What They Say:
Were all the magical girls truly saved from despair? Now… the great “Law of Cycles” leads the magical girls to their new fate. Madoka Kaname – a girl who once led an ordinary life sacrificed her very existence to set every magical girl free from their cruel destiny. Homura Akemi – another magical girl who was unable to keep her promise with Madoka continues to fight in the world Madoka left her behind in. Madoka has changed the world. In this new world, is what the magical girls see a world of hope… or despair?
The audio presentation for this release is strong across the board as we get the original Japanese and the new English language dub in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec as well as a stereo mix for the Japanese. The films use the surround stage quite well during a lot of the bigger moments, but part of it still feels like it hews more towards the TV side for a lot of it with its focus primarily on the forward soundstage. There doesn’t feel like a lot of missed opportunities to be had here, but it could have had a bit more punch throughout. What we do get is a strong mix that brings the films to life with a lot of forward soundstage directionality, some great bass in key action sequences and some strong placement for dialogue in many scenes that helps to bring it alive even more in both languages. It’s a solid film mix that captures the material well and the encoding brings it to life in the right way with clean presentations that are free of dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2013, the transfer for the two films are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.85: 1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The final feature here gets its own discs to inhabit so there’s plenty of room for the two hour presentations that are here, beautifully animated by Shaft. The features are encoded in the way we’ve come to expect from Aniplex in that the bit rate sits in the high thirties throughout, which is quite useful for these movies even with the diminishing returns once you get that high. With so much color, so many details, such an attention to the visual design of it all that it’s simply striking and jaw dropping when you look at it and take it in, the transfer brings it all to life in a beautifully clean way that makes it come alive. The visual presentation is simply top-notch across both films and while I’m sure someone can find fault with a frame or two here and there, the vast majority of fans will be extremely pleased with the visual presentation that we get here. It’s beautiful.
The packaging for this release is done with a standard slim box to hold the two clear Blu-ray cases inside. The front cover artwork for the box has a great soft image that brings all the girls together alongside each other with a lot of detail and great designs set against a white background scattered with all sorts of multicolored circles that adds more pop. The back of the box keeps things simple with just a nice English language phrase about the film and a lot of golden starbursts against the white backdrop that definitely works well. All the technical information is kept to the wraparound along the bottom which with its small black text on a golden background is a bit hard to read at times, but is clean and clear when you have enough light on it. The box also has a great booklet inside that has a look at the feature with all sorts of details about the various characters, promotional materials and more. There’s a lot of text to it overall as it covers a lot of things and definitely worth digging into for fans of the film. The set also includes a small but solid postcard collection with beautiful artwork.
The cases in the box are really nicely done as the feature film case gives us one of the main promotional images for the film with Madoka in the background but taking up most of the space while the rest of the girls are aligned around her along the bottom. THe logo is done in silver and kept simple, it almost blends in a little bit, but it has a good understated look. THe back cover gives us a little quirky character material and there’s a black and white grayscale filter to it with some clockwork images soft in the background that works really well. The reverse side of it largely does the same but with more silver to it. The soundtrack case has a really appealing image of a solitary Homura from the side with a lot of dark background material that really drives home the atmosphere of it all. The back cover provides a breakdown of the 45 tracks that are on the CD so it’s definitely easily accessible. The reverse side is largely the same as the movie case, but done in gold.
The menu design for these releases are quite nice and play well for setting the mood and giving the fans what they want. They play to the static side of things with some beautiful character artwork/poster material that we get with the two cases artwork and their respective images. It’s very detailed and the color looks great. I’m definitely glad both covers got used here as both are really appealing for different reasons and really deserve the attention.. The navigation strip is kept along the bottom with the standard basic selections that are quick to access and load cleanly and without problem both from the main menu and as a pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are fairly minimal but welcome as we get an extensive series of TV spots for the film. We also get the four little pre-show gimmick kind of pieces that were shown during the theatrical run. They clock in at about two minutes each and your enjoyment will vary depending on what creators you like as each version is different.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two films that retold the series, Madoka Magica returns for the third and final piece that expands on everything and provides a look behind the door at what else is out there. The Madoka Magica experience has been interesting to watch over the years as the show become something unique after the tsunami and earthquake that drew together and bonded fans that were in that kind of shared experience. I ended up getting into it after the fact, so that factor isn’t there for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the series when I eventually saw it and I quite enjoyed that first two theatrical films as they brought the story to a new level in pacing and structure but also just the detail of it all. Getting the opportunity to explore past all of that was certainly an allure for the team, and to do it in a big budget theatrical form. And it certainly looks like every cent of the production is on the screen.
With the way the property essentially reset itself, what we get with this film is a little bit of a Groundhog Day experience in a way as there’s a lot of familiarity about it as the girls are all back in their primary positions as magical girls and working together. While there are no witches here to deal with, they have wraiths to go after and we see some aspects of this throughout the first half. Reconnecting with the girls in this form is definitely engaging to watch because they have a different kind of confidence about them in a way, but also still kind of unsure in some senses as well. With all the girls working together, the ease between them all is definitely great to watch since they’re all so well bonded, even though the past experiences aren’t there. It’s an important piece of the equation here because the way they worked together was one of the most appealing things, especially since we saw them go through such rough patches in the previous films. To have them here working together without any stress or drama shows a very good side of it all.
Naturally, there has to be a trick to it all and that’s what the second half is about. Though the film and TV series is titled with Madoka, this film is all about Homura and that plays well. She was such a central figure with the previous material that shifting even more of it to her point of view here works very well as she’s the one that notices something is not right here in Mitakihara. Though some changes were expected after the events of the previous film, there’s an unsettled feeling she has and she begins her own investigation into things with the wraiths, the girls and Kyubey in order to try and break it down. It does turn into an interesting story as it gets explored with how the world changed and the kind of ruse that Kyubey and his people are trying to pull in order to get what they’re after, but there’s a great darkness and a great power that their inability to truly understand emotions keeps them from understanding. Though I really liked the way it played out in that regard, what won me over to it was watching how Homura dealt with things once she gained her understanding. She did her turn similar to Madoka in going the distance with what needs to be done and she did it without a second thought, even though it goes in a very, very dark way that brings it all to a resolution, but also has its own kind of really thrilling kind of beauty to it all.
While I enjoyed the story well enough, and was sold more by the final third of it more than anything else, what really drives home what kind of fascinating work this really is comes down to the animation quality. In some ways, I will easily admit that it all just felt overpowering and overwhelming with what it was trying to do with its designs and backgrounds. I can’t imagine what it was like as an experience in a theatrical way simply because there’s just so much to it. The richness, the detail and the fluidity to it is fantastic throughout, but I also loved that they didn’t just got “anime normal” and really go creative with its designs and the styles of animation used. It feels like the team here just went all out and made exactly what they wanted to, even if it didn’t make sense at times, because they had this incredibly strong vision to work with. And that’s a thoroughly engaging work to take in that’s open to a lot of interpretation, subtext and more. Though admittedly more for those that are highly invested in the work, whereas I’m still a bit more of a casual viewer.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica draws to a close with the third film, an original work that builds on the reworking of the TV series. Having seen both of those prior works, I was really curious to see how this new addition would turn out because the series itself ended with a sense of finality for me and the second film did as well for the most part. We do get a really creative look at how to continue it on, though there are familiar echoes that can be off-putting. The film as a whole is one that took a bit for me to get into since it had been awhile since I saw the previous film, and I kept seeing those echoes to the previous works, but as it progresses and truly reveals itself, it becomes a fascinating work to watch unfold. Homura has always been the key character for me and why I watched and she owns this movie well. It’s a beautiful, creepy and disturbing work that plays on a grand scale and doesn’t hold back as it feels old school in a lot of ways with how anime films used to be. It’s a work that merits multiple views, and in quicker succession with the previous installments, and can lead to plenty of discussions amongst people. In the end, it’s something that I can easily see revisiting yearly just to see what I discover new about it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Japanese PCM Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Collaboration Manner Videos, TV Commercial Collections
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.