Magia Record‘s fourth episode feels like the show doing something it hasn’t done yet; catching its breath. This is relative, of course. It’s still Magia Record, and the ending of this episode might be the biggest cliffhanger of the series so far. Nonetheless; the pace here is slower, the information given to us straighter, and the stakes marginally lower.
We’re introduced to another new character at the start of this episode; Yui Tsuruno. She’s a waitress at a Chinese restaurant, and is literally introduced to us while she’s in the process of punching a piece of meat; Rocky-style.
Iroha is sent to Tsuruno by the Coordinator. The hope is that she might have more information on Ui (Iroha’s missing sister, if you’ll recall). She’s actually just as in the dark as anyone else. While she is looking into various “rumors come to life” (again, fans of the Monogatari series will find something familiar here), she doesn’t know anything about Ui. It’s here that the episode actually takes a bit of a comedic tone for a while. The opening scene here sees Tsuruno give Iroha tons of free food, and then bug her with questions about how good it is.
This and some more incidental comedy throughout make this a slightly lighter episode of Magia Record. Again, it’s all relative, as the two meet up with Yachiyo and talk turns to those rumors. Things, as you might expect, get odd.
Persona Non Grata
We learn there’s a temple where people can pray to be reunited with those they haven’t seen in a long time. Circumstance; such as whether that parting was by the people simply drifting apart, one person going missing, or even dying, does not seem to matter. Things quickly take a turn for the sinister as Yachiyo explains the nuances of this “Seance Shrine”. Namely, that it seems to make those who use it vanish. Gekidan Inu Curry, of course, deliver with more of their trademark visual flair.
The trio draw a connection between this alleged “Seance Shrine” and a local one, where a pair of star-crossed lovers are rumored to have been reunited. These are probably the strongest visuals of the whole episode, bringing a positively ancient trope to life with beautiful paper animation. There’s a strong visual focus on black, white, and red in particular.
Most shows would make images as stark as the half-sunken shrine gate that’s flashed for a few seconds here a centerpiece. Inu Curry are content to sew it into a montage in the middle of an episode; letting the viewer’s own eye draw their attention to it.
Yachiyo casually drops that the “real ending” of the myth, which the shrine’s tourism board has apparently hidden away, is that the woman in the story sacrifices her fellow townspeople to the shrine’s god. Quite the grisly ending to what seems at first glance like a simple romance fairy tale.
Yachiyo makes two interesting comments in relation to the myth, and to her companions in general. She says that miracles always come with a price–no shockers there, that’s been a core theme for Madoka Magica since day one. The other thing she says is more interesting.
This crops up several more times over the course of this scene. It’s here that we can see Magia Record starting to scratch at the surface of a core theme of its own. When Iroha explains that one of the reasons she so misses her sister is that she didn’t really have any other friends, Yachiyo calls her “a prisoner of her own past”. This ties back to what we saw in the Chain Monster arc, too. That creature seemed to punish people trying to undo a past mistake (reconciling with a person whose name they’d written on the breakup stairs). The shrine seems to work in much the same way.
This all has roots in the original series (Homura’s arc especially), but the focus on it here is much greater and more immediate than it was back in Madoka Magica proper. It’s a poignant idea for a franchise that is rapidly nearing its tenth anniversary to explore.
Things briefly detour back to the comedic for a little while as the girls leave the shrine. It’s pretty funny to see a sidetracked Yachiyo treat grocery sales with the same deadly seriousness that she treats everything else.
There’s a very brief witch fight in here too. It’s peripheral and honestly feels a little tacked on. It’s certainly the least interesting part of the episode even if it’s competent enough.
The girls return to the shrine not long after. There, they confront what appears to be another rumor monster, but if the note the episode ends on is any indication, Iroha is about to be tested in a major way. The girls enter a world of infinite bridges and shrine gates, and our heroine finds what she’s looking for.
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