Well, this is the project that made the movies exciting. After two rehash movies, the third is the payoff – something exciting! Something all-new that advances the Madoka world. But once you’ve made your main character a god erased from all history, where do you go? How do you enhance such a neatly wrapped-up story?
Well, you subvert it, of course!
If I’m honest, there were a few things in the third of this movie series – and the only one that’s all original material – that disappointed me. I thought the world we were shown at the end of the Maoka series was worth exploring, and though this story nodded to that, it was set somewhere quite different. In many ways, the writing is deeply lazy – when you effectively create a character that has the powers of a god, plus an alien race with indistinguishable-from-magic sci-fi technology, you end up with a world where anything at all can happen, and you don’t need much logical consistency or detailed world-building. You can make time paradoxes, and have characters who are removed from timelines to fight alongside a godlike entity for no better reason than she quite likes to have them around. It’s lazy and simplistic and any problems can be very easily handwaved away.
But at the same time, this kind of story allows the writers to deliver fanservice by the bucketload. Not sexy fanservice – just things that the makers of the series would love to see. Characters are dead? Bring them back to life! An antagonist has gotten a big fanbase? Bring her back, make her good and reveal her human form! People have a real burning hatred for your intentionally sinister cutesy mascot? Arrange to have it dismembered, enslaved, tortured and more!
And while yes, it feels for much of its length like a cop-out, Rebellion is a hell of a lot of fun.
Everything is wish-fulfilment, by design. All the magical girls work together in a happy Ojamajo Doremi world of bright colours and cooperation. They even have cute sidekicks – Madoka has a Kyubey who is as cute as it looked like he would be at the start of the original series, and Mami has Bebe. Bebe, of course, an extra-cute version of Charlotte the Dessert Witch, able to communicate in weird gibberish that shows up as floating characters, and a staunch ally of the girls – perhaps the most enjoyable sequence in the film is where the girls chant a creepy nursery rhyme that leads to Bebe showing her true power.
Ultimately, Homura is still the main character and still the one to discover the truth behind this slightly perturbing alternate universe. Behind it, of course, are the Kyubey race, who having hypothesised the existence of the Madoka force of nature – which, after all, Homura told them about at the end of the series – and who want to try to counteract her wish so that they can tap this far more efficient way of getting the energy to save the universe. Neat, but not exactly hard to predict.
What comes as a surprise is that Homura has her own agenda, which is far more selfish than I had ever expected. It makes for some moral grey areas at the very end of this interesting and twisted story, and something remarkable that Madoka couldn’t have accounted for. How she is empowered to do what she does doesn’t really matter – it is poetic and has a bittersweet beauty.
The third film doesn’t feel necessary. It doesn’t feel like it completes an otherwise incomplete story. It feels added-on, an unnecessary appendage. But there’s no doubting that it was deeply enjoyable, especially for fans.