Puella Magi Madoka Magica was a tortuous series: It took viewers into the darkest night before pulling out a hopeful, if heartbreaking, ending. Magia Record from the very beginning sought to emulate PMMM, but much like the deviations that Anno took in the second Rebuild film, this one doesn’t go quite as deep into the pain. These choices make the series less emotionally impactful, but easier to watch. There’s a give and take, one that I think has to take place because we as viewers already know the biggest surprise.
But the magical girls don’t yet know them. In episode 12 of Magia Record, there are layers of reveal that help guide us toward next week’s the conclusion. The first series of reveals are those that as I mentioned the audience is already privy to. Momoko explains the story of how Yachiyo has become the way she is at the same time that Iroha and the others attend Touka’s “Magical Girl Class,” and in the second hour of it, partaking in a simulation that shows the events that Momoko is describing. We discover that that Yachiyo and Mifuyu have suffered loss twice: first through a girl who appears to be even stronger than Yachiyo and had her soul gem crushed, dying in the process. Then, a later addition, the weaker Mel, has hers clouded and becomes a witch (This seems to be the source of Yachiyo’s original antagonism toward the weaker Iroha). It’s through these losses that the two girls learn about the awful trade that magical girls make for their wish.
In this universe, though, Madoka has not (and may not) defeat the endless cycle through her self-sacrificial wish. Instead, the Magius have stepped in, of which Touka (who is every so much more annoying than the also obnoxious Felicia) is one. To destroy the cycle in which magical girls either die or “mature” into witches, she has created the way of the Magius, developing magical girls into “Doppels,” semi-witch creations (Iroha has already experienced this some), and invites our girls to become the same.
Meanwhile, after Momoko explains the previous events to a crying Rena, an usually calm Kanae arrives apparently having “come to the light,” and invites her friend to join the Magius. The episode ends with another girl saying they must do the same, for there is no other way to avoid their fate (It seems to be Momoko’s voice).
There’s a wonderful juxtaposition here. Touka is inviting the girls toward salvation, but it doesn’t feel right. They will become something not entirely evil, but still not good, still not human. Neither is Touka a voice of reason: She is arrogant and devious. And there remains Yachiyo, who resists; is she merely stubborn, or is she right to not want to become a Magius? Is she just hurt that her friends have died, or is she doing the proper thing?
There are routes in life where we sometimes must choose the lesser of two evils. But too often, as well, we simply capitulate when there is a better way. We don’t have to take the promotion if it will lead us to love money more. We don’t have to avoid a difficult conversation just because it helps us avoid our own discomfort. We can do the hard work and the hard thinking that must happen to find the best solution.
But what is the choice for Iroha and the others? That we don’t yet know, though it must have something to do with her sister, whom Touka says she doesn’t know. We’ll find out next week when I’m hopeful, and quite certain, that the right choice will be made, one that doesn’t have to lead the girls for settling to become Doppels rather than Witches, for that’s in the DNA of Madoka Magica, even in a more muted side story.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record can be streamed on Funimation.