Märchen Mädchen First Impressions
“Kagimura Hazuki has no friends. I don’t mean she has few friends, or even very few friends, or she has some people she knows, but she’s not sure if she can call them ‘friends.’ It’s nothing so pleasant as that…”
What the hell is that OP? I’ll admit, it’s a little odd that the primary thought I have when reflecting on this first episode is, “What the hell were they thinking when they approved that opening?” Märchen Mädchen is an anime that… I have some serious concerns about. Not in its quality, mind you, just in its general well-being. This is one of those instances where a series appears cobbled together using various components from other works, but the end result, thankfully, appears to be more than the sum of its parts. However, a prominent one of those parts involves a loli running around naked for the last third of the episode, so, as I said before, there are concerns to be had.
Before I move on to the plot of this episode, let’s briefly get back to the OP. Even if it wasn’t for an apparent obsession with our main character running around naked using a book to cover herself, this still wouldn’t be a good OP. It’s composed primarily of shots and clips from throughout the ensuing episode, and it uses them repetitively. Furthermore, it seems to love its fan service shots of our underaged main character. Aside from the shot of her covering herself with the book, which the opening sequence uses no less than three times, we’re also treated to a multitude of shots involving her adjusting a gym uniform. Anyway, Märchen Mädchen centers on Kagimura Hazuki, a particularly anti-social bookworm who, by her internal narration’s own admission, doesn’t have a single friend. This appears to be less the result of bullying, and more due to a crippling shyness and tendency to retreat into fiction whenever things get difficult. While the show does play up her shyness to an extreme, it does retain a shred of relatability, nonetheless. Things are thrown into disarray for Hazuki when she encounters a mage whom only she can see, and tracks her to library with a magical portal that leads to a peculiar school.
So, right of the bat, there are a multitude of obvious comparisons that could be made here. The premise echoes elements of Harry Potter and The Magicians (though the latter probably just shares Harry Potter as an inspiration, rather than being an inspiration in its own right), and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get uncomfortable whenever someone pulled out a glowing book due to Black Clover–related PTSD. In spite of being obviously inspired by a multitude of sources, both foreign and domestic, I can’t actually call it generic. It would seem the show may have some intriguing comparison to make between Hazuki escaping into the world of books and escaping into a literal world of magic, and unlike The Magicians, I suspect the message won’t simply be, “People are dicks” (I have only watched a few episodes of season 1 of The Magicians. Please do not take this as a blanketed condemnation of the series). If it hadn’t been for that particularly terrible opening, I may have even been fine with the fan service that pops up in the last third of the episode, since I think it’s goal was to provide humor and not to titillate. Unfortunately, if that was the intent, the trashy opening buried the lead about a mile deep. Also, can we acknowledge that the idea that the students are called Mädchen is just odd? The show appears to treat it as if it’s a special term for female students of magic. German was never the strongest of the languages that I studied, but when I was reading out the synopsis for this season’s new anime last week, my friend Ammy was kind enough to point out that Mädchen simply translates to ‘girl.’ If I were to attempt a summary of Märchen Mädchen, I’d say I’m interested in where it will go, but, given some of its odd choices, it could turn out to be really, really stupid.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- By the way, if, given by harsh reaction to the opening, you were wondering if the ED fared any better… it didn’t. A certain laziness is permitted and even expected from the ending segments, but this was just panning over still images. They’re weren’t even styled images like you would see in Code Geass. They look like the sort of frames that would be thrown into a Newtype magazine, back in the day, to serve as a semi-titillating poster.
- Also, the final shot in the ending introduced a question that hadn’t entered my head before. Is this a yuri series? That’s fine if it is, but I hadn’t considered it. I suppose on reflection that would make some sense, but I haven’t seen it listed as such.
- For the record, while I do refer to Hazuki being naked in this episode, I do want to clarify that she is always covered, albeit in that ‘just barely’ fashion that’s a hallmark of anime.
- And no, I don’t have a strong enough grasp of katakana to read that title card. With the way it’s stylized I can barely tell where one character ends and another begins.
- I was lucky to find that shot at the top from the opening, since the overwhelming majority of the opening just has credits sitting smack dab in the middle of the screen. Careful integration of credits so they don’t get in the way? What’s that?
- Oh, and sorry, but I’m too lazy to include the appropriate umlauts in my spelling of the title (EDITOR’S NOTE: But I äin’t)… and märchen means ‘fable.’
Regardless of a few, rather targeted, criticisms, I still enjoyed this first episode of Madoka Potter. I'm curious enough to follow up on it, but I'm puzzled as to how the studio that made Drifters somehow proved incompetent at setting up fanservice and a good OP.