Warning: Spoilers for the end of the Madoka Magica TV anime series, along with some other minor spoilers from the movie.
For what appears to be the final installment of the Madoka Magica series, The Rebellion Story shows just how cruel the world of witches can be in a staggering and glamorous way.
The Rebellion Story continues where the original 2011 anime left off; Madoka has become God, and is no longer existant in the world. However, to much confusion, Madoka appears in this movie as a regular magical girl, as if none of the events that happened at the end of the series occured. The Rebellion Story mostly revolves around Homura, whom, at the end of the original series, was lost without Madoka by her side.
Because of all the sudden events and complication, it may seem very confusing at first. This was why I decided to watch this beautiful movie a second time-so I could grasp an understanding for The Rebellion Story. After watching it for the second time, I realized the inner beauty of The Rebellion Story.
The music composed by the most wonderful Kajiura Yuki (Sword Art Online, .hack) brings out the light of this piece of art. Each piece fits well and gives the watcher an even larger interest in the movie.
Speaking of art, I am in love with this movie's visuals. The differing art styles make ones' eyes pop out of their head. Not to mention the varying animation styles for the different events of the movie; swift action scenes and stunning witches have never seemed so glorious. You can tell that Shaft has gone a long way if you look at the original series and then at this movie.
The introduction of a new, adorable character shocked most people, though I wish she had a bigger role in the movie (in other words, more screentime). Even so, she makes a nice addition to the Madoka series with her cuteness and child-like phisique.
The Rebellion Story lives up to its name, for the saddened Homura does something that no one would have ever thought of. The movie may not seem like a continuation at first, as many might say, "How can this be? She's gone right?" . Well, not exactly.
The Rebellion Story is a movie full of beauty and sadness packed all into one. It displays the sorrows of Homura Akemi after the original series. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would no doubt be "despair". With all of its stunning visuals and epic music, The Rebellion Story is truly worth watching after finishing the Madoka Magica TV series.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari finally pushes the trilogy out of the confines of the series. From the start, you can't help but think that the first two films and series have been ignored completely. Of course this isn't true, but it will creep you out until you eventually just roll with it.
The artwork is bolder and absolutely spectacular. It goes over the top so extremely at times that you cannot help but be wowed by the solid steel balls the director had. If the first two movies and series were a deconstruction of the magical girl, then here we get a deconstruction of the villain. The levels of abstraction in both the art and writing are kicked up a notch. The ending is even more metaphorical than that of the second film.
Still, unlike the first two films, the story is not quite as solid. It tries too hard to focus on the philosophy while ignoring the viewer. The balance struck by the careful recutting of the series into the first two films is lost here. The character development remains interesting, and gets an added philosophical twist that I could talk about a whole lot. Perhaps that makes Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari the most pretentious of the series.
Don't get me wrong, while gorgeous and possibly the most aesthetically rich, the overly long transformation sequence is great art but flawed direction. The lack of expansion on the last fifteen minutes is just wrong, because it is a philosophically poignant culmination to Homura's story that makes sense only if you think about it (too much explained in far too few sentences). There are mistakes in the movie. Still, it is overall a good end to the series, borrowing heavily from various religions and philosophies to make the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica series about the creation of a world rather than the characters in it.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Oh, how I hate to review philosophical things without detailing what actually happened. If the first movie talks about the mechanics of the world, the second about the creation of god, then Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari is about the end of the road built of good intentions. The horror of it is that everything is driven by love. The writing is deep, yet excluding the last ten minutes or so sharply coherent. Those last ten minutes have a great point, but don't manage to convey it with clarity.
Storywise, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari is strong if you have a grasp at the mechanics of the world. The first two films build up to this, but if you haven't watched and understood them, then you will eventually be lost come the last ten minutes even if you kept focus all the way through the film. That is perhaps the glaring weakness of the writing. Yet the fact remains that there is a lot of depth hidden behind a lot of the seemingly simple scenes.
Homura was the actual protagonist of the series, and that of the second film. Every other character eventually breaks (excluding Madoka, of course), but she doesn't. She has a mission. And she will never stop as long as she sees a path to it. And a few words slipped at the end of the second film cause everything that happens here. This is perhaps the single cleverest way a character has acted in anime. What I thought was a plot hole at the end of the series is actually her continuing her mission because of her understanding of both human and inhuman nature. The other characters act as you'd expect, one with a surprisingly interesting twist. Overall, the characters are great, as par for the course in the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica world.
All this being said, the writing still has its flaws. Those who say the ending doesn't fit, think of the ending and only then think back to everything since the last scenes of the second movie in light of that. And yet it requires a sharp focus and a lot of thinking for it to fit (as well as it being helpful if you know external literature about the story of Lucifer which is heavily referenced), something which is more intellectually stimulating than outright enjoyable. The writing pushes the envelope a bit too far into metaphorical realms, a common fault when trying to end on a grand note.
Artwork (Animation and Sound):
Rarely, so very rarely, does artwork manage to innovate while being technically sharp, and without becoming grating. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari is one of the blessed few that manages to do so. The sheer balls it takes to do this kind of art on something so anticipated is astounding, and boy does it pay off. This isn't just some product, this is art, plain and simple. And not only is it good art, creative and impactful, aesthetic and sharp, it is most definitely art with a saying. In a movie about magical girls. The balls.
Arguably the best animation in anime history. Yeah, I said it. It is artistically innovative, beyond expressive, cleverly uses mixed mediums of animation, has a distinct style, and is absolutely fearless. Not only is the animation so heavily stylized, the style manages to turn all the flaws into strengths. By turning the metaphors in the writing into visual representations, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari manages to avoid every single one of the technical pitfalls that detract from the classic anime style. Bravo.
While the voice acting is on par with the second movie, the effect use is improved, and the soundtrack is plain better. This is one of the strongest showings from the sound point. Clever use of filtering, effects, sound positioning (hooray for someone using surround right), and all manner of small details is not only impressive but a feat of surgical accuracy. The little I can fault is that without the context of the animation, the soundtrack is not quite as good from a stand-alone perspective. Otherwise? Nailed it.
Artwork is supposed to give the writing life, create a world, and make the characters more real than reality could offer in their role. Check, check, and bloody check. This is a tour-de-force of technical excellence backing up creative vision of the highest order. I cannot praise this enough. I really can't.
You have no idea how hard this was to write without any real spoilers. The philosophical implications of the ending are a fascinating thing that would take thousands of words to explain (references from Dante to Machiavelli, themes from Christianity and Nietzsche, etc). Overall, highly recommended, especially if you've seen the series, watched the first two movies, and feel you have gained an understanding of the world behind the stories.
And dear god, is the animation something else. Worth a view only for that. Over seventy years since Disney's Fantasia, and finally, something that has the balls to go that metaphorical and artistic, and the technique to not come up short while maintaining modern standards. Spectacular.
Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion is the direct sequel to the TV series, or the two recap movies. It picks up at some unspecified time (presumably fairly shortly) after Madoka’s transformation into her ultimate form, where she changed the fate of all magical girls, became “The Law of Cycles,” and disappeared from the world, forgotten by everyone but Homura. So why is she in this movie? Why is Sayaka present? Why does Kyouko go to school with the rest of the girls? Why can’t Kyubey talk? And where are the wraiths that I expected the girls to be fighting?
The movie expects you to pick up on all these things which aren’t quite right. It starts off basically re-playing the events of the first episode of the series, but with lots of differences, which quickly add up to “everybody is way too happy!” Homura eventually realizes this, and starts searching for answers. She’s fairly certain everyone is supposed to be miserable, and she’s going to fix things. Sayaka even blatantly confronts her about the inevitable outcome of her quest to set the world right, but Homura just won’t listen.
It starts out a bit slow in the first act, builds momentum in the second, and crashes head long into psychedelic hallucinatory overdose in the third. Rebellion is a wild ride, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Let’s break it down:
Animation: 9.5 You can really tell the budget for this show was much higher than the series. The animation is head and shoulders above the series. Everything is so detailed, crisp, and beautiful. The series used the witch labyrinths to showcase some outstanding and heavily symbolic imagery. It was one of the aspects which made the original stand out. We get more of that here, and perhaps a bit too much. Akiyuki Shinbo has gone completely ballistic with the symbolism and imagery, to the point of sensory overload. If you are like me and want to try to take it in to the maximum extent, you will find yourself pausing, rewinding, etc., trying to figure out what you have just seen, and what it all means. This overdose of imagery is really the only negative I can find with the art of this movie. It’s definitely an eye-popping extravaganza.
Where the original series story was told with 80% actions/dialogue and 20% visual symbolism and metaphor, you get a complete reversal here. Rebellion’s story is told, perhaps as much as 80% in visual symbolism and metaphor, and only 20% through character dialogue and action. Get ready to watch this again, ‘cause there ain’t no way you are going to take all this in on just one viewing. If you have ever seen the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie, you are in for a similar ride, but I feel like Akiyuki Shinbo has taken the legacy of Yellow Submarine and, standing on the shoulders of giants, he has achieved his masterpiece.
Sound: 9.5 Yuki Kajiura has knocked it out of the park once again. This soundtrack is very original and memorable. Clara Dolls, Mada Dameyo, Flame of Despair, etc. Some songs here will definitely get stuck in your head, and you won’t mind it at all! Still, I can’t give it a 10 since I do like the music from the original series better. Take a movie that, visually, would be amazing with no music at all, and add music that I would listen to without any movie to associate it with, and what do you get? Pure cinematic magic.
Also, I just got my pre-ordered copy of the English dub today (I’ve watched it subtitled at least three times now) and I have to say I am extremely pleased. Maybe it’s just me, but Madoka doesn’t sound as much like Squid Girl as she did in the original series (Christine Cabanos voiced both characters). Actually I felt like Cabanos did a great job as Madoka, and the entire cast did a fantastic job. Of note was Christina Vee, reprising her role as Homura. Her performance in the series was outstanding, and this is more of the same high quality work.
The translation was extremely faithful, with a few exceptions, all of which I felt were improvements (let me explain before you take up arms). Subtle changes were made during the pivotal scene where Homura and Madoka are in a field of flowers, talking around the issue of Madoka’s decision to become the Law of Cycles. Many fans completely missed the fact that this conversation fully justified (in her mind) Homura’s actions at the end of the movie, and the dub does a much better job of conveying that idea. Also, Kyubey is used exclusively as an exposition fountain near the end of the movie, explaining to the audience what has been going on behind the scenes. This explanation seemed to flow nicely and was easier to follow. The glaring exception to all this is the Cake Song. I wish they hadn't had to translate it. The English dub of the cake song just isn't the same.
Story: 9.0 Its very hard not to compare this to the original series… Perhaps impossible. Still, while it may be fair to compare the music or the animation to the original, Rebellion lacks the running time to compete in the story area, but wow, what they did in the two hours they were given is still outstanding. Some have criticized the story for taking too long to get going, but I absolutely enjoyed the feeling of suspense during the first act; a feeling that only a Madoka Magica show can produce. To paraphrase another reviewer (http://kotaku.com/the-new-modoka-magica-movie-is-the-sequel-you-never-kne-1453844468#), it’s fantastic that watching five girls having fun and eating cake can inspire a feeling that ‘something is horribly wrong!’ It’s also a fun ride following Homura as she realizes the world is not as it should be and searches for the reason why. And the ending! You will either hate it or love it. I haven’t found anyone yet who wasn’t totally polarized by the ending. I’m firmly on the “Homura did nothing wrong!” camp. After all, when the series ended, she was the only magical girl whose wish had not been granted, and after everything she went through, she earned that ending. Bought and paid for. And before you say that her actions overrode, or disrespected Madoka’s wish, remember that Madoka’s wish overrode Homura’s. Turnabout is fair play. When you sell your soul for something, and you don’t get it, it’s time to go to extremes. At least in my opinion.
Characters: 7.0 One drawback of having to fit everything into a two hour run time is that you get a lot less character development. This is Homura’s movie, and she is the main character, and the focus of any and all development. It works well if, like me, Homura is your favorite character, but if you are looking to see more of any other character, you may be a little disappointed. Still, Homura’s journey from meek to powerful, from stable to demented is a ride worth the ticket price.
Overall: 8.7 Not as epic as the original series, but how could it have been? It has been said that the series did not need a sequel. When a show has such a solid ending as Madoka Magica, adding new content is usually a recipe for disaster. Everyone hopes that the unnecessary sequel will be more than just a bid to make more money off a successful name. This new chapter of the Madoka Magica story is definitely not resting on its laurels. Every time I watch it I get something new out of it. Its not that I like magical girl anime, which I usually don’t, it’s that I love good story telling, and I have never seen better.
Finally, I got the collector’s edition, which came with a small art book, soundtrack CD, two postcards, Blu-ray and DVD. I wouldn’t recommend it for the average viewer, as $70 is pretty steep for what you get (It’s Aniplex, so expensive is the norm.) But for me, it was worth it, since I am actually a collector and will eventually get all this stuff signed by the cast.
Included in the collector’s edition:
There are two purposes for an anime review: to assess whether or not you should watch an anime or to prompt a discussion by seeing other people's opinions. If you're already planning on watching this movie in the near future as a Madoka fan then the bottom line with this review is go watch the movie regardless of what I say. If you don't fall into this category, then read on.
I shall try to keep this review spoiler free. It will use pictures from the trailers, which I don't consider spoilers.
Figure 1: I really wish I got this poster
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movie 3: Rebellion (hereafter referred to as Madoka 3) is the third movie in the series and the first entirely new animated content for the franchise since the TV series ended in 2011. It is a true sequel in that you do need to watch the TV series and/or the previous movies to understand what's going on. “Rebellion” is a very good secondary title for this movie, but I'll divide this review into sections based upon alternative titles I came up with for the film while watching it.
Madoka 3: The Plot Twists
Akiyuki Shinbo's vision for this movie is very apparent; he wanted to make it different from any other anime movie. This is supported by its strong focus on the modern aspects of its animation, the avant garde style showcased in the witch's labyrinths in the previous movies. There were segments that were so obviously trying to be “artsy” that I thought I was watching a preview of Shaft's version of Disney's Fantasia. This worked to the movie's advantage at times by supporting the mood that it was trying to set and the emotions expressed by the characters, but other times it just seemed like it was trying to be “high art” and “edgy” for its own sake (and as much as I think the word is overused, this is the definition of “pretentious”).
Another aspect of the movie that separates it from the standard anime is its numerous use of plot twists. Considering that this is a Madoka movie, I wasn't surprised to see plot twists; however, I was surprised to see how frequently they were used and how shocking they would be. You know the first plot twist is coming; there's no way that the plot established at the beginning of the movie would continue without some sort of catch. Even after the facade is broken and things “get real” (think episode 3 of the TV series), there are several plot twists after that, so many in fact that I think the movie gets confused and ends up strangling itself on its own plot line. The movie features another freaking AMAZING Kyubey explanation that manages to be even more convoluted than the one from the TV series (although perhaps not quite as scientifically incorrect). Finally, the last plot twist really brought the whole movie down for me. Despite it being one of the most shocking plot twists I've ever experienced (think Bioshock Infinite ending shocking), I really don't think it worked with the characters that had been established. It stretches certain aspects of the characters way too far, to the point where it seems like their actions later in the movie are in direct contradiction with their actions just 15 minutes earlier in the film. I'll talk more about these plot twists in my blog post, but the bottom line is while the last twist made for an exciting finish, I don't think it improved the movie as a whole.
Madoka 3: The Struggle is Real
The movie's strong points are in its execution of its vision, even though I don't necessarily agree with the direction at times. They spared absolutely no expense in animation, and the battle sequences in the movie were absolutely stunning. They rival the Nanoha movies for some of my favorite battle sequences I've seen in anime. As I mentioned earlier, the surreal art does achieve its purpose at times, and there are moments in the movie where the combination of pristine animation, masterful voice acting, and sweeping melodies of the Yuki Kajiura score (in my opinion, one of her best yet), combine to create what can be described as no less than a masterpiece.
The emotion that is portrayed by the veterans on the voice acting team, particularly Chiwa Saito (Homura), Aoi Yuuki (Madoka), and Eri Kitamura (Sayaka), reinforces the overall mood of a conflict that is as much a sentimental one as well as physical. Watching these characters wallowing in misery would usually result in a dismissive labeling of “wangst,” but these actresses manage to remain convincing throughout the film.
Figure 2: An 100% legit picture of Aoi Yuuki in studio
Madoka 3: You can (not) hate this movie
Besides the major points of the last plot twist and the animation pretentiousness mentioned above, the movie has other relatively minor problems. First is a big lipped alligator moment that occurs about 15 minutes into the film. It's based upon a lot of Japanese language puns and essentially has the magical girl quintet rapping an incantation (a sentence I never thought I'd have to write). Not only is this very confusing for foreign audiences, it serves virtually no purpose whatsoever in the film and is never explained or mentioned again. Second, the new character that is introduced doesn't really get a lot of screen time and is essentially useless. As timeroverx will so diligently point out, she wasn't pointless since she serves a couple purposes in the movie (I won't say what because of spoilers), but she didn't have a huge impact on the group dynamics at all.
That all said, I can't hate this movie. In the end, it was just too good. It was the Madoka franchise being the Madoka franchise. It was Akiyuki Shinbo trying to push the boundaries of what is possible to do in animation, and while some of his decisions will keep this off my list of all time favorite anime, it was still a very good movie overall and highly recommended for any Madoka fan.
For a video review, check out my Youtube channel. Link on my profile page.
This the second part of a 2 part review of both the series and the 3rd movie.
Then my thoughts on the third movie Rebellion. The first 15 minutes of this movie I was so confused. I mean nothing made sense and I was wondering if we were in a different timeline or something like that. Everything was so happy and cheerful yet again.
But after these initial 15 minutes I felt a mood change, the atmosfeer suddenly dropped back to this depressing mood from the series and I thought: Oh damn, here we go. So the main story about Homura living in this fake world because she’s slowly turning into a witch because she can’t cope with Madoka being gone forever was a good main storyline but I want to focus on the ending.
About 20 minutes before the ending I thought the main storyline was solved and that I figured out the movie. But then I saw the time progress and saw that there were 20 minutes left and I thought by myself: Shit, something’s going to happen right? And then we get this moment were Homura fuses with Madoka to become basically the devil and to alter the laws of the universe yet again. That was so fucked up and I didn’t see it coming. It hit me straight out of the blue.
And now after seeing what Homura did, I’m so divided on her. I don’t know if I have to like or hate her. On one hand I hate her for what she did because it seems so selfish but on the other hand I don’t hate her because in the end she did keep her promise to Madoka not letting her become a mahou shojo. So I still haven’t figured out what I have to think about her.
I must say that I liked the ending of the series better than the ending of the movie simply because of the fact that it’s an open ending. There needs to be a fourth movie because it’s also hinted at the end that Madoka still remembers that she’s a god so that needs to be solved.
And as last a small word about the last shot of the movie of Kyuubey. For one second I actually felt sorry for him. But it was literally one second, that fucker deserved it.
So my conclusion on the movie, it is true what they say that you haven’t seen Madoka yet if you haven’t seen the movie. But I liked the series ending better and that’s why I rate it at 4 stars. And lucky for us that fourth movie that I spoke about could become a reality sooner than later because an article appeared on Anime News Network saying that the creators of Madoka are working on a new Madoka project. So who knows?