Alternate tellings are common in anime and manga, but fans of Puella Magi Madoka Magica know that each and every timeline should be accepted as canon. The original anime series and its subsequent manga adaptation shattered the romantic illusion of the Magical Girl archetype with the gruesome death of Mami Tomoe. However, The Different Story considers what might have happened if Mami had survived.
The Different Story begins as a prequel, exploring the friendship between Mami and fellow Puella Magi, Kyouko Sakura. Newly minted with power, Kyouko has made a contract with magical being Kyubey to fight witches as a Magical Girl; in exchange, Kyubey has granted Kyouko’s wish that her preacher father attract more followers. Already a veteran, lonely Mami takes Kyouko under her wing and the two team up to hunt witches together.
Though the artist accurately depicts the characters that fans have learned to love and loathe, the artwork in this series adds nothing new. The biggest weakness is that these volumes are positively inaccessible to anyone who is unfamiliar with the source material. For fans of the franchise, however, there is much to enjoy: a softer, naive version of Kyouko will delight those who know her as a rougher soul, while short-lived favorite Mami gets her due with some healthy character development—and then there’s Madoka’s story arc, which begins in volume two. Scenes from the original series play out in a slightly different manner that echoes what has come before: Mami’s new apprentice Sayaka falls into despair at her shortcomings, while Kyubey relentlessly pursues Madoka to contract with him. While some things have changed with Mami intact, it remains a story with no happy endings.
Much like an episode of The Twilight Zone in which the protagonists find themselves in a world that is similar to their own, yet slightly askew, The Different Story is, in many ways, the same story. Still, it diverges enough to deliver some fresh heartbreak that fans of the franchise won’t anticipate. However, if the Puella Magi series are not already popular on your shelves, give this one a pass. Without the original as a companion, its significance will be lost on newcomers.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Different Story, vols. 1-2
by Magica Quartet
Art by Hanokage
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780316370516
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780316370523
Yen Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)