[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today, we’re talking about Mahou Shojou, or Magical Girls! The genre has been a thing for quite a while now in Japan and it’s been so successful, the West has tried it’s hand at it ocassionally. I actually quite enjoy Magical Girl anime. Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu and Tokyo Mew Mew are among my favorites but we’re not talking about those today. Today we talk about Ojamajo Doremi!
Ojamajo Doremi (the first season) focuses on Doremi Harukaze a self proclaimed “Unlucky Pretty Girl” who while she fails in all aspects of life from her studies to confessing to the boy she’s hopelessly in love with, is a firm believer in Magic and Witches and strongly desires to become one. On her way home from school one day she enters a shop called MAHO-Dou and correctly identifies and calls out a witch named Rika who has now been transformed into a Magical Frog. Rika decides that she has no choice but to take in Doremi as her apprentice in hopes of making her a full fledged Witch and reversing what was done to her. Doremi literally jumps at the chance and becomes what Rika calls an “Ojamajo” a portmanteau of the Japanese word “Ojama” meaning “Troublesome” and “Majo” meaning Witch. This is because try as she might, Doremi sucks at magic. Through her own idiocy her two friends Hazuki and Aiko discover her secret and Rika takes them on as additional apprentices to keep Doremi’s secret as well as her own. The girls must pass a series of tests from 9-1 in order to become full fledged witches but when they’re not taking their witch exams they’re often helping out their classmates, often with magic. A fourth apprentice named Onpu is added later as a sort of frienmemy to the girls, using Magic for her own personal gain but even then she’s on good terms with the girls. Can these clumsy girls become true blue Witches?
The artistic merit of Ojamajo Doremi is…rather meh if I’m being completely honest. The character designs are like every other Magical Girl show for young girls, especially among those that focus on young girls as the characters are only in elementary school. Despite this I actually quite like it. Just because it’s basic doesn’t mean it’s not serviceable. As usual in these kinds of shows the opening, ending and transformation sequences boast the highest “quality” if I can even call it that because they look just like the rest of the show. Once again, that’s not to say that it looks bad, it’s just alright. If anything, and this is a total compliment, the designs remind me of a more cartoonish Princess Tutu, which is one of my favorite Magical Girl series. If anything the style helps to convey the innocence of the show, which it really is at it’s very core. The music is kind of hit or miss. I really like two of the insert songs “Mahou de Choi Choi” and “Pirika Piri Lucky” while I’m kind of meh on the opening “Ojamajo Carnival” but I do still enjoy it. It gets me all hyped and excited for the shenanigans about to ensue while the ending theme is all slow and mellow like a lullaby that I don’t really care to hear. If anything though, the ending theme speaks more for the overall tone of the show being rather mellow, innocent and sincere, more like a slice of life than a true Magical Girl series.
So, I keep talking about the tone of the series and using words like mellow and slice of life to describe it. That’s because that’s exactly what it is. At it’s core, Ojamajo Doremi is less about the girls trying to become Witches, though that’s certainly a large part of the series. It’s really more about them using their Magic to help others, which mainly extends to their classmates. Each episode usually focuses on one classmate in particular and an issues they’re going through. There’s rich bitch Reika who worries her father might not love her, Kotake who wants a puppy but lacks the courage to ask his parents, Masaru who’s labeled as a delinquent when he’s really just kind of indifferent and others who share episodes while some get more soloish episodes like the first three. In general, the series also helps the girls grow as people through dealing with their own issues. Aiko’s episodes largely focus on her being the daughter of divorced parents, Doremi’s are more love centered or else deal with her sister Pop who also later becomes a witch apprentice, while Hazuki’s episodes are few but are more centered around her relations to other people like Masaru, Marina or Nanako. In general, I suppose what the show is about in its actuality, is growing up. The characters are children and in dealing with whatever personal demons are plaguing them in any particular episode grow up slightly into better more mature people.
Now, that leaves that other aspect of the show, the “trying to become Witches” part and it’s also played very well. Doremi’s growth in particular is extremely commendable as she starts off unable to successfully cast a single spell or properly fly a broom but one might say that because of the addition of the more competent Aiko and Hazuki, Doremi doesn’t exactly double her efforts as simply get better as time goes on. By the middle of the series she’s casting spells just the same as her friends are and while they don’t always go as intended, they do work more often than not. The girls start off as just nameless Apprentices but then the Apprentice exams are introduced where the girls start with the Level 9 exam and work their way down to Level 1. Passing each test makes their magic a bit stronger while some exams yield special rewards like being able to talk to plants or their Porons (their wands) upgrading. And for a series that focuses on Magic so heavily it’s refreshing to see a series step away from large scale magical battles and instead focus on more mundane uses for it. In this respect, I honestly have to say that it might be one of the best magical girl series I’ve ever seen, if only because of how well it knows what it wants to be. For example, there are three established rules of forbidden Magic; you can’t heal others without taking on damage, you cant alter peoples thoughts without getting put into a coma and you cant revive the dead without dying. Throughout the series the girls very strictly avoid doing these though Hazuki attempts the first and Onpu repeatedly does the second until it all catches up with her and I have to give it to the series for sticking with its established laws and rules. In other series, I feel like Doremi, being the main one, would likely be the privileged leader who while she’s utterly incompetent is the most powerful of them all and therefore allowed to break all the rules because, protagonist privileges. Here, she’s played realistically, being inept but earnest in her attempts, desperate to be the best but recognizing that she’s the worst and working hard to improve. If anything, Onpu falls into the privileged category as she constantly uses magic for petty and personal self gain but is at first protected by an amulet and in her final act has redeemed herself but pays the price for it.
As a first entry into the franchise, Ojamajo Doremi’s first season keeps its heart and sincerity from start to finish. The girls might make some truly stupid decisions at times but their hard work and honest hearts win out in the end and there are several episodes that are genuinely touching. It never falters or aims to be the best of the best but does aim to endear you and that spell is cast quite wonderfully. This isn’t the last we’ve seen of these girls though so stick around! DaWaRou![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CioAYtz4iM”][/vc_column][/vc_row]