Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story ?
“I Would Do Anything” looks to be following the same structure as Magia Record's previous arcs: The show will spend one or two episodes introducing new magical girls, along with a new Rumor for our heroines to face, and then save the action-packed climax for another week. We even get another cameo from one of the original Madoka Magica girls for good measure, plus another drip-fed dose of mystery box lore to keep us glued to our apps – er, I mean television screens. Structurally speaking, it's a perfectly solid episode, and the main factor that will determine how well you enjoy the story will likely depend on your opinion of the new magical girl in question: Felicia.
Felicia is a snaggle-toothed hothead with a penchant for smashing stuff up real good, and in much the same way new characters like Iroha and Yachiyo can be seen as direct parallels to Madoka and Homura in regards to their style and function in the plot, Felecia seems to be Magia Record's take on Kyoko. In fact, the franchise's premiere redhead is the major cameo of the week, if the point wasn't obvious enough. Both she and Felicia are the self-centered rogues who operate more-or-less independently in their quest for revenge against the Witches, and Felicia goes so far as to identify as a Magical Girl mercenary. As far as character archetypes go, this isn't one of my go-to favorites, but I can't deny that the fiery dynamic is a solid addition to the cast's chemistry, which is basically trying to replicate Madoka Magica anyways.
The story of Iroha and Felicia's meeting is less solid, as it amounts to little more than Iroha wandering aimlessly around Kamihama as she looks for Ui, only to bump into Felicia at a spooky run-down shopping mall that is very obviously a lair for the Rumor creatures the girls have been fighting all season. At least, it should be obvious, since the decrepit lair is filled with eerie collage cut-out ghosts that all peddle “Lucky Owl Water”, a suspicious concoction that supposedly imbues any who drink it with fantabulous luck. That neither Iroha nor Felicia think this is worth investigating smacks of the writers making the characters temporarily stupid in order to get the two girls paired together, but their time doesn't even amount to much. The potion's good luck is only temporary, and the two whittle their 24 instances of fortune away on snacks, games, and what looks like a literal gacha roulette. When Yachiyo turns up at the end of the episode to inform the girls that, yes, the spooky luck potion ghosts are probably up to no good, it feels like a majority of the episode was just killing time (kind of like the last setup episode from a couple of weeks ago, come to think of it).
Unsurprisingly, though, the crew at Shaft know how to pull off a tense and intriguing cliffhanger, which is enough to keep the momentum going for another week. First, we learn that Yachiyo has christened these Rumor Not-Witches “Uwasas”, and we meet a mob of ominous, robed girls who claim to be defending the Uwasas on behalf of an entity called “Magius”. Not only that, they make an offer Felicia simply cannot refuse: Magius' goal is the destruction of all Witches, and they can give Felicia a seat at the Witch killing table, should she turn against the other Magical Girls on their behalf. It's a routine plot development enhanced by the show's ace direction and visuals, with the arrival of the Wings of Magius' looking like a blood-soaked phantasmagoria straight out of a giallo film. We get the title drop in the final image of the episode, with Felicia looking every bit as dangerous as Yachiyo warned, though without any of the sweet charm. While I'm sure Magia Record will have her working as one of the good guys soon enough, I'm sure whatever bumps in the road that are bound to come along the way will be entertaining indeed.
Odds and Ends
• Artistry Alley: Though its inclusion in the plot makes very little sense narratively, the weird back-alley Uwasa labyrinth that Iroha and Felecia find the Lucky Owl Water in looks superb, which I'm sure is shocking to all of you.
• Another interesting visual trick the episode pulls is having various items – candy wrappers, video-game screens, etc. - tick down the girls' luck after they drink the Lucky Owl Potion. Putting a literal ticking clock on screen can sometime feel like a cheap way to build tension, but it was quite effective here.
• Something I'm less keen about are all of these Madoka Magica cameos, which are feeling more and more like baseless fanservice with each passing week. Mami's appearance at least foreshadowed Yachiyo and/or Iroha's unspoken role in the Uwasa plot, but Kyoko being in Kamihama City only serves to remind us that a lot of Magical Girls are taking notice of what's going on there, which we already knew. By my count, we've already met about a dozen Magical Girls already, so I don't know what ballooning the cast even more adds to the show, outside of making sure fans can't possibly forget that this is a super official and legitimate sequel to an anime they really liked.
• “Uwasa” is just Japanese for “rumor”, for anyone who was wondering. I kind of wish we'd just stuck with “Rumor” as the official name, actually – it's in keeping with the English title of “Witch”, and I think it would preserve the mythic/archetypal mood the show is going for with English speakers.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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