It’s time to look at an underrated movie. Madoka Magica Rebellion’s ending was a very controversial one that had so many hidden meanings and subtext within each action that the fan base has written many theories on it. They were all pretty fascinating and it’s great to see everyone add more and more depth to the film. The reason they can do that is because the ending was so good and it was very unique. This editorial will naturally have heavy spoilers for Madoka, but also for the movies Bridge to Terabithia, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Batman V Superman, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, Pay it Forward and several others so prepare yourself!
Rebellion takes place after the original Madoka Magica show. The title character of the series ultimately decided to ascend to a higher realm and became a concept of life itself. She became a living embodiment of hope who erased the cruel fate of magical girls that forced them to turn into a witch once they ran out of energy and despaired. Unfortunately, quite a few of the magical girls had already died and now Homura was the only one left to deal with the hordes of enemies that had been left. Witches were gone, but they were replaced with a form of demon.
The average franchise would have left things like this. Homura would gradually accept the reality that Madoka is really gone and help to protect the world until she ultimately died someday. Once she died, she would be able to be with Madoka to an extent since she will be past this realm, but maybe not. Now that Madoka is a force of nature, her fate is eternal and she will never get to have any rest as she constantly absorbs the evil nature of Witches so that they never exist. The world may be a Utopia, but there is still one person who didn’t get a happy ending…Madoka. In Rebellion, Homura decides that this isn’t acceptable.
So, Homura created a prison within her own head thanks in great part to Kyubei and didn’t even realize it. After escaping from this, Homura was finally granted an audience with Madoka. The whole episode had such large ramifications that even a cosmic entity was summoned. That’s pretty impressive eh? Now Homura has the ultimate choice, take Madoka’s hand and join her in the eternal beyond or drag her back down to reality and shift the fabric of the universe once more. Obviously, Homura has to choose the former option right? It is a metaphorical necessity as it is the only way Homura can truly move on. She must accept her friend’s death and then go back to living normally. Bridge to Terabithia believed in this message wholeheartedly and had the viewers say goodbye to the main heroine by the end as she plummeted to an unfortunate (Film wrecking) fate.
That’s the popular way to deal with this kind of film. It’s a great way to end the film on a sad note and remind the audience that they shouldn’t have bothered to go see it at all. It’s like offering someone a nice bag of chocolate chip cookies for after dinner, but then dumping the bag into a box of salt first. You may need to eat the cookie anyway because it’s the nice thing to do, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Other films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 have done this as well with the main heroine dying towards the end and the hero having to get past this. It always happens a little too fast though, but when should the hero get over it? Obviously, you have to move on at some point…or do you? Homura was in a unique position to actually get a second chance and decided that she wouldn’t simply wait around and accept the fact that Madoka could never rest. That’s why, bringing her back down to reality was in fact…the right move!
Think of it this way, how can you not save someone when you have a chance to do so? Think of any classic superhero film where the hero decides to risk everything just to save one person. It’s true that you may be endangering hundreds of people just to save a single individual, but is it not still worth it since 1 life is worth just as much as 100? Madoka didn’t have a happy ending so even if everyone else was pretty happy, it just couldn’t fly. Just to add salt to the wound, Homura’s Utopia also seems to be a little better than Madoka’s. Now, this could be temporary as Witches should theoretically return without Madoka’s new concept, but what if Homura found a way around that? It’s unclear how since Homura shouldn’t have as much power as Madokami. Most likely, Homura’s chance is going to have a lot of bad side effects, which will get dangerous.
Of course, there is no sequel yet so maybe not. We are free to theorize at leisure now and I think I have a reasonable solution. Madoka still has her Kami powers as seen in the end where she starts to regain her memory. Since she still exists as a concept, the witches are still kept at bay. The only difference is that she’s still allowed to have a school life as well in the mean time. Then, Homura has really done it, she’s made a perfect world. Then why isn’t everyone happy about that? Well, there is one big problem which keeps you from seeing this as a good thing.
Homura is really doing this against everyone’s will. She got rid of Madoka’s memories so that everything will play out once more although Homura herself will have a different role this time. Controlling others is never a good thing no matter what the reasoning (excuses) are. You can never spin that into being the right thing so Homura definitely went off the deep end here. She started out with good intentions, but throwing in unlimited power to the mix clearly unhinged Homura and started her down a dark path. The original action of dragging Madoka back to the Earth even though she clearly didn’t want that? I can actually buy into this.
One common misconception is that you always have to follow someone’s wishes even if they clearly aren’t good ones. Just look at Attack on Titan where Levi and friends told Eren not to help his comrades so they can be eaten. They wanted Eren to run away so the Female Titan could eat them first while the hero escapes. Eren listened for a while before finally going into action, but it was way too late by then. Dragon Ball Z is another good example. In one scene, Vegeta is getting pummeled by Cell and Trunks decides not to help because Vegeta’s pride would be injured if he had to get saved. Well, better that his pride gets hurt than his life gets lost eh? I mean, it worked out, but what if Cell had destroyed Vegeta? I guess they could write “He died with his priiiiiide!” on the tombstone.
Nah, sometimes you have to go against someone’s wishes in order to save them. It’s like restricting cigarettes and beer from a teenager or making sure that a kid doesn’t get to play with sharp objects while he/she is too young. Even once the individual becomes an adult who can make his/her own decisions, you may have to help keep that person on the straight and narrow. That’s why we have laws and regulations. Madoka’s a nice kid and it’s cool to see her want to help everyone out, but heroes like that don’t typically think about how to protect themselves. That’s why you need a friend who’s got your back. In this case, Homura was the only one in a position to do anything about this. Madoka definitely didn’t want to come back to Earth since it could put her friends in danger, but how can they really enjoy this perfect world if they know that she didn’t get to partake in it?
Going to any and all lengths to help a friend is what really defines their bond. A big trend in many movies is to have the hero abandon the friend in a Flee or Fight moment and it’s praised as the right call. Even Dragon Ball Super recently had a moment like that where someone stayed behind to get massacred so that the hero could run. Luckily, he chose not too, but he was too scared to actually help so that’s nearly as bad. There are numerous examples of this, but I’m struggling to recall any at the moment. It’s the curse of the writer! I’m sure that many of you can think of times like this though, where a friend is alone against terrible odds and tells the main character to go off to stop the main villain anyway. This dooms the friend in the process, but at least the world is saved so it’s all worth it. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is the wrong call. Prioritizing the friend’s safety over the world’s definitely comes first. If you can’t manage to save your friend, then does the rest of the world really matter? Most characters come to grips with the opposite reality and justify their move by saying that the Earth was saved and that the friend would have wanted it that way. Sure, the friend is typically a noble character who is okay with dying, but as a friend to that person, you have to save him/her. At the very least, Homura made sure to keep this priority in mind.
So, that’s my spiel on why Rebellion’s ending is actually pretty fantastic. It broke the usual norms of the average film and decided not to be content with having Homura pat herself on the back for getting over Madoka’s death and going back to her day to day life. Way too many films do this and having a major/likable character die towards the end of a film is not a good way to end things. It may work for Oscar bait and it may make people appreciate the character more in retrospect, but it also runs the risk of damaging the entire film. The Forest, Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark, Bridge to Terabithia, Pay it Forward, and many other films decided to end with one of the main characters dying and they handled it horribly. Dooming those films to really low scores when they could have been semi decent. Don’t even get me started on Marely and Me or the Old Yeller. If these films had ended with the character living in the end, it could have made a big difference. At the very least, Bridge and Marley would have had positive scores in the end. I can’t really vouch as much for the others. Can a hero’s death towards the end of a film be handled well? Of course, but it takes skilled writers.
Batman V Superman is a great example of this. Superman died (for around 30 minutes) and it didn’t destroy the movie. Part of this is due to the fact that Superman knew the risks and the death wasn’t pure shock value. It wasn’t there to be super sad and emotional, but just to remind us that Batman’s the money factor in the DC universe, not Superman. In the comics, Batman semi recently went to great lengths to try and bring Damien, one of his new sidekicks, back to life once he died. In a universe where people are constantly bringing people back to life and there are many individuals who can do so, I would expect nothing less. If you have a really good friend and don’t try to bring him/her back to life in the comics universe, then I’m definitely going to doubt that bond.
Homura decided to change things even if it put the rest of the world in a dicier spot. Granted, she also turned evil by the end and completely cracked so now it’s going to have to be Madoka’s turn to try and save her once more. This circle should theoretically continue to repeat over and over until both of them are dead. An ending can make or break a film and this has always been the case. It’s a crucial element to any title and it’s important to get it right. What defines a good ending? That may be a topic for another day as there are many variables. One thing’s for sure, Rebellion gets my seal of approval and will go down as one of the better endings in a film. It was unexpected, it was hype, and it shattered the tropes!