Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Few people know the truth: the world is safe thanks to the Magical Girls who are forced to slay Witches. Even though these girls are putting their lives on the line for a wish, rumors say they can be saved in Kamihama City. That’s where Iroha Tamaki is headed in search of answers. She can’t remember the wish she made to Kyubey, but a shadowy figure haunts her dreams. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Magia Record impressed us early on by managing to recapture the grim, unnerving tone of its predecessor, making us fear for Iroha and what answers she’d come to find on her quest to understand what happened to her sister, who no longer exists. But that early tonal similarity to Puella Magi Madoka Magica is largely a misnomer. From Episode 2 and on the series toys with darker ideas, imagery, but never has the nerve that Madoka did to follow through, making our entire cast feel like they are rarely, if ever, in any true danger. At times the series even drifts into Slice of Life-esque territory, feeling altogether a more typical magical girl romp that sits divorced from what fans would expect of a Madoka property.
Linny: As the show progresses, it starts to jam in additional magical girls every other episode or so. This quickly becomes annoying, confusing and frustrating as the audience struggles to keep track of all these girls that the show makes little to no effort to truly establish or introduce. Often these girls are yanked out of the story as abruptly as they were pushed in, making it hard for the audience to grow attached. Not only that, but Magia will sometimes push a twist, dramatic reveal about one of these new characters, showcasing trauma that the character or story had shown no signs of before, making these reveals feel half baked and underdeveloped. The utter lack of proper build up and character development means a lot of the emotional beats of the story simply fall flat.
Tom: Sure, the wealth of magical girls is fun to see, especially when that offers us a cameo or two of some of the girls from Madoka proper. But what we gain from an ever expanding cast isn’t enough to offset all the detriment it brings to the series otherwise. Because we have too many characters to let anyone shine, hell even Iroha remains a paper thin lead thanks to the shift in focus every time a new character crops up, Magia Record is otherwise extremely narrative focused. The characters instead become mere vehicles to carry the story forward. This means there’s only two aspects to the series that are effective at holding your attention; the mysteries surrounding Iroha and the fight sequences. The series even doubles up on mysteries the further we go, adding in at least two additional mystery narratives. While the series is happy to set up more questions, it’s unwilling to offer answers, or even hints. This means by Episode 6 the mysteries have begun to stack, but we’re no closer to even answering the very first mystery that set Iroha out on her journey. There’s no hints, no progression, no anything to make us feel like we’ve moved forward from that first episode, and that feeling of stagnancy is very damaging.
Linny: Magia Record sucks the audience in at the start by introducing a rather unique mystery. It even evolves the mystery in the very first episode to make it all the more puzzling, but then proceeds to focus only on injecting new characters, new storylines, and mysteries related instead to those characters. None of its cast members nor mysteries, new or old are ever really given breathing space and as the episodes add up, even the big starting central mystery that Iroha is trying to figure out loses its sparkle. It becomes a poorly paced catalyst for the show to justify Iroha going out and meeting new magical girls and getting caught up in other mysteries. Thanks to how quickly Magia Record devolves into a rushed barrage of story and how nonsensical and detached a lot of it feels, it’s hard to imagine who could thoroughly enjoy this series. The ad for the mobile game that flashes onscreen at the end of episodes further sours matters, reminding you that this is, in truth one big long advertisement for a mobile game. Maybe die hard Madoka fans might enjoy the cameos of the original Madoka girls; so far we have been treated to two of them making an appearance and interacting with the Magia Record girls; but it still seems like a high price to sit through hours of mediocre content just to see beloved characters for a couple of minutes.
Tom: Having dipped my toes into the mobile game it’s clear that to call Magia Record a mere cash grab would be a tad unfair to the work being done for the anime. There’s been some effort to condense, and rework the ho-hum mission intro writing for the game and turn it into an actual narrative. That said, what steps they’ve taken simply aren’t enough to elevate the material to a level that’s worthy of the Madoka anime name. Without the opportunity to flesh out characters, make progress on mysteries, or put our girls through hell and back, Magia Record bears little resemblance to Madoka proper, beyond pure aesthetic. In truth the problem of character bloat is something many mobile game adaptations suffer from. I wish the people doing such adaptations would learn that including every character from the game, especially when trying to give each the spotlight, is simply a poor idea that’s incapable of producing something of quality. Magia Record thus ends up as a property truly more for Magia Record mobile fans than Madoka viewers. If you’re absolutely starving for Madoka maybe Magia Record at least tickles the itch, but otherwise you’re best leaving this one alone.