Magia Record’s first season ends with a visually impressive fight between two characters from a different story. This unfortunately feels emblematic of the show as a whole, it puts so much effort into capturing the feeling of the original Madoka Magica that it ends up burying its own story.
Said final fight is between Mami and Sayaka, both characters from the original series who’ve had little to no role in Magia Record (Mami appeared once before to make some threats towards the new protagonist and Sayaka literally does not appear prior to this fight scene). It’s a cool fight entirely on the basis of being two characters I liked from elsewhere going at it. But as soon as I realized that it lost all weight. The stakes of this fight were entirely based on another work, what happened had nothing to do with Iroha and co, the ostensible leads.
This problem is sort of baked into Magia Record as a whole. It’s arguably one of the series strong points that it manages to absolutely nail the aesthetic of the original. The problem is just that it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself beyond that. Episode 11 features the return of Gertrud, the first Witch from the original series, who ambushes the team while they’re out shopping only to be dealt with in seconds. The intent is pretty clear, bringing back one of the iconic Witches before the finale, but much like Sayaka and Mami’s fight it carries no weight for these characters
Between this and the constant introduction and cycling out of characters from the mobage’s cast it feels like the whole show is having an identity crisis; it spends the first half introducing a trio of magical girls for Iroha to work with only to promptly drop them almost entirely in favour of building a new team centered around Yachiyo. Iroha’s innitial teammate Kuroe just ceases to exist after the first episode (although she gets a tiny cameo at the very end, having joined the totally-not-cult-like Wings of Magius movement) It’s hard enough to get attached to the cast when they might be unceremoniously dropped in a couple of episode’s time. So with this lack of investment in the show’s actual characters it becomes even more of an issue that the show keeps going “hey look it’s Sayaka, you remember Sayaka right?”. It feels like the series can’t step out from its predecessor’s (admitedly huge) shadow.
Regardless of any opinion one might have on the show, Madoka Magica had an outsize impact on anime adjacent discourse. That’s faded over the years but it was a huge deal for the first half of last decade. A spinoff series surfacing so long afterwards is inevitably going to have to confront that. But Magia Record doesn’t seem to try all that hard. The result is a series which seems more invested in reliving past glory than establishing its own identity. By constantly pointing to the original it never attains the heart that that had. It does have a duck though. So that’s good at least.