man she was reunited with was now just a spirit, and even this meeting came at a great cost. The lady had only achieved her goal by sacrificing the lives of everyone else in the town to her God.
In adherence to this story, this rumor promises a reunion with any one person whose name the seeker writes on the ceremonial plaques upon finding this hidden shrine. However, as Iroha and Yachiyo discovered, the Ui and Mifuyu they met inside were not their real selves, but illusions made by the Uwasa, tempting them to stay inside the Labyrinth forever in a vain attempt to relive the past. It was only when they acknowledged the deception and sought to return to reality, going against the rumor, that this Uwasa appeared and attacked.
SHAFT sure did do some heavy lifting as a studio in transition from the mobile game's rather funny-looking rendition of this Uwasa, making it look much more like a dragon than a horse, with a much more menacing aura to boot. Both versions also have some rather froggy appendages jutting out of their head (that they just outright slap you with in the game). I guess that “kaeru” (frog) is really waiting for someone to “kaeru” (go home!), and just like the woman in the legend, is willing to sacrifice anyone to accomplish that! It was never really a “horse” to begin with anyway; the word “machibito” in this Uwasa's Japanese title refers to a person being waited for, or a person who is waiting, in line with the legend of the Seance Shrine and the person each girl was seeking, and the illusory versions of them that appeared before them in the Labyrinth. It took a rather shocking and unexpected transformation on Iroha's part to take this unfriendly steed down.
Uwasa of the Misery Rhyton/Lucky Owl Water
After being offered some “Lucky Owl Water” in a mysterious (not suspicious at all) alleyway, Iroha decides to try some after meeting hotheaded young Magical Girl Felicia Mitsuki who is eager to try the free beverage. In fact, this delicious concoction proved lucky right away, with mysterious bouts of good luck falling one after another into their laps, but with an ominous counter ticking away to boot. What might happen to our young heroine and mercenary-for-hire when their luck runs out?
Sheesh, don't these girls know better than to just take weird drinks from strangers? What are they teaching kids in this city? Maybe it just REALLY does taste that good. The term "rhyton" isn't a popular one but it was the term used by ancient Greeks to refer to a cone-shaped container. These were ceremonial and usually looked like an animal head. Magia Record's Rhyton is rather reptilian, too, with scales coating its over-brimming chalice, evoking the imagery of a shell befitting its whopping defenses in the mobage.
Speaking of a cup running over, this Uwasa curiously resembles the legendary Holy Grail, also popularized by Type/MOON's Fate franchise, which Madoka Magica's Gen Urobuchi wrote the wonderfully tragic prequel Fate/Zero for (he's sadly not here for Magia Record though. Maybe an Uwasa got him).
Wow, I sure am glad I don't have to tangle with these nasty Rumors! With no Grief Seeds to ease the pain and magic expenditure of tackling this gossamer gossip, Iroha and friends had better keep their Soul Gems shiny if they want to stand a chance against these duplicitous doppelgangers to Kamihama's already wicked Witches. And when it comes to Doppels, that's yet another side to this sprawling story.
But that's a Side Story for another day.
Mark “Kai” Haseman has been an anime fan since the Toonami boom of the mid 1990's and an avid anime collector since 2012. You can find them on Twitter at @KeikakuKat
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