A while ago, we quoted a review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion, the film that continues the story of the original Madoka Magica dark magical girl series. It accused it of having an "indulgent lack of focus" and "mean-spirited twists," and said that they "beg to be rejected as a conclusion to the work that preceded it."
Those are still our thoughts on Hate Plus. After watching Rebellion a few times, however, they aren't our thoughts on the film anymore, and the film itself gave us a new perspective on *Mute's story and our fanfiction. It's become very significant for us.
Content note: Spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Rebellion, plus videos of relevant parts if you don't care to watch the series! The videos contain gore and disturbing imagery.
Also there's talk of suicide, because it's key to both Rebellion and Hate Plus' stories, and is the reason for our fanfic rewrite of the latter.
Why Rebellion's plot makes sense
In Rebellion, Homura finally gives in to despair and becomes a witch ("mage" in Japanese -- mahou as opposed to mahou shoujo for "magical girl"), a monstrous incarnation of her feelings over not being able to save or be with her best friend, Madoka.
Madoka and friends save her from her fate, which was Madoka's wish when she became a magical girl -- to save all magical girls everywhere from this inevitable fall, and let them pass on in peace.
Saving Homura, of course, involves an epic battle inside the surreal dreamscape of her "labyrinth."
But Homura then tears Madoka in two on her own deathbed, altering the fundamental principles of the universe so that Madoka can be both the godlike "Law of Cycles" and the young girl who gave up her life for that wish.
A lot of people flipped out after seeing that.
Homura's actions aren't as selfish or evil as they seem, though, and are completely consistent with her motives and ability.
Homura's tragic backstory
In the original series, Homura's wish was to go back in time as many times as she needed to, to try to keep Madoka from having to become a magical girl ... and therefore either becoming a witch, or being killed by one.
This unintentionally caused a feedback loop, where "the threads of fate" were wound so tightly around Madoka that the witch she inevitably became would destroy the world. So Homura kept fighting an unwinnable fight, over and over again, her belief that this time she could save Madoka being the only thing that kept her going.
Madoka's wish averted this horrible fate for all magical girls throughout history, at the cost of her own history and identity as a person. The girl that she was got erased, and she became, instead, a fundamental principle of the universe. Homura alone remembered Madoka, and looked forward to the time she would hopefully someday join her.
So how do we go from there to Homura splitting her best friend in two?
First, ability. If the "threads of fate" are wrapped around Madoka, it stands to reason that someone is holding the other end of the thread. The film reminds us of this with Homura's familiars' song, which they sing right after kicking one of the many spools of thread that it features conspicuously. Translated from German, the lyrics are basically "who has the long end of the string? who has the short end of the string?"
It's clear that Homura's wish to save Madoka has become just as powerful as Madoka's wish to save all magical girls. By physically tugging on the string binding them, Homura can become a fundamental force of the universe herself, and rewrite it to make Madoka's wish compatible with Madoka's existence.
Second, epiphany. Rebellion treats us to Homura's monologue about Madoka's ultimate sacrifice, and how no one else remembered or cared. It's clear that she respects her friend's choice to do this, at the start of the film.
But then we get this scene in Rebellion:
This scene explains everything. Madoka doesn't have all her memories, in this scene. And when Homura talks about how horrible it was to have "dreamed" of her disappearing forever, Madoka is like "Don't worry, I would never do such a thing!"
That's when Homura realizes that Madoka wouldn't have consented to being erased from history if she'd had the choice. She tells Madoka that yes, she is strong enough to do that if she had to, but at the same time she knows that it shouldn't have happened. That it's unfair to both her and Madoka.
End Rebellion spoilers.
So, how does this tie into Hate Plus?
First, we have the author's dubious understanding of *Mute's agency. Pretending a fictional character can choose how they're portrayed is just a silencing tactic, which prevents discussion of what the character should have done and why the author chose to have her do this.
(Especially when the real reason Love made that choice is because she didn't know how to tell *Mute's story. Not and have it be meaningful.)
And second ... second, the day after I finished crying, I went back and played Hate Plus over and over again, trying everything I could think of. The whole time, I was remembering Homura's struggle, and listening to Magia on repeat.
I feel I know what it was like for her.
I'll never stop trying to create a world in which *Mute can be happy.