Once again it is Guest Review Wednesday and it is my very real pleasure to welcome back our long-time Okazu Superhero and friend Eric P. with his take on the dub of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion DVD/Blu-ray combo. (I’ve linked to the entry on the Yuricon Store, so you have links to Amazon or TRSI) Take it away Eric!
Some time after Puella Magi Madoka Magica came to an end, creator and director Akiyuki Shinbo came out with Rebellion, a direct film sequel as well as a kind of extended epilogue to the series. Its story and very existence met very mixed reactions at best from its dedicated fanbase, leaving some angered that it ruined the show’s “happy” ending (depending on how one interpreted it). It was a definite conclusion either way to the story it was telling, while Rebellion was technically more of a supplement, so in that regard the movie may not have been “needed” per se. Necessary or unnecessary, we have it either way regardless, so the real question is whether or not we could/should accept it.
The first time I watched Rebellion, I admit to having had mixed feelings as well. Upon second viewing, I made up my mind and decided that it’s in fact a great and worthy companion piece to the series, having become “necessary” after the fact. Although I agree the series had a good ending, I disagree about it being the perfect conclusion its hardcore fanbase made it out to be, since there were still a few things I found problematic. For instance, it just didn’t sit right with me at all for Kyuubey to not get the retribution he deserved, for purposely taking advantage of the girls’ naivety and ruining their lives. Only in Rebellion do we get that (after he attempted doing something truly despicable), among several other awesome moments that amount to a worthwhile view.
The visuals alone are undeniably beautiful, going beyond what was achieved in the series, to the point of overwhelming sensory overload. Some fans complained especially about the direction of Homura’s character, but her “likability” was never really the point. The choices she made were arguably still true to her character, and for those who didn’t recognize that need to give the series a fresh new look. Even though that’s Madoka’s name in the title, recognizing that Magica may in fact have been Homura’s story all along only puts a more solid perspective on everything that happens in Rebellion.
For many it took only one view to recognize how special the Madoka Magica series really was, whereas for Rebellion it would probably take at least one extra view as it did for me to recognize and appreciate its own merits and intent. Especially as a standalone feature, I know I only keep appreciating it with each new viewing.
Aniplex USA has put together a very nice physical set for this movie’s bilingual DVD/Blu-Ray release. Although not hardcover like the original import, it’s still a glossy cardboard artbox that comes with the magnificent soundtrack CD in its own blu-ray case, a couple of postcards and a booklet. Minus the staff interviews, it’s pretty much the same booklet as from the import release, but this time containing English translations, so we could read everything in one place. If I had one disappointment with this release, I wish Aniplex had thought to sub the ending theme song, so I could know and better appreciate what Kalafina was singing as we watch the spectral silhouettes of Madoka and Homura dancing together while the credits rolled.
As for the English audio in this bilingual release—to start with, the dub for the series has always been decently better than average. But for the movies, especially for Rebellion, all the English voice actors are at the top of their game, having grown familiar with the characters and knowing just what they need to convey. Cassandra Lee has always nailed Kyuubey’s innocent evilness, Christine Marie Cabanos continues reflecting Madoka’s moe cutesiness without being one-dimensional, while Cristina Vee especially almost perfectly captures Homura’s passionate feelings in Rebellion. In the scene where Homura delivers her speech to Kyuubey about love being the driving force behind her actions, many people have interpreted that moment as solid proof of the inherent Yuri in Madoka Magica, while others continued believing it’s still subtext. But when listening to Homura deliver that exact same speech in English, whatever subtext there was is practically gone, and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way at all. Having watched Rebellion subbed twice before, I consider the English version interchangeable with the Japanese version, which is no doubt the highest passing grade a dub can get, just short of being the superior version. And yes, they actually and cleverly dub the cake-rap song, which they certainly deserve special kudos for.
Just as beautiful and haunting as it is cruel, if this be the final ending to Madoka Magica, it works as a fitting conclusion that doesn’t betray the overall story’s tone, even if it’s not what the fans would have expected or even “wanted”. Whether it be sad, bittersweet, or possibly even deceptively happy (despite the title and role Homura takes) is left totally up to the viewers where any interpretation is perfectly valid, both similar and dissimilar to what the series achieved. However, if this is not the end of Madoka Magica, and assuming that any further continuation is a direct sequel to Rebellion, one could not have imagined a more intriguing prelude to a brand new chapter, one that may well lead to truly epic heights. I for one am still genuinely curious of what would lay further ahead in Homura’s journey. Oh, and Madoka’s too as well, I guess.
Ratings:Overall—9 (minus one point for not subbing the ending song—as well as for the couple inappropriate fanservice shots of Mami’s pronounced chest, my one and only real nitpick against the movie itself)
Erica here again. I have not watched Rebellion for any number of reasons, but I have to say, Eric, you may have convinced me to try it. I agree that the series can easily be seen as Homura’s story and while generally, I’m against retribution when the point is (or should be) saving the innocent, you’ve made a strong case for this being worth our time. Thank you for the great review!