Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anime Review: The Madoka Magica Rebellion movie

It is good to be back from a weekend vacation! My girlfriend Amy and I went on a lovely cabin trip with some friends, so it was like the first Marimite OVA, only with some gay guys and some straight people.

Anyway, I first saw this movie in theaters this past December, but held off on reviewing it until a rewatch. I wasn't entirely sure what I thought of it, although I liked it much more than a lot of people. I guess surprisingly, considering that Homura is my favorite. I do understand why some people strongly dislike it, though.

This movie starts with the core cast living in their ideal world as a magical girl team with Kyuubey and the small, cute version of the witch Charlotte as their familiars. (The girls even each get a cheeky/artsy henshin, which you can see here.) Mami is thrilled that she has friends to fight alongside, Sayaka and Kyouko live together with Kyouko attending Sayaka’s school (true fact: I didn’t ship them based on the TV series, but this movie made me hugely ship them and canonically pairs them), Homura transfers into Madoka’s class as she was when they first met, and Madoka herself lives a happy, peaceful life. 

The cost of maintaining their ideal world and whether it is justified, including questions about free will, seem to be the point of this movie, all being themes Madoka’s writer Urobuchi Gen seems to like going back to.  Befitting the constructed reality aspect, this movie has the same theatrical stylistic touches the TV series has, but amped up. 

Anyway, Homura being Homura, she gets suspicious of the veracity of this ideal world and goes all detective- with Kyouko, interestingly- causing the story to rush towards its climax. 

After this movie ended the first time I saw it, the guy sitting behind me only said "Jesus Christ." and Jen, one of the friends seated with Amy and I, was like "That's what happens when you fuck too much with a teenaged girl who has magical powers."

Anyway, among the not-horribly-plot-spoiling things I liked: 

Sayaka’s development here given where we left her in the TV show. Amy has a reading I like of the process of turning from a magical girl to a despair-ridden witch to what Sayaka became after that- that it’s basically growing up, dealing with whatever problems you have as a result- like things not going how you dreamed when it comes to love or something else you wanted- and coming out of it as a stronger, more adult person. You still have bullshit popping up in your life, but are much more capable of dealing with it, like Sayaka is now. In addition to being a cool what-she-is-now, she recognizes that Kyousuke’s kind of a thick-headed dunce and his dating Hitomi isn’t a big deal like she once thought it was, and Kyouko’s way better anyway.

Have I mentioned Kyouko's still awesome?

Mami was never a favorite of mine, but for me, it added a little more poignancy to her character to see how happy she was in an ideal world I knew was going to end.

Cool fights. 

Can't elaborate more without being too spoilery, so...

Anywho, I actually liked this movie, but again, a lot of people didn’t because of its third and final act. It's the straight tequila shot to the TV series'/first two movies'/first two acts of this movie's tequila sunrises. Keep that in mind if you decide to check it out. But maybe I watched a different movie, because while this movie managed to be darker and trippier than the TV series, I didn’t think it was male gazier, which some people seemed to? It passed my “would I feel awkward watching this with my dad” test. Also, if you're thinking of getting the limited edition Blu Ray version of this movie whose price will make you cry on the inside, the extras are pretty sweet, especially the interesting interviews with the staff who worked on the movie. Anyway, I will discuss big plot spoilers under this cut, so don’t read further if you don’t want to know anything beyond what I described.

The two biggest questions for me after first watching this movie were "What the hell happened?" and "How exactly to read Homura?"

For the first, I subscribe to the "when-Homura-witched/demoned-out-while-holding-onto-Madoka-she-was-able-to-expand-her-witch's-labyrinth-to-engulf-the-universe-and-create-an-ideal-world-the-same-way-she-did-earlier-in-the-movie-only-with-full-awareness-of-it-and-on-a-much-bigger-scale-and-with-all-of-the-people-within-it-being-real" theory that Amy proposed. It makes sense, although lord knows that Urobuchi could manage to write a sequel to this movie that detonates that speculation while still making sense. For now, that is what I think happened, though.

As for how to read Homura- I think a lot of people have been focusing too much on her dialogue with Kyuubey when she's remaking reality and not enough on the conversation she had with Madoka in the field of flowers. That was where she genuinely started thinking that if Madoka had a choice not to become a god and leave everything, including her family, behind, she wouldn't have. So while Homura's way of making that happen wasn't necessarily the right thing to do because it hinges on placing Madoka (and everyone else) in a reality built on a lie and doesn't give her (or anyone else) a real say in it, for all her "Look at me, I'm an evil demon now"-ing about it, it did ultimately just do what she thought Madoka-as-a-human would have wanted. Also, Homura's like fourteen. (Amy: "Even though I don't like her at the end of this movie, I totally would have done that at fourteen." Me: "Me too, I was a selfish little shit.") The movie itself knows this wasn't the best course of action, and that viewpoint is represented by Sayaka's final conversation with Homura.

Anyway, again, I liked this movie, but I am not 100% sure why. I feel like I should like it less, but I don't, and don't regret the time I spent watching and thinking it over.


Anonymous said...

If anything I felt Rebellion was a bit less "male gazeish" as the transformation sequences were all amazing Inu Curry reimaginings that each broke out of the usual post-Cutey Honey "strip tease transformation" mold (or rather deconstructed it) that most shows and the prior Madoka series/movies used and instead each said something about the psyche of the five characters.

Overall I found the setting itself so rich in interesting visuals, I wasn't exactly looking out for fanservice shots, so perhaps I just missed that while being distracted by the pretty pictures. ^_-

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- Ditto- all I got out of Rebellion's art direction was "Wow wow wow", and I liked how the transformations conveyed their respective characters' personalities while still being creatively cool. =)

Overlord-G said...

I got KyouSaya, a most meanimus-maximus Homucifer losing her patience and of course the sight of that Faustian extraterrestrial feline thingamajig getting, uhhh, "probed" was another treat. Nagisa being added as a "pity" lover for Mami would have been better if Nagisa had appeared in her human form more often.

Other than that if a Madoka Movie 4 is coming, I'm ready for it.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Overlord-G- I enjoyed seeing Kyuubey's fate. Nagisa's definitely too young to be non-creepily paired with Mami, though, and I saw their relationship as sisterly by the end.