Hello my dear Island Guests! It is time again for me to watch a randomly generated anime! This month Märchen Mädchen came up. A show that scores a lackluster 5.4 out of 10 on MAL. In the comments it seems to be very disliked, both on CrunchyRoll where I watched the first 6 episodes as on MAL. I can see why people would grade it so low.. but for some reason I really really like this show.
Quite often upon a Time
Märchen Mädchen is a show about a young girl named Hazuki! A book nerd with anxiety attacks. Even though she sits at that very same desk in anime as all the other characters sit.. she is very different. She has no friends! None at all! When she gets too socially awkward she has to calm herself by reading novels. She lives with her stepmother who barely has time for her.. and her popular step sister who can be quite harsh to her in Japan. One day she has another of these panic attacks and goes reading in a hamburger restaurant. Already assuming her step mother does not have time for her. When suddenly she finds a mysterious new book she can not open in her purse. At that time a mysterious girl shows up who nobody but her can see. She follows her into a library that is a gateway to another world. There she discovers the girl is actually a “Mädchen” a magical girl that draws her power from a classical story.. and surprise surprise. Hazuki is a magical girl too! Just in time even because a big tournament is about to start and the winning school of magic gets a wish granting magic! As the tournament draws closer we learn some of the darker secrets of these magical powers and how they can easily cause despair.
On Paper this sounds like one of the most generic magical girl anime that has ever been published and it probably is. This anime made my Hoods Entertainment aired in the Winter Season of 2018. It seems to get a lot of hate from the community for it’s visuals and its weird writing and generic plot. I experienced something different myself. Now I shall be the first to admit that I do not really have an eye for solid visuals.. if I am engaged with an anime my brain fills in missing frames, and if I see a face in less detail I auto completed that. I had no trouble with the visuals..except for episode 9, it is one of those episodes like that one episode in Dragon BAll Super people still nag about! I must admit I noticed Episode 9 being super off.. but it happens with deadlines being a thing! It’s horrible yes.. but the show is more than that episode. Overall I enjoyed the visuals.
Characters do look a bit samey and sometimes I had a hard time to tell who is who.. and sure.. we don’t always get perfectly shaped things.. but I kinda found that neat! The show gets flack for using a lot of archetypes and basing everyone on a fairy tale character could be counted as.. “well there are no original characters here” yet in a way it is designed to feel that way. I can see why people dislike it.. but I can also see why this show chose to go that way. Probably if you measure with grades per category like animation, story, music etc. you end up with an anime with a low grade..but to me this anime shines in all those things we usually do not grade.
Hazuki’s story of power is Cinderella, which is an obvious metaphor but in a way this metaphor also applies to the anime itself.It might look like a commoner that is standing in front of us.. and in a way it is! Yet with a bit of magic that commoner can still conquer our heart.There are a lot of analogies I really liked in this series. Sure the countries participating in the tournament are quite stereo typical and the Americans are not depicted favourably but it really makes sense. This series is about fairy tale or fable culture and America does not really have that. So in this show it is depicted that America usually borrows stuff and does their own thing with it. Every girl uses a fable or a story to draw power from and the Americans have the Match-Stick Girl.. but also Star Wars (though slightly renamed) and Santa Clause.. which is one of my favourites.. her magic is to “gift” her enemies.. the ammo of her weapons.. Santa Clause gets out a Tommy Gun or a Bazooka.. because.. she’s American! I laughed! So yes.. because this series is very much about established work we can see very many tropes happening.. but again.. that is part of it’s narrative. How this story SHOULD go according to all the classics is an intrinsic part of what is being told here! It might not be told all that well..but I found it told super charmingly. As if I am reading an actual Fairy Tale.
What appealed to me most in this show is the main character. Hazuki Kagimura is a character I relate to a lot! I might not flee in books when I am in stress but the way her mind works throughout this show I found highly relatable.While I do have friends, in that phase of life where she was in I did not really have them either. The questions in her head about how to address a social situation are extremely relatable to me and the whole way she flaps her arms nervously and constantly apologises for being who she is reminds me a lot of myself before I found my magic! I also love the journey she is on! In this anime she discovers that girls who wield the power of the book are destined to live lives like the characters they embody. So it means she will settle down with her prince charming, have a family that doesn’t love her and that she is quite quaint looking but a little bit of magic will draw out her charm. She is Cinderella after all! However she falls in love with a girl and doesn’t want a charming prince. She doesn’t want to be that frail little girl walking around on glass slippers. She wants to be with the person she wants to be with..she wants to write her own story and in doing that.. she encapsules almost everything I stand for! I love that aspect of this show.
To complicate this, her semi-romantic partner or “special friend” as this show prefers to call it..though heavily implying the romance is Shizuka Tsuchimikado.. the wielder of the Moon Princess, or Princess Kaguya fairy tale. A story about a woman who is destined to be alone.
A girl that unlike Hazuki is much more traditional and more inclined to accept her destiny. While it is not very original to tackle a story like this it works for a reason. In my opinion it also works here! Not every story has to be surprising! In fact I dare say that NONE of the classic Fairy Tales are surprising… well at least not the publicly accessible translations and variations. From the moment they met to the very last scene I felt invested in this relationship. Not because it is cleverly done, unique or well written.. no because it felt like a Yuri variation of a Fairy Tale. All those classic stories are not made for the modern world and nowadays can have toxic messages, and that is what this show aims to explore and highlight. This show tells us.. let’s find a modern ending to our classic fairy tales and I support that story and a very soft core lesbian interest while not unique is a perfect method to explore this.
I ADORE the voice acting in this movie. Hazuki and Shizuka both have very timid whisper-like voices, they feel frail and exaggerated. Yet without hearing the actual words you can follow the context of their emotion as everything is amplified..almost overacted. The same goes for all the other voice actors. The Brazen character does the shouting voice, the butch woman sounds like an actual man, the somewhat deranged american girl sounds like she is completely insane and the chinese girl has this melody in her voice like she is spouting wisdoms everywhere she goes, sounding like a mentor of a kung-fu movie. The principal is clearly brazen, bold and self confident and while they never really feel like “Real” characters because of it they once again feel very much like Fairy Tale characters. Think of how your mother threw her voice to make someone sound princessy when reading to you from a fairy tale book. The first time I heard Hazuki I was like.. oof this is laid on a bit obvious.. yet if I had to voice Cinderella in a japanese audio version of the classic tale.. this is probably the direction I would take. I really adore everything they do with Hazuki in this show!
A Modern Fairy Tale
Like I said earlier this show goes to great lengths to establish it wants to be a modern retelling. Hazuki makes this very clear in her behaviour as well. When she gets invited to join the magic school and has to stand there in a bit of a skimpy-ish gymsuit she openly tells everyone she did not expect school to be like this and that she kind of expected it to be more like Harry Potter. It’s funny to see a Japanese girl in bliss when she references Harry Potter and seeing this world is NOT like that! It sounds so funny! She makes a lot of relevant comparisons. Oftenly a bit aimed at the weird dogmatic ways some of these old tales work kind of showing us “hey these stories have been more modernly retold.. why do we follow this old trope” I found that a great source of comedy. There is no flippy phones but actually touch screen ones , which the more classical characters have huge trouble using.. making references that they would prefer something like a flippy phone but acting as if they do not know what those are . Since the show is basically one big tournament arc with teams across the world we can see classical roles being fulfilled in several teams. So when the shy Hazuki brings snacks aboard a train.. the shy girl on the russian team would have had a similar mindset and does the same. This show uses tropes a lot. It is fun and kinda interesting to see the tropes clash with “itself” by placing characters that should not be together… well uhm.. together!
It has issues though! I will admit that but weirdly these issues only really come out once you start comparing it to anime. One example of what this show could vastly do better is explain how the world works. There is a magical world and a non magical world, where Hazuki comes from. Apparently only Hazuki lives on the other side but Shizuka comes there because there are hamburgers and they aren’t on the other side? It never is fully made clear and at times can even feel like a plothole like. They bounce between locations and worlds at times and it is hard to tell what is going on. Never ever does this show explain it properly. That is a problem…..when you compare it to an anime because there is plenty of anime who do it better. When you compare it to a fairy tale though, not explaining the world is kind of a thing there. Where did the fairy godmother come from? How does the Magic Mirror on the Wall work? How can Maleficent cast a death curse and how can the fairies cancel it?! It is not that relevant to the story so it’s not explained.. and the same can be said here.
The side characters are all paper things, they get one exaggerated personality trade and are usually very much stereotyped based on a country. For example the leader of the German team is an amazing tactician, and very military minded. She has a stuffed animal called Messerschmidt , after the world war II plane. Her power is shooting guns! She isn’t as evil as she seems though. The british main girl is called Arthur Pendragon she is very regal and classic minded. She has a very commanding presence and wields a huge sword of light. The american girl Lyn Daves doesn’t respect classic stories.. as they do not have their own so they use their own media to copy and change cross media stuff to create their own more powerful stories not caring for tradition. She is a daddy’s girl and a cheater and doesn’t care for others. That is as far as these characters go! In anime characters this shallow are kind of passé.. but can anyone tell me the personality of Flounder, or the prince from the little Mermaid?! Side characters are treated like Fairy Tale side characters.
That is exactly what the problem of this anime is! It tells us that Fairy Tales did not always age well yet they build their story on these pillars to highlight this. Thus we get flat side characters like in fairy tales, we get very stereotypical characters like in those classics and this show does everything wrong what fairy tales arguably do wrong. By being flawed by design it does end up being flawed in the eyes of its beholder as well. I would love to see a few side characters more fleshed out but some even spontaneously pop up in the story when the need for them arises, their existence comes out of nowhere.Here it doesn’t feel modern it really feels like story telling of back in the days. So I can see why it isn’t well received, yet it’s flaws are not always by poor writing but by mimicking a flawed writing style?! So if you like this or not might really depend on your mindset. If you strictly can see this as an anime I can see how you would not be pleased. Also if you can not handle the Americans being very flawed because Murcia is perfect.. this is not the anime for you either!
And they all lived ….
How good this show is very much depends on your mindset. If you are the type that does believe you have to fit in society, get your job at any cost and conform to society and do what everyone does this show will not really do it for you. The message of this show hits hard for me.. but had it resonated less with me I would probably think less of this show. In the end I am the type that will refuse to give up my friends to take a job elsewhere I will just push to make my future possible here! I will not settle with a boy and have a kid and lose track of my friends and I will not take any job just to be productive. My life is about me, I determine my story and that is exactly the message of this show! I know some of my friends would disagree and I do not think they would like this show that much. If that message is lost.. a lot of things get lost in translation, it becomes a sub-par anime instead of a beautiful fairy tale. Yet if you are like me and dig this message and can judge it more as a fairy tale than a anime this bowl of porridge is JUST right!
People nag about the ending how a reveal is made in the end that for them came out of nowhere, but I can safely say, no that is not true! I have seen that twist coming from about half way in the series. The plot threats are there and while that story hasn’t really been a part of anything I think it got the perfect amount of attention for a 12 episode format. To me it shows that this story is much more cleverly written than most people give it credit for. It isn’t anything special by today’s standards but it is not aiming for today’s standards. If you watch this more as you’d watch a three hour disney movie or as story time before you go to sleep, this is just a very cute, wholesome story that has a girl in an iron maiden for some reason.
If you watch it, watch it in batches of either 2 or 4 episodes at the same time. Not only are the even number episodes stronger.. but by using that format you will not end a day on episode 9.. because that one is so badly animated it will give you nightmares! In the end it might be a generic , unoriginal story but so are all disney movies and I love this exactly the same way as those classics… and that I think can only be a huge compliment. I choose to believe in Fairy Tales! Do you?!
Speaking of Fairy Tales?! Have you heard the Fairy Tale about the Blog Follower that got turned into a Coconut?! They supported the princess Kofi and were invited to live on a magical island with a unique coconut avatar and ALWAYS got nominated for any Blog Tags!
The princess used the Kofi money to build a better palace and to write her blog in more comfort so they could even show more positivity than she already tried! And they all lived happily ever after! At least.. if the coconuts could really miss the money! The princess would not want them to sacrifice what they could not miss! So if people would not the princess would just smile gleefully when people left something sweet in the comment section!