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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.
Shinbou Akiyuki Interview
The TV version of Puella Magi Madoka Magica garnered a lot of attention during its original on-air run starting in January 2011. Shinbou-san, when did you start wanting to make this new chapter?
Shinbou: Right around when the TV series broadcast ended. During the broadcast itself, we had our hands full actually making the show, so there was no time to think about a “next”. But the fan reaction was above and beyond what we hoped for, so I started wanting to make a sequel. I don’t actually remember when we started to hold meetings about it, but the first run of the screenplay was decided upon in the summer of 2011, so I think we were holding meetings over the script around then.
How did the meetings go?
Shinbou: Once we’d gotten everybody together to decide where to go, we had Urobuchi (Gen)-san come up with a plot and screenplay. At the very first meeting, we were split for a time about whether to make this a second anime season or a feature film. Over the course of the meetings, we decided to take the story in the direction you see here, and we decided on a movie.
There are many directions that one can take a “sequel”. For instance, untold stories concerning this character or that one, or stories about the past. Why specifically make a continuation?
Shinbou: Concerning the kinds of “spinoffs” and “prequels” you just mentioned, I think that groups other than Shaft should go ahead and make those as fanworks. Puella Magi Madoka Magica leaves a lot of room for fanfiction and fan interpretations, and we want all of those to be made. We don’t think there’s any need to close off the gaps fans have to create those kinds of works. Actually, we decided to continue the story specifically to make this world bigger and more fun to play with. I loved the characters in Madoka Magica, so I wanted to create the story of what happened to them next.
And so you decided to create the story of “whatever happened to those five magical girls”.
Shinbou: The number one thing I wanted to do was to get all the characters together and set them into action again. At the end of the original work, (Kaname) Madoka became a god, and (Miki) Sayaka disappeared. Those two couldn’t take the stage like that. Actually, seeing all the characters become popular and head off in different directions made me feel like it was kind of a waste. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to make a continuation.
You called the previous two movies “like a new loop or two of the original series”. With that in mind, how is this new movie positioned?
Shinbou: I think of the TV series as complete in and of itself, and that it doesn’t need a continuation. Beginnings and Eternal were necessary to Rebellion, and my personal interpretation is that Rebellion continues from these two movies rather than the TV series.
So Rebellion is the continuation of Beginnings and Eternal.
Shinbou: Yes, like that. For instance, in her magical girl form, Sayaka has no hairpin in the TV series, but she has one in the movies. And so, as a continuation of the previous two movies, Rebellion stars the Sayaka with the hairpin.
What kind of discussions happened until the screenplay was finalized?
Shinbou: We didn’t really pick nits over the screenplay that much. I have faith in Urobuchi-san as a writer, so we didn’t go over the script as finely as we would for an anime. It’s not as though Urobuchi-san had it all finished at once, and I did make the request that Madoka get more lines at one stage.
This movie stars a new magical girl. What led to her being included?
Shinbou: She already appeared from the time that Urobuchi-san wrote out the original plotline and script. It didn’t feel strange to us, so it already had the feeling of a valid development. The reason she goes by the nickname Bebe is due to a request by Gekidan Inu Curry. In the original work, the witches’ names are displayed in runes when they appear, but the runes are supposed to be unreadable. Fans in the real world have deciphered the runes, but nobody in-verse can do so. So the magical girls call Charlotte “Bebe”. I think the fans will have plenty of other things to be surprised at besides what we’re calling her.
So the runic names are secret (like the concept of a True Name).
Shinbou: I was really surprised that fans overseas deciphered the runes during the broadcast. It was a really fun experience to have people become so involved with our work.
In Rebellion, Madoka, who has become a concept of the universe, is referred to as the “Law of Cycles”. This phrase came up once in the TV series, didn’t it?
Shinbou: That phrase is only used once by Mami-san in the very last episode. So it seems as though some of the viewers thought that that was just Mami-san making things up, but Urobuchi-san said that the phrase “Law of Cycles” comes from a pun on Madoka’s name (Madoka = 円 as in 円か, therefore 円環の理).
At the time, it was just something that Mami-san says the one time, so it seems as though many fans just perceived Mami-san as a character who says a lot of strange things.
Shinbou: To be fair, Mami-san is the only one who actually calls her attack names, so she’s a bit of a quirky character. We certainly are happy that our fans pay attention to those details.
Mami-san plays a big role in this movie too. She’s in the center of the “Puella Magi Holy Quintet” at the beginning.
Shinbou: It’s possible that Mami-san just made them practice saying that. If you’re watching closely you may see this for yourself, but the timing of their holding their Soul Gems out, and their saying that line together, isn’t perfectly in sync (laughs). We hope people enjoy the impression that she’s making them do it like that.
During the climax of that battle, the “Puellae Magi’s Tea Party” scene leaves a pretty big impression.
Shinbou: That tea party might be all thanks to Mami-san too (laughs). I think there’s a lot to enjoy if you think of it that way.
Mami-san seems extra powerful in this movie.
Shinbou: I think you’ll understand this after watching, but Mami is actually really strong. She might be the strongest magical girl, as long as she doesn’t let her guard down. Sayaka does say you’d have to be stupid or overconfident to actually pick a fight with Mami-san face-to-face when she’s in her best condition. ……I really liked that line. That scene is really serious, so I hope people don’t giggle too much when they’re watching in the theater.
Sayaka is a pretty popular character too. What do you think of Sayaka, Director Shinbou?
Shinbou: Sayaka is yet another character who’s been rounded out by the fans after the TV show ended. I think that we all created her character together. This time, Sayaka and Bebe are important characters who have special memories, so I think the movie will get more interesting if you watch it again with that in mind.
Kyouko works together with Homura as her co-conspirator in this movie. She’s just as reliable as she is in the TV anime.
Shinbou: Kyouko has always been kind of a Dezaki character. The famous anime director Dezaki Osamu always has at least one character in his work with an outro like Kyouko’s, who winds up guiding the hero. For instance, Rikiishi [Tohru] in “Ashita no Joe”, and [Long John] Silver or [Abraham] Gray in “Treasure Island”. I’ve always wanted her to be similar to them.
And finally, this movie creates a new relationship between Madoka and Homura.
Shinbou: You could probably call Homura the real main character of this movie. Madoka’s gone and turned into a godlike being, and all. This time the story takes place in the world inside of a Soul Gem, so between who comes from where and who remembers what, this story is filled with riddles and may be difficult to understand. The Madoka in this story is the real Madoka, who has lost her memories of becoming a god. She’s not a fake or Homura’s creation. What she says in the field of flowers is what she’s really feeling at the time. That scene may seem overly sentimental at first glance, but if you think of everything Homura does afterward, her feelings will come across more easily.
Kyubey appears as the true culprit behind this movie’s events too. Shinbou-san, you seem like a big Kyubey fan.
Shinbou: I’m such a Kyubey supporter, I wanted to subtitle this movie “Incubator Strikes Back”. What’s so bad about Kyubey? (laughs) I think Kyubey is always in the right.
We look forward to seeing this new movie. Director Shinbou, how do you want us to enjoy this new work?
Shinbou: This movie is made so that you can enjoy watching it over and over. First just enjoy the story, and then from your second viewing onward, look for all the little things and enjoy them. We’ll be happy as long as the fans are excited about it.
Now that you’ve completed this continuation, what are your feelings on the future of the Madoka Magica franchise?
Shinbou: If we can continue it, we definitely want to.
Urobuchi Gen Interview
We hear that the screenplay for Puella Magi Madoka Magica was finalized in 2009. Were you thinking of a sequel at the time?
Urobuchi: No, not at all. I never thought there would be a sequel.
Then, when did the talk of the continuation start…?
Urobuchi: During the broadcast, I think I heard about it from Producer Iwakami [Atsuhiro], but at the time I was like “Ha ha ha, that’s a good joke!” and tried not to take him seriously. But the more I heard about it, I started to realize that these guys were dead serious. Now what was I supposed to do…?
How did you come up with the new story?
Urobuchi: At first I did a lot of brainstorming to come up with all the ideas I could, and played around with the results.
Who did you brainstorm with?
Urobuchi: I was in contact with Iwakami-san, Shinbou (Akiyuki)-san, and Aoki (Ume)-san, so they all came to help me.
What kind of story did you think up at first?
Urobuchi: From the start, the idea was “Homura becomes a witch, and the story takes place inside her barrier”. But at the time, I wanted to end the story with Madoka taking Homura away with her. So, I thought the story would end this time for real (laughs). But both Iwakami-san and Shinbou-san were like, “No, we want the story to keep going after this” and wouldn’t give me the OK. So then when I was getting really worried, Shinbou-san was like “Might as well just make Madoka and Homura into enemies”. And that suggestion was basically the breakthrough. I really agreed that Homura might be plausible as Madoka’s equal opposite.
So the plot came together based on the concept of Madoka and Homura becoming enemies.
Urobuchi: That’s right. Once I knew the direction I was working for, everything came together, so I wrote the screenplay after that. I wrote the first draft, and then came the revisions, and it ended up as it is now.
The TV anime version of Madoka Magica got a lot of fan reaction, so was there any part of the new movie that changed based on that reaction?
Urobuchi: Every figurine of Tomoe Mami comes with the Witch of Sweets. Even though I wondered what possessed the merchandisers to put those two together, they must’ve left an impression on me.
Is that why Bebe gets to appear?!
Urobuchi: Hahaha. By the way, Gekidan Inu Curry had a lot of influence on Bebe. At first, she had normal lines. But I was told that since she’s a witch, she can’t speak normally. Bebe’s lines and how they’re displayed are all changed because of Inu Curry-san. Bebe is a complete and total Inu Curry character.
Bebe’s true identity is…
Urobuchi: Witches never go by their true names. Runes may display their names when they appear, but even if you can read them, the witches will never use those names, according to Gekidan Inu Curry. That’s why everybody calls her Bebe.
This time, the first half of the story takes place in a very odd little world.
Urobuchi: It’s an idealized world that Homura dreamed up. Deep in her psyche, Homura probably wanted to do all this.
So, she wanted to join forces with the other magical girls and fight enemies together with them?
Urobuchi: Everyone was called into the barrier because she wanted to “play” like that.
So what are the Nightmares?
Urobuchi: When you take the lid off that box, they’re just made-up obstacles that Homura created for the magical girls to fight. Probably due to Homura’s wistful thinking that it’d be great if only magical girls got to fight something like these instead of witches.
In short, the whole world is nothing but Homura’s fantasyland. In what condition have the five magical girls found themselves there?
Urobuchi: The world was rewritten when Madoka became the Law of Cycles, so the outside world is a world of wraiths, not a world of witches. At that stage, Mami and Kyouko, who were both killed by witches, were rewritten to not be dead. This time, Mami and Kyouko, the Kaname family, and Kyousuke and Hitomi were pulled into Homura’s barrier from the world of wraiths. Sayaka and Bebe, who were taken away by the Law of Cycles (Madoka), were brought into the barrier by the Law of Cycles.
Homura’s interactions with Kyouko, Mami, and Sayaka are very interesting this time around. That Homura reaches out to Kyouko first has interesting implications for the magical girls’ relationships.
Urobuchi: Homura probably thought that because Kyouko is the biggest realist, Kyouko would listen to her. When it comes to Mami, even if she and Homura do their best to get along, they’ll definitely wind up fighting if they’re honest with each other. No matter how Homura reveals the truth, it’s going to hurt Mami. So Homura ignores her rather than hurt her. And from Mami’s perspective, Homura’s actions are incomprehensible. As a result, they don’t get along. Finally, concerning Sayaka, she appears before Homura this time actually knowing more than Homura does for once. I was able to start writing right after the TV series ended, so I was able to depict all the magical girls without any problems.
What are your thoughts on having Momoe Nagisa appear?
Urobuchi: From the beginning, we were already having Bebe appear, so naturally things progressed to a discussion of including the sixth magical girl. Luckily, Gekidan Inu Curry had written up character settings for the witches’ pasts, so she was very easy to imagine as a human. So then we had Aoki-sensei do her character design as “the Witch of Sweets’ human form” at an early stage.
She seems like a very young girl.
Urobuchi: That’s because even amongst the other witches, the Witch of Sweets carries an impression of youth. There’s no real age restriction on becoming a magical girl, so I imagine that some of them are quite young.
In this movie, Kyubey performs their proper duties again. What is Kyubey to you, Urobuchi-san?
Urobuchi: Kyubey hasn’t changed since I wrote the TV series. The only thing is that they’re not an all-powerful entity anymore. They’re just an alien, so there’s no way they can compete with a god.
Madoka is in a special position in this movie too.
Urobuchi: This time, Madoka appears as a character fabricated by Homura. Because all of her memories that are inconvenient to Homura have been taken away. Aside from that, she also appears as Ultimate Madoka (the Law of Cycles), and the ripped-apart Madoka in the ending… there are three different Madokas in this movie.
How do you feel about your work as screenplay writer, in creating the new continuation to Madoka Magica for Rebellion?
Urobuchi: It was hard. At this point in time the memories are distant, but I remember worrying a lot. Back during the TV series, Iwakami-san and Shinbou-san had this kind of, “Madoka Magica ought to be like this” vision going on. At this point, I really feel that Madoka Magica doesn’t just belong to me anymore.
When the screenplay was completed, were you able to see Shaft’s production work?
Urobuchi: Shaft is a studio that lets their ideas bubble up from a screenplay. Things just keep escalating, and they never quiet down. The storyboards could fill a number of phone books. It’s scary. I had no idea that storyboards alone could have this much detail. They were really into it. The storyboards were terrifyingly detailed for every scene, so I can’t wait to see the scenes completed.
The storyboard director for this movie is Sasaki Shinsaku-san, who also was in charge of storyboards for episode 10 of the TV series, correct?
Urobuchi: The density and the amount of information are incredible. I’m a little worried as to whether the moviegoers’ nerves are going to hold for two hours. Sasaki-san loves Homura, so all of Homura’s scenes are getting really impressive, to say the least.
We hear that Gekidan Inu Curry is trying a whole lot of different animation methods.
Urobuchi: Yes. One time, I was presented with a plushie and told “This is the stuffed animal that will appear in the movie”. And I was gobsmacked, like, “Eh? Where’s a stuffed animal going to show up??”
We have the impression that this time, you wrote the script in a fairly simple manner, and left a lot of the details up to the storyboarder and director’s imaginations.
Urobuchi: Because if it’s Shaft, they’ll really take things to the next level—I’m confident that they can. Since I’ve done a whole TV series with them, I have that kind of expectation.
What do you think are the best parts of teaming up with Shinbou-san and Shaft?
Urobuchi: They’ll do everything that can only be expressed with live footage and everything that can only be expressed in animation. Shaft and Shinbou-san are the only ones who will do that. They always surprise you and exceed your expectations. Even if it’s as simple as one single background, you never know what you’re going to get. I’m sure that this is going to be an amazing movie.
If there’s any scene in particular that you’re looking forward to, please tell us.
Urobuchi: Actually, there’s a scene in the storyboards where Homura’s already gotten too scary! There’s parts of the script where Homura has already gotten “scarier”. Apparently Shaft is going to keep refining things to the very final stages, so it’s exciting waiting to see what the final touches will be.
How do you want the fans to enjoy “Rebellion?”
Urobuchi: Honestly, I think some will beautify it and some will reject it completely. These days, static characters who don’t change are popular, and if characters ever change even a little bit there’ll be people who’ll call that out-of-character and get angry. In this movie, Homura grows, and she changes. In the end, I’m a little worried as to whether people will accept a character like her. If they’ll think she’s OOC, or that she’s evolved. I’ll be happy if people accept that Madoka Magica is the kind of drama where characters grow and change like this. But that’s up to the viewers to decide.
Stories where characters grow and change are very traditional. Does this mean that Madoka Magica is conforming to archetype?
Urobuchi: Even in “Star Wars”, Anakin is a cute little kid in Episode I, but by Episode III he grows up to be Darth Vader. But you know, “that’s how stories are”. I think the choice of whether or not to accept that is up to the viewers.
Finally, what are your thoughts on this conclusion?
Urobuchi: Personally, I feel like I wrote all there is to Madoka in the TV series, and now I’ve written all there is to Homura in this movie. I feel like I’ve had both of them graduate. Anyway, I think that a school where a god and a devil are in the same class is pretty funny. If people use that to make new stories, I’ll be happy. I want this to be the kind of story where everyone will want to imagine their own sequel.
Aoki Ume Interview
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Beginnings & Eternal have garnered a lot of praise. Please tell us how it felt to see them in theaters.
Aoki: When I first saw Beginnings in the theater, I cried during the new opening, and I enjoyed the movie as just one more ordinary fan. There were so many places where the artwork was changed, and the new music was really cool, so my heart was pounding from beginning to end. The movies go from one episode to the next with no breaks, so the sensation of being drawn into the movies’ world was powerful and very fun.
Please tell us how you felt when you read the finalized version of the script to Rebellion.
Aoki: My first impression was basically “Wait, what just happened?!”
How were the meetings held over the script?
Aoki: Having all the ideas that were thrown around slowly change and come together into one final shape was very interesting.
Were there any hints or illustrations that helped you when thinking of Momoe Nagisa’s design?
Aoki: Her appearance in the TV series was both my biggest guidepost and my biggest worry. I kept adding things and taking them away, wondering how much I ought to leave and how much should be changed.
Momoe Nagisa seems younger than the previously seen magical girls. How do you feel about her?
Aoki: At the beginning I drew her to look a little more grown-up, but I was told to make her more babyish and so she wound up like this. At the beginning I was imagining her as the type to do things at her own pace, a little selfish, but once her speech patterns were determined I started to feel like all of that was part of her innocence and youth, and was able to draw her naturally.
If there’s anything you realized while designing Momoe Nagisa, please tell us.
Aoki: (Compared to the five magical girls who were already here) I think the hurdles are pretty high for a new girl appearing after everything, so I drew her to this desperate mantra of, please let her turn out cute, please let the fans love her!
What kind of character is Kyubey to you?
Aoki: They’re a really interesting character, aren’t they? So adorable, and so totally uncute (laughs).
Please tell us what you thought when you got to see the storyboards.
Aoki: First off, I was startled by the sheer amount. Then I was startled by the contents. Even with the TV series there were plenty of places where I was surprised, like, so that part of the script is going to look like this! But this time, every time I turned a page, my excitement built to levels I hadn’t expected. Once the pictures move and there’s sound, I’m sure it’s going to be much more intense, so I’m looking forward to the final product.
Which scenes in Rebellion are you looking forward to?
Aoki: Probably Homura and Mami-san’s fight. It was really cool on the storyboards, so I bet it’ll be beyond imagination when it’s animated, and I can’t help but look forward to seeing Mami-san get serious when she’s in top shape. And the ending too, I think. I know the story, but I still can’t imagine what it’s actually going to look like, so I’m excited and nervous.
What do you think is most fun about working with Director Shinbou?
Aoki: He says a lot of things that sort of flash and then go BOOM like lightning, and you get to like that (laughs). They’re things that make you want to start nodding like crazy.
Please tell the theater viewers something to look forward to in the upcoming movie.
Aoki: I think there are plenty of things to look forward to. I hope you enjoy yourselves a lot!