Genre(s): Magical Girl, Dark Fantasy, Drama, Psychological, Thriller
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (Violence, disturbing imagery)
Platforms: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Anime-Only TheAwersome Rating: 7.5 / 10 (Inu Curry fest!)
Played-the-Game TheAwersome Rating: 8.4 / 10 (Great adaptation with good improvements)
Premise: A white creature named Kyubey has the power to grant girls any single wish. In exchange for that wish, however, they must become magical girls and fight against creatures known as Witches. A rumor soon begins to spread among magical girls that they can be saved from their duty by going to Kamihama City. Iroha Tamaki, a girl who had forgotten the wish she had made to become a magical girl, encounters a smaller Kyubey and remembers that she made a wish to cure her younger sister Ui of her illness. Realizing that Ui has become missing somehow, Iroha travels to Kamihama City to find answers, encountering many other magical girls along the way.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: First off, you’ll want to have watched the original Madoka anime before picking this up, as it assumes you already know how this world works. This is a very different story than its predecessor, touching on different themes. A lot of that is because the source story is from a gacha game/visual novel, so there’s a much larger cast. As such, it can be quite difficult to keep track of who is who, and what each character’s relationship is to the others. While Yuki Kajiura didn’t handle the music on this installment, Takumi Ozawa does a very good job to channel the specific vibe that she gave the Madoka universe.
Because of the large amount of dialogue in the show, the visuals take a cue from the Monogatari series with Inu Curry’s abstract and unsettling backgrounds taking a front seat, even while not in a Labyrinth. While this helps to set tone, it also blurs the line of what weird psychedelic things are symbolic vs actual magic happening.
TLDR: Translating gacha games to anime remains a challenge, but not as bad as Fate GO.
From the Perspective of Not Having Played the Game:
This is a bit of a firehose if you haven’t played the game before or aren’t familiar with the characters and general story. We go from a cast of five main characters with two or three supporting, to a cast of roughly eleven main characters with four or five supporting. Not only is the cast much larger, but there are so many shorter sub-stories that feel pretty crammed in there. Going by screen time, it’s hard to decide if Rena is a main character and Felicia is more of a support, or vice versa. And then we keep adding more characters up until the end of the first season which leaves a cliffhanger.
With one notable exception, the fights seem more of a vehicle to continue storytelling than being a suspenseful, intense, threatening moment with a real sense of danger. That, and animation quality doesn’t seem to be consistent throughout the show. Certain scenes will have characters with clear, clean, features and backgrounds, and other ones look pretty rushed. But at least we don’t get hung up dragging on with “What should I wish for? Should I become a magical girl?” which would probably be my only qualm with the original Madoka anime.
Something that is very interesting to see with Magia Record was getting to actually dive deeper into the world that the Madoka anime created. Similar with Sword Oratoria getting to see the actual day-to-day workings of people that live in Orario, Magia Record shows what a bigger city full of networked Magical Girls that often work together would be like. The worldbuilding has mostly been done, so we don’t have to spend time on that and can jump right into an interesting story. A story that, until we see the resolving season, is a bit confusing as to how it ties in with the original anime.
TLDR: An interesting story/expansion of the Madoka world, but so many characters and mini-stories can make it hard to follow or connect with.
From the Perspective of Having Played the Game:
I was actually very impressed with how much effort and thought went into the production of this. Obviously we can’t introduce and have the 30-40+ side characters have much of a role in the anime due to time, but there are references, nods, and easter eggs EVERYWHERE in this show, not to mention a lot of excellently artistic foreshadowing. A lot of girls will make cameo background appearances (Mayu, Ria, Manaka, Ren) with others being shown, even though we might not get much of their names or story (Team Nanaka). Specifically, in the first episode, we see a cascade of a bunch of different wishes that different girls have made when Iroha is talking with Kyubey about her inability to remember her own wish. Pausing and reading each one of them shows that each one is directly from the game. Something else that I thought was beautifully handled was the concept of the “Connect.” Frequently mentioned in-game is having one magical girl lend her power to another, and gameplaywise this is a major element. While it isn’t specifically talked about as much in the anime, they definitely portray this “connecting” in unique, interesting ways that highlight the different types of magic that the various girls have.
That’s probably my favorite thing watching this after having played the game is how much of it is a faithful, one-to-one translation. Locations, voice actors, certain scenes of dialogue, witches, familiars, and even in-show photographs are all taken directly from the game. It’s great to be able to Experience a lot of the moments from the game. Because the game uses a Visual Novel format for storytelling, we didn’t get to really feel the intensity, creepiness, full-body goosebumps, or danger of a lot of scenes, so it’s great to see them really brought to life in the anime. With so many faithful elements, the anime definitely has a good middle-ground between the Madoka anime and the Magia Record game regarding the vibe. It’s much darker and creepier than the game, but not quite as much as the original Madoka anime. Though we don’t really get to know many of the characters as well as we do in the game, I feel the anime did a fabulous job exploring Rena and Sana’s characters and giving us their stories in an artistic way.
While some of the changes are due to “well obviously you can’t include such and such character in this scene, it’d take too much time” or “that scene was just slice-of-life anyway,” there were some changes that I feel greatly improve upon the story that was in the game. Certain rules of Uwasa were changed, certain characters made different choices that I feel are more honest to the character than what we got in the original game. With the exception of the Séance Shrine and Alina’s introduction, I prefer almost every change (not just cut) that the anime made from the source material, especially the final episode. With the amount that was changed in the final episode, I am interested to see what direction the second season will take, because it’s diverged a decent way from the game at that point. If you’re familiar with the game’s chapters, this season of the anime ends where Chapter 6 does of Arc 1. A second season has been confirmed, but doesn’t have a date yet.
TLDR: If you enjoyed the game, and especially if you got invested in all the side stories, you will definitely enjoy the anime. The changes made (that aren’t just cuts) are for the better, and there are Easter Eggs galore to be enjoyed.