In Volume 2 of this alternative retelling of Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, we turn our attention to resident apple muncher Kyouko Sakura, who is just as worried about the disappearance of witches in Mitakihara as Mami is. While warned by her fellow magical girl to stay away from Kamihama City, Kyubey tempts her into acting and she begins to investigate this mysterious gathering place for witches herself. As the witches she encounters end up being easy meat, Kyouko is lulled into a false sense of security and accepts what she thinks is a harmless free bottle of water from a drink stand. As the saying goes however, you don’t get anything for free, as Kyouko soon finds herself thrust into one of Kamihama’s infamous rumours. Faced with mysterious slips of paper that appear out of nowhere and seem to be counting down to something, Kyouko returns to Kamihama to find out what is going on and stop the countdown before it is too late.
As an existing fan of the franchise, I found this volume to be a bit of a weird one as it finds itself in an awkward position of having to introduce a lot of the main concepts and characters of the Magia Record universe, but to an audience that probably already knows everything about it. This leads to a very awkward plod through an expository plotline that needs to be said but is clearly not the book’s main focus, instead acting as more of an exploratory character study of Kyouko herself.
Whether you will like this volume really rests on whether you can stand sifting through a by-the-numbers, “find this person” fetch quest to get those more interesting pieces of character development, as there’s nothing more to the main investigation than that. This is honestly a shame as the main setup for the rumour and curse that Kyouko finds herself stuck with is actually pretty interesting and could have made for a good race against time to fix everything, but it tends to end up in long-winded chats between the girls that are only really there to make them look cute instead of driving the story and characters forward. Wasting an entire half chapter on an unnecessary boob joke didn’t impress me either.
The actual bits we care about though – Kyouko, her internal regret, and her sometimes difficult friendship with Mami – do come through well and completely align with her established character in other parts of the franchise. While most fans will know what her general deal is through the TV anime, we get to see the odd moment here of her before she became the jaded lone warrior, and I loved seeing that contrast between then and the fractured relationship she has with Mami now. Her frustration in being tied to a team also shines through in situations where she has to team up with the Kamihama girls, most of which end with her blowing them off and taking the fight into her own hands, leaving an uncomfortable atmosphere in her wake.
Like the first volume however, the action in this series could really do with some beefing up. The main fight at the end is okay, but it has an overall trend of leading you in with high expectations, only to cut away with celebrations and high-fives moments later without actually showing you how the battle went. When one of the main draws of a magical girl series is the fights, this is sure to disappoint those who come into this wanting more of what the main show has to offer. Meanwhile the ending itself is pretty messy, as it ends up with two distinct battles going on simultaneously, and while it wraps one of them up nicely, the other is oddly forgotten about.
In terms of visuals, the character art remains its biggest draw, with all the girls being very cute and emotive throughout, while there’s a couple of ¾ page panels that show off Kyouko’s character design to the full. The background art is still pretty simplistic, but it didn’t feel too detrimental when there’s a lot of talking going on in locations like parks and cafés.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Another Story is published by Yen Press and is available both physically and digitally. The series is translated by Noboru Akimoto and is pleasant to read with no issues to note.
Overall, this second volume of Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Another Story is a bit of a disappointment as I was expecting a lot more from a series that has such strong material and characters to work with. While it does have some interesting ideas here and there and offers a good character study of Kyouko and her friendship with Mami, it lacks in its overall execution of the core investigation and reveal of the series’ central concepts, while it waves away action scenes in favour of long-winded conversations. If you’re still interested in this then I might advise you to wait and see if subsequent volumes pick up a bit, but I do fear this may end up being for die-hard Madoka fans only.