WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. Cease reading if you intend to watch the film with all its secrets preserved.
I finally got round to watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion – the final chapter in the animated movie trilogy starring Japan’s favourite magical girl quintet (in your face Sailor Moon!) Despite being a huge fan of the twelve-episode Madoka anime I skipped the first two movies, as they merely retell the events covered in the original series. Japanese studios, for whatever reason, seem to enjoy squandering feature film budgets on abridged rehashes. Attack on Titan for example is presently releasing a bunch of movies, which do nothing more than recycle season one’s plot. I guess something needs to come out to tie fans over during the protracted wait for season two. Rebellion thankfully is a new tale, which takes place some time after episode twelve’s finale.
Rebellion begins its two-hour long adventure with a sequence that is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of Madoka fans everywhere. The colourful opener sees the show’s five heroines battle a nightmarish entity, which was conceived moments earlier by the negative emotions of an underappreciated girlfriend (guys be sure to cherish your partner or else not getting laid will be the least of your worries.) Seeing the former rivals work in unison against a common foe is a real treat, as are the visuals on display. Just like the original show, the confrontation between the girls and their monstrous nemesis is brought to life via a trippy collage reminiscent to those eerie Eastern European cartoons of yesteryear. Do a quick search on Youtube to see what I mean, although I make no apologies if the images you find rob you of sleep tonight.
Once the smoke clears and the excitement of seeing the Madoka gang back onscreen dissipates a myriad of questions will begin swirling through your head. What exactly is going on? If you have watched the original series or the two recap movies (and you really should or else Rebellion’s convoluted plot won’t make a lick of sense to you) it should be apparent that the magical girl team enjoying a celebratory post battle cuppa shouldn’t be together. One of the ladies in question perished during the psychological series’ run, not to mention that the titular Madoka ceased to exist after transcending humanity. The discrepancies don’t end there however. Anyone acquainted with the anime will “lose their heads” when they see the adorable mascot that is accompanying Mami.
As it transpires, the movie’s audience aren’t the only ones privy to something being amiss. Madoka’s closest confidant (and yuri lover in many a saucy fan fic) Homura Akemi suspects that things aren’t exactly what they seem. Upon delving deeper into the matter she finds evidence pointing to the fact that the group’s memories may have fallen victim to indoctrination. Homura also discovers the existence of a mystical barrier, which prevents the girls from traversing the boundaries of their hometown. It’s up to the pigtailed manipulator of time to unearth who is responsible for the phenomena in question, even if the disturbing truth may ultimately pit her against the people she cherishes the most.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion is suffering from a bad case of Mass Effect 3 syndrome and it really breaks my heart. For the most part the movie does an exemplary job of mimicking the formula that brought the series so much acclaim. Things start off under the semblance of a cheery magical girl romp, but once the first act concludes the jovial exterior is peeled away exposing a dark and twisted conspiracy. The main plot of being trapped in an illusionary world isn’t particularly original, but it matters not thanks to Gen Urobuchi’s exceptional script writing and the visual flair that delivers one of the finest anime duels I have ever witnessed. My jaw dropped during the sequence where Mami and Homura square off under a hail of revolver and musket fire.
The movie is on the cusp of perfection and then the ending hits. Much like the aforementioned Bioware RPG, an unsatisfactory resolution soils the whole experience and possibly the franchise as well. To be honest Puella Magi Madoka Magica didn’t need a sequel, but to its credit Rebellion was shaping up to be a fine accompaniment to the series. The Homura centric yarn was bringing closure to her emotional journey, or at least it would have had an out of character plot twist not scuppered the whole thing at the last second. With Madoka Magica generating oodles of cash in Japan the studio was unwilling to end things here, so they instead opted to leave the door open for future follow ups. Retconning and creative writing will undoubtedly be used to justify how things panned out, but for me the damage is done.
My rating for Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion is a low three stars. A contrived ending, that cruelly throws one of its most beloved characters under the bus, ultimately destroys an otherwise fine movie. To make things worse the film effectively hits the reset button on the whole series, thereby erasing everything that happened in one of the most critically acclaimed animes of all time. In the end Studio “Shaft” live up to their name. The bait and switch ending they pulled left me feeling just as bad as the magical girls Kyubey duped through his deceptive contracts.