Magia Record: The “Joey” of Unnecessary Spinoffs

I put off watching Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story for a while because of my baggage with the original series. Madoka Magica is one of my top 5 favorite anime. The art, music, and pacing are phenomenal, and I love the mashup of its cutesy magical girl aesthetic and existential horror (and of course, tragic lesbian romance!)

This is official art. It’s canon!

I never wanted more, because I didn’t think anything could live up to the original ending. And as much as I wanted to watch this new anime with an open mind, I couldn’t help comparing the two constantly. Madoka Magica is like a dish at the finest Italian restaurant in town, and Magia Record is like the same meal at Olive Garden.

It’s based on a pay-to-win mobile game, because capitalism ruins everything

Our new heroine is Iroha Tamaki, a pink-haired girl clearly in over her head. (Sound familiar?) She’s already made her pact with Kyubey at the start of the story, but neither can remember what her wish was. When she realizes she wished to save her little sister Ui from disease, Iroha vows to find the girl at any cost. But why did both Iroha and Kyubey lose their memories, and why does Kyubey seem to have a cuter but even creepier younger brother?

Did that sound like an interesting premise? Did it seem like there were cool mysteries to solve, and that they could take the concepts and themes of Madoka Magica in a new direction? Well, sorry, because Magia Record does nothing with these ideas at all. The pacing in this anime is like running on a treadmill: fast and intense, but never actually going anywhere.

What’s the point of including the stack of chairs from Monogatari if you’re not gonna do anything with them?

The first problem is one that many gacha anime have: too many characters and not enough development. The original Madoka only had 5 magical girls, and gave them all several episodes in the spotlight. Here, there are like eight magical girls in the first episode alone, cameos from the original characters, and a cult of evil magical girls in addition to the witches as antagonists. And they only get one or two episodes of screen-time each. These characters are not here for you to care about them, they’re just marketable designs to get you to spend money on, well, you know…

To be fair, Felicia’s Magical Girl Viking aesthetic is rad as hell

The story feels less like a story and more like a mess of cool looking imagery cooked up on a peyote trip. The original Madoka was pretty surreal, but Gen Urobuchi’s clever writing helped tie it all together cohesively. But Magia Record constantly jumps from one plot point to the next, with little focus on Iroha’s quest to find her sister (you know, the goal of the main fucking character?!) And remember all those gut-wrenching twists and reveals in the original? Here, they’re explained again in a PowerPoint presentation. I wish I was kidding.

It’s a shame, because there are moments – moments – where Magia Record gave me the same sense of awe as the original. The trademark SHAFT visuals are back in force, which makes the transformation and combat sequences really pop. They couldn’t get Queen Yuki Kajiura to do the music this time, but the new tracks are pretty good regardless. And they expand the lore of Madoka Magica enough that it’s not a complete rehash of the original, I guess…

She has a hood, see? It’s completely different this time!

But even the positives make me wish I was watching something better. Who is Magia Record even for, really? If you’ve never seen the original Madoka, you’ll have no clue what’s going on. If you have, you’ll get frustrated with how much this show rips off not just Madoka, but other great anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena or the Monogatari series, while refusing to do anything new of its own.

Anime fans have been waiting for “the next Madoka‘ for almost a decade now, but this isn’t it. If you want a great dark magical girl anime, watch Flip Flappers, Magical Girl Raising Project, Yuki Yuna, Symphogear, or even an older anime like Utena or Lyrical Nanoha. All of these shows are more unique, have more three-dimensional characters, and do a better job exploring Madoka‘s themes than this “official” tie-in. It’s not a terrible show, but it is pretty much the “Joey” of pointless, unnecessary spinoffs in anime.

Okay, I think I’m the only person alive who still remembers Joey, so let me explain. Friends was 90’s sitcom about douchey white people in New York, and Joey was an early-2000’s spinoff about the whitest, douchiest person there moving to California to pursue his acting career. It was a tremendous flop and even the main actor, Matt LeBlanc, hated it. I guess a more modern example would be, um… Agents of Shield? Did anyone even watch that show?

3 thoughts on “Magia Record: The “Joey” of Unnecessary Spinoffs

  1. Pinkie July 4, 2020 / 8:02 am

    I tend to stay away from gatcha/card promotional anime so this wasn’t really on my radar but I am still sad to here my gut feeling was right. I loved Madoka as well and I am happy I did not expand my universe of that Madoka world with this.

    I do remember Joey, it was very unfunny , Joey wasn’t even Joey anymore. I think i watched like 8 episodes before giving up hope! I was super surprised it even got a second season.

    Agents of Shield I dropped after like 7 episodes but recently I have picked up some later seasons (mostly as a thing thats on tv while I grind up pokemon though) and those are kind of interesting. When they add Ghost Rider to the team and fight evil cyborgs and get stuck in alternate realities ..stuff happens and it can be a bit Buffy like fun…worse ..but at least less pointless than season 1

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mari July 4, 2020 / 11:11 am

      Yeah I had pretty low expectations for this one going in, and I still think it didn’t even meet those 🙃 if nothing else, it’s pretty to look at. Throw it on at an artsy party and put some Björk on in the backround and I’m sure people will love it haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fred (Au Natural) July 4, 2020 / 8:44 pm

    All of your objection about Record are quite valid. The worst part, IMHO, was the huge cast of significant characters. My feeble mind loses track of who is who.

    I still enjoyed the thin plot thread. And the psychedelic graphics are cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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