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This should go without saying, but this post involves spoilers for the third movie! Please don't read these interviews unless you're okay with reading the spoilers.
Miyamoto Yukihiro Interview
Miyamoto-san, how did you feel when it became definite that a new chapter in the Madoka Magica franchise would be made?
Miyamoto: At first, I just thought, So, are we going to do a continuation? But then when it really got decided, I was worried—just what are we going to make the story about now, when the TV series was so complete? I wondered if next we’d just be showing what it’s like to battle wraiths.
What was your impression when you saw the approved screenplay for Rebellion?
Miyamoto: I thought it was really great as a work of fiction. But I didn’t know if it would be a good way to end the movies.
What do you mean by that?
Miyamoto: You often see the kind of mindset that “Movies have to have a happy ending” all over the world, right? So once you remember that, you start to wonder how people are going to take in a piece like this one. But personally, this is the kind of story that I like. Gekidan Inu Curry also seemed happy about it. So we decided to be optimistic and just do it anyway.
So what kind of movies do you like, Director Miyamoto?
Miyamoto: Ones where people combine their knowledge, cooperate, use all their strength, and try to survive. But ones where it’s still uncertain whether they’ll actually make it. I like movies with a lot of life-or-death drama. In that sense, I really liked the TV version of Madoka Magica.
Were there any experiences in making Beginnings and Eternal that were useful in creating and directing Rebellion?
Miyamoto: It was really important for the first two movies that we were able to make corrections that we couldn’t make back then. We were able to remake the artistic settings for Beginnings and Eternal, so we’re using those new ones for Rebellion. Also, for Beginnings and Eternal, we were able to use bigger storyboards than a TV series gets, and so we got to draw the characters bigger and focus on much smaller details during filming. So we tried very hard to maintain the pictures’ quality. I wound up thinking that when you’re working on a movie, you really have to draw using big paper. And when you’ve got the camera moving around, during the times that you have to draw characters small, you need to enlarge things and keep drawing the characters big. You just have to keep enlarging things over and over. We used that in Rebellion too.
So, every single cut was drawn out carefully.
Miyamoto: Yes. But when you’re doing dramatic pans left or right, no matter how big your paper is, you’re never going to get it all in one piece. So in times like that, we have to have the artists draw the characters properly, and then have separate cels for each character.
Were there any settings that had to be changed specifically for Rebellion?
Miyamoto: There were still rough sketches in the midst of the things that our character designer Kishida Takahiro-san drew for us. I thought that they were still clean enough, but this time we had our other character designer Taniguchi Junichiro-san clean them up for us.
It seems like Gekidan Inu Curry had a lot of work to do on the fantasy barriers.
Miyamoto: We had Gekidan Inu Curry come up with an imageboard after reading the screenplay. They also revised and reinforced the settings for the Nightmares and witches based on Urobuchi-san’s work. Gekidan Inu Curry’s work begins in earnest once we have all the animation drawn, and they create the barriers over many takes and retakes with the film crew.
This movie’s storyboards, the basis of animation, were drawn by Sasaki Shinsaku-san. We hear that the storyboards reached an incredible volume.
Miyamoto: Regardless of the volume of Urobuchi-san’s scripts, things always inflate in volume when it comes to storyboarding. More likely than not, this screenplay is one where there’s a lot of information that’s not written in words. Even just a handful of lines in the script turn into pages and pages in the storyboards. This time, Sasaki-san drew over 2000 storyboard cuts from beginning to end, including the action sequences.
Could you give us an example of a scene that got much bigger in the storyboards than it was in the screenplay?
Miyamoto: Homura and Mami’s battle. There were just a couple of lines for that in the script, but the screenplay was tens of pages long. At first I was like, Huh? That’s weird. When Mami shoots, Homura stops time and dodges. So Mami gets closer and closer, and tries to utilize the time lag between firing and the bullets freezing to try to hit her. Then, as Mami gets closer, Homura has to push the gun muzzles away the instant that Mami fires. Basically, Rebellion turned into a gun kata action flick. I thought it’d take until 2020 to animate that.
2020 (laughs)! Thank goodness you finished it safely.
Now we’d like to ask about the anticipated scenes in this movie. During the “Puella Magi Holy Quintet” scene where all the characters are acting together, what did you focus on?
Miyamoto: At the beginning, when the storyboards were just finished, the line “Puella Magi Holy Quintet!” was written just as it was in the script. I didn’t like that. I talked to one of the members of Inu Curry, saying “Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of this line?”, and I sneakily erased it from the storyboards (laughs).
Miyamoto: I mean, it was really embarrassing. I don’t even like it when characters call their attack names in battle. I was like, “Huh? The magical girls are going to introduce themselves before they go into battle?!” But then, when I actually tried getting rid of the line… Director Shinbou got really mad at me. He was all, “Huh? Where did the line go? Did you erase it by accident?” So in the end the line got put back in, and they all introduced themselves. The animator in charge of that scene is the type who prefers to move characters around, so I think it’ll be pretty impressive.
Please tell us about the scenes featuring all the main characters. It seems like Tomoe Mami has many good scenes this time around.
Miyamoto: In addition to the battle with Homura and the Holy Quintet thing I mentioned earlier, the “Puellae Magi’s Tea Party” scenes where the girls defeat Nightmares are big ones for Mami-san. According to Inu Curry, those tea parties are apparently about feeding the Nightmares to satisfy them, and then send them to heaven. The girls aren’t just defeating them. They’re saving them.
And what about Miki Sayaka, who met a tragic end in the TV series?
Miyamoto: Sayaka-san plays along with Homura’s fantasy world until about the middle. Since Sayaka and Bebe are the only ones who know the secret. She acts surprised along with everyone else when Homura transfers in. It might be for the best for return viewers to be pessimistic and be like “But you know her! What an actress” (laughs).
And how about Kyouko, who fought for Sayaka’s sake in the TV series?
Miyamoto: This time, Kyouko’s turned into a freeloader, of all things. She wears the Mitakihara Private Middle School uniform and everything; I think she’s appearing in an idealized position. But from a storyline perspective, while Kyouko is deeply involved with the story, she doesn’t know the truth, just like Mami. I was a little interested in that. I mean, it was really great that when Homura realizes something is off, she goes straight to Kyouko. I was touched to see them working together! So much so that I wanted to use that cut where Homura pulls Kyouko close to her in the preview.
And how about the efforts of the ever-popular Kyubey?
Miyamoto: That’s our Kyubey-san. But in the end, they’re shaken and say “You humans’ emotions are too dangerous to use”. I kind of want to cheer them on, like, hang in there, Kyubey! This is no time for sitting on the fence!
What were things that you were careful of when drawing new characters like Momoe Nagisa and Bebe?
Miyamoto: This is something we were told by Gekidan Inu Curry, but there are so many witches, so we had to “avoid putting the Witch of Sweets in a special position above the rest”. Concerning Nagisa appearing, it’s that “it just happened to be Nagisa who came; she’s not a special witch”. In order to point out that all the other witches have come to help too, we had all their familiars help out during the climax scene.
And finally, what about Madoka and Homura, who were the main characters?
Miyamoto: The time when Director Shinbou had to say “Madoka is the main hero of the franchise, so give her more lines” left a pretty big impression. Madoka has come to this world leaving big chunks of her memories behind, so she’s different from how she was before. We had some difficulties in production because of that. And with regards to Homura, we had to have Taniguchi-san add to her expressions for reference so that we could draw her numerous expressions in the second half properly. Homura doesn’t show much emotion usually, but we’re working hard to produce Homura’s extreme facial expressions when she turns into a demon!
What are your feelings on the conclusion of the movie?
Miyamoto: “Homuhomu-san, you sure went and did it.” It’s not as though I can’t comprehend her feelings. But I wasn’t sure if we should have her actually say all the lines when she confesses her feelings. I consulted Director Shinbou about it, and we came to the conclusion that how it is now works the best. And so, this is what we did with her lines. I think that a lot of different interpretations will be possible, so I want everyone to come back to watch the movie over and over.
Yuuki Aoi & Saitou Chiwa Interview
How did the two of you feel when you learned that there would still be a continuation to the Madoka Magica franchise, even after the TV series had ended?
Yuuki: (In the final episode of the TV series) Kaname Madoka becomes a concept [solely existing to erase witches], so I wondered what was going to happen in it. To be honest, I thought of the TV series as my acting out [Madoka’s] whole life, so I had no idea how to approach this new chapter. But I knew that “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a story that never turns out the way you expect no matter how you prepare yourself. When I got the script, I thought it would be best to just accept Madoka as she came.
Saitou: I thought that the new movie would follow the last scene of the TV series, and deal with Homura’s lonely battle. But when I read the script, the story was coming from a totally different direction, so I was surprised. I did think that it would be more connected to the TV series, though.
It seems as though the script was divided into two acts. Please tell us your opinions of the first act.
Saitou: At first I thought that maybe this story was set in a different parallel world. But that seemed too good to be true. I wondered just what was going on, and what the staff was trying to do.
Yuuki: Madoka is going about her daily life as usual, so rather than just being surprised, I thought this was impossible. At first I wondered if they were going with the whole “it was all a dream” cliché. But that couldn’t be it either. But personally, I was just happy that we got to see normal Madoka again. Although she’s not quite ‘normal’ here.
We believe that this was the cast’s first off-recording session since Beginnings and Eternal, so what was it like to have the cast together again?
Yuuki: Everybody got together and was kind of, “Okay, so how are we going to do this?” The way that we portrayed our characters would be very different depending on how we interpreted the contents of the script, so I entrusted everything to the others. This time, Madoka knows the least about what’s going on. So that was where I wanted to start.
Saitou: Everyone was waiting for someone else to get started, and we were all kind of, what will they do? What will I do?
Yuuki: This time, Homura-chan (Saitou) took center stage and pulled us along. Chii-sama (Saitou) did the same thing during the TV series recording sessions. And then Kitamura Eri-san (Miki Sayaka) would be like, Wah! and fool around…
Saitou: And then Kaori-san (Mizuhashi Kaori/Tomoe Mami) and Ai-chan (Nonaka Ai/Sakura Kyouko) would smile and watch over us. And our beloved Kyubey (Katou Emiri) was there too, that kind of a thing.
First, let’s talk about the recording of the first half. This time, the recording began with you two narrating, correct?
Saitou: That was scary…
Yuuki: It was! My lines were all in hiragana, they were so hard to read (laughs).
Saitou: The introduction starts off feeling like it’s a continuation of the TV series. There were lines from the previews mixed in, but their feel was very different, and I was able to read them in a fresh light.
Yuuki: The first time I looked at the script, I wondered if I was reading my lines as Madoka-who-had-become-a-law-of-the-unive
The climax of the first act is the scene where all five magical girls fight together, the “Puella Magi Holy Quintet” scene, correct?
Saitou: I was grinning like a fool.
Yuuki: I grinned like a fool too.
Saitou: During the recording, we all looked at each other’s faces and we all had the same silly grin.
Yuuki: There’s a scene where we all recite a line in unison, but we couldn’t get it down (laughs). It was like, “Puella Puella Magi Magi… ahhh!”
Saitou: We were bad at matching our paces (laughs). This was the first time that the Madoka Magica cast was getting all together to recite the same line at the same time, so we weren’t used to it…
Because the magical girls spent more time in conflict than cooperating, correct?
Saitou: I thought this during recording too, but all the characters of Madoka Magica are very individualistic. Even if we had somebody count us in with a “five, six, seven, eight”—if we each said the line how our character would say it, our voices wouldn’t match up. But I think that’s very like Madoka Magica.
Yuuki: I was really happy when I thought that this only happened in canon because everyone hoped that it would so hard. Even we voice actors said in various places that we wanted all the magical girls to fight together as a team, and so many fans said they wanted that too.
Saitou: But it made me really worried. The more bright and sparkly Madoka Magica gets, the lower it’s going to sink in its next plot twist. People die in the order that they get too complacent… so I thought that the rate we were going was bad. I thought that somebody was definitely going to get knocked off her high horse, and soon.
The finishing blow in the battle with the Nightmares is even a tea party.
Yuuki: It was so fun when I thought that this was something the magical girls came up with. Like, middle school girls are so cute.
Saitou: I thought so too. That was totally Mami-san’s idea.
Yuuki: I know, right? It was so Mami-san’s idea! Madoka seems so into it.
Saitou: And out of all of them, Homura’s just not enthusiastic (laughs). Properly bringing out her feelings of not being into it was difficult. The tea party scene was like nothing we’d ever encountered before. I personally want to watch it in theaters with surround sound.
Yuuki: When I read a script, I look at the stage directions and imagine what the footage will look like as I read. But thanks to Gekidan Inu Curry’s visuals, I can never quite imagine what Madoka Magica is going to look like. I can’t wait to see the final touches on the tea party.
During the first half, we get to see what Shizuki Hitomi and Kamijou Kyousuke are like as a couple. What did you think of their relationship?
Saitou: It was just as I expected. It was so spot-on with how I imagined it, I was a little bit creeped out (laughs).
Isn’t Kyousuke awful?
Saitou: Well……. (laughs)
Yuuki: Right? (laughs)
Saitou: That’s normal for a kid his age.
Yuuki: And that goes for Hitomi too. I think they’re really different, after all…
Saitou: I thought that couples like them are pretty precarious. I thought it was very realistic.
Yuuki: More or less, yeah.
During the first half of the movie, Bebe appears fighting alongside Tomoe Mami as her partner. What did you two think of that?
Yuuki: Oh, I love the Witch of Sweets, so I was so happy she appears. And as an ally, even! I’ll be really happy if she shows up in fan goods more because of this (laughs).
Saitou: Oh, yeah. Me too! I was like, heck yeah, there’s gonna be so much more merchandise! and it made me really happy.
For this movie, Homura’s interactions with the other magical girls are very interesting. For instance, when she feels that something is wrong with this world, she goes to Kyouko first.
Saitou: Homura only had Kyouko to rely on.
Yuuki: ……H-hey now, I don’t know about that (laughs).
Saitou: That’s not how it is with Madoka, Sayaka was taken away by the Law of Cycles once, and Mami has Bebe… Kyouko was the only person Homura could talk to.
Yuuki: If you think of it like that, then maybe so.
She even winds up fighting with Mami-san in the end.
Saitou: Yeah, they get into a gunfight. That scene is probably going to turn out really cool. Even just speaking in terms of their costumes, Mami’s bright yellows and Homura’s blacks stand out against each other really well. I’m excited for the movie to be finished.
Sayaka winds up appearing as her witch self.
Saitou: Even though the circumstances are different, Homura isn’t actually that bothered about it. To Homura, her connections are divided into “Madoka” and “everybody else”. She doesn’t care at all about anyone other than Madoka. So even when Sayaka’s witch form shows up, even when she fights with Mami, Homura isn’t all that shaken.
So Madoka is very special to her.
Yuuki: This time, Madoka is smiling from beginning to end, and we hardly ever see her cry.
Saitou: She spent most of the TV series crying.
Yuuki: For Madoka, who spent so much time crying in the anime, to just smile and be happy all the time should be one of the things that feels very wrong about this movie. That’s because Madoka as she appears here is “Homura-chan’s ideal Madoka”. And this world is “Homura-chan’s ideal world, where she thinks Madoka can live in peace and comfort”. My personal impression is that in the TV series, Madoka is the hero and Homura is the heroine, but this time Homura is the hero and Madoka is the heroine.
Saitou: This time, Madoka is kind of like a princess.
Yuuki: Yeah. She’s light and fluffy, has the least idea of what’s going on, and is protected by the others. But she’s always there for Homura-chan whenever Homura-chan gets lonely. [Effects Director] Tsuruoka-san told me that I should act as “Homura-chan’s Best Of Madoka”.
Saitou: Homura has been observing Madoka for a long, long time. But Madoka this time is “Homura’s Best Of Madoka”.
Yuuki: She’s all of Madoka’s cute sides crammed together.
Saitou: Like a “Best-Of Album”. And it’s no ordinary Best-Of Album, it’s “a Best-Of Album compiled by her biggest fan”.
Yuuki: I think it’s probably going to be sensational for the fans who like Madoka (laughs). I love cute characters, but I’m not good at portraying them. But Tsuruoka-san said “You need to pile on the ‘cuteness’” and so I did my best to act the part of a cute, pure-hearted and gentle, girly Madoka.
The movie faces its climax in the second half, so what were your feelings upon receiving that part of the script?
Yuuki: When I got the script, I was eating together with my mother. It was so shocking that I forgot I was in the middle of eating a meal. I thought I’d better reread it again, carefully, so I went through it many times more after I was finished. Homuhomu really went to extremes this time.
Saitou: When I read the script, it exhausted me! I was really tired. So even when I got the video we would be using to record, I didn’t check it until the very last minute. I thought that I couldn’t do this by myself. I could always have fun reading the lines by myself, but I don’t think it would be interesting for others that way. The problem was how we would all feel when we got together. I decided to trust the rest of the cast. I thought that the atmosphere would change based on the music and artwork, and based on the scenes that led into this. I did a quick run to see where the pauses for breath were, make sure of the furigana on difficult kanji, and what the animation looked like, and went to the recording studio without trying to read too much into it.
This is something that’s only possible because you trust everyone there, isn’t it.
Saitou: There are so many things that only come into perspective at the studio. Sometimes the video has a different feeling at the studio than when you watch it at home. In actuality, things felt completely different once I was talking to Madoka (Yuuki). The places I thought I would be acting with a depressed feeling became fun. I thought that first I ought to try it at the studio, take everyone’s suggestions, and then change things as necessary.
The new magical girl, Momoe Nagisa, finally appears in the second half. What do you two think of her?
Yuuki: I was expecting a more impressive character, but in the end she was a normal magical girl. Unfortunately, Nagisa and Madoka don’t get to interact much. Since after all, Madoka isn’t involved much with the heart of the story this time…
Saitou: It really brought home to me the cruelty of even innocent little kids having to turn into witches. During the TV series, I was more or less able to accept that Sayaka or Madoka could become a witch because of the pain and despair that they suffered through. But with “a system where all magical girls must become witches”, even cheerful girls like Nagisa will turn into witches just like that. That’s pretty scary. The more cheerful Nagisa was, the more it frightened me.
And during the climax, Kyubey finally begins to speak, and unravels the heart of the disturbances. How do the two of you see Kyubey?
Yuuki: I think of Kyubey as less of a living thing than as the ideal form of humanity as demanded by modern society. Because Kyubey is this existence that’s always seeking to complete their work more effectively, without any emotion. When we were working on the TV series, I was very afraid that fans would start to say “Kyubey’s the one who’s in the right!” and such. But in the end, the viewers all said “Kyubey is wrong!” and that made me very happy. Because that let me think that it’s good to work hard, even if you’re worrying, even if things don’t go well. In this movie, Kyubey learns about “love” and breaks down. It left a big impression.
Saitou: Kyubey is such a great midboss. They think of themselves as the final boss and try hard to be the big villain, but even as they say “No way!” they are defeated. What a great foil (laughs). They did good work in this movie.
Yuuki: Homura-chan’s whole “You wouldn’t understand anyway” was a good comeback (laughs). Homuhomu packs a nice right straight.
Saitou: I think everyone will be able to feel refreshed thanks to Kyubey-sama.
Yuuki: That’s our Kyubey. So cute! I love them.
Saitou: That’s why I can never hate them!
How did you two feel about Homura’s love? It seemed like Saitou-san’s own feelings were changing, but…
Saitou: No, but really! I suspected as much. Homura’s feelings were a bit intense for “friendship” as it’s defined in this day and age. I always thought that what she felt was closer to love than friendship. Being able to cut off everything you don’t like and freeze everything in its ideal shape is the scariest thing about romantic feelings. And to actually call those actions “love”… is pretty scary.
Yuuki: I thought she was greedy. I think Homura-chan’s feelings are closer to “desire” than to “love”. Homura-chan has been repressing her feelings for a long time. But everything she bottled up eventually exploded, and got so out-of-hand that they changed the whole world. And as a result, Homura-chan tore Madoka to pieces. In the TV series, Madoka “wished for something that would break the things dear to her in the end”. Remembering that makes me sad.
Homura’s wish also winds up contradicting what Madoka wished for in the TV series.
Yuuki: I don’t think Homura-chan really understood what Madoka wanted. I was really sad about that. At the same time, I think that the plotline of Homura-chan tearing Madoka apart felt like classical mythology.
So, now that your work is finished, how do you two feel about Rebellion?
Saitou: It’s very much a “new chapter”. It’s not a “direct continuation” or a “Homura arc” either.
Yuuki: It’s not subtitled “the complete story” or “FINAL” or anything.
Saitou: I think that calling it a “new chapter” means that it’s a new beginning. But now that we’re sending this story out into the world, it belongs to the audience. I portrayed Homura with the intent of entrusting this movie to the fans, so I just want everyone to have fun letting their imaginations run wild. And if we get enough support, we may be able to come back and do some form of follow-up someday.
Yuuki: Yes. I think that “a popular work of fiction is a problem work of fiction”. I have my own feelings when I act as Madoka, but the “Madoka” inside each fan is different. Where one person might see Madoka as quiet and obedient, someone else will see her as strong. Precisely because of that, people’s opinions on this movie are going to be different. I think that while some will hate it, some will sing its praises. I think that this movie will cause opinions to clash. I think that it will be difficult to understand the whole movie just watching it once, so I hope people come back to watch it again. If fans talk to each other about things like, “Here’s what I think was going on here” and “What was up with that line?”, everyone will be able to have more fun with it.