Impressions: Puella Magi Madoka Magica - Rebellion


The final film in the Madoka trilogy...

Last week, fans finally had an opportunity to attend screenings of Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, the third and final chapter of the trilogy. Given the ending of the previous film -- or the series itself, seeing as the previous two films were merely recaps -- one might wonder what's left to tell. The confrontation with Walpurgisnacht and Madoka's choice to bring an end to the conflict in her own way seemed like the perfect, yet bittersweet, ending we had all hoped for. With that in mind, it's hard to imagine how Rebellion would continue where the previous films left off, especially without Madoka herself to contend with.

Surprisingly, Studio Shaft managed to pull it off by delivering over two hours of content aimed at tying up some loose ends by focusing almost entirely on Homura Akemi. Whether or not they ultimately succeeded remains debatable, and some might even argue -- myself included -- that the film created more mysteries than it solved. Read on for my thoughts on the film, and the premiere event itself.

Aniplex held the US premiere at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood -- an older venue built back in the 1920s. The theater features a large auditorium capable of seating over 600 people, and they seemed to do a pretty good job of filling it. Before the film, there were some lines that almost streched around the building. They also had some limited edition Madoka Magica merchandise on hand, though the lines for that also seemed lengthy. Fans who had purchased admission to the premiere were also given a gift bag and while I'd love to discuss the contents, my press credentials apparently didn't entitle me to one. Too bad, so sad, I guess. I also had to purchase my own snacks -- total deal breaker, am I right? I suppose I can't complain too much; I did have one of the best seats in the house.

Once we were seated, they treated us to a trailer for the Madoka Magica fone app, which was good news for anyone hoping they'd bring that over to the states, as well as a brief introduction to the film by some of the Japanese seiyuu. Fun fact -- I actually had the American voice actors sitting directly in front of me the whole time, so that was kind of interesting. They were basically whispering to each other the whole time, but not loud enough to distract anyone, so at least they were really polite about it.

Alright, so down to business -- I'm going to do my best not to spoil anything and to just give a general impression. We'll provide a full review, along with an appropriate score, once the film is released for home video. The film starts off much like the series, though given the events of the previous films, it should be obvious that nothing is quite what it seems. To top that off, all five -- that's right, count 'em -- magical girls, Madoka included, happen to be present. None of them seem to realize anything is wrong, until Homura slowly begins to piece things together.

However, therein lies the very first gripe I have with the film: if you're not familiar with the series (or the previous films), you're going to be completely lost. They don't bother stopping to explain a single thing. So, in order to properly enjoy this film, you'll need to be a fan, or have at least sat through the recaps. You can also expect to miss out on the in-jokes, of which there are plenty sprinkled throughout the film.

So, with the feature clocking in at roughly over two hours, the first half focuses on Homura's attempt to unravel the mystery of how this specific reality, or timeline, came to be. She questions each of the girls in turn, which leads to a pretty violent stand-off with Mami -- in fact, many might consider that the true highlight of the film. Eventually the truth about the world reveals itself, and though it might not be so shocking, it becomes a major turning point. I think, had they decided to end the film there, it would have made for an excellent cliffhanger. In fact, it would've also given us a sense of closure, having solved the key mystery plaguing the first half of the film.

At this point the plot becomes incredibly convoluted and while some fans might already be used to that, everyone has to deal with the fact that most of what occurs is communicated through constant exposition. If you don't have your wits about you, you'll probably miss something important. It also becomes incredibly hard not to spoil anything. We're presented with plot-twist upon plot-twist similar to The Matrix, or Inception. Perhaps even worse, everything feels very rushed, as if they tried to cram everything into this final portion of the film, only to culminate in an ending that feels all-to-abrupt -- like the middle of a five-act play. There's simply no closure to be had.

When asked about this following the film, Shaft president Mitsutoshi Kubota claimed that this was by design -- to allow you to decide if the ending was a happy ending or a tragedy. In reality, it seemed more like a cop out for what I could only describe as not just ambiguous, but confusing. If this truly is the end of the story (and considering they originally planned this as the third part of a trilogy), then you have to question why they'd end the film in such a manner. Perhaps they'll present us with a real ending at a later date.

For all its problems, I can't deny that the film is something to marvel at. Rebellion is visually breathtaking and will leave you stunned in your seat, but in terms of plot and pacing, it suffers greatly. It's as if Shaft tried to do too much, and simply couldn't edit itself. I should also note that the film was submitted to the Academy Awards and, though the film perhaps deserves a nod, it would be difficult to top something as well put together as Miyazki's The Wind Rises. Did any of you also catch a screening? I'd be interested to hear what our community thinks.

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Tim Sheehy
Tim SheehyContributor   gamer profile

Tim is the former Editor-in-Chief of Japanator, a content media specialist by day, and pro-blogger by night. His posts can be found scattered throughout the Modern Method network. Also, he writes... more + disclosures



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