The suffering continues…
My interest in actively discussing Puella Magi Madoka Magica died down significantly during the past couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the original anime series and enjoyed watching both of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Beginning Story and the Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Everlasting Story films, but I wasn’t a crazy enough fan for the series in the vein of, say, Neon Genesis Evangelion that I was super excited with seeing the same story played over again. Especially since (for example), unlike Rebuild of Evangelion’s constant divergences that make it clear that it’s a new story/continuation, the first two Madoka movies were just recaps of the same 12 episodes of the anime series. There was nothing really new to talk about aside from the spin-off materials, so the wait for Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Rebellion Story was killer because I really wanted to know what was gonna happen after the TV anime’s conclusion.
That said, I was really excited to see this film. Partly because (again) “YAY, NEW MADOKA CONTENT”, and also, I had this feeling that Gen Urobutcher wasn’t exactly finished messing with the audience. I’ve described the original anime as a series with no shock absorbers, and I went in expecting this to be the same case. I thought I was prepared for the inevitable shock, whatever it was.
But I was wrong. I let my guard down. 「残念だったね。」
The film began on a very confusing note for me because of the obvious disconnect with the setting and characters in comparison to the conclusion of the original story. Sayaka was alive and well, Kyouko was attending school, Kyuubey was being a cutesy Pokemon-speak mascot (the little bastard was still pretty creepy imo), a mini Charlotte-now-called-Bebe was Mami’s Artemis to Madoka’s Luna, and course, Madoka was there. And all of the Puella Magi were working together to defeat the Nightmare (not Wraiths), complete with henshin sequences and *Sentai-styled fanfare. All while living reassuring and happy lives.
The cake chant will forever be stuck in my head
Now, we all know the appeal of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the heavy use of fairy-tale horror elements (combined with surreal imagery) and “grimdark” character-driven drama. But that’s not to say this almost happy-go-lucky take of Madoka in a typical magical girl setting wasn’t good fanservice for the amount of time it was there. I mean, damn, Sayaka was friggin’ break-dancing in her transformation sequence.
Still, if you had any standards for Puella Magi Madoka Magica at all, you’ll immediately realize that an explanation for the strange, almost Elseworld-like setting was just around the corner. Especially with Kyuubey’s face occasionally filling up the screen for a few frame (somewhat resembling a subliminal message — do you want to be a Magical Girl?).
Kinda’ breaking the flow a bit here, but I’d really like to comment on how gorgeous the animation is and how well-done the fight scenes are. In particular, the *Homura vs. Mami gun fight has got to be one of the best anime battles I’ve seen recently (not counting the classics, of course). I know I’m being kind of tough here, seeing as this is a film, but dammit, Samurai Champloo’s fight scenes were just as nice as this and that was a TV series, so… yeah — Kill la Kill’s fight scenes have NOTHING on Madoka. There, I said it. Hype vs. Hype. Bring it on, bro.
And man, that CLOCK OVER/TIME OUT-esque effect with all of those bullets suddenly being shot everywhere after Homura’s time stop magic wore off… I love it whenever they pull stunts like that in order to add some spice to the backdrop of battle. The soundtrack is delicious too — Yuki Kajiura is a great composer all-around and I love her work on various video games and anime, but when it comes to Madoka battles, damn is this some of her best stuff. The BGM during the Homura vs. Mami fight, for example, was a mix of her familiar orchaestra + tense Kajiuran chanting and an awesome guitar riff. I’m not much of a music critic, but I know awesome when I hear awesome.
Obligatory B movie sex scene
So yeah, back to the plot, I thought it was a pretty cool twist that the fake world was actually a witch labyrinth created by Homura, who turned into sort of a proto-witch because Kyuubey wanted the chance to use her as an experiment to observe and control the Godoka’s powers (Madoka was already on her way to pick up Homura apparently). Early foreshadowing with the very… strange citizens of Mitakihara was a pretty nice detail too, so the witch labyrinth thing was easier to predict, in comparison to the revelation that it was all Homura’s doing, due to all the red herrings.
This is where I kind of start to let my guard down. For one, Mami actually had her head between her shoulders and was FINAL VENT’ing the hell out of everything with Tiro Finale. And with the fan-favorite Charlotte (Nagisa Momoe) and Sayaka joining in the fray along as Madoka’s wild cards, having full-control over what appears to be similar to their witch forms, I got a tad engrossed with the excitement and was actually somewhat confident that our entourage of Puella Magi would end up saving Homura and ending the day on a happy note, because there was so much hope here.
Sayaka and Kyouko get some heartwarming
lesbian exchanges and the new cheese-obsessed addition to the team (Bebe/Nagisa) added a lighthearted dynamic. Plus, we have Madoka, who had previously rewrote reality and became a god, on our side. How the hell could this even go wrong, I thought?
i am so high right now
Simply put, I was too gullible… and a fool…
After a long ordeal and standing victorious against the Incubators, Madoka regains her memories as Godoka/Madokami/Ultimate Madoka — the Law of Cycles leading Homura’s soul to pass onto her realm much like Sayaka and Nagisa (as well as every other Magical Girl that exhausted their energy supply).
Sounds like a reasonable ending, right? It’s in the spirit of the original anime ending: where despite the massive amounts of suffering Magical Girls go through, Madoka’s resolve will help them avoid a truly tragic ending and carry a light of hope. Here, Homura was able to overcome her grief and be reunited with Madoka as she dies… right?
Then I realized there was about twenty-to-thirty more minutes left of the film. Huh, what. No.
THE. SUFFERING. CONTINUES.
And here’s where the movie really takes an interesting turn — Homura turning face. A turn that, frankly, has left me completely and utterly shocked. I thought I was prepared, but I clearly wasn’t.
I was successfully duped. You win, Urobutcher.
Mind you, this is the “good” kind of shock. I really like how thought-provoking this ended up being. And it ended up explaining the movie’s subtitle, “Rebellion”, as well — Homura dethrones Madoka by “stealing” her powers as well as her role and essentially rewrites the Law of Cycles with her own rules — the “devil” to the god, through more of a fallen angel in this regard.
Akemi, no, Akuma Homura has completely forsaken Madoka’s selfless wishes and rules for the universe in order to benefit her “love”, her love that desires for Madoka to live a normal life in total happiness, completely disregarding the symbol of hope Madoka had previously been to the Puella Magi. Had her Soul Gem been tainted to the point where she no longer had the capacity to put the sake of others before her selfish desires? Or has she really snapped, with her previous battles through time being disregarded by Madoka’s willingness to sacrifice herself again and again for the sake of others? How “evil” is she now?
Just how bad is the world she’s created? Is it a new reality using Madoka’s Law of Cycles, or an amplified “Witch Labyrinth”? Judging by the imagery, it’s probably the latter.
As some may already know, Puella Magi Madoka Magica always had parallels to Kamen Rider Ryuki (of which Urobutcher was a fan of). Homura, whose focus as a stoic-on-the-outside deuteragonist during the original run of the anime mirrored Ren’s role in Kamen Rider Ryuki, shared some traits with the main antagonist, Kanzaki Shiro, as well. Kanzaro Shiro desired to save his little sister, so much that he was willing to reset time and restart his battle royale multiple times to get his results, even if it went against his sister’s wishes. The guy was obsessed and driven by brotherly love. Not so much different from Homura’s intentions during the television run, however, she was never an antagonist up until this point.
Now that she has become the main antagonist of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica canon, totally upstaging the creepy emotionless Incubators, it’s come full circle. She’s so obsessed with Madoka that she’s willing to disregard Madoka’s ideals just so Madoka can live happily. In a way, she’s also similar to Ryuga, Shinji/Ryuki’s dark mirror counterpart, in that she’s a deity that’s the complete opposite of what the main protagonist represents — the “dark” opposing Madoka’s “light”.
At this point, I don’t know if I want another continuation or not. This movie, along with its horrifying twist and Shaft’s disturbingly surreal imagery, was just downright superb, so much that I think it’ll be a difficult feat to top it. But this development is so open and interesting that it just tickles my curiosity on how the story could continue, especially since it’s heavily hinted at the end that Madoka has the capacity to eventually regain her memories and powers as a god — truly putting Homura against Madoka as enemies. Only time will tell — heck, I’m still trying to recover from how insane this movie was.
Thank you, Shinbo and Urobutcher.
P.S. Kyuubey’s suffering amuses me greatly.
Double P.S. Charlotte’s now my favorite Puella Magi next to Kyouko.
(I mean, c’mon, look at that. Too cute to be a bad guy, whereas Kyuubey was trying way too hard to be lolsugoikawaii and ends up being the most suspicious)
*JPN note: The five Puella Magi (the originals, excluding Bebe) refer to themselves as the “Puella Magi Holy Quintet” (no Japanese whatsoever). If I recall correctly, the Japanese version of Puella Magi Madoka Magica always referred to the Puella Magi as “mahou shoujo” (Magical Girl, which is usually subtitled as Puella Magi in English subs), so this is the first time the word “Puella Magi” is actually used.
*Aforementioned fight scene: