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~Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion Review

Puella Magi Madoka Magica on the outside looked like your typical magical girl anime, which of course isn't a bad thing. Sailor Moon is the one that popularized the genre, and many have followed suit with engaging, often cutesy adventures. "Madoka" was far different. It tackled themes such as true friendship, salvation, faith, and manipulation. The 12 episode show is on par with Serial Experiments Lain with its thought-provoking storyline. That's why Rebellion was an interesting idea. The show ended rather well, with Madoka basically becoming a god and rewriting time. It displayed the true kindness of a friend, and ended with hope. So, a sequel wasn't really necessary. Still, it would be nice to see the characters again. The film puts Homura in the spotlight as she tries to figure out why things don't seem right. "Rebellion" was a fantastic adventure, once again showcasing friendship and displays satisfying finality...until it all goes down the drain. The final act not only destroys the film, it completely and utterly destroys the entire franchise.

The story starts out mysteriously for the viewer because we have Homura, Madoka, Sayaka, Kyoko, and Mami having adventures stopping nightmares which take physical form. It's fun, and interesting because when looked at generally the entire first act is a look at what the show could have been if it didn't tackle the deep themes. Here we have a team with flashy Sailor Moon-like transformations, stopping monsters and having tea together afterward, with them even singing a My Little Pony-like song to save the day. Not only that, but Kyubey is basically a Pokemon mascot. It's a "perfect" reality, and quite brilliant. Of course, Homura eventually realizes something is up and goes on a journey searching for the answer.

To me, it was obvious that this was an "ideal" reality. (Shows such as Under the Dome and Falling Skies have done this not too long ago.) What's not obvious is what exactly is causing this. The plot twist that it was mainly Homura's doing was great, but not half as great as the fact it was also Kyubey's experiment. We'll address that in a second, but first it's important to mention the cool things which transpired inside the fake world. Perhaps the best scene was the fight between Mami and Homura. It was well choreographed and just plain epic. The soundtrack throughout the film is as expected solid, but the best themes play right before and during this battle.

The sad part about being just 12 episodes is that some characters just don't get enough satisfying screen time. In the case of "Madoka," just about all the characters were engaging. Kyoko for example only got to appear in a few episodes. So, it was great seeing her get a substantial role here. She has some great humorous lines, especially when speaking to Homura about what the former should or not be remembering. The imagery isn't quite as psychedelic as the show's, (it's still insane of course) but still provides some of the most unique graphics in anime. Scenes with the distorted faces on the people was probably the creepiest thing I've seen in awhile.

Kyubey is a fascinating character and great antagonist. He doesn't consider himself evil, yet with no emotions he manipulates as he pleases. The entire sequence with him revealing what he's been doing to her was fantastic. When she shouted, "You want to control Madoka don't you?!" and then the chase scene the viewer can feel the intensity build up as he explains his plan. Seeing Homrua turned into a witch was a sad, but engaging scene as we see her friends unite to help her, much to the amazement of Kyubey This leads to the would-be best scene of the movie.

Homura has been through a lot in the 12 episodes and this movie. The friendship established between her and Madoka is unparalleled. This is evidenced in the dialogue between them on the hilltop. It's a sad state when your best friend no longer exists physically and you're the only one who remembers, like it was all a dream. That's why the scene where Madoka ascends from the heavens to take Homura with her was so effective. It was closure, plus Homura would be with her best friend forever. The dialogue Madoka speaks to her, "Whatever happens to you, good or bad, you're still you and I would never abandon you. So don't give up. Have faith!" is reminiscent of God making a promise to never forsake those whom have pledged faith, then at the end of the day the person is taken up to Heaven. If the scene above was the ending, it would have been fantastic since it basically ties together everything.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

In a surprise plot twist. Homura stops Madoka from taking her, and somehow, somehow beats Madoka and becomes a god herself, essentially rewriting time again. Homura actually uses the word evil to describe herself. Let's first look at how this doesn't make any kind of sense. For one thing, there's no way Homura could actually stop Madoka. She's a god, (or concept as the series calls it) so there's no way Homura grabbing her can somehow bend the rules, no matter how you look at it. (The explanation given is pretty poor.) What's worst however is that this move isn't consistent with Homura's character throughout the show and majority of the film. She's a concerned friend whom at the end of the show comes to terms with what has transpired. She vows to keep fighting because it's what Madoka would want. In the movie she fights to destroy the fake reality and stop Kyubey from gaining access to Madoka. And then, when it's time to go be with her best friend, (what she's always wanted) she literally goes insane and (for no reason) turns evil literally.


This not only destroys Homura as a character, it destroys the very foundation of Puella Magi. The show ended with the portrayal of hope. The ultimate sacrifice was made. True friendship prevailed. Love, hope, and faith was evident in the finale as Madoka took the burden for all Magical Girls. The show had some dark turns, but at the end the theme of standing up to the demon's schemes and an act of love standing triumph over them prevailed. That's the core of the anime. Rebellion undoes that ending completely. It out of nowhere makes Homura a traitor, insane, and pure evil. It undoes the sacrifice Madoka made. It in effect makes the entire anime moot.

One could perhaps make an argument that the entire final act was an ingenious plot twist. It is correct to say that it's unexpected. The problem is that there's zero build up and no indication in the anime or film that Homura was on the verge of becoming evil. It is the definition of cheap shock value. It would be the same as a 12 issue comic book where the hero faces torment every issue but never gives up having hope. In the final issue he succeeds at saving his family and friends with the sunset behind him. Then a few years later a one-shot is released where it undoes that. It makes the victory irrelevant. The decision to have Homura do what she did is a slap in the face to the incredible anime, her fans, and the franchise. As the ending unveiled itself and the credits started to roll I could feel this inner annoyance because it completely and utterly disregards Homura as a character and what the anime meant.

Rebellion was one of the best anime films I've seen in awhile up until the final 20 minutes. It had everything a sequel should be: it added without hindering the completed story and provided satisfying closure. There's such great symbolism, emotion, and finality to the scene when Madoka comes to take Homura away. Sadly, what happens afterward turns the film upside down. It is by far the worst ending I've personally seen to anything. The plot twist isn't smart, it's terrible. To put it in blunt terms: the ending is total garbage. There's no coherent explanation given. It takes away the essence of hope, and evil wins. It's hard not to want to watch this film because it's a canon sequel, but it ruins what is one of the best anime of all time.


1 comment:

  1. As this is the greatest original Madoka film of all time I feel like I have to defend it a little! I ended up giving it a 9/10 after all. We essentially agree that the film was amazing aside from the ending so let's tackle that. Now, is the ending amazing? No, but I'm not sure if I'd call it a terrible one. It's all about the concept of helping someone who won't help themself. For instance, some people want to help out at all times without regard for their personal wellbeing. "Who watches the watcher?" for example. Homura sees that Madoka told her that she could never sacrifice herself to save everyone because she would be too sad and broken. Homura realizes this and decides to force Madoka back to Earth so she wouldn't be alone forever. Wait a second, this theory doesn't work because Homura states that she's been planning this for a while in the ending and Madoka would have been together with Homura and Sayaka for all eternity. theory!

    Homura knew that this would would be better than the one that Madoka created. After all, none of the heroes would be dead here anymore and everyone could live in peace. Except of course, for the fact that they can still die against the nightmares, but maybe Homura could bring them all back to life indefinitely. Of course, this theory is plagued by the fact that entrophy will still destroy everything and Homura's vision will all fall apart once Madoka gains her powers back.

    So...the ending really doesn't make sense and it's clear that it was just thought up at the last second. There is really no reason for Homura not to ascend along with Madoka as that would have been the ultimate ending for her. She could finally hang out with Madoka and life would have been perfect. The survivors wouldn't have had fun in the ruined Earth, but they would eventually get to be with Madoka as well. So, the original ending is the best one.

    Now, I can see why you dislike the ending. Evil actually wins in the end, which is quite sad even if it is original. It also came at the expense of character development for Homura, but now we can maybe see her rise to redemption in the next film as she can realize that what she did was wrong. I could definitely see her becoming a villain again. Hope is not destroyed, merely delayed. It's hard to totally justify the true ending. I still didn't find it downright bad, but maybe a little disappointing. Again, if Homura hadn't acted so crazy at the end, one could slightly sympathize with her. Ignoring that she could have ascended with Madoka, saving her from her ultimate fate wasn't bad..........the thing is that I have to ignore the real ending. Really, it would look better if not for the other ending, but then it would probably be a different film anyway. It's just how it goes I suppose....hmmmmmm.