Having covered the first four episodes of the hugely successful anime series from which it is adapted (including that moment in its third episode which takes us through the looking glass as far the show's intentions are concerned), Puella Magi Madoka Magica's second manga volume arrives with similar intent by covering the next batch of four episodes from its source material.
As a result, much of this volume chronicle Sayaka Miki's story - after taking the plunge and deciding to become a magical girl, both to save her friends Madoka and Hitomi and to use her wish to provide childhood friend Kyousuke with the miracle he needs, it's time for her to face up to the consequences of her decision and what it means for her future. This is starkly illustrated by the arrival of another magical girl onto the scene; a girl named Kyouko who has no qualms about making the most effective use of her powers when it comes to defeating witches no matter what the human consequences might be. This is in stark contrast to Sayaka's own value set, and more specifically her determination to serve as a protector of the people of the town even if it means endangering her own life. Inevitably, these two equally stubborn individuals spend much of the volume butting heads, even though they might actually be more similar than either of them cares to realise.
Aside from all of this, don't be fooled into thinking that the first volume's shocking twist was the only one this series has up its sleeve, as the pages within this second volume also peel away even more layers of what it is to become a magical girl via another emotionally charged and equally shocking revelation that once again serves to turn the series on its head, before closing the volume with some direct hints as to the true goals of both Homura Akemi and the user car salesman cum cute mascot character Kyubey.
Although this printed page adaptation of the TV anime series has no hope of recreating all of its visual and directorial flourishes in full, it certainly makes a good fist of it - some of its action scenes in particular do a great job of recapturing the feel of the source material, and the show's continuing descent into darkness as it relates to some of its characters is also illustrated well. As per the first volume, the story as a whole moves along at a relentless and relatively fast clip - a little too fast in places you could argue, but it certainly makes for a breathless piece of story-telling that leaves you little time to recover from one surprise before it springs its next emotional assault upon you.
It's the emotional context of this volume which is really the most worthy of note in my opinion - despite having watched the original anime series from beginning to end on a couple of occasions already, this manga adaptation still manages to succeed in punching you in the gut at relevant intervals, leaving your interest in its characters to leave you feeling drained and upset as the events depicted within this volume come to their climax. Perhaps it's simply further proof of how strong the story around which Madoka Magica hangs is, but nonetheless it results in a gripping and well-illustrated read which rarely if ever falters, backed up by a strong translation and excellent presentation (as always) from Yen Press.
In closing however, I do have to echo the sentiments I expressed in volume one of this release - namely that if you're new to the series you'd be best served watching the original anime first and foremost as your point of introduction - but if you simply can't wait or are already familiar with the anime, then this is a top-notch way to enjoy one of the most notable efforts to come out of the anime industry in the past decade via a different medium.