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: