Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story ?
“My Name” is a very busy episode of Magia Record, as it has to wrap up the Endless Solitude storyline very quickly, integrate Sana into the team, and establish Alina Gray as a more significant antagonist than just another bad-girl-of-the-week. There's also a whole mess of Wings of Magius breadcrumbs being dropped left and right, which means all of the side-plots and foreshadowing the show has indulged in lately might finally be tying back into Iroha's search for Ui, which I had completely forgotten about until Iroha herself brought it up at the very end of the episode. Given that so much is happening this week, it probably shouldn't be surprising that “My Name” is a mixed bag, albeit not an entirely unenjoyable one.
The battle against Alina is fun, but it's lacking that certain spark that makes the best Madoka Magica fights feel like true full-blown spectacle. The character animation and editing is significantly clunkier this week than what the show usually delivers, for one, and it certainly doesn't help that Alina herself isn't a terribly interesting protagonist. The real Uwasa of this arc was Ai, and she resolved the conundrum of her own existence for everyone by the end of her first episode, leaving Alina as little more than leftovers for the Magical Girls to deal with, and an excuse to have a more traditional battle. The design of the Witch Labyrinth was as nice to look at as ever, though, and the fight gave Felecia and Tsuruno some time in the spotlight on the battlefield, which is nice.
While Alina herself is your average “Intimidating and Unstable Crazy Villain” cliché, the more interesting development to come from her introduction is the reappearance of Mami, who has joined up with the Wings of Magius to bring about the “salvation” that Tsukasa and Tsukuyo have been going on about. I'll be honest: I'm not entirely sure what this means for where Magia Record falls within the Madoka Magica timeline, or if Mami's involvement with Magius means that this story must take place in an totally new, alternate universe. I had assumed that the alternate universe explanation was the only way the events of Magia Record could really make any sense, but brief flashes reveal that Mami is motivated by memories of Madoka and Sayaka – so maybe this is taking place after Rebellion, or perhaps memories of the original timeline are bleeding over into this one?
It's impossible to say based on what happens this week, in any case, since the rest of the episode is mostly just the girls hanging out at Mikazuki Villa and doing some shopping, with some very predictable development for Sana thrown in for good measure. With Ai gone, it's no surprise that Sana is having a hard time overcoming her loneliness. Admittedly, Yachiyo's plan for everyone to go get personalized mugs is a cute attempt to have Sana feel more at home. The mug store the girls visit is the typical kind of store that you see in this franchise, which is to say an impossible labyrinth of dream geometry that is filled with more kitschy mugs than could ever possibly be sold in the whole of Japan. It's great.
The arc Sana takes in this episode isn't hard to predict from a mile away, which dulls the impact of it significantly. She returns to her home briefly to discover that her family is as cartoonishly self-centered as always; they apparently haven't even noticed she was gone this entire time (I have to wonder what they thought Sana was eating this entire time, since all they do is leave a tray outside of her door for dinner). This is one of those moments where GIC's surreal sensibilities make the story harder to track than it needs to be, unfortunately. Given that Sana's entire family is drawn in frankly horrifying caricature, my first instinct was to assume that her family had been corrupted by some kind of magic, or that their entire existence was warped or made unreal somehow by Sana's wish. You could also make an equal argument that the presentation was merely an exaggerated view on what was happening based on Sana's warped perception, as Magia Record has never been afraid to frame its in-universe reality through a wholly abstract lens. I doubt it matters too much in the long run, either way, but it is still frustrating.
All this brief strangeness is in service of anyway is for Sana to realize that her true home is now at the Villa, with the rest of the girls. Sure, she's only known them for a day or two, but when you're literally invisible to 99.99% of the people on the planet, I suppose beggars can't be choosers, and it's good that Sana chose to form relationships with a select few people rather than shut herself away from all of reality. Did we need to dedicate two-thirds of this episode to that specific realization? I don't think so, but I also won't tell you I was entirely displeased to get some time to just hang out with the cast. None of these girls are going to edge out the original Madoka Magica cast any time soon, but I've come to like them, enough so that I'll be sad to see things fall apart when the story takes its inevitable turn. That's got to happen sooner or later, right? This is still Madoka Magica after all, and sooner or later these Magical Girls are going to have to confront the truth of what they are, and that's bound to stir up some drama. It may even be that Iroha and company will find it much easier to see things from Mami's point of view, after all…
Odds and Ends
• Artistry Alley: I'll never turn my nose up at how this franchise can imbue even its most incidental scenes with texture and emotion, even when the plot doesn't rise to the occasion. Sana's home was the highlight of the episode for me, as off-putting as it was. I'm sure there's a more specific and useful way to refer to the style in which they were drawn, but all I could think of was that they were a nightmare version of those old Fun and Dick and Jane picture books, mixed with an airplane safety pamphlet taken straight from hell.
• There's a strangely lengthy post-credits scene that basically takes the hangout atmosphere of the Villa and transfers it right on over to the Wings of Magius. There isn't much to this sequence outside of humanizing the villains, which is fine, though I hardly think it warrants a spot as a post-credits stinger. More relevant is that Iroha learns from Sana that one of the children she has seen in her visions of Ui, Nemu, is also working with the WoM. This also doesn't mean much of anything as of yet, but it at least reminds us that Iroha looking for Ui is still a thing, which is probably good, since the season is about to wrap up.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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