Written by Dan Barnett on 13 Nov 2013
Dan first encountered anime at the ripe old age of six with a VHS copy of Laputa. Ten years later he re-discovered it in Robotech and overnight a DVD collection was born.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion - A preview
It was ten past seven. The lights were out and the room black and silent. The time was nigh. In an utterly packed cinema in the bustling district of Shinjuku in Tokyo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica New Feature: Rebellion was about to begin! Please note that the below should be taken as a preview rather than a review - to fully review the feature would require a better understanding, and my Japanese wasn’t quite up to the task even though I was able to follow the majority of the film's plot. There is deliberately no score for this reason, though you can rest assured that should we get to see the film with some subtitles via a theatrical or physical UK release we’ll be giving it our usual fair and balanced review (once we tear Andy away from the box of 10s anyway!) I’ll be attempting to keep spoilers out of the article here, although if you’ve yet to watch the original TV series or the two recap films then you should probably hang fire before reading on.
Following Madoka's changes to the world at the end of the series proper, things are now very different. As the film opens we meet up with Sayaka, Mami, Kyoko and Madoka in hot pursuit of the latest witch - now called nightmares - this time in the form of a stop-motion teddy bear. What was that, did I say Madoka? Yes indeed – despite disappearing from the world after previous events Madoka is back from the very start of the film, and from the get-go we finally get to see the one thing that people have been asking for more of since the series first aired (no, not that yuri sequence) - Madoka as a fully-fledged magical girl fighting alongside the others. Following this, you might be forgiven for having a bit of deja-vu as we pass through a pretty familiar morning seen at the Kaname household before being re-introduced to the tragic heroine of the Madoka story as a dark-haired beauty named Akemi Homura transfers into class. Even here though, there are differences from the time-hopping Groundhog Day events we’ve seen before. Kyoko is already here and now in the same class as Sayaka and Madoka, and one of the truly joyous moments in the film is seeing her interact with Sayaka free from the dark shadows the TV series cast over their relationship. After Homura arrives, to the surprise of all the girls bar Mami who has mischievously decided to keep the new arrival a secret so she could shock the others, we have the reveal of a new magical girl before its back to work as a new nightmare arrives, born from the dreams of an old friend that the girls must work together to defeat. Once done however, the series truly confirms its place in the Madoka Magica franchise as Homura's world begins to shatter and change. Something is very wrong with the world she sees all of a sudden - Homura remembers... Homura remembers everything.
Let's start out by saying that Rebellion looks fantastic. That pretty much goes without saying at this stage but it really does - whilst the series visual style means that it rarely reaches Bakemonogatari-esque levels, Madoka Magica has never looked so powerful and vibrant. Some of this is likely the impact of seeing the series on the big screen for the first time, but even so I was impressed. The direction of Akiyuki Shinbo has always been strong but he really comes into his own here as the on-screen action dances around, keeping the whole screen alive with action occurring to the left, the right then upside down in an almost bewildering fashion. The action sequences in particular are really notable here, starting off with completely new transformation sequences for all five of the girls which are brilliantly inventive and followed by the kind of action we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the original series, as this iteration of the cast have been working together long enough to fight alongside each other and fully unleash their own abilities as well as combining them with each other’s powers. Homura’s power in particular is used to great effect here, particularly in a pivotal scene towards the middle of the film that I won’t spoil here.
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