Man, it sure does feel great to be back in the world of Madoka. I'm not just talking about the Puella Magi Madoka Magica franchise, either, or even the fact that we're finally picking back up with Magia Record after a year-and-a-half of waiting for this second season to premiere. I'm talking about getting to spend some quality time with the original PMMM crew, including everyone's favorite pink-haired Magical Girl extraordinaire herself (sorry, Iroha). That's right, to kick things off for its second act, Magia Record has chosen to sidestep the new cast of characters it spent so much time with during Season 1, and instead we get to catch up with Sayaka, Moroha, and Madoka—at least, the versions of the characters that exist in this timeline.
“I Had a Feeling We Could All Become Magical Girls Together” is an episode that honestly shouldn't work as well as it does, since it spends most of its time reminding us of the rules of the Madoka Magica universe while refreshing us on the core cast of Magical Girls that got this franchise started back in the long-ago year of 2011. It's an absolute blast to see the old gang back together—minus Mami and Kyoko, on account of all the Magius stuff that went down in Season 1—even if some of the stuff that Madoka and Co. have to confront does end up feeling like old hat.
That's especially the case in the scene where all of the girls discover the truth about Kyubey, the Witches and their Grief Seeds, the ultimate fate of Magical Girls, and so on and so forth. Unless you're a viewer who somehow decided that the second season premiere of an anime that is adapting a vaguely canonical alternate universe spinoff of the original show was the perfect entry point to the Madoka Magica franchise, then this is far from the first time you've had to see this revelation play out, and it isn't as if this part of the lore is terribly complicated to begin with. If anything, I'll be needing more of a reminder when it comes to everything that happened with Magius and all that in Kamihama City, since I'd completely forgotten about Mami's big heel turn at the end of last season, or how Sayaka ended up getting involved to help out.
What's more interesting is how the episode recontextualizes a lot of details that Madoka fans will be keen to pick up on, as they help us understand the status quo of this timeline compared to the one we're familiar with. For one, even though Homura has completed enough of her “Operation: Keep from Dying Horribly” time-loops to have the low-down on Kyubey's dark secrets, even before Sayaka spills the beans, she's nowhere near as stoic and jaded as what we saw in the original series. Unless we're dealing with a completely parallel reality, that would place the events of Magia Record as occurring sometime between Homura's original induction onto the team, and the eventual climaxes of the Madoka Magica show and the Rebellion movie. I'm very interested to see if that means versions of all the other new characters that we've met could have some part to play in the new Urobuchi-approved movie that is coming out soon.
Also of note is Sayaka's entire arc, which is very pointedly at odds with what happened to her in PMMM. Here in Magia Record, she does not succumb to the despair of her Magical Girl fate, though she's awfully tempted to at first, and a little prodding from Madoka is enough to get her back in action and on Homura's side when the latter girl goes to finish off the witch that nearly bested the team at the top of the episode. If my memory is correct, the framing and even the location of that initial dust-up between Homura and Sayaka very strongly echoes the sequence wherein Sayaka originally went full Witch on everyone else, so the show clearly knows what it is doing. After beating the witch, Homura remarks that things are going better than they ever have in previous loops; is this universe truly doomed to fail, so that the Madoka Magica story can play out as intended, or is something more complicated in store for our heroes?
Speaking of that witch fight, I have to mention the awesome action scenes that we get to behold in this premiere, especially when Sayaka takes off her Pity Party Hat and finally gets to kicking some Witch ass. I feel like a lot of anime have tried to replicate the signature surrealist flavor of the Witches and their lairs, but nobody does it quite like Gekidan Inu Curry, and there's no shortage of spooky spectacle on display once Sayaka starts unloading on the weird ball of limbs and skirts that is this week's foe. It's a bit of on-the-nose fanservice for everyone who's been stanning Sayaka for the past decade, sure, and the editing is sometimes a bit too jittery for my liking, but I'm not going to act like I wasn't having a damned good time anyways.
Ultimately, though, Magia Record isn't about letting Madoka and her friends live out a less tragic version of their original story. It's a tale about all of the Magical Girls, including Iroha, Yachiyo, and all of the other girls who are in Kamina City and trapped in the web of machinations that Magius has put into motion. While it's been great to catch up with our old friends here, the show's real test will be in whether or not it can get this new story out of its big sibling's shadow. Season 1 was good fun, but it didn't quite get there in the end. Only time will tell if Seasons 2 and 3 will end up getting the job done proper.
Odds and Ends
• There is a post-credits scene that revisits the Magius plot in a couple of big ways. For one, Yachiyo discovers that Magius' HQ is called Hotel Feint Hope (har dee har), though it is nearly impossible to find on account of how it teleports around the city at random. Also, we get a cameo from Ui (I think), who is holed up in that very same hotel. I honestly can't remember if she ever properly appeared back in the first season, but here she is now! Also at the hotel is Kuroe, that one character from waaaayyy back in Episode 1 who did…actually, you know what? I can't remember what she ended up doing either (if anything at all). A year-and-a-half is a long time! Especially this year-and-a-half…
• One interesting point from Kyubey's speech: Apparently, if a Magical Girl could somehow find a way to refresh her Soul Gem ad infinitum, she would effectively be immortal.
• It is honestly delightful to see Homura in her “cutesy” mode, and it only reinforces my opinion that she is the Best Girl of the whole franchise (controversial, I know).
• I was not able to play the Magia Record game before it shut down for good, but I have been told that this show has done a lot of work to rearrange stuff and add some anime-only content to keep things flowing smoothly. Between that and the fact that we're getting a whole third season before the series is done with, I am tentatively hopeful that Magia Record will be able to tell a complete story, in the end.
• On that same point, the subtitle of this second season is apparently Eve of Awakening, while the upcoming third season is titled Dawn of Light Dreams.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is currently streaming on FUNimation.