Harukaze Doremi considers herself to be the unluckiest girl in the world. Her parents are always fighting, her little sister makes fun of her, and her crush pines after another girl. If only Doremi could just wave a magic wand, she would have a much better life—or so she used to think.
After a mishap with a real witch, Doremi becomes an apprentice witch herself, and it turns out she's pretty horrible at that, too.
Now she and her two friends must study to become better at magic so they can become good witches. That is, if they can focus on their magic studies!
The three apprentices will need all the luck they can get if they want to pass the witch exams and become full-fledged witches. Only then will Doremi's debt to the witch Majorika be repaid. Until then, Doremi will remain a useless little witch girl!
Note that this review was originally on my blog, so I may have score that differ from here because of different scoring systems
It was many years ago when I first heard of this show. I’m not exactly sure how I came to know it, but I remember hearing about this show about some kids with some kind of other worldly abilities that was ridiculously popular. Of course, this was at the time before I got into anime, so I kind of dismissed it, but it was always in the back (and I mean the VERY back of my mind). After getting into the world of
anime with Sonic X and Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, I decided to give this show a try, as I started to get familiar with differences between the shonen and shoujo genres. With a few eccentric experiences and the way I was raised, I developed a weakness for cuteness (if you must ask, I am male) and though the show would appeal to me. However, I was in for a big surprise as the show exceeded all expectations.
As you can see, the story isn’t overly complicated. There are no deep complex storylines. Sure, there are a few mini story arcs thrown in the mix, but nothing convoluted. After all, this is a show primarily aimed at a younger audience. While the story is simple, it’s not the kind of simple where older fans will get bored out of their mind. They’re entertaining and will want you to find out what happens. The episodes are presented in a way that there are sometimes two things going on: the girls going through their trials to “witchdom,” and the girls helping out their many friends and family members. Sometimes, this can get in the way and make the more interesting parts of the show seem a bit rushed, but it’s also used to show their trials in magic provide valuable lessons in life or vice versa. Unlike similar genres where the main characters use their abilities against a similar or more powerful enemy (e.g. Sailor Moon, also from Toei Animation), this one lacks a common enemy and is more personal to the characters. When they’re not doing magic, the girls are helping their friends. However, a flaw arises as most of these stories follow the same path over and over again. Friend like a particular thing. Friend no longer does due to some circumstance. Girls use magic to solve problem. Of course, you may complain that it makes the show less interesting…and it does, to an extent. The more interesting part of the story is when the magic shop falls into the hands of Majoruka, and the girls try to get it back. The small story ends in a neat magic battle and feels very satisfying the way it was tied. Later in the season, when the girls are entrusted with the eradication of cursed items, the story feels rather stretched, as the hunting spans around 20 episodes. Most episodes are in a format where you do not necessarily have to see everything that happened before that and understand what’s going on. Approximately five episodes, however, did end in cliffhangers, which provided more incentive to continue. You sometimes can’t help but wonder how it all ends. There’s a nice mix of stuff, too. You have a blend of comedy, emotion, action, and fun that makes the show and interesting watch, even though it is a bit childish.
The animation of this show is not something to be impressed by. After all, this show did make it’s debut in 1999, and animation has come a ways since then. The characters are simply drawn, the effects are just average, backgrounds are painted nicely but simple. However, the colors stand out just a bit, which is just fine. Mostly, the animation is consistent from episode to episode, but there were a few times where I noticed that the drawings of the characters were different, some better and some worse. At first, I was usually unaware of more minute changes, but after seeing more and more episodes, it became easier to pick out the flaws. In the end, the art is just average, but it works for what it is.
This is where the show really shines. From the beginning, you can see that there is an underlying musical theme to the show, but it never really becomes a major factor in any story except for one episode where the girls combine their favorite instruments with their wands. I really found it neat that when they were told to insert a certain melody to access their magical items, they stuck with it and made it make perfect sense. After the aforementioned episode, it was great to hear their instruments play during the casting of spells. There were other musical mentions, with treble and bass clef signals on doors, musical notes adorning spells, and others. Never is it forced upon the viewer in a way that becomes annoying. As for the actual music in the show, it’s not a bad selection. You have a mix of vocal and instrumental, everything fits with the situation, and there is no constant changing of types of music as you see with many American shows. It’s satisfying at times to have no music when there is a lot of dialogue. It makes you focus on what’s being said instead of being a distraction.
Another thing that makes the show deceptively addicting. Every character is clearly details. Their likes, dislikes, problems, all shown clearly with their major personalities shining. Doremi’s klutziness is always fun to watch. Hazuki is intelligent, but it’s her kindness that becomes the main focus. She needed more episodes around her, though. Aiko is special. Although she is the toughest of the group, all the episodes centering around her were emotional and dealt with the divorce of her parents, something you don’t usually see talked about much in a kids’ show (at least, what I’ve seen). However, I feel that there should have been an episode that centered around her that wasn’t about her family troubles. Pop Harukaze is as sassy as you would expect some young kids to be, and it’s surprising to see Onpu Segawa unlike any other celebrity people who act like they are above everyone else. All other characters, especially the classmates, all have their personalities, and they all fit together and are something you would expect to see in any classroom. This is one thing about anime that I really like. If there are shows that involve classroom settings, the creators of the show will make the necessary number of characters, all different from the others, and they will use those characters later on. It makes you feel that you are there in the classroom yourself and are friends with these people. In American shows, you usually have a few reoccurring characters but everyone else is usually generic or one-shot, and you don’t really get to know them. Also, a little research will net you even more information about the characters, including birthdays (with years), height, weight, and blood type (seriously). All the more reason to really get in touch with them.
As I mentioned earlier, once you get into it, you want to know what happens. You see them take on their new “life” and want to see them grow up. Except for a few large gaps, every few episodes add a new story element or cliffhanger that begs to watch. The antics of the girls, especially Doremi, are always a hoot, Like a few of the shows I get into, I spend many hours letting my mind wander, and it often wanders into new storylines that I know won’t really happen in the series, but I wish could happen (well, not all of them). However, as the season began to enter its final episodes, I saw idea after idea that I had thought of actually become true in some way or another. I was so amazed that it happened that I just had to finish it off. And the ending did not disappoint. Even though it was something I wasn’t really expecting, it was fitting, and it still alludes to a new season.
Overall, this is a very excellent show. I would highly recommend this, but there are a few problems with that. If you’re concerned about being discovered watching this show and being made fun of, you’re probably not going to enjoy it. If you find the need to be immersed in complicated stories, you’re probably not going to like it. If you need violence, blood, and sex in your shows, you’re probably not going to like it. For everyone else, watch it. Now! Even those I mentioned above, watch it. This is a timeless classic and has enjoyed success everywhere (unfortunately, not in the U.S., but more about that in another review). I think this quote from the people at Doremi-Fansubs sums it up.
“Best Magical Girl Show. Ever. Who cares if it's girly? Who cares if you'll get laughed at for watching this? It's freaking awesome damnit!”
Or is it an allusion of what is to come? Seeing one episode of Sharp convinces me so, but you can't fully enjoy it all without missing a thing.
Witches have for a long time been a source of inspiration for the creative musings of artists around the world, spanning multiple eras, cultures and religions, and as such being portrayed in uncountable ways. They are sometimes seen as deities, while in others as devils, but always possessing unfathomable powers beyond comprehension. Defiant of death and masters of nature, it comes as no surprise why witches have intrigued human imagination to such a deep extent.
It is from this vast pool of inspiration that Ojamajo Doremi draws from, yet also diverges from to form its own distinct identity. Unlike most similarly themed stories, the
show opts for a more humanized portrayal of witches, who have their own world and live peaceful, carefree lives. Some of them live among humans, but due to an ancient curse they will instantly turn into frogs if someone finds out their identity. Ojamajo Doremi's special touch is that it also adds Mahou Shoujo elements to its witch lore, ranging from magical tools to transformations. None of these are used for fighting, however, and become part of everyday life instead. It is a different approach from the average Mahou Shoujo action anime, which alongside the humor gives the show its own laidback charm, although this doesn't mean it isn't rooted in the conventions of its genre. While the story's world is continually moving forward, most of the episodes are structured to have standalone plotlines, which usually involve helping secondary characters with the assistance of magic. This is a typical setup in Mahou Shoujo, but Ojamajo Doremi executes it with flying colors. Magic, as much as it is a helpful tool in the show, doesn't solve everyone's personal issues with the snap of a finger. It is but a shortcut, either giving tips on how to help someone or leading to places where the spell users can investigate a problem. Although the story is ingrained in fantasy it elegantly avoids copout resolutions, since it is first and foremost concerned about the emotional depth of its characters.
Accordingly, the main characters of this story undergo extensive exposition over the course of the anime as they try to become witches. There is Doremi, an airhead at heart; Hazuki, a gentle and booklover girl; Aiko, who is energetic and honest about everything she does; and finally Onpu, who is an extrovert and loved by almost everyone. They all start out as archetypes, but it doesn't take long until their individual, hidden traits come to light as their own stories unfold. A large portion of this is developed through the characters' families, which are wonderful lens into how their personas came to be, unveiling the influence of the parents over their children.
Aiko is a great example of this, as she spent most of her life as a member of a divorced family. Having lived with her father during this period, she inherited many of his idiosyncrasies and learned to take care of herself as her mother was no longer around. Her rapport with her father is unique due to their very open relationship, while Aiko never hides how she dreams of having her mother back among them. It goes to show that the story isn't afraid delving into delicate subjects like divorce, doing so with a subtlety uncommon in the medium. This also leads to a crucial plot point in the series, given that Aiko deeply seeks to bring her parents back together and becomes a witch apprentice with this purpose in mind. There is plenty of room for character building and introspection in cases like this, and the narrative makes wonderful use of these opportunities. Likewise, the other protagonists also receive the spotlight, although their stories don't carry the same sort of emotional weight as Aiko's. Thankfully, since the show keeps the characterization grounded in reality, it puts strong focus in fleshing out both the flaws and qualities of its cast. What sets Ojamajo Doremi apart in this instance is how attentive it is to its portrayal of children, in a way that carefully brings out their multifaceted and unpredictable nature.
All of this paves the road for one of the Ojamajo Doremi's strongest qualities: its delightful character dynamics. With a multilayered and well-realized cast at its disposal, the show manages to keep fresh and charming thanks to its ever-evolving web of relationships. The interactions between the protagonists often carry implications which aren't simply forgotten in the next episodes. Such is the case with Onpu, who avoids forming bonds in the beginning but gradually opens up to other people after a series of important events. Instances like this unfold naturally and give a much welcome dynamism to the characters, which nicely complements the little mannerisms they have towards each other. In the center of everything is Doremi, being essentially the glue that keeps the cast together. Despite being careless and clumsy to the point of messing up the simplest things, this aspect of her character is balanced by her sincerity and willingness to help others, which draws people to her. Naturally, this doesn't happen simply because of Doremi's personality, but mainly due to the extent she goes to understand other people's situations, never abandoning anyone. Her dedication is especially strong when caring for her close friends and her family, often not measuring her actions.
Benefitting greatly from the character dynamics is the humor, a big selling point of the series. The situations never come out as awkward thanks to the strong sense of intimacy the show establishes between the characters. It often makes use of their eccentricities to set up the comedy, such as Doremi's clumsiness, which is mocked by other characters and leads to genuinely amusing reactions. This is greatly enhanced by the incredibly dynamic character designs, as they allow a multitude of humorous facial expressions without sacrificing realism in other situations, sometimes even blurring the line between the two. The humor is an interesting contrast to Ojamajo Doremi's very down-to-earth storytelling, showcasing that the authors know how and when to do comedy. It is common for situations to quickly go through a change of tone, but the transitions occur so naturally and seamlessly that they are barely perceptible, thanks to the unobtrusive integration of humor with the rest of the show.
With so many strong points in regard to narrative tone and characterization, it is only natural that the background cast also stands out. Several episodes are dedicated to exploring the protagonists' class and shining light onto the different personalities that make part of it. What is most notable about this is how many of these secondary characters remain relevant throughout the season. They will often be seen playing and talking to others, while occasionally assuming more prominent roles in the story. This way no one is wasted and everyone feels part of something bigger, which builds a terrific sense of community and demonstrates how much the story really cares about its cast.
However, despite its qualities, Ojamajo Doremi also has its fair share of problems. For one, it is somewhat inconsistent as a whole. While there are no below-par episodes, some of them can be more easily forgotten than others when considered in the grand of scheme of things. This is often the case for the apprentice exam episodes taking place in the witch world, as they feel out of place given that they neither explore the lore nor add much in terms of characterization. It isn't to say these aren't enjoyable, but they still fall short of the better episodes. Related to this is how the show lacks a clear focus and theme, which while not a flaw in itself, leads the story to feel a bit too disjointed. The underwhelming conclusion can be seen as a result of that, given that it lacks a smooth progression and is triggered by a huge plot convenience. Specifically, the narrative fumbles its suspension of disbelief in order to set up the last episode, somewhat diluting its emotional impact. But fortunately, all of this doesn't keep Ojamajo Doremi from being a great anime.
In terms of production, this is where Ojamajo Doremi most struggles. Floating character models can often be seen roaming around the screen, while the clunky animation gets in the way of more subtle body language. Given that this is a low budget anime these sorts of issues are to be expected, but it doesn't make things any less awkward for the viewer. At the very least, the art direction has excellent execution and displays a great array of beautiful watercolor backgrounds, especially when portraying scenery of the witch world. The show's usage of visual cues to mirror the characters' emotions is pretty effective as well, and especially charming when conveying happiness and excitement.
All things considered, it can be seen that Ojamajo Doremi's true strength lies in its superb cast and its blending of humor and realism. Behind its simple premise hides a story that deftly interweaves magic and reality. But magic, even if central to the show, isn't portrayed as the solution to everything. And so, achieving a depth uncommon to Mahou Shoujo anime, Ojamajo Doremi is not only a rare gem within its genre, but anime as a whole.
Ojamajo Doremi is an amazing series. It is an almost perfect case of how to execute a proper magical girl anime that creates strong emotional connections with the characters that has you looking forward to more of their adventures and comedic moments. It leaves you not only satisfied with the quality of the work itself, but happy that the show was able to relay its messages of personal growth, positivity, and friendship to children and adults of all ages. Whether you’re 10 years old or somebody’s parent or just someone who appreciates good anime, Ojamajo Doremi is simply worth watching.
Ojamajo Doremi is a Toei animation original from the late 90s to early 00s. It ran for almost a year and had a whole slew of sequels. With this one, there is a good reason to be hopeful since Toei has done pretty well with magical girl series including both Sailor Moon and PreCure. Let's see if this one can maintain the streak.
We open with our titular heroine, Harukaze Doremi, lamenting her status as the "world's unluckiest pretty girl." All because she can't find a boyfriend at the ripe old age of eight. Please hold while I play the world's tiniest violin for her. She
stops by a strange shop on her way home and discovers that it's run by an actual witch. Her discovery leads to the witch becoming a magical frog and Doremi finds herself taking on the role of her apprentice in order to return her to normal. She quickly brings her two best friends, Hazuki and Aiko, on board because she can't keep it a secret properly. Antics ensue.
My big problem with this series is the over emphasis on romance. We have characters who are quite literally in the third grade, and one who's in Kindergarten. And yet there's a fixation in quite a few episodes on their nonexistent love lives. I have a ten year old niece. I've seen her and her friends interact. They still find it a bit gross when there's romance in a television show. Kindergärtners sure as hell aren't thinking about that and neither are a good 90%+ of third graders. If we're being generous, we can call this an unrealistic element that the series wants to use for comedic effect. The problem there is that the "Doremi has a crush, again" episodes tend to be the weakest, least funny in the series. They pretty much all follow the same arc. Doremi pursues some guy. She and her friends use some magic to help him out of some kind of situation. He turns out to be interested in a different girl.
Aside from that, there is a lot to like about the series. Most episodes have a lot of strong, humorous moments. The series knows how to keep a strong aesthetic emphasising fun while still delving slightly into some more serious topics and handling them optimistically, but pretty well. It helps that the series has a good sense of which topics are serious enough that they can bring them in with some gravity without being so serious that they're going to ruin the charming, fun aesthetic. That is, ultimately, the aspect I can praise it for the most. It is a delightful series to watch.
The cast is pretty simplistic. Which is fine since this is a more comedic work and it's for children. The characters do have strong interactions. And one factor I do appreciate is the way the more antagonistic characters are given sympathetic traits. They aren't just "the mean girls" or stereotypical bullies. Which is a bit refreshing particularly when you compare it to some other media for children where any antagonist is just evil for the evils. Although it is worth noting that there are no real villains in this. Which may explain why they went that route.
This is one element where I can't give the series too much praise. The art doesn't look terrible, but it does look very cheap. The character designs are basic with minimalist backgrounds. The various objects and effects are underwhelming. Even with the very basic art style, they still use a lot of stock footage for the magic. It's like every episode had barely enough of an animation budget to buy a large pizza.
Toei did get an impressive cast for the series. We've got Chiba Chiemi as the lead and she sounds uncannily similar to Mitsuishi Kotono voicing Tsukino Usagi. Which suits the character because there are a lot of parallels betwixt the two. We've also got Matsuoka Yuki voicing a young transfer student from Osaka. Which she also did in Azumanga Daioh. Akiya Tomoko is just a delight and Shishido Rumi is really good. The worst I can say is that the characters can be overly exaggerated at times, but compared to other children's media I've seen, this one is pretty mild in that regard. Oku Keiichi's soundtrack is nicely composed and really fits with the aesthetic nicely.
There's a bit. Hazuki looks at supposedly attractive ladies, I say supposedly because it's hard to tell with the art style, with hearts in her eyes more than once. Their teacher and school nurse have more than a little chemistry. There's also a young writer in their class and she seems to develop a bit of a crush on Aiko in one episode. And yes, the fixation on third grade crushes is still weird. The chemistry with the grown teachers is fine, though.
Is Ojamajo Doremi as strong as the other Toei magical girl series I've seen? Well, no. Don't get me wrong, it is a good anime. It's enjoyable to watch. It has a strong vocal cast and it is really fun. I can appreciate that it's more comedic and not a typical "save the world from the big bad" type of series. But when compared to Sailor Moon or the PreCure series I've reviewed, it's better than Max Heart but, in general, isn't as strong. Ultimately, I'll give it a 7/10. If you want to watch a simple series that just focuses on having fun, I would recommend it. If you're more interested in something with more of a story and more complex characters or you want really good artwork, this isn't the series you're looking for.
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