For anime fans and particularly those who’re fond of the magical girl genre, the name Puella Magi Madoka Magica will surely bring a tear to your eye and pain to your heart.
Back in 2010, this simple, cute and unassuming anime completely redefined the magical girl genre as we know it with its unique cocktail of existential dread, adorable magical girls and a mascot character that everyone loved to hate.
While I’ve always held a love of magical girls for as long as I can remember thanks to genre staples and childhood gems Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, it was Madoka Magica that completely blew me away, and it still remains my all-time favourite anime for that very reason.
Despair, love, malice, injustice and misery – who would have thought that a liberal sprinkling of these themes into magical girl anime would make for something so fantastic? Well, thanks to writer Gen Urobochi and the talent at studio Shaft that breathed life into the series, we no longer need to ask that question.
Since its release, the dark magical girl genre has grown exponentially. While none have truly recaptured the spark that helped Madoka Magica become the genre-redefining gem it is, the fact that so many series have since followed Madoka Magica‘s example pays testament to just how incredible this anime truly is and how highly regarded it is within the community. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
The Madoka Magica universe is far from an insular one, however, as it has continued to grow annually thanks to a plethora of impressive spin-off manga and the three movies, the first two of which summarise the key points of the original series, while the third acts as a sequel movie that will have fans on the edge of their seats!
That’s not all, though. Along with these sequels and spin-offs, there’s also been a number of Japanese exclusive games like 2012 PSP game Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable and 2013’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram for the PS Vita.
While these games are a tonne of fun to experience with more of the incredible music, solid gameplay and alternate-timeline story scenarios, those of us in the West could only experience them if we imported the games or if we decided to watch one of the few translated Let’s Plays that are floating around on YouTube.
But that wasn’t all that Madoka Magica was hiding back in Japan. In 2017, Aniplex released a mobile game, Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story for mobile devices. This game told the tale of protagonist Iroha Tamaki and a brand new group of magical girls in the city of Kamihama – a city famed for its powerful witches – and is where Iroha has gone in order to find her missing sister, Ui.
It took a further two years for the game to receive an English localisation in North America, but for UK fans, the game still remains a far-off dream that I hope one day will come true. While we probably have a long wait ahead for the game, fans finally have access to an adaptation of the game, the brand new anime by the same name – and the focus of this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole!
Magia Record has some massive boots to fill, and with a shadow as large as the one cast by Madoka Magica, the difficulty will come in staying true to the original source while also carving out its own identity.
Additionally, the question on the lips of every Madoka Magica fan is how Magia Record will hold up considering the powerhouse team of the Magica Quartet are back on board for the project. Well, with four episodes having already aired, we have a pretty solid foundation by which to judge Magia Record, so here’s what we think so far.
Magia Record is a strange beast in that it has all the same hallmarks that Madoka Magica had before it, and yet it plays to its strengths in a totally different way. While the original anime focused on subverting tropes, shocking its audience and playing more to the intrinsic horror of the scenarios on display, Magia Record doesn’t have the same natural ability to shock its viewers, as they will likely already be acquainted with Madoka Magica‘s world beforehand.
Instead, Magia Record seems content to craft a different kind of story, similar to the Madoka Magica Rebellion movie, as it focuses on building ambience and dread, all while weaving a mystery, but it still has some well-needed action to relieve the ever-building tension at strategic intervals.
The story itself focuses on Iroha as she navigates the new town of Kamihama, and along the way she meets a bunch of new magical girls that help her towards her ultimate goal. In each scenario to date, the magical girls investigate rumours, as there has been an unusual number of rumours popping up in the town recently, with some even having been linked to disappearances – something that has Iroha very interested.
Rumours play such an important role in Magia Record, so much so in fact that the main events are set in motion by one – that being that Magical Girls can be saved in Kamihama. From the first moment I heard that line, I knew there was more going on behind the scenes, and that hook, the desire of knowing the truth, works fantastically well in keeping the audience invested and hungry for more.
This link between the otherworldly, supernatural (read: Witch) causes that lie behind each rumour link back into the overall theming and scenario of Magia Record remarkably well. Combining that with how well the narrative unveils some mysteries while creating others helps drip-feed viewers in a satisfying, yet simultaneously aggravating manner that makes for a truly addictive viewing experience! I’ve yet to finish an episode without thinking “You can’t stop there!?!”, and if that isn’t a pretty fantastic commendation for a series, I don’t know what is.
One of the most memorable aspects of the original Madoka Magica is its audiovisual presentation, and I’m glad to report that, so far at least, Magia Record is holding its own. While many music tracks are recycled from the original Madoka to toy with fans’ emotions, there is a plethora of new tracks to help keep things fresh. Similarly, the Witches’ designs, which helped define Madoka Magica‘s overall twisted aesthetic, return in a similarly stylised manner, while simultaneously feeling wholly unique.
I will admit that my preference at present still lies with the original Witches of Madoka Magica, but the new Witches are equally as nightmarish. I will admit that my love of the original Madoka Magica does make me somewhat biased, but ultimately, Magia Record is only a third of the way into its 13-episode run, meaning there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming episodes that might just blow me away.
Having only four episodes to work with makes it incredibly difficult to digest Magia Record. Like the original Madoka Magica anime, Magia Record is thick with potential hints and clues at the greater mystery that lies just below the surface, and without being able to binge the entire series, it’s difficult to break this anime down into being simply good or bad.
The original series came with plot twists, dramatic moments and more than a gentle dusting of despair. This was further emphasised in the movies, and in both instances, you never knew what would happen next. Because of this, it’s impossible to look at Magia Record and know what’s coming next, but it definitely keeps you on your toes.
As part of the Madoka Magica franchise, Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is already shaping up to be a phenomenal accompaniment to the original, with a brand new flavour. With a promising new cast of magical girls this time around that will hopefully receive ample character development combined with the many mysteries surrounding Ui and Kamehara, from the Tiny Kuybei to Ui’s disappearance, there’s a lot to be exited for with Magia Record. With Mami Tomoe having also made an appearance in the series, I’m beyond excited for what’s to come next, and if the first four episodes are anything to go by, Magia Record will definitely be one to remember!
With all that being said, thanks again for joining us on this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and we hope you’ve enjoyed your time here. If you did, that’s amazing, and please consider sharing. If you didn’t, then please get in touch and let us know why. We would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you all once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!
DISCLAIMER: ALL CREDIT FOR THE IMAGES USED IN THIS REVIEW IS GIVEN TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.