You won’t get a shocking moment like last episode, but now we get some explanation on what’s going on. And so far, it doesn’t look like things will get any better from here. The bright art isn’t fooling us anymore, because this is as far from the sun as you can get in mahou shoujo(in some ways, more than Madoka Magica).
After Akari has a quick flashback to her time with mom, we see her wake-up in what looks like an infirmary. Suddenly she’s greeted by the well-dressed blue lady she met on the way home. Her name is Etia Visconti, and she’s a teacher at a fortune telling school named Sefio Fiore.
In reality, it’s part of a network of tarot card users fighting Daemonia, which are the monsters Akari encountered before. They grant the wish of people in a state of dread, consuming their souls once it’s granted and making them homicidal. Seeing that one almost killed her friends at the mansion, she decides to apply as a student of Sefio Fiore in order to prevent anyone else near her from being attacked.
This is when we start meeting the 3 girls at the end of ep 1. There’s Ginka Shirokane, the blonde-haired loli addicted to takoyaki. There’s Luna Tsukuyomi, the green-haired shy girl who might have some yuri feelings for Akari. And then there’s Seira Hoshikawa, the blue-haired toughy who saved Akari from the flame monster and for some reason is very bitter to Akari.
From then on, we get into some typical school hijinks and some extra info(Akari’s plants, etc.) until we finally get to the battle. Right before Akari finishes the Daemonia off, she remembers what piercing the tarot did to Fuyuna, and loses her will to fight.She wakes up with news that the rest killed it for her, but now she finds out that Etia purposely scrambled her memories to make her invulnerable to the Daemonia’s emotional attacks.
And honestly, this is where it truly differs from other Mahou shoujo. The main theme of the genre is usually about helping others at the risk of your own life and valuing friendship, much like a children’s superhero show. Here it’s more about the will to kill others in exchange for saving many, which is more akin to a war story or psychological drama. Even the cliffhanger demonstrates this, with a runaway Akari witnessing a Daemonia-possessed man about to kill a father and son.
I will say though that the pace did feel a bit fast. We go through all the regular school activities at Sefio Fiore while also getting mentions of training. But we NEVER actually see them train in tarot cards, so thrusting them into battle feels really weird.
However, there’s one more thing this show does that really helps compared to other mahou shoujo: NO NUDE TRANSFORMATIONS. Just pass through the tarot cards, and done. Even Madoka Magica couldn’t help but have some fanservice in its transformations, so major props to AIC. And if they can keep there urges of pandering in control, this could remain being a highlight of the season.