Name: Madoka Magica the Movie 3: Rebellion (Hangyaku no Monogatari)
Studio: Shaft (Monogatari series, Nisekoi, Madoka Magica)
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo (Nisekoi, Monogatari series, Madoka Magica)
In my review of Madoka Magica, I mentioned that I was worried about the movie sequel. Gripping from beginning to end, Madoka Magica had a clear, well constructed narrative with an ending that tied up all of its loose ends in a satisfying manner. Creating not one, but three movies looked like nothing more than a cash grab to feed the rabid fans’ desire for more. Skimming through the initial reviews of the movie after it was released, there was no doubt in my mind that story wise, Rebellion had nothing to offer to Madoka Magica and I didn’t need to watch it. Well, curiosity is a hard thing to resist.
So, Rebellion takes place after the events of the TV series, except it seems that once again we have hit the reset button as it starts off almost exactly like the show with a few exceptions. Sayaka and Madoka are already magical girls, Kyoko goes to school with them, the girls fight Nightmares instead of witches, and we’ve got this very familiar looking creature called Bebe hanging around Mami.
Seriously, why is that here?
There are other anomalies as well that signal this is not the world as we knew it at the end of Madoka Magica, but the only person who seems to notice is Homura, who sets out alone to unravel the mystery.
I won’t say Rebellion isn’t a cash grab, as it doles out little bits of fan service and extraneous characters for no other reason than merchandising, but it is a natural continuation of the story (up to a certain point, but I’m going to talk about that in a minute) and I appreciate that. There are a few moments where I have to suspend belief, but as the pieces come together, it’s not a stretch to see how the end of Madoka Magica led to Rebellion.
That being said, it still took me a while to wrap my head around the big twist near the end. This is an Urobuchi-penned movie, so of course there’s a twist, there’s always a twist. Urobuchi always lays just enough evidence so that he doesn’t completely pull the rug from under your feet, but it still leaves you shocked and sitting with your mouth wide open. With Rebellion, the twist feels like it knocked you over the side of the head and left you dazed in the middle of the road with an eight ton truck about to run you over.
Normally I avoid spoilers, but I have to talk about this one since it pretty much changes everything about the show’s ending and it bothered me forever after watching it. So spoilers ahead, just so you know.
Aside from the fact that the twist was purposely designed to keep Madoka Magica going on until the end of time (something Urobuchi admitted himself) there just isn’t a proper build-up to it. Undoubtedly, Homura has always been at the center of Madoka Magica so it’s no surprise to see her take the main role in Rebellion. When I think about the fact that Homura’s sole reason for becoming a magical girl was to protect Madoka and how much she’s suffered trying to keep her safe and happy, her decision makes sense. No matter what Homura has done to protect Madoka, it’s never been enough, and Rebellion reinforces that as even when Madoka becomes a god, she isn’t safe from the prying eyes of the Incubators. So when Homura finally has a chance to set the rules of the world so that Madoka can live the life she deserves while keeping her by her side, of course she grabs it, but the execution is lacking.
The scene above is the only instance that foreshadows the twist and one could even say the first episode lays the groundwork for Homura’s decision, but so much happens in between that point and Homura becoming evil that it feels disjointed. She quickly goes from “I will sacrifice my soul to keep the Incubators from exploiting Madoka and believe my friends will help me” to “I will exploit Madoka so she can live the way I want her to.” It’s just a really big jump in a span of minutes from selfless to selfish and really undermines all of Homura’s earlier emotional turmoil. So yeah, I understand the reasoning behind the twist, I just don’t like the way it happened.
I did go back and watch the movie about three times before I felt satisfied, not just for the story, but for the visuals as Rebellion is nothing short of stunning. Shaft was always doing some mind-tripping stuff with the TV series, but I feel like they revved it up to another level for Rebellion.
There’s so much going on in the background all the time, it’s enough to make your head spin. On top of that, we get two quite impressive battle sequences, one involving two magical girls who I’ve honestly wanted to see fight it out since episode two. Hats off to director Akiyuki Shinbo, that fight was everything I wanted and more.
Yuki Kajiura took charge of music again and does a wonderful job. The music ranges from beautifully haunting and eerie like Something, everything is wrong to the bombastic absolute configuration which gets your blood pumping for fight scenes without being too harsh on you ears.
The ending of Rebellion leaves a lot of questions about this world and its characters, which sort of bugs me and keeps me from rating it higher, though certainly Shaft is going to churn out some more movies or another TV series since Rebellion made so much money. Madoka Magica has entered the franchise state, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think these characters have suffered enough, so I want a good ending sooner rather than later for them. Time will tell where Madoka Magica’s story goes, but Rebellion was a worthy entry.