SPOILER ALERT, for those who haven’t seen Rebellion yet, this post contains some spoilers which may ruin your experience.
It’s been a week and a bit since the Australian screening of the long awaited Madoka Rebellion movie, the 3rd instalment of the highly successful original anime series airing way back in 2011. Given how much I had loved the original series, I was heading into this with great enthusiasm with strong expectations. Coming out of the cinema, I could say I was quite pleased with how the movie turned out but for the wrong reasons. Giving my head to clear after a week and a bit, I’ve gone back to think about not only the movie again but other recent developments and I realised that the movie was even more brilliant than I even first thought.
There’s a certain danger being an anime fan for a long period of time. After watching for a few years, you learn a lot more about not just the anime series itself but about the ‘meta-anime’, or the things that make the anime outside of the anime like the habits of Studios, Seiyuu, Mangaka/LN authors and of course tropes and trends. It is very very easy to be caught up endlessly examining meta-anime and ignore certain aspects of anime itself. Sadly, I found myself looking at the Rebellion movie in such a way. No less than 15 minutes outside the cinema, I had already linked Homura with the trope Yandere, and the ending of Rebellion with ‘typical’ Franchise Milking and the possibility of a fourth movie or second season. However a few things have changed for me since then.
Recently on Rocket News, there was a report about some of Hayao Miyazaki’s comments on the anime industry and its current state. As the headline would say, the problem with the anime industry are the anime fans! It is very easy to accuse Miyazaki of being old and cynical but looking at the article more deeply and using my own experiences with the meta-anime of the anime/manga/LN industry you can see he raises some very valid points. The creation of anime these days seems to mark an age of socially distant people with little life experience. A very large amount of anime these days can be summed up by the weight of its tropes, one needs to look no further than your seasonal RomCom or Harem male and female characters to see the exact same personalities on exhibit here and there, albeit with a different face or hair colour. We can link this to a lot of things; in an interview with (possibly) Akiyuki Shinbo, the director of the Madoka series and movies, he mentions a large amount of Light Novels these days are created with intention of anime adaptation which ends up really restricting the creativity of writing and we see more and more animated works fall into tropes. This over-reliance on tropes leaves very hollow, fake and unrealistic characters with little soul and emotion, sadly mirroring most of the industry.
This brings me to my main point, like it or not, the story of Rebellion and the character developments created by Urobuchi are for the series, brilliant. Before we accuse Homura of going insane or being a creepy yandere character, we have to acknowledge that everything she’s done has been very consistent with her character. Looking back at her wish, she wanted to be able to redo her meeting with Madoka, she wanted to be the one to protect her instead of the one being protected. In the new world created by Madoka, she is unable to fulfil that wish of hers. She can neither meet Madoka again, nor can she protect her. Even worse, should she fall into despair or run out of magic, she will be the one to be protected yet again by Madoka by being taken into Law of Cycles. Homura would have never been satisfied with her situation, she had gone through close to 100 time loops (according to an interview of Urobuchi), 100 months of watching Madoka die or turn into a Witch and still she had never been able to protect her from Walpurgis, Kyuubey and other dangers. If there is one thing, one thing I think anime watchers underestimate and industry ignores, it is the soul,power and impact of emotion that (rarely) exists in anime. Just as how we might brush over Homura’s actions as mere tropes or simple desire or obsession, the emotion of love is quite rightly as Kyuubey and Homura state, unpredictable and impossible to truly understand due to its uniqueness to each of us. It seems cheesy, the old ‘power of love and friendship’ trope but in this case Urobuchi masterfully deconstructs the Shoujo Ai concept into what we witness in Rebellion. This is love, this is Homura’s love, which none of us will ever truly understand.
Madoka is anything but a tropefest and to view it through the Cynical, Logical Trope-filled looking glass is to invite disappointment and an inability to enjoy the movie. That being said, the movie as far as I see is optional. The series could have easily ended at the conclusion of the 12th episode just as it starts anew at the conclusion of the Rebellion movie. The benefit of being a fan here is choosing what you like most. For me I accept the conclusion of the Rebellion movie, because I accept that Homura given everything that’s happened and given all the choices again would have done the same thing over and over for the person she loves.
Notes: Most of the interviews are floating somewhere on the Madoka wiki. Check Rebellion Media if you want to follow up.