Rebellion is one of my favorite films. The animation is stunning, and the soundtrack continues to impress me, but what it’s most famous for is the ending. There’s a lot of debate as to what the ending meant to the audience, and what the ending should have been. I won’t spoil it now, but it’s very clear that the story was left open to continue the franchise.
The Puella Magi Madoka Magica series started as a twelve-episode anime which was adapted into two films in 2012. The anime (and first two films) follow a young girl named Madoka Kaname. One day after school, she comes across a magical girl named Homura Akemi, who’s trying to kill a seemingly innocent creature named Kyubey. Kyubey tries to get Madoka to become a magical girl through a contract, but details about the repercussions of being a magical girl are left a mystery. Homura tries to stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl, despite her friends becoming ones themselves. The main purpose of a magical girl is to fight witches, who create labyrinths that attract humans and eventually kill them. The anime shows what serious side effects there are to being a magical girl, and the dire consequences of overusing your magic.
Rebellion was the third movie released, continuing the plot where the series left off. In Rebellion, we get to see how much Homura is willing to sacrifice, and how far she’s willing to go to get what she wants, for Madoka’s sake. She is arguably one of the only characters who is truly honest about her feelings and motivations, even if they have severe consequences.
Spoilers after the jump!
Rebellion follows Homura and what happens to her after Madoka becomes a god. We start with Homura as a transfer student who has no memories of her past. A month goes by, and Homura, Sayaka, Kyoko, Mami, and Madoka live a rather care-free life while still fighting as magical girls. Once Homura realizes there are things in this world that shouldn’t exist, she starts to recollect her memories. Madoka had sacrificed herself to become a god and protect magical girls from witches, so why is she alive? Not only is Madoka alive and human, but a friendly version of the witch Charlotte lives with Mami Tomoe (Charlotte was the witch who killed Mami originally). We spend most of the film trying to figure out why this world doesn’t make any sense, until Homura figures out that they’re stuck in a witch’s labyrinth. Sadly, we find out that the labryinth was made by Homura, and once she discovers this, she falls into despair and starts to fully turn into a witch. Kyubey admits this turn of events was an experiment he had planned. In order to learn more about “The Law of the Cycle” (Madoka’s god form), he had forced Homura to create her labyrinth in an isolated area, which would force Madoka into including herself in Homura’s labyrinth as a physical entity. From there Kyubey believed that he could observe her and eventually learn how to harness her power. When Homura learns this, she purposely becomes a full witch, so Kyubey can’t abuse Madoka’s power as he has tried to in the past.
Sayaka and Bebe (the new version of Charlotte) reveal that they have been working for (god form) Madoka the whole time. They were reborn to help Madoka save Homura, and return her memory/god powers once the time was right. All of the girls work together to destroy the labyrinth, then Madoka comes in her god form to save Homura.
This is where people tend to get confused (or irritated). Homura grabs Madoka, and somehow splits Madoka’s human form from her god form, and her Soul Gem (source of her magic) starts to shatter. The energy in her gem spreads throughout space, and starts to change the laws of the universe. We see a spool of red thread that merges with her broken Soul Gem, and together they create a new Soul Gem. Homura calls herself a demon now, and explains to Kyubey that because her Soul Gem wasn’t filled with despair, she didn’t turn into a witch. Her Soul Gem broke and shattered because it was filled for the love and affection she had for Madoka, giving her a different form.
We come back to Earth, and all the girls are going to school as if it were a normal day. Madoka joins as a new exchange student, and Homura pulls Madoka to the side. Homura asks, “Do you consider stability and order more important than desire?” Madoka says she believes that following the rules is more important. Homura says that one day they’ll wind up being enemies, and the movie ends.
The general argument that comes up is that Homura did something that is completely out of character for her. This is where I disagree. I think it was something she’d do, but the ending and Homura’s motives were rushed through with very little explanation. Everything she did, from the beginning of the series to the end of the movie, was because she loved Madoka.
Homura always acts shy or stoic around the other girls, and only seems to be herself around Madoka. She admits her feelings for Madoka as the other girls try to understand why her Soul Gem wasn’t filled with despair. “It’s only natural you don’t understand. Yes… no one in the world could possibly understand. This emotion is mine alone. It’s for Madoka alone.” “[It’s] more passionate than hope, far deeper than despair.” She confesses her feelings, and she shows them through her actions, from repeating time over and over to continue to save Madoka from her fate as the most powerful witch, to becoming a witch herself. Homura was willing to stay in her own labyrinth, living her own personal nightmares for eternity, all so Kyubey couldn’t use Madoka for her power. Even when Madoka says that she believes order is more important than changing the rules for personal gain, Homura says, “I will continue to wish for a world in which you will be happy.”
If there was a way for Homura to be with Madoka as a human, I think she would have tried anything she could. Since Madoka became a god to stop Homura’s cycle of despair, there was no conceivable way for them to see each other physically anymore. It’s not surprising that when Homura had the opportunity to be with Madoka once again, she’d try to stay with her in the way she’s known her. They could start all over again, going to school, eating lunch together and just having fun. Homura admits to Sayaka after the universe changes that she just took Madoka’s human form; everything else was just a side effect. It’s not the most selfless decision, but it makes sense.
As far as why Homura is a demon, the movie explains it in a very tongue-in-cheek way. Kyubey asks Homura what she had done to Madoka, as they float around in space and the new universe is being created. Homura says, “She was as sacred as a god, and I couldn’t help but pull her from heaven and undermine her. A being that could perform such feat could only be called a demon, I suppose?” It’s rather funny, since the only reason she is seen as malicious is because of the consequences that the universe faced for her love of Madoka. It’s a blatantly selfish thing to do to be with one person, but she saw it as a means to an end. She doesn’t try to hurt other people once she has her new powers, instead she goes to school as if nothing ever happened.
Homura’s story is tragic, but I’m glad that she got more development in this film. I wish that the movie was treated as a second season, so there would be time to explain the plot more. The movie ends on the note that there will be a battle of good and evil, rather than Homura just trying to be with Madoka. It’s rumored that the series will continue, though it may not be in an animated form.
Did you enjoy Rebellion? Should Sayaka have sliced up Homura for possibly stopping The Law of the Cycle? Should the series have stopped when the anime did? Let me know what you think in the comments!