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Rebellion is one of those strange creations that's controversies that divides its base but actually might appeal to people that hated the original series, like myself. I came in with no expectations and found it to be far less unbearable than the overhyped deconstruction of the magical girl genre the series originally came from. It still runs a theme park version of Faustian lore and magnifies several flaws of the original anime, but it does one thing that the original series did not, which is respect some of its characters
Among other things, the girls not involved in the yandere cosmic martyr complex subplot, have human conversations. You see them hang out, joke about their lives, and intentionally undercut dramatic moments for the sake of levity. Its really a token effort given how the film spends a significantly large amount of time of its plot, cramming exposition down the viewer's throat, but it does not make the cast a series of disposable firecrackers the original series did. There is some sense of pathos.
I also liked how there was a lack of trial and error death in its action scenes. In the original series every battle felt like a pretense to show how much more badass Homura was compared to the other girls. Rebellion may inflate Homura's ego like a bouncy castle, but it allows some scenes where the other girls to stand in the spotlight and actually challenge Homura's capabilities and excel in their respective archetypical areas.
Still, as much I loathed the cosmic subplot of the original subplot, the film only exaggerates its bad qualities. While Madoka was passive in the original series, she's a glorified Maguffin in this series, Kyuubi abandons his poorly scripted blue and orange morality to become a Card-Carrying Villain, and Homura becomes the Anime Catholicism version of the Devil. This is the natural conclusion of these two dimensional archetypes, but it shows how Urobotchi failed to see the shallowness of his own creations and never bothered to add flexibility to their perspectives.
Which brings me back to the title, Homura hijacks the system and enslaves the Kyuubi race to give Madoka a normal life. Slavery, by our standards is bad, but why should it even be a concept to a race of Consummate Professionals that have devoted their lives to the preservation of the universe? Didn't Homura just simplify their work by cutting out the middle man? Urobotchi applies human conventional morality to a [[Needless]] species that has no hobbies or interests. Homura also forces Madoka back to being human to rejoin her friends but this also fails to provoke any emotion for me. Madoka is such a vacuum of personal characteristics and CommonalityConnections for other characters to attach to that the scenes have no meaning.
This is why the series has had a sequel in Development Hell for the past eight years. It has to pull a Cinderella 3's worth of characterization for Madoka, Homura, Kyuubi just to have anything make sense. Unlike the original series, I find Rebellion to be watchable because it at least has some roots of the character interaction that made Magical Girl series so identifiable. But the main girls are the worst girls, being sunk up to their necks pretentious cosmological philosophy. A series is good when character adheres to certain philosophies, not when a character is philosophy given human form. When people ask me what my favorite part of this franchise is, I respond "When Mami beats Homura" a scene that metaphorically captures my feelings about the show.
Before we begin, I'd like to point out that unmarked Puella Magi Madoka Magica spoilers are ahead. If you haven't seen it, I recommend not reading any further until you've seen the anime (and, of course, seeing the anime itself).
As might be expected of a sequel, the (debatably) happy ending gets overturned, although it's initially unclear how it happened. Still, things are amiss, and they leads to Homura trying to find the truth, and in turn, her search leads to a fierce battle and another drastic upheaval. It might have been nice to see more about how the events at the end of the original series affect the lives (and deaths) of magical girls now that they no longer have to fear what happens when their Soul Gems completely darken, but the plot is an interesting mystery with many twists and turns, similar to the secrets revealed about magical girls in general and some characters in particular late in the original series.
Homura's decision at the end is the part of the movie that's both the most controversial (whether it's right, done for the right reasons, in character, etc.) and (obviously) the hardest to discuss without spoiling it. All I can say about that, is that, in my opinion, the respective answers are yes, mostly, and yes as a result of Character Development in the film. Some viewers have apparently rethought shipping Homura and Madoka as a result of seeing this, but I still ship it, and hold out hope for the two finding happiness together.
The music is quite good, as might be expected of Madoka, particularly "Absolute Configuration," which nicely complements what is perhaps the best fight scene in the entire Madoka franchise, and a definite high point for the movie as far as action goes.
All in all, while Rebellion is definitely not a good place to get started with the Madoka franchise, I'd recommend it for those who enjoyed the original series and are eager to see what happens to Homura and the others.
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