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Anime Reviews: Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal
Continuing the example set forth by its predecessor, Eternal finishes off the recap material with just as much emotion and impact as the original series.
Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 2: Eternal a.k.a. Gekijouban Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Kouhen: Eien no Monogatari
Film Length: 110 minutes
Air Dates: 10/13/2012
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: As Sayaka begins to plunge into despair and her Soul Gem darkens past the point of no return, Kyoko and Homura discuss the coming threat of Walpurgisnacht, a witch so powerful that it doesn't need to hide in a labyrinth and is capable of reducing Mitakihara City to rubble. Elsewhere, Madoka learns from Kyubey the true nature of Puella Magi: The girls chosen by the Incubators are granted wishes with the express purpose of those girls later turning into witches, as is the case when their Soul Gems blacken and turn into Grief Seeds. This, Kyubey explains, is because the moment of transformation releases a tremendous amount of energy that violates the Laws of Thermodynamics and is utilized by the Incubators to counteract the Heat Death of the Universe. These dark tidings weigh heavily on Madoka, but so does knowing that Walpurgisnacht looms ever closer and threatens all that she holds dear.
The Good: Dark, heavy, emotional story is perfectly intact; new material builds hype for the much-anticipated finale
The Bad: Animation is still mostly recycled; wonky start; two random drive-by music videos
The Ugly: Being forced to wait for Part 3 to come out
Welp, the first movie was a resounding success in terms of concise storytelling and fidelity to the original series, so it falls upon the second film to follow up on that success. So, the million-dollar question is: Does Eternal live up to the first film? Well, there are a few more issues than in the previous film present here, but for the most part, yes. Eternal is very much worth your time, especially if you've already checked out Beginnings.
First of all, just as last time, the pacing and directing in this film are nearly impeccable. The story flows very naturally, and at a brisk pace that doesn't overload its audience--you know, just like the last film. Fortunately for us all, the pacing serves Eternal better than before, as there's less material to squeeze in its runtime and so there's more room for the story to move freely. And just like before, the action is easy to follow and always clues the viewer in to what's happening, so the problem other series being condensed into movie format face when it comes to coherency is absolutely nonexistent here. A satisfying viewing experience all around.
But of course, the good directing is even more fortuitous here than in the previous film, because this is where all the story elements come together and the heavy drama begins to hit hardest. And if you're familiar with the series, you know full-well that handling this later material is absolutely paramount, and as mentioned before, it's handled almost perfectly. In fact, without the interruption of separate episodes and visual touch-ups, I'd almost venture to say that it's more fulfilling to watch than the original TV series itself. And given the story was written by Gen Urobuchi, do keep in mind that a few tissues will most likely be required. You have been warned.
As far as new material, there is a bit more here than in Beginnings, but it's still not much. Luckily, what we did get is pretty darn good. There's a new ending theme for the movie, "Hikari Furu" by Kalafina, and it's pretty damn fantastic. Very uplifting and quite beautiful, and just another magnificent tune to add to their impressive catalogue.
There's also a few minutes of new content at the end of the film, with the direct purpose of building up hype for Rebellion, the final entry in the series. The premise is interesting, the visuals are gripping, and I'm more than hooked to check it out to see where they're going with it. Well played, movie. Well played.
Unfortunately, not all is well with Eternal, and the primary problem is the same as with the first film: almost all the animation is recycled from the TV series. Just like I mentioned for that movie, the animation is quite good for TV, but it's a bit disappointing on the big screen. The inventiveness of the artwork is always a wonder to behold, but--just like Beginnings--I would've liked to see more of the in-between animation fixed up and off-model shots corrected, but that didn't happen. Oh well. At least Rebellion promises to be full of visual splendor, and I can't wait to see it.
One minor misstep the movie makes is that it starts us off extremely cold with the last few seconds of Beginnings, shoving us right into Sayaka's plight like a watermelon against a brick wall. I can't think of any better way to handle the first few minutes, so I'm hardly being constructive here, but being thrown into the action cold is certainly jarring.
The last thing I have against the film is also the most insane thing about it--the random music videos. Yeah. Twice during the course of the movie, the action completely stops and we get a montage set to one of the original theme songs of the TV series. They come right out of nowhere, do nothing, and disappear just as quickly as they came. Now, they're not the worst things ever--the overall tone of the movie isn't interrupted by them--but these random musical interludes feel just like that: random. And they don't even take up much time at all (each one lasts just under a minute), so it's not even really a matter of padding out the runtime. So why are they there?! They're weird and they're pointless, but at least they're not totally distracting.
So yeah. There's a couple problems, but at least they're pretty minor, and I'd still consider these films to be as good as the TV series, in terms of quality, but superior in terms of personal enjoyment. Pretty much exactly like I said of the previous film, you can absolutely substitute them for the TV series and miss absolutely nothing; likewise, you can watch the TV series and not miss anything here. That means the Madoka franchise is one of the most flexible in anime, and you can find a way to enjoy it any way you want it. Eternal is certainly iterative, just like Beginnings, but when your source material is great and you faithfully reproduce it in a different format, how could you go wrong? At the very least, they didn't screw anything up.
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Though it bears too much resemblance to the TV series in terms of its animation, Eternal is otherwise very similar in all the right ways, delivering its heavy and emotional story in a very effective manner for both fans and newcomers.