A trippy-ass anime movie involving a god incarnated in human form: what better way for a sober Jew to partake in the Easter 4/20 celebration? Well, Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie Part 3: Rebellion (yep, that’s the full title) is certainly fitting for the occasion. But is it the best it can be? And as a sequel to one of the few anime series with a completely satisfying ending, does it even need to be in the first place?
(WARNING: It’s impossible to talk about this movie without spoilers for the TV series that proceeded it, so if you haven’t watched either the Madoka Magica series or its two recap movies, watch it. It’s only 12 half-hour episodes long and one of the best anime series ever. If you have the time, I definitely recommend marathoning through the episode three, the point the show starts to reveal what it’s really doing beneath its cutesy facade, and you’ll be hooked from there.)
Rebellion won’t make a lick of sense to newcomers, but for its first hour or so, fans of the show will also be baffled, though entertained in the process. Sayaka’s alive, Madoka’s human, Mami’s hanging out with the witch that bit off her head, Homura’s an innocent transfer student, and Kyubey’s not talking. None of this squares with where we left off in the series, and the mystery of what the hell is going on develops a serious unease. As expected, the animation and music are astonishing, and the movie remains entertaining even as it keeps the audience in the dark for an extended period of time. Highlights include an uncomfortable musical number and some excellent gunplay.
Eventually we get an explanation for all this madness, and it’s a clever one, addressing one of the few threads left hanging open in the series. Everything seems to be adding up and building to a conclusion appropriate for message and the bittersweet tone of the TV series’ ending. Maybe not a must-see movie, but one so enjoyable and well-done you’d want to see it anyway.
And then, once that conclusion is reached… the movie goes on for another 20 minutes and everything hurts.
I hated the final act twist. It undoes character development. It’s poorly built up. It renders everything meaningless. It prizes shock over logical or thematic sense. There’s ways they COULD have made it work, but they don’t. And based on this interview (spoiler warning), it seems screenwriter Gen Urobuchi didn’t even want to do it; he wanted to end the movie where it should have ended, but the director Akiyuki Shinbou wanted an ending which would leave open potential for sequels (which I’m not sure this ending even does given how it writes itself into a corner).
Rebellion doesn’t need to exist; the ending to the TV series is far superior. Yet I can’t write this movie off like you can most TV anime spin-off movies; it’s so brilliant for 80% of its runtime, so consistently a feast for the senses throughout, and even when it becomes bad, it’s bad in an extremely daring way, a “you must see this to believe it” way. I kind of want people to fight me on this one; I WANT this to be something great and if I’m completely misreading things, please let me know.
Madoka Magica The Movie Part 3: Rebellion is now available on Blu-Ray.