The world of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a twisty-turny one full of time loops, entropy, and weird fibbing aliens. After the TV series, manga spin-offs, and multiple films, you might think we’ve unlocked everything there is to know about the world of magical girls, witches, and evil alien cat things.
Nothing could be further from the truth — in fact, it’s about to get weirder.
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A New Timeline
Two years ago, spin-off game Magia Record launched for smart devices in Japan, and it’s coming to North America for the first time this summer. The game, a self-professed “side story” for the series, already has a massive following overseas. There’s an anime adaptation in the works, manga adaptations are underway, and a stage musical featuring members of idol group Keyakizaka46 was performed last summer.
So what’s awaiting us that has Japan in a frenzy? You know, besides the obvious “more Madoka” thing.
Magia Record plays out as your typical visual novel/gacha game, as you build up a magical girl team and play through a mix of scenarios and team battles. Currently on Japanese servers, there are more than 80 magical girls you can access (including different outfits and seasonal variants) to build your own killer team to fight off monsters. There’s also a “mirror barrier” where you can engage in mock-PVP battles, and a “Side Story” and “Character Stories” to help you learn more about your new teammates.
The game’s story focuses on a lovable, determined, pink-haired magical girl… but not Madoka (although she’s there, too). Our central character this time is Iroha Tamaki, whose wish — since, in the world of Madoka Magica, magical girl contracts are made starting with a wish — was to cure her sister Ui’s illness. Now, though, Ui has disappeared, but not before leaving Iroha with a mysterious task: come to Kamihama City, where “magical girls can be saved.”
Now, if you know your Madoka Magica, you know that’s a big deal. Being a magical girl isn’t all sweetness and light: it’s essentially becoming part of a giant entropy machine to feed a race of cute, creepy aliens called Incubators. Fight the monsters known as Witches long enough, let your Soul Gem become cloudy, and you yourself become a Witch to be fought by the next girls in line. Madoka threw a massive wrench in the works in the anime series, but there are dozens of potential timelines out there — of which this is at least one.
So what is it about Kamihama City that can “save” a magical girl? That’s what we’ll find out as we play, but it looks like it may have something to do with one of the game’s most intriguing mechanics: Doppels.
Darkness and Light
A magical girl’s “Doppel” is a midway point between herself and her Witch form. In gameplay terms, it’s her special move. In storytelling terms, it’s a way for her to access the Witch “inside herself” without actually turning full Witch. Apparently this is something that can only be done in Kamihama City, and it makes for some explosive finishing moves.
Art duo Gekidan INU Curry, whose surreal stop-motion artistry was used to render the Witches and their battlefields in the original Madoka Magica, return for the Doppel designs. The new art blends each magical girl with her Witch form, with the power balance between girl and Witch varying from person to person. One Doppel, for example, manifests when its bearer just straight-up dies on the ground, after which her ghost receives electric shocks from a heart monitor. Returning character Mami, meanwhile, just wears hers as a hat.
Given the ability to access that kind of power, along with the whole “being saved” pitch, it’s no wonder that Iroha isn’t the only girl flocking to Kamihama City. Amongst the dozens of new and familiar faces is Madoka herself, who’s also on a mission. Time-traveling troublemaker Homura is missing, too, and this is where Madoka’s search has led her.
Doppels aren’t the only big twist in the game. Magia Record contains fully-animated transformation sequences for all its magical girls, and the original series’s Holy Quintet bring a surprise with them. Each shows, at least for a moment, its respective girl as an adult! We get a good long look for Mami and Sayaka, whereas Madoka, Homura, and Saki offer only glimpses or quick silhouettes. Still, it’s an interesting choice. Could it mean there are more time travel antics along the way? Are we being given a chance to see what our girls would look like if they weren’t doomed to a life as disposable magical warriors? Or maybe, just maybe, the rumors about Kamihama City are true, and we’re seeing a future where they don’t have to fight anymore.
We also get to look forward to holiday and seasonal variants of our favorite characters — which, while probably more about marketing than canon, is pretty sweet. The game’s first special character was “Holy Mami,” an angelic holiday take on Mami Tomoe. There was even a shrine set up in Akihabara to celebrate her arrival!
There are plenty more to come, too: a New Year’s Madoka, the cartoonish “Madoka-sensei” from the game’s tie-in instructional comics, swimsuit variants for summer, and a whole squad of Monogatari series girls going turbo for special events. (Hitagi’s Doppel is seriously dope.) We’ll likely stay two years behind Magia Record in Japan, much like Fate/Grand Order, which means it’ll still be some time before all of this rolls out.
Thanks to its use of alternate timelines as a major part of its story, Madoka Magica and its related materials can go in all sorts of different directions. After the bittersweet ending to the series and the absolute darkness of Rebellion, Magia Record is preparing to bring some interesting ideas into play. Is there hope for magical girls? Could their “evil” Witch nature be helpful (and even good) under the right circumstances? Will their search in Kamihama City yield salvation, or will it be another nasty double-cross? And most importantly, can Madoka and Homura just be happy for once? We’ll get to start fitting the pieces together soon.
Magia Record comes to iOS and Android this summer. The game’s official social media accounts are currently running a campaign to get free goodies for prospective players. Every video that gets a cumulative 40,000 views across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will earn players bonus in-game currency upon joining. Are you ready for the magical girl revolution?