Madoka and her friends are “Puella Magi”, teenage girls who have been given magical powers and, in exchange for a wish, fight alongside Kyubey to protect their city of Mitakihara from the Nightmares. But how? Having established the law of the cycle Madoka was supposed to no longer be amongst them, and why has Kyubey stopped talking? Where have the wraiths gone?
Upon realising these facts Homura sets about trying to unravel the mystery surrounding these events, but how will she cope with what transpires?
A sequel to the series Puella Magi Madoka Magica (or the two compilation movies which covers the series) with Gen Urobuchi returning to direct, Rebellion builds upon the existing characters from the series and delivers another amazing story filled with despair about bright and colourful magical girls, just as the Urobutcher intended…
This review as stated above is a sequel and will not hide spoilers for events from the series (and compilation movies). If you have not yet watched and/or read the initial series please see the article below.
Whilst the title of the movie belongs to Madoka, Rebellion is very clearly a story about Homura. Madoka often came across as an audience proxy for most of the series with Homura getting little development until the last few episodes. Madoka was never a bad character by any means but as she stuck to her character archetype very closely it made her less intriguing than those who did diverge. This time around the focus is squarely on Homura and it allows her to develop into what I feel is the most complex character in the series. Because her character has flaws it gives a much better look into her psyche as it allows us to see through the cracks. She is the most calculating member but also the most reckless, she is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, but only when it benefits what she wants and seeing her tackle the same issues in a different manner makes her stand apart. As we get to hear Homura’s thoughts on events of the series throughout Rebellion we are essentially building her perspective and what they meant to her. By using these building blocks we come to understand her motivations for the events to come which would have been less clear otherwise.
Homura was the most interesting character in the series because she was a mystery. Rebellion chooses the opposite approach and informs every action she does. Whilst the mystery is gone, the development of Homura and the choices she makes still make her one of the most intriguing and if not the best character in the series (although I realise that some might disagree).
During the run of the series the only time that we see all of the magical girls together is in the opening. To see all of the girls side by side with them transforming and tackling a nightmare as a team like a more typical magical girl anime is great. Because we never saw this in the series, it only makes it more special now and a pleasant change from what we would have come to expect from the show.
The ending to Rebellion I believe will live in infamy for as long as it is the last chapter of the story. The ending strikes a balance between the themes of Madoka Magica only to add another twist in the knot, it is not clear cut but thats what makes it brilliant. Many people wanted the ending to the series to end on a happier tone, it was bittersweet leaning more towards sweet. Rebellion’s ending is also bittersweet but veers towards bitter. When I first watched the ending I’ve never had mood whiplash before or since that could match the final scenes of Rebellion.
To discuss why the ending is as good as I feel we have to discuss Homura. What Homura does in taking Madoka’s power for herself is horrible, but this was done out of love for her. If she had left Madoka to her own devices then the Incubators would see how the Law of the Cycles works and eventually capture her. Homura also shows them how the Law of the Cycles came to be, but it on terms that she dictates. What I like the most about this though is that it is only a natural progression of Homura’s character. Homura lived for Madoka, it was all she lived for, unable to think about what would happen IF she saved her. Homura shows that she is willing to do anything, become anything, to save Madoka and if she has to become a demon to do so then so be it.
This is also the only time that the Incubators out right lose. In the other manga or timelines, any time Kyubey is involved he has set backs but never really loses, but what really drives this home is the epilogue with Kyubey looked beaten and afraid.
Many people might think that Homura’s essentially face-heel turn is unexpected or wonder why her love of Madoka became so distorted. But if you lived the same month for 12 years for one person and in your mind failed to protect them wouldn’t you go mad?
Watching the movie the first time I was just confused by the events that transpired and angry at Homura. By watching it again and taking in Homura’s point of view I still know that she is wrong but more importantly I know why she did it. Her decision whilst horrible is understandable. Her actions here never feel forced to me and hints towards this nature can be seen in the series
The ending is what many members of the audience wanted, happier than the show.The ending is wish fulfillment for us and like any wish in Madoka Magica is only equalised by the same amount of despair. We have a mixture of emotions because how the events are presented is upsetting. Yet by comparison everything is actually better in Homura’s universe. This is the only universe where Sayaka is alive, none of the other characters are dead, and they all seem to have what they want, even though Homura distances herself from them. Kyubey has lost but Homura’s victory is seemingly a temporary solution. Everyone else is happy but it is a gilded cage meant for her best friend and her worst enemy.
This is not a movie that I would recommend you watch once and only once, as Rebellion only makes more sense the more it is watched. There were things that I definitely missed the first time I watched this movie, from foreshadowing to background details, and there are some details that only make sense in retrospect. Because of these things I actually enjoyed Rebellion more the second time than when I first watched it. This is a movie that needs more than one viewing. When we know the end game, some of the interactions take on another meaning or, in Homura’s case, why she decides to do certain things. These are not meant to be noticed the first time around so if the ending put you off, watch it again, your opinion might change.
The action scenes for Rebellion are amazing. All of the fight scenes are very well choreographed and the animation in these scenes captures every detail perfectly, from Sayaka’s sword stance to Mami’s ribbons. The musical accompaniment to these scenes heightens the tension and excitement and adds to the scenes in such a way that if the musical score was not there, it would not be the same scene.
The higher budget also allows for improvements upon the series. At most we had had only 1 or 2 Magical Girls in a fight at one time before. All the Magical Girls are allowed to showcase their abilities against a single enemy here, which looks amazing. Seeing the girls work in tandem against the scale of these fights is simply a major highlight of Rebellion; however one scene in particular steals the limelight from all of the others.
The abilities of the magical girls are really put on show here and with all the stops pulled out we can finally see how powerful and effectively they can fight. Rather than the small scale battles from before we have very large battles in wide areas to better utilise powers such as Homura’s time capture to better fight choreography.
Giving Homura the spotlight is the correct choice, as explained above. But with doing this comes the sacrifice of time to develop the rest of the cast. They do get some character development but some definitely get more than others and in comparison to Homura very little. However all of this is understandable. Rebellion is a sequel, building on already established characters who have been explored and given their own development already. Whilst Homura needed more to understand the complexities of her actions, the rest of the cast continue in similar roles to how they were and so are not in need of this. An argument could be made that some characters act very differently, however. For example, Kyouko acts more kind and might be considered by some to go against previous development. I would say that this was already there but is only a highlighted aspect here and makes sense in the context of Rebellion.
When I watched the series, I did not think there were any loose threads and everything was answered so there was essentially no need for a sequel. That having been said, the movie picks up the events in such away that it feels like this was a natural continuation. It neither feels forced nor detached from the series proper. The themes explored in the series are still explored here, although some are more or less in-depth than the series, but that is to be expected.
However, the ending to Rebellion does leave me with questions, and I want answers. Whilst the series ends in such a way there no need to continue, I cannot imagine that this is the final chapter that we will see in the story after watching the movie. To me the problem here is the lack of closure as a sequel is so heavily teased at the end, yet there is no confirmation if and when we will get one.
I do love Rebellion but I would hate for this to be the last word in such spectacular series.
At the end of the series, the witches were replaced by a new enemy, the Wraiths. these were only seen once in the epilogue. Instead in Rebellion these are replaced with the Nightmares. This isn’t a large complaint as the Nightmares are interesting and why there are Nightmares instead of Wraiths is one of the mysteries of the film. However I am slightly disappointed as if they never do a sequel which includes them (and all of the expanded universe stories only seem interested in before the end of the series) then we might never see what they can do.
Rebellion goes out of the way to explain the events that occurred previously to help ease in viewers who have not seen either the series or compilation movies. However, Rebellion is not a stand alone film. It uses the previous entries as a foundation and uses the existing structure for our emotional investment in the film, yet how are you expected to have any emotional investment in any of the characters in this film if you haven’t seen them before? Certain facts would also be left blank or ambiguous to those who had not seen/read any of the previous works and might be confused by other details such as Kyubey and what his role is. He doesn’t speak here and as his role was clarified previously there no need to expand on it here, leaving a newcomer to likely be confused. One of the mysteries of this film is why he is acting differently, after all. If this is your first entry in the series then how would you know he was acting differently? As such I believe that anyone that is interested in the series should not start here.
The ending to Rebellion might not be as uplifting as the ending to the main series, but that does not make it bad. What is most important here is Homura’s character growth and how she gets to this point in the story and what she will do in the future. Rebellion not only manages to do this but makes her the most complex and thought provoking character in the series,
and that makes it great.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Rebellion is not available to stream but is available on Blu-Ray DVD from here (English Dub is only available to certain countries otherwise only the Japanese dub with English Subtitles is available).
Special thanks to ProtonStorm for helping me editing this article.