Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story ?
“I Want to Go Home With You” may have an awfully loaded title, connotatively speaking, but it's about as straightforward an episode as we've gotten from Magia Record in a while, especially since Felicia's betrayal and all of the “Wings of Magius” material that got dropped last week looked to be much more ominous and fraught than what we actually get with this week's follow up. I'm not complaining, necessarily; I think it's perfectly fine for a show like Magia Record to take some opportunities to get down to brass tacks with its plotting an exposition every now and again. All of the spooky and surreal imagery in the world won't do your story much good if the audience can't connect the dots from A to B, after all.
To keep things short and sweet, the Wings of Magius are exactly as they describe themselves, at first glance: Magical Girls who act as the will of the three Magius, who seek to “eradicate” Magical Girls, and they're using the Rumors/Uwasa to do that. The way that Tsukuyo and Tsukasa keep their phrasing ambiguous about what “eradicating” means seems especially important, here. Felicia, precitably, is much more specific about her goals. Her whole family got killed by a Witch, which lead to Kyubey recruiting her in the usual fashion, so she's very much about “killing” all the Witches. Kyoko shows up again in a surprisingly substantial role, as she's also elected to join up with the Wings of Magius to get her Witch killing game on, but she mostly exists here to get Felicia along to the same conclusion she eventually reaches: All of this vague jabbering about Magius' sinister sounding goals is just too “Obvious Anime Villain” for her liking. When the other girls finally show up to confront the Wings, Felicia and Kyoko switch sides again with very little fuss. There's a fight that ends with the Lucky Owl Water Uwasa being destroyed, we get one mild twist in the return of Mifuyu, and then everthing is more or less back to normal by the episode's end.
Unlike past episodes, which were all about setting up mysteries and introducing characters while stringing along morsels of plot, the best thing about “I Want to Go Home With You” is how easy it is to get from the opening credits to the post-credits tease. Felicia's heel-turn was never going to be permanent, and Magia Record needed more than additional Magical Girl drama this week, so we finally get to establish a clear antagonistic force in the Magius. Given what fans of the franchise already know, there isn't a whole lot of point anymore in just having the Witches and the Uwasa remain as monster-of-the-week threats, and the hunt for Ui is not enough to sustain a season's worth of conflict. It is very easy to argue that getting Felicia into the arms of the Magius, only to reject them in favor of her new friends, is padding for time on the show's part. However, I think it was all worth it to have Mifuyu show back up in Yachiyo and Tsuruno's lives, and as an agent of the Magius no less. Her presence as an actual character makes her much more compelling than when she simply existed as an emotional MacGuffin for the other girls, as it creates conflict and tension that can't be hand-waved away by beating up a Witch or an Uwasa. Ui's disappearance may have been enough motivation for Iroha to get involved in the shenanigans going in in Kamihama City, but now that there's an organization of mysterious Bad Magical Girls to fight against our heroines, Magia Record is telling a story that feels substantially different than the Madoka Magica retreat it has been up until now.
With the Iroha and the others all living together under one roof, now, the new team is also starting to feel distinct from the original Madoka girls, even if Magia Record insists on undercutting that progress by constantly bringing the likes of Mami and Kyoko back into the fold whenever possible. Individually, the Magia Record girls can't quite hold their own against the first series' crew, but as a team they present a dynamic that is just distinct enough to keep the show afloat. They also have Iroha's tendency to transform into a Witch herself to contend with, which is just the kind of lore-shattering puzzle that a spinoff like this ought to relish playing with. If Magia Record can flesh out its team dynamics and unique mysteries more, it might just stand a chance of stepping out of the shadow of its famous big sibling, even if it's only to dip its toes into the sunlight before going right back to remind us of just how gosh darn cool the world of Madoka Magica is.
Odds and Ends
• Artistry Alley: This is perhaps the first episode of Magia Record where Gekodan Inu Curry's superlative visual sense doesn't significantly enhance the episode. Felicia's opening flashback to her family's death is solid, but it feels reminiscent of stuff we've already seen from the series, and the Lucky Water Rumor got hamstringed by overexposure. Even Iroha's Witch transformation felt halfhearted this week. Just about the only image that stuck out to me was the forced perspective on the water-sprinklers that frame the girls' entrance into the Wings of Magius' hideout, and the bizarre architecture of the bridge we see early in the episode. I'll always love those dreamlike touches to the world building.
• Am I the only one who finds it strange how the show mixes the translation of Rumor/Uwasa? Is there supposed to be some distinction between the two that I'm not picking up on?
• I liked Kyoko's participation more here, since she had stuff to do beyond show up for the sake of fanservice, but I can't help but be irked by how she didn't need to be present for the plot of the episode to work. I can't wait for Homura to show up so she can make some veiled time-travel puns, drink a milkshake in the background of a scene, and then leave in the middle of an episode.
• The post-credit scene shows an “Unknown Caller” texting Iroha's phone, begging for help from a Magical Girl. I have no clue who this could possibly be, which means I either overlooked an obvious bit of foreshadowing, or it's simply a cheap cliffhanger to get us excited for next week.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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