THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Reprising the Madoka Magica TV Series
I’m glad I did: Madoka Magica: Rebellion is not a film that can be watched without having seen the TV series first. I suspect a new viewer would be completely lost.
I now recommend watching the Madoka Magica TV Series at least twice, if only to pick up on the hidden meanings behind the dialogue in the early episodes.
The ending to the Madoka Magica TV series is at least as strong on the second viewing, but definitely left me wondering where the writers could take the series beyond that.
In some respects Madoka Magica: Rebellion is very much in the same mould as Adolescence of Utena, and I even suspect that SHAFT were emulating elements directly.
This is particularly true of the setting, albeit that SHAFT did a better job of concealing it initially. Nevertheless there is a sense of something not being right from the beginning that only builds as the film twists its way through the plot.
There are a number of fascinating twists in the Madoka Magica: Rebellion scripting, and I will admit to being surprised by several. Most of these are then logical in hindsight, which I regard as strong storytelling.
Visually, this is Studio SHAFT at their bizarre best and this is definitely a film to be seen on the big screen.
I did like that the post credits Easter Egg shows Kyubey getting at least a little of what it had coming.
The Problematic Ending to Madoka Magica: Rebellion
The Madoka Magica TV series ends with Madoka’s choice to redeem the souls of the magical girls at the cost of her incarnate existence.
The key here is that Madoka was fully informed, fully understood the price and then chose to pay that price anyway because it was the right thing for Madoka to do.
The one thing that Madoka doesn’t do is compromise the free will of the other magical girls.
In a sense this is my biggest problem with the ending to Madoka Magica: Rebellion: Homura does not respect Madoka’s free will.
The Rebellion of the title is essentially Homura rebelling against Madoka’s choice. This is very much a parallel to Lucifer’s rebellion, with Homura even calling herself a demon afterwards.
This didn’t really work for me. It felt out of character for Homura, and I’m uncomfortable with how this subverts the ending to the TV Series.
The Interim Verdict
I’m really not sure whether I liked Madoka Magica: Rebellion or not. It is cleverly written, visually superb, and the voice acting is excellent.
However the ending leaves me uncertain about what Madoka Magica: Rebellion brings to the Madoka Magica TV series. It is also likely to be incomprehensible to new viewers.
At this stage I’m tentatively recommending Madoka Magica: Rebellion as a “Watch Once” if you’ve seen the TV series.
I might take another look at Madoka Magica: Rebellion if it is released locally, a second viewing might clarify/solidify my thinking.