But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness, like a heartbeat,
Drives you mad in the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost…– Stevie Nicks, Rumours
SPOILER WARNING: There are spoilers for Magia Record anime series through Episode 4, as well as the Madoka Magica series. However, plot points explored by the Magia Record mobile game that have not yet been reached by the anime will not be spoiled here.
Episodes 2 and 3 of Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story heavily featured new characters and their plight. Those earlier episodes were intent on introducing Rumors: Witches that only appear when certain circumstances are met. This has meant that Iroha’s quest to find Ui, as established by the first episode, has largely been sidelined. However, now that we have a burgeoning cast and a stronger understanding of how Kamihama differs from Madoka Magica‘s Mitakihara, we can start piecing together how Ui’s disappearance and these Rumors might be related.
In Episode 4, we find Iroha, Momoko, Rena, Kaede, and Mitama getting comfortable at the Coordinator’s place. While Momoko is musing about how the Friendship Ending Staircase was different from other Witches, we see Mitama doing something absolutely ridiculous with her food. She has a delicious slice of cheesecake that she’s smothering with ketchup. While previous episodes of Magia Record had moments of levity, Episode 4 was littered with them. After we’re subjected to Mitama’s appalling taste, Kaede pops some food into Rena’s mouth to stop her from interjecting in the conversation. Again, this moment felt chuckle-worthy but it was also informative.
We’ve spent two episodes getting to know these new girls. In my Episode 2 review, I complained that the show was dwelling too much on the melodrama of characters we barely knew or cared about, but a lot has changed since then. Episode 3 was the highest point of the series thus far for a variety of reasons, but it wasn’t until this little interaction between Kaede and Rena that I realized I’ve come to understand their relationship better and that I actually care about them.
At the Coordinator’s, Iroha decides to search for Ui on her own, and Mitama gives her a tip on where she can eat if she gets peckish during her investigation. Perhaps unsurprising after seeing what the Coordinator just consumed, the restaurant she recommends doesn’t happen to be all that great, but it seems Mitama had something besides food in mind.
At BanBanzai Chinese Restaurant, Iroha meets Tsuruno Yui, the self-proclaimed Mightiest Magical Girl. If her title wasn’t evidence enough, it soon becomes apparent that Tsuruno is the remainder of this episode’s comic relief. She’s a quirky, outgoing magical girl who’s admittedly pretty strong and is genuine in her desire to help Iroha learn more about Rumors and what might have happened to Ui.
Although Tsuruno herself doesn’t know much about Rumors, she decides to call someone else who might. Sure enough, when the three girls meet up, it’s Yachiyo. Upon meeting her for the third time, Yachiyo is hesitant to continue working with Iroha, the girl with a sister who doesn’t exist, but Tsuruno proves convincing and Yachiyo divulges the details of the latest Rumor she’s been investigating.
The Rumor of the Séance Shrine goes like this: there’s a holy shrine in Kamihama where friends or loved ones can be reunited, but the catch is that the people who go to find their long lost whoever are never heard from again. Similar to the Friendship Ending Staircase, this Rumor involves disappearing people. Besides being right up Iroha’s alley, it could be yet another clue as to why so many people in and around Kamihama are apparently disappearing. If there are more of these Rumors swallowing up normal folk and magical girls alike, it could account for the various suggestions of exodus that we’ve seen over the course of the previous three episodes.
While investigating potential shrines, the three girls decide they can use a local scavenger hunt to help them. According to flyers, the scavenger hunt will have them going from shrine to shrine and will eventually land them in a “marriage power spot.” Yachiyo decides that whatever shrine holds this power spot must be the Séance Shrine because of a myth she retells that she has long suspected is related to the Rumor.
According to the myth, two lovers were separated by social class and when their relationship was discovered, the man (of lower status than his partner) was killed. The woman decided to perform a ritual, requiring the sacrifice of many subjects in order to see him again. The night of the ritual, her lover returned to her.
Nearing the end of the day, Iroha, Yachiyo, and Tsuruno happen upon a local grocery store and Yachiyo suddenly remembers that there’s a limited time sale she desperately wants to take advantage of. With the other two girls in tow, they begin gathering groceries for some great savings. However, it’s never too long before their magical girl lives creep into their everyday.
A Witch suddenly appears to interrupt the shopping spree and the three girls leap into combat. Yachiyo insists that Iroha hang back to let the others take care of the Witch, but Iroha insists on being of use. The ordeal was a nice slice of action in an otherwise slow-paced episode, but it wasn’t altogether pointless. Besides learning that Iroha has a hidden ability to greatly enhance the magic of a fellow magical girl (giving Tsuruno quite the boost), the battle ends and there’s a moment that will surely be revisited in the coming episodes. Iroha glances at her Soul Gem and upon discovering that it’s growing corrupted, she keeps the information to herself.
Iroha could have easily asked for a portion of the Grief Seed dropped by the Witch to purify her Soul Gem, but she seems eager to prove herself to Yachiyo. We already know that Yachiyo won’t respect a fellow magical girl if she can’t defend herself. And if these Rumors are somehow related to Ui’s disappearance, then Iroha needs to stay close to the one person who seems to know anything about them. If Iroha can’t prove she’s useful, then she’s a liability to Yachiyo.
After the battle with the grocery store Witch, Yachiyo has a revelation: the Séance Shrine Rumor only activates at night. So the three travel back to Mizuna Shrine, the marriage power spot, the location they all originally met at. They hop the locked gate to find the shrine has transformed into a Labyrinth. Wooden paddles magically float to each girl, prompting them to write the names of the people they wish to see.
Iroha and Yachiyo both write names down, but before Tsuruno can put a name down on her paddle, Yachiyo stops her. She tells Tsuruno that the two girls would be putting down the same person’s name, so she should refrain from writing anyone’s. Throughout the episode, Momoko and Tsuruno imply that they used to be closer to Yachiyo. Yachiyo even admits this much to Iroha, but for whatever reason she mostly works alone now. That she herself is looking for someone is contrary to the loner lifestyle she tends to lead, but the fact the Tsuruno is looking for the same person is somewhat telling. Something happened to cause a rift amongst these friends years ago, and it’s likely related to this other missing girl.
As the three begin moving on through the Labyrinth, Tsuruno is abruptly halted and held back by it because she didn’t supply a name to the Rumor. At the same time, Iroha and Yachiyo are transported deeper in. When the arrive in the center of the Rumor, both are confronted by the people they wished to see, and the episode ends.
Although not as passively enlightening as some previous episodes, Magia Record Episode 4 did have its moments that confirmed (or at least lended credence to) some of the theories we’ve generated so far. For example, we got some justification for the aforementioned suggestion that there are people disappearing en masse and that it’s as a result of Rumors. When the girls arrive at Mizuna Shrine during the day, we see a shot of an empty spider’s web in the foreground. When they visit at night, the web is full of moths, as if the Rumor is a flame that people can’t help but be attracted to and trapped within.
We also got confirmation of Iroha’s loneliness, as suggested by much of the imagery from Episode 1, but she also supplied a more specific sense of why. Following the episode’s opening theme, Iroha admits that she doesn’t have any friends and that her “memory is full of blank spots.” As I’ve theorized, her sense of loneliness stems from her wish to become a magical girl and her sister’s disappearance. While this internalized dialogue plays, we also see the first shot of half an apple on the floor of her divided bedroom.
This sliced apple imagery feels loaded with meaning. It represents Iroha’s imperfect knowledge of her past and her sister, but it could also symbolize Iroha’s incompleteness. As I pointed out in the Magia Record Episode 3 review, Iroha’s transformation is acutely about her identity and seems to suggest that she isn’t just tracking down her lost sister but her lost sense of self. Is it possible that these are one in the same? Could she feel incomplete, like half of her apple is missing because her sister is gone, or could it be that she is literally searching for a lost piece of herself? Perhaps Kyubey was onto something when he suggested Iroha’s regained memories could have been fabricated.
While the show’s cast is growing and promises to get even bigger (especially with the hint that the previous Madoka Magica cast may be making an appearance), it still doesn’t feel bloated. Each character feels like she’s getting appropriate screentime, at least relevant to the plot at hand.
Like Episode 2, Magia Record Episode 4 seems to be setting up a two part structure. The cliffhanger at the end left us with the hope of an Iroha-Ui reunion and had us asking of Yachiyo’s Séance Shrine request, “Who-the-fuyu?” Each week, we turn another page in the book of Yachiyo’s identity, and I’m interested to see if Episode 5 finally begins to explore the past that other characters and her ED theme have merely suggested.