Eva’s Anime Thoughts on Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion

I got into Madoka Magicka rather late. By the time I got around to watching it, the general opinion of the series had done more 360s than a game of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The movies were out, most of the early twists had been spoiled, and everyone and their grandmother had an opinion on the series.

Despite all this, I quite enjoyed the series. I watched it on Netflix one night and ended up staying up until around 6 AM so I could watch the entire series in one go. I got really into the characters, the story, the art, the music, and felt like the whole thing was a nice, complete package. So when they added the movies to Netflix, I should have been hyped to watch Rebellion, right?

Well, sorta. I was interested in the movie, but not because I was looking forward to it. I had heard some things about it, no specific plot details but some general rumbling, which made it sound like I possibly wasn’t gonna love the movie. But still, I went into it with an open mind, hoping to enjoy it.

Also, a prior warning that I will be spoiling the events of the original series.

MR1

The movie starts off in a similar fashion to the series, with Madoka and friends protecting the city with their magical girl powers. The movie hits many of the same early beats the series did, with Madoka waking up and getting ready with her family, chatting with friends on the way to school, and being introduced to a new classmate in the form of Homura. The movie departs from the series, however, by having Madoka already be a magical girl, and having Homura return to the shy girl she was prior to reliving the events of the series several times over.

The movie doesn’t give us much reason to be suspicious of anything early on. Rather, the early parts are odd in their lack of darker sequences and fatalistic undertones. Still, at this point we’re not given much reason to assume this is anything other than a traditional magical girl story, with traditional mascots, transformations, and comedy hijinks.

MR3

Of course, it doesn’t take long for this sanitized Saturday morning cartoon version of the story to start breaking down. As the movie switches to Homura’s perspective, we begin to see how the universe of Rebellion is more than a little suspect. Non-important characters lack any kind of face, the modern city of the original series is slowly replaced by abstract imagery, and nobody seems to notice that anything is out of the ordinary.

Except for Homura.

MR15

After confirming that it’s impossible to leave the city, Homura begins to remember the life she led before this. She remembers the witches, the time loop, the final battle, and Madoka’s ultimate sacrifice. Finally, she comes to realize the truth: She’s stuck in a labyrinth, a pocket dimension created by witches. But who’s?

The movie goes through numerous twists and false leads before finally arriving in a climax that outdoes anything which ever showed up in the original series, and ties everything together in a satisfactory way, leading to fulfilling ending.

Almost.

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It’s very rare for me to say that the ending to a film ruined it, as it’s very hard to ruin a good film in the last 20 minutes. But Rebellion somehow managed to do so with ease. Without spoiling it, the ending twist to Rebellion comes off as little more than a mean-spirited attempt to end the story on a dark note. A previously heroic character suddenly betrays the rest of the cast, undoes the events of the first hour and a half, and establishes herself as king of the new world. All because she loved someone too much.

The worst part of the Rebellion twist, however, is it feels more like a sequel hook than a proper end to the franchise. The entire twist largely exists to set up said character as the new villain, and to justify a new series where the main characters defeat her. This suspicion grows stronger after hearing that Urobuchi hinted at a Madoka sequel.

The twist is increasingly painful after how good every other aspect of the film was.

MR8

In addition to having a strong premise and a sharp execution, the film’s art is even stronger than that of the original series. From the beautiful transformation sequences to the unsettling visuals of the labyrinth, the art style never fails to impress, and manages to get more and unique and abstract as the film goes on.

MR10

MR11

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The music in the film is fantastic as well, mixing leitmotifs and themes from the original series with newer orchestrations and takes on old classics. It also manages to always fit whatever scene it’s in without straying too far from its stylistic roots. From start to finish, the music does a fantastic job of carrying the film and making each scene memorable in its own way.

Rebellion overall felt like a good movie that was soured by a rather unfortunate ending, and I wish I could overlook the ending and say this was a good film. But as it stands, the ending does so much to undo the events of the film that it sours the entire experience. Rebellion is worth a watch if you’re a die-hard Madoka fan, but otherwise I would suggest giving this one a pass.

Eva’s final ruling: Thumbs Middle

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie: Rebellion (woo, what a mouthful) can be watched on Netflix. In addition, you can watch the original TV series on Netflix or Crunchyroll. If you want a physical copy, you can buy Rebellion from Amazon on Blu-ray or DVD. You can also buy the original series on Blu-Ray (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) or DVD (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

This review was posted to my Patreon two weeks before it went up on the blog. Those who are $20+ Patrons get early access to reviews.

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