Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie Part 3 – Rebellion (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 112 minutes approx.
Having concluded the TV series of Puella Magi Madoka Magica on a satisfactory note it was a brave move to add a new chapter. After two theatrical films provided a redacted telling of the TV series film number three, Rebellion, is a brand new story aimed at supplying us with an addendum to the TV series, complete with a different ending to the saga.
Set after the events of the original story we surprisingly find ourselves back in familiar territory with Madoka Kaname waking up late for school after having a peculiar dream, rushing to join her friends Sayaka Miki, Kyoko Sakura and Mami Tomoe. There is a major difference however in that they are all magical girls, with Kyubey living with Madoka as her pet, but instead of Witches they combat a new foe called Nightmares.
During the first class a new transfer student Homura Akemi is introduced, a shy girl with glasses and pigtails who also reveals herself to be a magical girl. She is welcomed into the group and together they call themselves the Holy Quintet as they do battle against the Nightmares. However none of the girls has any memory of the previous incidents but Akemi is starting to have odd flashbacks, which she investigates, threatening the harmony of the group in the process.
One can argue whether this film was strictly necessary but a different side of the coin is being explored in this darker and unquestionably trippier sequel, demonstrating the sheer scope and potential the Madoka universe offers on a creative level. Urobuchi has certainly done just that while animators Shaft have also picked up the gauntlet on the visual front, stretching their vivid imaginations to sublime limits.
The tone, as suggested above, eschews the light and fluffy asides that afforded the previous works a pause for levity which begets a dialogue heavy affair of psychological and existential depths which will appear as baffling as it does obnoxious to some ears. There is a sense that with the groundwork already laid by the first two films, writer Gen Urobuchi has taken the opportunity of this fresh canvas and, as he has done in the past, been a little too obtuse for his own good.
Driving the narrative once again is Akemi, who this time is on a mission for answers and not change the future or past, at least not initially while her relationship with Madoka is once again under the spotlight, taking a rather different turn as you may expect. The lack of memories of the past doesn’t alter the character traits of the cast – they are still the same perky close-knit group they were before, with the only real exception being Sayaka and Kyoko not being enemies.
Other noticeable changes include the addition of another incubator, a cheese obsessed little critter named Bebe who lives with Mami, and of course the Nightmares, who may replace the Witches as the nominal supernatural enemy but are by no means any less disturbing.
True to their name they occupy the same mental space as the Witches, enveloping their victims in a maelstrom of psychedelic madness, preying on their insecurities and melancholy. The collective magical abilities of our heroines are bolstered by a new tactic – singing to their enemy – which oddly proves just as effective, but weapons are still the preferred method.
Because the story follows a different route thematically and philosophically the pacing is slower and takes it time in revealing its true nature, building on each development and sowing the seeds for the next stage while maintaining an air of mystery and ambiguity that never lets up even up until the end. There is also a post credits coda to watch out for which is all we can say about that.
As already established this film is considerably darker than its predecessors which will prove to be a polarising factor for many fans, who may not appreciate the direction Urobuchi takes the characters. Without revealing too much we enter a territory of psychological distress and obsession with devastating effects to both the group dynamic and the already subverted magical girl concept, a move that may be seen as harmful to the goodwill the original visionary approach has already engendered.
Hopefully the stunning visual presentation will soften the blow a bit, or perhaps even encourage forgiveness for the drastic plot developments. Once again being the star attraction of this film Shaft have excelled themselves in creating the surreal world this story take place. Previous comparisons to an acid fuelled Terry Gilliam are still valid in describing the set pieces and backgrounds, a colourful cornucopia of esoteric patchwork designs with abstract adornments dancing about in a manic fashion.
Elsewhere the action scenes are a whirlwind of energy and flamboyance, complete with the aesthetic sizzle beholden to the genre, including a two and a half minute transformation sequence! Complimenting the entire experience is the musical score from Yuki Kajiura who again has composed a beautifully evocative soundtrack made up of cutesy pop and stirring orchestral overtures for the dramatic scenes.
It feels unfair to make direct comparisons to the first two films but a stark difference between them is the lack of immediacy of this outing; even returning fans may find this film in a little harder to get into. One of the joys of this series is how it reveals something new on further viewings but in this instance we have a potential grower, that will hopefully make more sense in the future and more enjoyable as a result.
Rebellion is a curious beast in that adds something interesting to the Madoka Magica legacy but doesn’t feel immediately essential, more of an ambitious if garrulous and bloated adjunct to continue the franchise. Definitely one for the hardcore fans this will prove to be a contentious and polarising addition to the Madoka Magica oeuvre while maintaining the high standard of stunning production values.
Rating – ****
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