Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story ?
“There's No Place For You Here” picks up where “This Isn't the Past” left off, and it also picks up that episode's lack of momentum by dialing up the action and introducing some tantalizing plot threads that could have drastic implications for the world of Madoka Magica. It is very much the kind of episode that raises more questions than answers, which is a little worrisome given that we're almost halfway through the season, but those questions are very interesting indeed. For viewers who aren't fully on board with the personal stories of Iroha and company, it could be that more compelling mystery boxes are exactly what the doctor ordered.
As for me, I like the girls just fine, and their individual narratives are just engaging enough to keep me on board on their own. Yachiyo's fixation on Mifuyu is your basic Madoka Magica conflict, but the show's excellent presentation of old ideas keeps the pace of the story trucking along. We don't know much about who the real Mifuyu was, and the Imposter Mifuyu we encounter in the Mazuna Temple Witch's Labyrinth embodies the idea of the girl more than the real thing. Even as a shadow, she lashes out at Iroha for presenting the very notion of a challenge for Mifuyu's affections, and her aggression is enough to convince Yachiyo to stick a spear in her friend's chest.
Then again, it could very well be that Mifuyu was the Mazuna Witch – for all of her denial in the moment of excising the Imposter, Yachiyo clearly knows more than she's letting on about something. Her constant refrain about Mifuyu is that she is searching for her as a reminder of the “gravity” of her own absence. It's an overwritten and vague statement of purpose, the kind that I feel anime indulge in a little too often, but here the meaning might not be all that obfuscated. The opening scene of the episode implies that Yachiyo is well aware of a rumor that says the curse of the Magical Girl is to eventually become a Witch. My guess is that knows that this is the fate that befell Mifuyu, and Yachiyo was trying to convince herself that this particular Witch wasn't her friend.
This would also explain her desire to distance herself from the other girls, as well as the way she treats Iroha later on in the episode. After all, she seems very willing to defend Iroha even after she succumbs to the corruption of her Soul Gem, which is the episode's biggest twist by far. What's more, Magia Record seems to be playing with what we know of the transformation from Magical Girl to Witch. As far as I have seen in at least the animated properties of the franchise, this is the first time that a Magical Girl has been corrupted enough to transform into a Witch, or at the very least, something very much like a Witch, only to revert to her original human form, complete with a purified Soul Gem. If I recall correctly, there is some business in the Rebellion movie about certain characters having some amount of control over their Witch forms as well, but Iroha's case seems different to me. She hasn't ascended into any special stage of superpowered godhood or anything, and this manifestation was a more subconscious and emotional action, like the Magical Girl equivalent of when Eva units go Berserk in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Point being, Yachiyo and Tsuruno witness this event take place, but they immediately take their friends side when Mami arrives, rifles in hand, ready to put a bullet in the unconscious Iroha, who she understandably believes to be a Witch. It's easy to see why Tsuruno and Yachiyo both would take their friend's side over a stranger's, but Mami makes a good point in nothing that someone has been summoning Witches to Kamihama. Yachiyo brushes Mami's suspicions off as mere territorialism, but maybe she really is the one summoning Witches to the city, in an effort to find her missing comrade. Or maybe the events are a side-effect of Iroha's forgotten wish?
Then again, maybe it's all Ui's doing, since the Imposter Ui simply repeats the same message Iroha sees in her dreams later on: “Come to Kamihama. Fate. Change.” What all of this has to do with Iroha, Yachiyo, and the rest of the Magical Girls in Magia Record is still unclear, but the threads are starting to wind together, and this new manner of Witch transformation has to play a big part in it. An after credits sequence shows poor Kaede going through the same process, terrified at what she might be becoming. For better or worse, change is coming to Kamihama city. Like a seed, its roots are already beginning to wind their way down into the hearts and minds of Iroha and the others, and we can only wait to see what will blossom.
Odds and Ends
• Artistry Alley: The art and animation was on point across the board this week. I especially loved the eerie sequence of Iroha meeting her doppelganger as her Soul become more corrupted, though my single favorite cut has to come from the post-credits scene of all places, when Kaede defeats the Witch. Her transformation spews muddy ink all over the giant doll creature, and a pair of writhing hands emerge to suffocate it in multi-color explosion of paint. It's slick visual that also doubles as a badass attack, which you can never go wrong with in the world of anime.
• Of all the mystery box shenanigans Magia Record is working with, the thing I care the least about is the Baby Kyubey, because we have no real idea of what its existence might mean for either the world or its characters. Even fans of the show, who know that Kyubey isn't to be trusted, don't have much to go on, since he's just a slightly cuter version of something whose mystery comes pre-spoiled.
• I had completely forgotten about Kuroe, the Magical Girl we see fight alongside Iroha in the very first episode, until I was perusing a list of Magia Record characters to make sure I was keeping everything straight. I wonder what her deal is?
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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