*** This is a comprehensive review, one that will be separated into two major sections:
1. A spoiler-free synoptic recommendation focused on bringing new people into the franchise.
2. A review with an analytical theme purposed to spoil the entire show, in attempt to cultivate my love for it.
Hopefully this will be helpful for everyone, whether you are a long-time fan of the franchise or a newcomer. ***
Ojamajo Doremi is an experience that is incredibly difficult to describe. In a sense, it defines and is defined by anime, fully encompassing everything that comes with being part of this medium, while simultaneously pushing the limits of what we have
come to expect. It is not a deconstruction of the magical genre, or any genre to be exact. It does not portray characters in a light that strives away from realism, one which would make them act adversely or unnaturally. There are no moments where you feel that the plot is defying your expectations, making you question whether this really is the same show as before. Ojamajo Doremi embodies ‘grounded copiousness’, achieving a strong sense of scale while staying down-to earth and true to sensible standards.
Witches have been, for the longest of time, a source of inspiration for many classic stories. Shrouded in mystery, they possess powers beyond our comprehension and therefore using this as an antagonistic force against our heroes. However, unlike a lot of other stories that feature witches, Ojamajo Doremi does not portray them in a malevolent and wicked fashion. Instead, they are shown to be peaceful beings living mostly carefree lives, in a world separate from that of our own. However, for reasons that are discovered later on in the story, most witches avoid human contact entirely. Some do live within the human world, but due to a curse that was established in ancient times, any human that finds out their identity turns them into magical frogs. This is exactly what happens when Doremi Harukaze, an 8-year-old girl, finds out the identity of Majo Rika, one of the few witches that live in the human world. Most of these encounters end with that human fleeing in terror, having just witnessed something beyond their grasp; but in the rare case where they do not, they are given the chance to become witch apprentices. These apprentices must then pass a series of examinations in order to become full-time witches and turn that unfortunate transformed witch back to her former form. This is when you realise that this is not your typical magical girl show; it integrates transformation sequences and magical tools with a witch backdrop. As the series goes on, other girls find out the true identity of Majo Rika and inevitably join the other apprentices. While this does not seem to be the most interesting of plots, Ojamajo Doremi never stays stagnant and always adds something new to the table.
The focus is placed among these girls, the people and witches they meet, as well as the community of beings as a whole. The functioning of this community and how this affects the lives of everyone involved is the central setting, yet this is not entirely evident from the beginning. As aforementioned, Ojamajo Doremi is a magical girl show, and initially, this seems to be the core spotlight of the franchise. But this is where ‘grounded copiousness’ comes in: unlike a lot of magical girl shows at the time, Ojamajo Doremi is rather unique in execution. There is no monster of the week formula, no cute animal companions and no antagonist. Sexual fan-service is also completely absent. However, these are the qualities that tend to make the magical girl genre so controversial and difficult to get into. In this way, Ojamajo Doremi makes use of the best aspects of the genre, making the entire experience feel authentic in execution and a lot less superficial. The emphasis is on character dynamics and this is where the franchise really shines.
The TV series aired from February of 1999 to January of 2002, spanning a total of 201 episodes along with a 13-episode long OVA side-series which aired in 2004. Accompanying these are 2 short films, making the entire franchise 216 episodes in length. This colossal size is the primary factor for turning people away, as this is a massive time investment. But to say that the show makes good use of this duration would be a tremendous understatement, as my viewing of it felt practically effortless; I will be exploring some of the reasons why this was the case later on in this section (and even more so in the analysis). The viewing order varies depending on who you ask, but the best way in my and most peoples’ opinion would be:
1. Ojamajo Doremi (1999)
2. Ojamajo Doremi Sharp (sometimes called Ojamajo Doremi #)
3. Ojamajo Doremi Sharp movie (to be ideally viewed before episode 37 or 40 of Ojamajo Doremi Sharp)
4. Motto! Ojamajo Doremi
5. Motto! Ojamajo Doremi: Kaeru Ishi no Himitsu (To be ideally watched during Motto! Ojamajo Doremi, but before episode 41 of the season)
6. Ojamajo Doremi Na-i-sho (OVA)
7. Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan!
What is particularly interesting about the structure of the anime is how each episode follows a real-time period. Every passing episode is a week spent within the lives of the characters and thus every season (~50 episodes) equals a year. As you can imagine, this means that Ojamajo Doremi is the purest form of a coming of age: one where you grow up with these young girls along with the people around them. Their families, classmates and friends all age naturally along with the audience following them, creating a sense of community that has never really been achieved elsewhere. The audience that followed this anime during its original TV airing literally grew alongside these girls: meaning that all of the annual events that happened in real life were shared, in the series, as well. Christmas, New Years, Valentines, mother’s and father’s day: they were all there and they were mingled within the show just like how they would in reality. Now, this does not mean that every episode is a week apart from the last, as some are direct continuations of the story while others skip short time-frames. Additionally, the series is mostly not episodic: characters acknowledge what happened in the previous episode and the episodes before that as events are not forgotten nor pushed aside. In fact, one remarkable fact about this anime is the careful and witty reference-placing dispersed throughout its run-time. The production is also strongly tied-in with classical stories and lore from all around the world, including but not limited to ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, ‘The White elephant’ as well as ancient Japanese philosophies regarding folklore, such as children who can see phantoms which are invisible to the adult eye. A lot of the world-building present is based on these stories, with the inclusion of ancient myths from the history of our own planet. These include the presence of witches in the Medieval era, which acts as a point of juxtaposition for what is happening on and behind the screen.
This links in very well with the show’s whimsical sense of humour. This can either be portrayed as bombastic, subdued or natural, depending on who is in charge of that scene. Takuya Igarashi, the overarching director of the entire franchise is the main contributor towards the erratic type of comedy. He uses bold facial expressions that come off as very tongue-in-cheek; this being intensified by the bold designs of Yoshihiko Umakoshi. In contrast to this, Junichi Satou, the other major director of the series, found that a subtler comedic style suited his vision better. He eventually left the series to Igarashi, only returning for the making of the OVA series, Ojamajo Doremi Na-i-Sho. The making of the series was a massive growing curve for everyone that was involved and so, in a way, it never felt like Satou ever left the team. This is why people who have already seen Ojamajo Doremi tend to say that it improves as it goes on. Having no material to adapt from, the series is completely reliant on the efforts of the creative team and this is only strengthened by the addition of now-household names such as Tatsuya Nagamine, who later worked on some Precure seasons and Mamoru Hosoda, whose modern directorial style was strongly shaped while working in this franchise.
The result of this careful planning, structure and talent all encapsulate a series that understands very well the correct timing and placement of relevant emotions. Ojamajo Doremi is a series with strong emotional value; one that builds up upon itself as you travel through the franchise. Most episodes are spent studying the mindset of a new or reoccurring side character and how they relate to the main characters as well as the overarching plot. To add towards this is an inconceivably varied set of themes, some of which may surprise even the most jaded of individuals. Some themes explore either humans or witches exclusively, while the rest of these thematics explore beings as a whole, often via comparison. Nature against nurture, what it means to be human, racism, segregation, divorce and general familial-related complications, adolescence, hardships and obsession of work, bullying, trauma, social anxiety, depression, acceptance into society and family, the list goes on and on. Ojamajo Doremi is shockingly mature; and this is aided by the fact that this is an all-ages show. Kids can enjoy the cute characters, transformation sequences and toys, while an older audience may appreciate the subtler messages and ideas that the show has to offer. Nonetheless, everyone can relate to the lives of these children, whether it be the main characters or those of lesser focus. As you can imagine, this makes for a great family watch and that’s something that is remarkably difficult to achieve given how much Ojamajo Doremi has to say. The central theme of the show, magic, is a notable example that is not bounded by age differences. Magic is not the solution of everything, and Ojamajo Doremi explores all aspects of the ethics and righteousness of using this seemingly all-mighty power, achieving a level of depth and profoundness that is extraordinarily rare in any show, all-ages or otherwise.
Other than length, another aspect of the anime that may divide people who are getting into this show is the art-style and more particularly, the character designs. Necks and appendages are narrow, heads are large and eyes are lower down the head than usual. This makes for a series that is often misunderstood purely by its cartoonish exterior and this may alienate a large majority of its older audience. But, as the series goes on and the staff get more experienced, their designs are cleaned up and the parts which were most disproportioned were improved. This may also be thanks to the aging of the young characters, as the sizes of their eyes and heads become smaller in relation to their bodies. This is further exemplified by the fact that older characters, such as parents and teachers, are drawn more consistently throughout all of the seasons and this can be justified by the fact that they are no longer growing. Additionally, a simpler set of designs also means that the creators have more inventive freedom to draw a wider range of character expressions, which is exploited exceptionally well throughout the show’s run-time. This includes brilliant transitions from all sorts of facial expressions, while simultaneously making use of the general principles of animation such as ‘squash and stretch’ as well as inventive antics.
In order to compensate for the issues concerning the character designs, immaculate backgrounds are drawn and a broad scope of textures, patterns and colours are utilised. Backgrounds are almost always drawn to the fullest extent, scarcely ever lacking in detail. This is rather impressive, especially for a series of its length. Characters also fit nicely into these backdrops in terms of shading, which makes the show very easy on the eyes. Along with this aesthetic is the soundtrack and voice acting of the major characters. Featuring hundreds of different tunes and melodies, Ojamajo Doremi has some of the more diverse set of sounds I have ever heard from an original score, as well as a wonderfully varied collection of sound effects, making every scene more powerful than the last. The instrumentation and the choice of these instruments are rather exclusive to the show. Listing all of them would be redundant, but one listen to a couple of soundtracks is enough to garner an understanding into how much effort has been put towards all aspects of the sound design. Being a musically inclined anime, instruments which characters play themselves within the story have so much emotion embedded within them that they feel like living, breathing characters of their own. Music within the world of Ojamajo Doremi is a crucial aspect of its storytelling and how these instruments relate to the backstories and personalities of the characters is noteworthy as well. The above-mentioned voice acting is also of astounding quality. Instead of choosing known, famed actors and actresses, the staff behind Ojamajo Doremi went for more personal roles that suited the characters’ backgrounds and personalities to a tee. Some of these include an idol character voiced by a real idol, a girl with an Osaka dialect voiced by someone with similar circumstances as well as an American girl who is voiced by someone who went to an American high school in Austria. In truth, the actresses who voiced the characters have said in person that they truly connected with these children, and this really shows in practice. The amount of energy and spirit that these actresses put into their performances is akin to that of the characters in the show; making for an audio-visual experience that is only done justice when experienced in-person.
As a whole, Ojamajo Doremi was unquestionably one of the most poignant anime I have ever watched: I adored every moment of watching the maturation of these young girls, whether this was at times of comfort, hardship or everything in between. At the time of writing this review, it has already been half a year since I have completed this series and yet, even after all this time, I spend every day since thinking about this show. It is fair to say that the connection you build with these characters is comparable to that of a close friend. The story reaches repeated climaxes that build up on each other, presenting a sense of scale that is seldom seen and in the end, all possible questions brought up throughout the journey have been answered, leaving behind a strong sense of fulfillment and finality upon completion. Conclusion after conclusion, all side stories are seamlessly woven into the overarching narrative to produce one of the most rewarding experiences of all time, one that I hope you all can share with me.
That’s it for this part of the review, I hope you read the following segment once you have finished Ojamajo Doremi. Thank you for reading!
Ojamajo Doremi never caught on in the west. Part of this reason is because the show’s first season has only been licensed in America by 4kids entertainment. After reading the name of this company I am certain that you are aware as to why this resulted in a marketing failure; having undergone heavy censorship and editing specifications, the series was pulled apart and put back together, like forcing jigsaw pieces in the wrong places and filling in the holes with glue. This transformation formulated ‘Magical Doremi’, a kids show that scorned, ridiculed and mocked all intentions of the original work. But why did this have to be the case? Why were the licensors so adamant in changing the product? Why was a series lacking gore, sex, profanity and obscenity impaired and crippled beyond recognition? It’s because Ojamajo Doremi never suited the American audience. The western public could never understand why the franchise became one of the most popular series of its time in Japan and why – to this day – it remains as one of the most adored productions of all time. A profound respect to its creators, a profound respect to its audience and a profound respect to itself. Ojamajo Doremi follows a strict Japanese mentality, one that is best appreciated by those who share a common mindset.
Through deep thematic examination, thorough character exploration and concise plot exposition, Ojamajo Doremi achieves this philosophy of respect with ample amounts of subtlety. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the colourful, multi-layered and sophisticated cast, that with what seems to be minimal effort, achieves this with flying colours. Every addition to the cast, be it primary or secondary, is purposeful and vital to the developing web of interpersonal relationships which makes for such an engaging and relatable watch.
Doremi Harukaze, just like the show itself, is defined by this moral. She is clumsy, ditsy and seems to create more problems than she can solve, which often brings about the idea that she is weak minded. For all of these reasons, she is self-proclaimed to be the world’s unluckiest pretty girl, which, for reasons I will go into shortly, acts as a parallel against who she compares herself to. Throughout the entire story, we see her get humiliated, bullied and looked down by most, including herself. During the run-time of Ojamajo Doremi we slowly and indirectly find her spiral down into a state of depression. She often pushes her true feelings aside and in the same way prioritises everyone around her and this, unbeknownst to herself, has a stronger impact than she imagines. We see how she is analogous to the principle of the series: being respectful to those around you. However, despite this, she is young and highly impressionable and this means that she is unaware of how crucial a role she has within her community as well as her family and friends. She binds the cast together, as more people and witches come to realise how special of a person she truly is.
Her aforementioned downfall to depression can be seen from early on in the show. It starts off with playful teasing which she receives from her peers, particularly from Kotake himself. Although his pestering is deriving from his low self-esteem and is not intentionally spiteful, this nonetheless has a profound effect on Doremi. He calls her Dojimi – a pun to her name meaning ‘simple minded’ – several times, and this all accumulates to Doremi believing that she really is dim-witted. Of course we see that this really is not the case, but we know from real life that people from a young age tend to believe what is told about them and hence act that way as well. Similarly, her love of steak is used as a metaphor for what is unreachable to her grasp; playing off as a joke several times throughout the series. We are revealed in episode 40 of ‘Dokkaan’ that she “just likes to eat them”, in response to her being asked whether she is skilled at preparing steak. In actuality, we are never shown Doremi even attempt to cook steak and yet, she has this preconceived idea about herself without any evidence behind this. She does not believe in herself, but more so than just that, she looks down at herself. At an earlier stage, in episode 25 of Motto Ojamajo Doremi, we see that her friends prepare a surprise birthday party for Doremi. Before the secret is revealed to her, Doremi spends her day walking around the city finding that people are evading her, when instead, they are simply trying to hold back the surprise. Again, without any evidence, she assumes that people are trying to avoid her and believes that she has little significance to those around her. As we have seen from episode 40 of Sharp, the origin of her depression and lack of confidence was her lacking piano performance during her childhood which resulted in trauma and a hatred towards the instrument. She also felt guilty for being the cause behind the removal of the family piano: her mother’s treasure from her days as a professional pianist. All of these events lead to a detrimental mentality, where her self-worth has been damaged as a result and so – in this way – Doremi feels as if she is a nuisance to those around her.
In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. She is viewed as a role model to her classmates, a loving daughter to her parents, a caring sister to Pop, a devoted mother to Hana and a dear friend to the rest of the Ojamajos. But yet, even then, she is ignorant of these facts. It is for the same reason that Nagato, the girl who could no longer attend school due to her social anxiety, found Doremi’s situation to be so understandable; Nagato misunderstood the feelings of most of her classmates and thus heavily discerned them. This is why these two found such comfort in each other, as they were both put down by misjudging their classmates’ views about them. Nagato found a close friend in Doremi, while Doremi, showing her affection for her in the best way she knew how, tried to overcome her own sense of anxiety in addition to that of Nagato’s. This sincere sense of empathy can be acknowledged while solving the rest of the class-children’s issues, including Nakayama, the girl who became severely ill in episode 9 of ‘Dokkaan’.
What may have been the most thorough effect of Doremi’s presence on a personal level, however, was to her sister Pop. We are treated with samples of their relationship in their past several times throughout the series, but they all influence Pop to become captivated by the piano. While in the beginning of the series Pop is shown to be a rather obstinate character, this is purely a façade which she uses to safeguard herself. She looks up to Doremi, taking inspiration from her in multiple ways throughout the story and, in a steady pace, the strengthening of their relationship is explored as they both learn to once again enamour the piano. We are treated with many parallels drawn between the two sisters which acts as a measurement of how much they learn from each other, as well as mature from their mistakes. Kimitaka, the young elementary-school boy who treats Pop cruelly various times throughout the franchise, shares multiple similarities to Kotake. Pop, in a way similar to Doremi herself, has an air of charisma that brings about fascination and admiration from those around her. Yet, it is Pop’s lack of traumatic childhood experiences which garners her to be full of confidence earlier on in the series. As she grows, and she realises the futile nature of magic, she learns that real, unfiltered confidence only comes with age and new experiences. Pop’s moral is to not rush your childhood, to appreciate those around you and to understand the hardships of others just as much as your own.
The final episode of Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan can be described as the climax to Doremi Harukaze’s arc. She breaks down, reveals that she is not the caring and selfless girl that everyone believes she is and proceeds to lock herself up in the Mahou-dou; a comforting place filled with memories of her dear past. After the arrival of her classmates, friends, teachers and parents, she is still self-proclaimed as an ignoramus; the build-up of everything in the past and now the knowing that she will be left alone has all accumulated into a state of hysteria. However, after all of those important to her declare how crucial she is to them, she slowly succumbs to reality. Following her graduation, Doremi states: “I am not the world’s unluckiest pretty girl. I am the world’s happiest pretty girl”. At first glance this seems to be a rather plain comment to make, but, in actuality, it serves as the conclusive statement which wraps up the nuances of her character as a whole. In the first episode of the first season, Doremi states that “I may be the world’s unluckiest pretty girl now, but one day I will be the world’s happiest pretty girl”. This simple line foreshadows her entire character arc, one that suggests her overcoming her sheer lack of confidence and accepting her virtue as a person. Thus, at the closing sequence of the franchise, Doremi Harukaze confesses to a boy. It’s not who that boy is that matters, but rather what he signifies that is critical in this scene; Doremi now has the strength to know what makes her attractive as a girl as well as the confidence to display this to another person. Just like her name suggests, Harukaze, meaning ‘Spring Breeze’, imitated by the falling of the sakura leaves while she runs, acts as a testament to her now flourished and developed personality.
Hadzuki Fujiwara can be described as the polar opposite of Doremi Harukaze, but despite their differing personalities, they may have the closest relationship among all of the Ojamajos. Hadzuki is clever, quiet and caring but has a sensitive side to her as well, which is brought into focus later on in the series. She has a stable family, one that, although being affluent, is noticeably cautious of spending their fortune. This conservative nature of the family, indicated substantially by Hadzuki’s mother, is what brings upon her daughter’s more rebellious side. Being an only-daughter, Hadzuki is always expected to follow her mother’s advice, whether this includes picking up the violin or dressing up in elegant clothing; Hadzuki’s quiet demeanour has evidently arisen by the strict confinements present in her household.
In a way, it is her lacking confidence which binds her to Doremi, an attribute which they both clearly display. In the past, their relationship has been inconsistent, as shown by the confrontation that they had during their nursery school days. However, after they fought, they both reached a state of resolution, gaining a new-found appreciation towards each other along with music as a whole. It is at this stage when we understand Hadzuki’s elaborate mentality, one which makes her adamant in creating her own path in life; distinguishably separate from her mother’s wishes. An important person who assisted her developing tenacity in this difficult time was Masaru Yada, who later on found an admiration towards another instrument, the trumpet. The thorough progress of the romantic relationship between Hadzuki and Masaru is a core focus within Hadzuki’s arc, yet while this helped to expand her confidence, we are also treated with an insight into Masaru’s household. He spends a lot of his time alone, playing his trumpet towards the horizon, one that mirrors Hadzuki’s determination to break away from her shell and announce her true feelings to her parents. The combination of the violin and trumpet as well as how this acts as a parallel to their characters is note-worthy, as many times throughout the story we are reminded of the improvement of skills from both sides of the party. As a result, there are various times where we are shown climaxes between these two people, two notable examples being episodes 9 and 42 of ‘Dokkaan’. ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ is described to be Hadzuki’s song and, along the length of the franchise, the two children play this song with greater strength and amplitude, symbolising both their advancing bond, as well as their developing courage as individuals. By episode 49 of ‘Dokkaan’, we are treated with the apex of the narrative, showing Hadzuki’s will to follow her own direction in life but also the zenith of Doremi and Hadzuki’s relationship, as they grasp the gravity of each other’s situation.
A stark contrast to Hadzuki’s understated rebellious nature and stable household is that of Aiko Senoo’s, as she represents the will of reconnecting her parents and re-establishing a secure home. However, just like the rest of the Ojamajos, her strength to tell her hidden feelings to her parents evolves along with the intensification of her relationship with her close friends. Hinted at this development is Aiko’s relationship with Nobuko, a girl who loves to write and make up stories. During her character introduction, we see that Nobuko often lies about her circumstances, these being either facts about her father’s profession or simply making up falsehoods concerning recent events. Yet, her weakness in character is mirrored within Aiko herself, as we are shown multiple times throughout the story that Aiko fails to speak up for herself.
Aiko’s father and mother are both shown to be highly empathetic individuals, and their respective decisions for divorce are entirely understandable. Following the miscarriage of her second child, Aiko’s mother experienced one of the most agonising experiences a mother could go through, but it is only later on in the series that we are told that Aiko’s grandfather despises his former son-in law straight to the core, blaming him for his wife’s death. Once again, these events follow the strict Japanese mentality of prioritising work to provide for your family, as Aiko’s mother couldn’t leave her mentally and physically broken father by himself and hence had to remain by his side, separate from her family. In spite of this, the arguments and exchanges displayed in the past were shown that Aiko’s father was putting the emphasis in his wife prioritising work for her family, without concerning his mother-in-law’s passing. The complexities in all parts of the family’s minds is filled to the brim with nuance, one that is embodied by Aiko’s instrument, the harmonica.
The playing of the harmonica is often irregular, sporadic and almost debilitating, the sound produced is one of woe, which epitomises Aiko’s state perfectly. She loves her father emphatically, as the majority of her memories consists of him being beside her. One such memory includes her timeworn harmonica, which delineates her mother’s love, as she was the one who bought it for her. Following a fight between Aiko and her father, this worn instrument was replaced by a new one, one which is tuned to perfection; in blunt contrast to the previous harmonica which could not evoke every note. Symbolising the gradual improving bond between Aiko and her father, we are shown that her resolve to bring her parents back together is greater than ever. Another significant occurrence was the meeting between Aiko and Doremi’s grandfather during the girl’s trip to the countryside in the film 'Secret of the Frog Stone’. While Aiko was initially terrified of Doremi’s grandfather, she eventually overcame this fear, which is later revealed to be a point of reference during episode 48 of ‘Dokkaan’. One event does not repair a broken family and Aiko’s arc recognises this wholly; it took 8 years of building up the determination to persuade her parents, rebuild their fondness for each other and reaffirm her own importance to her family. Through trials and errors as well as many setbacks, Aiko’s deep appreciation for her family, that being her parents along with her now mellowed-down grandfather was paramount, and her friends recognised this entirely.
This innate gratitude towards one’s parents’ struggles is incorporated within every part of Momoko Asuka, serving as a point of agreement with Aiko’s narrative. Constantly moving homes, Momoko’s character constitutes the want to remain in a stable position, in respect to all of those around her. Her mentality is alternating between different viewpoints, principles and morals concerning the right that she has in controlling her future, similar to that of Hadzuki. As stated in my recommendation, Momoko’s voice actress found herself in a similar situation to that of her character: being born in Japan and moving back and forth to Austria, and this sense of indecisiveness is encapsulated beautifully within Momoko’s personality as well as in her nuances from her diverse cultural background. Accompanying her progress through the story is Momoko’s most precious friend, Majo Monroe. After leaving Japan and arriving to America, the culture-shock that she had was the first experience of separation, and it was Majo Monroe who not only acted as a second mother for Momoko, but also provided the inspiration to become a Pâtisserie, a key juncture in Momo’s life. The loss of Majo Monroe, as well as the overcoming of this loss, is treated as the point of reference for Momo’s development, as we are reminded of how much she has changed following the devastating event.
This change can be documented several times in the series, but the origin of this is her relationship with Hana, as she takes up the task of fostering her alongside the rest of the Ojamajos. We see that initially, Momoko is seen as a foreign figure in the eyes of Hana, as this does not only symbolise Momoko’s actual situation but also the lack of place which Momo calls home. Overcoming this stray nature serves as a crucial mark of Momoko’s acceptance in this new environment, as well as maturating her as a person who is capable of moving on from grief. What comes with moving on and letting go of your past is the discipline in shaping your future and, in Momoko’s case, this is exhibited by Majo Monroe herself. Momo must move on, but moving on is for naught if you were to forget your previous experiences, and episode 47 of ‘Dokkaan’ defines this while grounding the notion of your family coming before your friends. This keen sense of maturity is depicted numerous times in Ojamajo Doremi, but what may be the most significant is episode 17 of ‘Dokkaan’, detailing the psychology of a particular child who feels that he won’t accomplish anything special in his life. The imagery of flight is especially prevalent here; and it’s treated as a connection to Momoko’s situation as well as foreshadow her future departing later on in the series. She speaks of the ‘invisible wings on the backs of children’ as well as the phrase ‘Stay Gold’, meaning that ‘All good things must end’. These remarks are used as the overarching morals of the episode in addition to the designating statements which Momoko’s character adheres to: she defines ‘coming of age’, one that all of the other children can relate to.
Onpu Segawa acts as an intermediate between Aiko and Momoko while also sharing a situation similar to that of Hadzuki’s; she wants to establish a greater connection with her parents, as she feels separated from them within her own household, one that is affluent due to the growing success of her career. Onpu’s father is a rather enigmatic man, and while he loves his daughter dearly, due to his line of work as a train conductor he is unable to display this affection. Similarly, his wife struggles to show her devotion towards her daughter, but for vastly different reasons: being a former idol herself, Onpu’s mother spends most of her time organising her daughter’s career; her previous failings as an idol results in her forcing her only daughter down the path she was unable to walk. While it is clear that Onpu is pressured to continue working as a child idol, we are shown that this is imposed via her internal resolve as well. Her character-focused episodes explored her evolving outlook at her parents and at herself in addition to the industry that she is involved in. Onpu’s steady sentiment towards her parents is explored through fragments of her past and the little time which she had spent with them. Through watching her father shoulder the lives of many while working as a conductor, Onpu understood the necessary vigour one must have while supporting others; which is precisely what being an idol is all about.
Ojamajo Doremi Na-i-sho episode 4 examines a different aspect of being involved in the idol industry while still staying true to the daunting task of supporting your fans and family; the altering identity that comes with it. This episode is a meditative insight into Onpu’s reflection on her past, including how she was like as a child, how she has changed since then and what motivates her to continue working. Traveling back to the origin of her incentive, we are served with a comparative outlook on her growth, acting as a coming-of-age to symbolise how Onpu has reached a state of maturity akin to that of adulthood; the reflection of her history shrouded in a mist of nostalgia of days long gone. Calling back to Momoko’s commemoration of her past, Onpu too apprehends the meaning of maturation as she now, after figuring out the transition in herself as well as her affection to her parents, is able to determine her future for herself.
Motivation comes with resolve, and resolve comes with action; and nowhere else is this clearer than with Onpu’s evolving incentive of expanding her global influence. Episode 33 of ‘Dokkaan’ shares many similarities to that of Na-i-sho 4, however, what makes this distinct, is the focus towards her impending future. Through the examination of an already famed and successful actress, Onpu fathoms the beauty of looking beyond her horizons and current skill-level along with accepting her own sense of humanity and individuality.
Every single one of these characters have distinct impacts on each other, whether this is on a communal, familial or personal level, but the most fundamental repercussion is on their adoptive daughter, Hana Makihatayama. Time and time again we see Hana adopt behavioural nuances from every single one of her mothers or even from random beings around her. These include mimicking Doremi’s signature 3-stage head shake and pout, Momoko’s random English expressions or even Majo Tourbillon’s fairy Baba and her –zura verbal tick. Other cases are less comical and act to display Hana’s evolving affection to her mothers, as well as serving as stages of maturation as an individual; episode 40 of Motto being a prime example of this. This episode serves as a reflection of Aiko’s past, one which involved her excavating some sweet potatoes alongside both her father and mother, while they were still together. Through teaching Hana to do the same, we are shown the developing connection between Aiko and her daughter, as Hana learns to follow her mother’s advice.
Even after Hana transforms into an older version of herself this trait of copying others is unaffected, which hands over some insight into her stagnant mentality. An episode that showcases Hana’s underdeveloped mentality is 29 of ‘Dokkaan’, concerning the mysterious boy who helped her find her mothers during a summer festival. In this episode we notice how Hana is the sole person who can spot this child, as he exists as a form of a ghost to the rest of society. Many ideas are discussed in this episode, almost all relating to classic Japanese lore. For instance, it’s been said that young children can see entities that are neglected by adults, ghosts being a classic example. How young a child one needs to be to notice these beings is up to context, but in this episode we see that Hana’s mothers cannot see the ghost-child in question. This is a testament to prove Hana’s youth and how, although she has forced herself to skip many years of life, she is still inexperienced in mind. The mindset of copying others is incorporated within her instrument, the accordion, the only musical instrument among the entire cast that contains multiple individual instruments in one piece, one that is produced by the connection between her and Pao, the magical white elephant. While initially only seeming to be a mascot character, Pao is in fact a creature that exemplifies Hana’s personality and so works in a comparative sense alongside her. The term ‘white elephant’ means a possession whose owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness, which describes Hana’s personality perfectly. Pao was literally the elephant in the room, being treated as foreign to the rest of the elephants during her introductory episode, 27 of ‘Dokkaan’. The connection, both literal and emotional, that Hana and Pao share is rooted to the circumstances of their pasts: Hana has been described as a ‘witch raised by humans’ and hence she does not belong in either group, akin to Pao.
Hana’s psychology is examined numerous times post-transformation, but some of the times before-hand can be a bit subtler. One of these cases concerns Oyajiide, a secondary foster father to Hana and a major comic-relief character in the series. Through the successive kidnapping of Hana during the second half of Ojamajo Doremi’s second season ‘Sharp’, we see that this wizard slowly comes to show tenderness towards Hana and their relationship thickens every time Hana and Oyajiide spend time together. Eventually, we see that Oyajiide, following his arrest in the witch world, is placed to take care of Hana in her kindergarten and, along the time he spent with her, we are shown that he develops a genuine connection with this child. He learns how to play ‘Lupinasu no Komoriuta’, Hana’s lullaby sung primarily by her mothers and he figures out how to calm Hana down by transforming into his miniature self; one that he was forced to display while he was captured by the witches during his original appearance in the ‘Magic Computer’. This connection between Hana and Oyajiide may very well have stemmed by the affection displayed by her mothers and is a key example of one of Hana’s fundamental themes: nature against nurture.
Hana was born as a witch, yet she has the same profound effect to those around her that a human does. While she is shown several times throughout the series that she uses magic on a whim, as the series gradually develops, so does she. The mentality of ‘everything can be fixed with the use of magic’ is a conspicuous theme of the franchise, but Hana’s understanding of this falsehood is less so. The smiling moon which garners magical strength to witches in the human world is one of the ways that Ojamajo Doremi displays the coming-of-age within all of the characters, including Hana. As the series progresses, and the characters age along with it, the expression on the moon gradually fades, indicating the sequential maturity of the characters together with their declining reliance of magic. By the end of the series, the moon no longer shows an expression, hinting at the approached destination of their adulthood. This does not only have an impact to themselves, but to those around them as well, particularly the witches of the witch world who rely on the emotional states of the girls for all sorts of tasks, including the raising of Hana and the removal of the rose thorns from the previous queen’s throne. The relationship of the girls with Majo Tourbillon is imperative to the overarching moral and tone of the series, and acts as a major site of juxtaposition between the mentalities and hardships of humans against witches.
It may be said that Majo Tourbillon shares many similarities with Hana: being destined to take over the queen’s throne from birth, Tourbillon was immediately placed in an unforgiving and quite frankly intimidating position. Having emigrated to the human world following her attraction and devotion to a human, Tourbillon became embellished by the innate beauties that stem from humanity. Discounting all advice that was bestowed upon her by the witches at the time, and being looked-down upon by most of humanity due to her seemingly absent mortality, Tourbillon embodies the meaning of segregation and rejection into society. Yet, even after acknowledging these condescending views, she chose to live a carefree lifestyle alongside her seven grandchildren and caring husband.
But fate can be cruel, and the concatenation of unfortunate events can lead to a mass break down among the family members, who, after reaching adulthood, felt the need to have families of their own without the struggles of living alongside a witch. Even in our world, during the Medieval era, humans who exhibited specific quirks were often labelled as witches, and this much of the time resulted in lynching of that person. The grandchildrens’s decision was understandable, and the lead up to this decision logical. However, the state of Tourbillon in the present story dictates otherwise as, portrayed by the diary of Roy, one of the seven original grandchildren, many of Tourbillon’s descendants neglected her after moving away, be it intentional or otherwise.
By the magic of the human soul, Doremi and the rest of the Ojamajos, symbolised by the weaving of their textiles, fabricated a new understanding into Tourbillon; one that must accept the passing of time and the changes from the past. One must not look further than the soundtracks titled “Tōi Omoide”, meaning ‘Distant Memories’ and “Owaranai Monogatari”, translating to ‘Never-ending Story’, which both elegantly describe the struggles and psychology of Majo Tourbillon and her relationship with the Ojamajos. Tōi Omoide is a two minute and twelve second piece, consisting of six instruments: five of which are the instruments played by the Ojamajos. The violin, piano, harmonica, flute and guitar all miraculously incorporated into a single harmony; yet, around halfway through the track, we hear another musical instrument join the melody. This personifies Majo Tourbillon, and her inclusion is a literal showcase of resonance between her and the impending emotions by the Ojamajos. The way these instruments all compose an interwoven theme is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from a soundtrack, and this is also true for ‘Owaranai Monogatari’, hinting at the eternal struggle of longevity from the perspective of a witch.
A final similarity which is mutual between Tourbillon and Hana is the use of characteristic musical pieces to summarise, and simultaneously conclude, their overarching narratives. For Hana, one would point towards ‘Lupinasu no Komoriuta’, the aforementioned lullaby that is used many times for calming purposes. However, a strongly under-spoken soundtrack is titled ‘Thank you Mommies’; a piece that ingeniously follows the final conversation between Hana and her mothers during their departure in the series’ conclusive episode. In this soundtrack, we hear Doremi, Aiko, Momo, Hadzuki and Onpu all provide advice to Hana, while exchanging their thanks with her. There is a strong sense of irony used in this track, almost re-enacting the entire sequence in a more comedic light.
This sense of irony is not jarring in terms of tone, as there is an abundance of ideas that make use of the same concept dispersed throughout the anime. Major examples illustrating this notion include the ‘witch examinations’: these being tests that even pure-born witches have to undergo. Time and time again, we are shown that these tests don’t really hold any significance despite being ‘a mandatory event’, and numerous times throughout the series we are shown that characters bypass some stages, many of which falling under ridiculous circumstances. Beyond acting as pure comic-relief and a rather convenient sequence of events, the laid-back nature of the examinations is directly reflected within the witches themselves, and so serves as the representation of how much they rely on magic. Furthermore, the current queen, who was later revealed to be the girls’ school nurse, allowed them to skip stages freely all the time and without repercussion. This idea truly foreshadows the real identity of the queen, as from the beginning she had shown an intimacy towards the girls from what seemed to be an acquainted standpoint. Another key fact that proves the detailed planning of events is that both the nurse and the queen share the same voice-actress, from the very first season.
A vital episode that performs by ironic manners is episode 12 of Na-i-sho, the episode that concerns Non-chan, a young girl suffering from leukaemia. While also functioning as a character study on Doremi, episode 12 discussed the hopelessness of such a devastating situation in perhaps the most elegant manner. Non-chan stayed alive for the hope that one day she will see herself as a witch, one that can cast magic and do the unthinkable, even grant her the ability to dismiss her disease and break free from the confinements that come with it. The irony comes in multiple forms, but a standout is in the sense of committing black magic, and the fate that comes with it; Non-chan is unaware that healing yourself is forbidden and doing so will cause the opposite effect than what she yearns for. The second example is after her passing: when Doremi finds out that Non-chan has lost her battle with the disease, she becomes petrified, frozen in shape. However, not long after, she starts to smile and play a snow-fight with the deceased girl’s mother. This scene goes the extra mile to portray the complexity of the human psyche, but also to show that Non-chan died after having had her wish come true; her final prayer and aspiration resulted her in becoming the seventh Ojamajo: the green Ojamajo.
Non-chan’s inclusion to the Ojamajos completes the genius colour design of the cast, fulfilling and revealing the meaning behind the ‘Rainbow’ imagery that is spread throughout the whole of Ojamajo Doremi; and this leads us to the final snippet that includes every piece of meaning that the series contains, all coalesced into a single sequence: The final ending song of Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan, titled ‘My Wings’.
Although it’s just a bit embarrassing, I still try to spread my wings.
Differing in both colour and shape, but these wings are meant for me.
I spread them and,
I wonder, don’t you think that I’m even bigger than before?
I can go even further than your hands.
These feelings soar high into the sky.
The time and the place where we were laughing and crying.
We also stumbled and frolicked so many times together.
Although they seem so small and distant, my heart is filled with thanks.
Back when I knew nothing, I never even realised
That before I knew it,
My small wings had grown.
From head to toe, all over my body I feel the glittering wind,
With the courage that you gave me
I can soar into any sky.
The time and the place where we were talking and quarrelling,
We were yelled at and were praised so many times together.
Although they won’t ever return, I will treasure them deep within my heart.
Memory is what makes us human. It is the source of our empathy, the connection of both past and present, as well as what builds our personalities. Yet, these are the central themes in which Ojamajo Doremi uses to establish its drama and this is exemplified beautifully with this song. Through the remembrance of distant events, we overlook a being, presumably Hana, open a memorial book without the use of her hand: indicating that her role as a queen has been realised. Pictures of her mothers are brought temporarily back to life, giving Hana the chance to once again experience those pleasant moments, before cementing themselves back into the picture book. The final image featuring all of the girls, where Hazuki embraces Hana, feels like an ancient legacy. This both chilling and equally alluring photograph acts almost as a partition between the past and present eras and as a result serves as the final portrait before Hana closes the book and returns to her current time.
Yet, it is the acknowledgement of previous experiences which makes us able to alleviate our future burdens and in Ojamajo Doremi, this is demonstrated in Fami: Doremi’s granddaughter who appears in the final episode of Na-i-sho. The ceremonial doll featured in this episode acts as a physical memoir for Fami’s deceased grandmother, as well as serving as the motive behind seeing Doremi during her school years. This leads Fami to travel back to a very different time, where humans and witches had hardly any contact with each other. During the conclusive moments of the episode, we see that Fami is a witch apprentice. She is wearing magical clothing that shares a colour scheme similar to that of Doremi and her sister Pop, which feels adjacent to the ceremonial doll that was passed down. However, the implications of Fami’s existence is quite subtle. Doremi had chosen to spend the rest of her life in the human world and had a granddaughter who later becomes a witch apprentice. This suggests that Hana succeeded in reconnecting the witch and human worlds and re-established a positive relationship between them. Majo tourbillon’s mistakes from centuries ago were not replicated by Hana and history did not repeat itself.
Thus, time progresses.
What defines perfection? A bit of a daunting question for sure, but have you ever really thought of the answer? For some it simply means to have no flaws, while others feel that perfection is achieving the threshold of potential that something or someone retains. A lot of people may discount all sense of the term, believing that perfection is something that simply cannot be achieved. Alternatively, you can have a bit of a conservative response to the topic, arriving at the conclusion that perfection is merely a comparative quality: one where you measure the value of information in relation to each other. Personally, I believe that every viewpoint has its merits, but more so than just that, every perspective builds upon the same idea. Perfection is a subjective element that nobody really understands the meaning of; what we can understand instead is the level of attachment which we have towards something or someone – and that’s why to me – Ojamajo Doremi is perfect. Amid all of its substance, style and significance, in the end of the day, what else do we have but our own emotions?
[This review covers all seasons of Ojamajo Doremi, meant as an extensive coverage of the series]
Passion. A compelling desire towards something; something you can talk about countless times, watch/read/experience day in and day out, and have strong opinions to justify why you’d ever feel passionate talking about it. Good or bad, everyone has a series they’re passionate to talk about; ranging from various genres of literature, media, and art. With enough research or conversation, it’s practically unavoidable for someone, or yourself, to bring up a topic that sparks a fire of emotions and or controversies within them/yourself. It could also be quite a challenge to
regulate what series is determined to be a favorite to talk immensely about, sometimes taking multiple revisits or different opinions to get a grasp on the general consensus and topic everyone’s most interested in knowing about. Passion in a work can be noticeable for some, while negligible for others. I believe the ultimate goal for any series, work, or fiction writing in general should strive for is creating such passion to leave an everlasting impression and parting ways with someone that they’ll never forget what the series opened up for them.
No other word could perfectly describe my take on the Ojamajo Doremi series than passion; encompassing itself in it through practically all aspects that make a compelling, interesting, and unlikely thematic narrative to follow, while never seemingly circumscribing its audience with complexity or challenging themes that turn the show on its head. In an essence, Ojamajo Doremi is simplicity at its finest, but takes that simplicity and utilizes its full potential to create a masterpiece. A seemingly tale for children is but far from the truth about the series, and almost anyone, no matter the age, can take something in from watching Ojamajo Doremi. Not once does it ever lead your perception on the show to shift drastically, nor break the established core formula each season produces that drives the narrative forward. Mahou shoujo is the core essence of the franchise, but evolves tremendously into something far more than your typical heroine(s) save the world formula most mahou shoujo follow as each season progresses. Ojamajo Doremi explores many real world issues and struggles that people go through: experiencing hardships of failure, motherhood and raising a child, helping individuals with depression, or various other mental illnesses, making someone’s dreams come true when there’s very little time left for them, segregation, dealing with divorce of your parents and how it affects you growing up, and countless other themes to explore as each season progresses, making the series seem far more mature than what the cover and synopsis would make you believe otherwise. What Toei Animation, notorious for milking franchises to the bone, produced here is quite possibly their crowning achievement with a series of this magnitude never diminishing or stagnating in quality even once, making sure each episode has extensive care and, of course, passion put into it.
Witches are a concept that make for great story telling, but never utilized to their full-potential. A suspension of disbelief is required to get the most enjoyment factor from these type of fantasy tales, as well as the fantasy genre in general. Typically, witches are displayed as an evil, antagonistic force that spread divination and typically evil-doings around the world. Tales such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with the 3 witches perfectly fitting the description of wicked and deceitful appearances of a typical witch, or Miller’s The Crucible with the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, showcasing innocent people being falsely accused of witches as means to either political/social gain, or the person being accused as a witch doing something that, at the time, couldn’t be explained through the power of God and basic human reasoning. The definition of a witch and witchcraft in general is vague and can multiple meanings to many cultures. What makes Ojamajo Doremi unique to this seemingly established formula is how it takes the approach of witches and brings it into a new light; one that’s a positive and carefree outlook on the lives each of the witches share in the world. Witches are friendly and never have evil intentions, instead they choose to live in peace and harmony, with a sense of an established society and economy. Vast amount of lore, exposition, and mythical elements are all present in Ojamajo Doremi’s witch world: magical frogs, who were once witches in their prime, after human’s finding out their identity due to a curse placed in the past (how the story is initially began with Doremi Harukaze, the main character, discovering Majo Rika), mythical creatures, like Pao-chan in the Dokkaan season, talking trees, plants, animals, and humanoid fairy creatures that accompany a witch, along with a multiple parallel of various worlds that household other creatures and societies, such as the wizard world. The established universe of Ojamajo Doremi feels connected and vast, but never overwhelming or complicated.
Magic is also a crucial element to Ojamajo Doremi that is unique on its own. Using magic in the series comes at a price, with the cost being ‘magical spheres’; used to power up a witch in-training’s ‘pollon’ (wand), and also used as the currency in the witch world. Magic can’t be used all the time as well, certain spells that are forbidden to cast exist; such as healing other’s wounds, manipulating the thoughts of others, or bringing the dead to life. Magic this way must be used carefully and cautiously, something the main characters of the series learn to adapt and deal with, as shown in the early episodes when Doremi and the others use up spheres frequently when training. Magic is upgraded and changed as each season progresses, meaning you won’t see the same transformation sequences or spell enchantments being cast in every season, making Ojamajo Doremi not feel stagnated and repetitive. A sense of careful thought and creativity is displayed when showcasing elements that make the world and rules of the universe in Ojamajo Doremi established and well connected, which on a technical and enjoyment level, is one of the many strong aspects the series displays and nails. Through them, the story of Doremi taking on the role as a witch apprentice begins, along with her two friends Hazuki Fujiwara and Aiko Senoo joining her as they all have desires and goal-like dreams they want to accomplish as their reasoning for becoming witch apprentices. Using this magic will come at a cost though, as mentioned above, magic isn’t free, and the girls will need to work for Majo Rika at the Maho Dou, a shop to buy witch goods in the first season, as well as having multiple different changes in the later seasons. The series follows them and their way to becoming full-fledged witches, along with meeting many new characters and developing phenomenally.
With an airtime from February 1999 to December 2004, spanning five seasons, two films, and 216 episodes in total, it can seem a bit intimidating for most people to get invested in the series. The juggernaut of a length alone is the factor that turns away most people from ever giving it a chance. I don’t blame these individuals who turn away from the length, as it’s commonly told that the ‘good’ stuff out of the series comes in the latter two seasons: Na-i-sho and Dokkaan. I do believe, however, that this is a popular misconception most people have when viewing the series. Yes, it’s not a lie when most people, including myself, say that the final two seasons are of much better quality in almost every aspect from the previous three, for reasons that will be talked about later, but with the general understanding that Na-i-sho and Dokkaan have a more mature and thematic approach to each story arc and episode when compared to the more lighthearted nature of the previous three. But it’s precisely because of how the previous three seasons explored the characters and developed them that Ojamajo Doremi could get away with crafting a different, yet almost familiar experience, bringing everything to the table for the last 2 seasons with improvements both technically and thematically, further developing and solidifying each character and their presented story arcs that was already established and explored in the first three seasons. Without them, it wouldn’t have the same impact than it otherwise would have. Each season follows a specific story-line that the girls must achieve by the end, with each one being connected with one and other that builds the bases to the final act and grand conclusion to their journey to become full-fledged witches. Ojamajo Doremi has very little episodic episodes towards it, instead it builds a cohesive timeline with the girls maturing and growing each season, with one season being a year, for a total of 4 and a half years of us experiencing the girls being witches. A sense of growth is accomplished this way, and is by far one of the best aspect of many the series does correctly; building a sense of progression that is well paid off by the end; with individual episodes from all seasons having something everyone can take in and reflect on, exploring countless scenarios and themes that bring the series to life, making it stand out from the rest of mahou shoujo airing at the time.
A lighthearted story is what most audiences will expect and receive upon watching Ojamajo Doremi. From Doremi being clumsy, eye candy transformation sequences and catchy incantation spell, to Pao-chan and Hana’s duo all appealing to the targeted children side of the entertainment value that the series provides. Moments with each girl getting along with each other, to the countless different situations they may find themselves in that questions their friendships with one another, or a task to further their training in witches all being key factors as well to give a sense of familiarity and signature aspects that the show accomplishes well. Ojamajo Doremi is the purest, and in my opinion, most showcased example of how true a ‘G’ rating holds for a title. A title that describes anyone of any age can watch and grasp. While the primary demographic for Ojamajo Doremi is targeted for young girls, moments that really shine have a lot to interpret and analyze from, having serious shifts in tone, atmosphere, and subject matter that gives it a bigger emotional heft than what it initially presents itself as. An example from the countless others is everything to do with Aiko and her parents. Dealing with divorce can leave a psychological impact on a developing mind of a child without the nurture of both his/her parents and their support from one and other. Throughout each season, Aiko’s character dilemma is the effect of being separated from her mother after a nasty divorce over one of their jobs. Dokkaan concludes this story arc of Aiko’s phenomenally and is one of the many fantastic character development arcs that each season, especially the latter two, accomplish.
Another example is Onpu Segawa’s, a character introduced in the second half of the first season, struggles of fitting in her school and social life with her idol work. Onpu’s character can be related to almost anyone who deals with anxiety, work load, or anything to do with business in general, despite her being a little girl. It shows the audience firsthand how mixing in both these duel lives can stress a person out, and being strong-willed and determine to succeed is the best outcome for dealing with it. Onpu not being able to be with Hana as much as the other girls do shows in multiple episodes how the seemingly perfect life Onpu lives isn’t all perfect on the surface, as she would rather spend time with her best friends and Hana rather than the work eating away her youth. Moments like these showcase why Ojamajo Doremi is unique from the genre. It takes dilemmas and situations based on real life issues to prescribe the audience with authentic storytelling, creating many memorable moments that leave a lasting impression on the series as you journey through the experiences of the characters.
With that being said, the characters of Ojamajo Doremi stand out from any other anime I’ve ever watched, even excluding shoujo titles in general. Each and every character, no matter their role in the story, feels like they have a rightful place in the narrative and overall atmosphere of the series. The main cast of ojamajos, the witches, stand out as preeminent aspects of writing well developed characters. At least one, if not all, will have a unique trait, conflict, or gag to them that you’ll either relate, sympathize, or laugh with. From their fantastic character designs of various bright and eye-catching witch uniforms, to each having a unique personality towards them feeling distinct and varied from the rest, each witch has their own slice of what makes Ojamajo Doremi great. The first of the three ojamajos, Doremi, is ditzy, clumsy, but has a huge heart and willingness to lead others, bringing the peace to most situations. She’s the primary and central protagonist of the story and we closely follow her life the most, which means by far having the most development put into as she evolves into a tremendous and likable character overtime. Doremi’s interactions with everyone is what makes the conclusion to Dokkaan the most magical and awe-inspiring moments that is replicated nowhere else in any show. Hazuki is shy, has a tendered attitude, but at times serious nature, especially when it comes to responsibilities and raising Hana. Hazuki is Doremi’s first friend and will always be there for her. This is shown countless times, from their first fight episode, to the ending of Dokkaan, they share a special connection that’s stronger than any of the other girl’s relationships with one another. Hazuki has a deep bond with her family, Baya, and her childhood friend Masaru, and is shown to care for others immensely. Aiko has leadership and determination skills, but a soft and easily fragile heart, shown with episodes relating to her parents mentioned above, being one of the best story arcs the series goes through. Aiko’s cheerful and reassurance personality make her a fan favorite for most people and a very interesting character to follow and see her development.
The four other ojamajos that are later introduced in the series also play a crucial and important role that the 3 central characters possess. Onpu has an initial snobby and charming personality, but later shows multiple layers of complexity towards her character and difficult lifestyle she lives. She starts out as a sort of antagonist for the girls in season one, but quickly becomes a part of the crew when tasked to raise Hana. Onpu’s dual life of an idol and normal student, along with a witch later on, make her a character that can be easily relatable too, along with another fan favorite. Momoko Asuka is later introduced in the Motto season and has energetic and outgoing nature, with an overly emotional barrier surrounding her; Beth and her lifestyle back in America, to Majomonroe and how much she impacted her life. She’s a welcome addition to the cast as she brings something new and unique with her English gimmicks and carefree personality. Hana’s growing up and upbringing by her mother’s into her eventually transformation in Dokkaan is also a notable trait to her character. Hana is as innocent as a pure soul and you really grow to love her. She brings life into the girls and the audience with her cute personality and charm. Pop is the last of the main cast, and struggles to live up to the shoes of her sister. She eventually overcomes this, along with the willingness to put any differences she had with Doremi in the past. These seven characters make the main cast interesting and likable on their own, in an essence being Ojamajo Doremi and why it’s a joy to experience. Each character brings something forth and essential to how the plot is carried out.
Through different conflicting views with one another, opinions that vary and lead to fights, to language barriers being misinterpreted, the conflict each girl goes through with one another, while subtle most of the time, makes for drama that doesn’t feel cheesy or out of place. The situations each girl learns from their mistakes or misunderstandings help develop and further their maturity in a realistic outcome than elementary drama, and as we follow in their footsteps, we start to see each and every one shine brightly and develop further. One example is the motherhood aspect the girls learn and experience when raising Hana in the Sharp season also brings forth a new level of depth to their development. Raising a child isn’t easy, the task at hand can be challenging and comes with a whole new level of stress and responsibility. The girls throughout all of Sharp and beyond place their care into raising and eventually having a loving, motherly, a nurturing nature towards Hana as if they were her real mothers. Ojamajo Doremi displays first-hand how raising a baby comes with its challenges; a multitude of tasks ranging from changing her diaper, feeding her milk properly, each watching her overnight and easing her cries, playing and spending time with her, while still maintain their witch training and going to school. The Sharp season revolves around how each girl time manages their time with Hana properly, as well as going through each baby examination for Hana’s growth, a step up from how the first season’s plot played out, keeping the story and characters fresh as they undergo changes. In the Motto season, Momoko’s lack of responsibility when raising Hana also has an effect on how her character is developed. The lecture she receives from Doremi and the others about how she needs to take caring for her seriously and with a more responsible attitude if she wants Hana to accept her as a mother, eventually realizing and overcoming this with Hana and the girls’ support. Each season accomplishes this level of new inventiveness for the story within the characters and them adapting and learning from each new experience.
While a rare occurrence for most TV shows, the supporting cast for Ojamajo Doremi play a pivotal part in the story and towards the development of the main cast. You have instances when a specific supporting character plays a more crucial role in that episodes format than the girls do themselves, as well as, in most cases, be the obstacle that the girls will likely help out. No better example of the two points is made than each episode with Kayoko Nagato and her reclusive behavior towards school and people in general. Her anxiety and fear of feeling rejected by her fellow classmates, pressure by her parents and teachers to come back to school, and with Doremi trying to get her back on her feet through various logical reasoning and methods made for a compelling subplot for both the Motto and Dokkaan seasons. Darker aspects are also implied with Nagato when the overabundant anxiety of going to school caught up to her at her lowest point of the series that she wished to disappear from the burden she thought she gave others, with Doremi, the teachers, and others always being concerned over her; greatly implying suicidal thoughts, which make this subplot a more exacting and serious subject matter from the majority of other episodes. The two senseis in Ojamajo Doremi, Yuki and Seki, also play a crucial role in being the authoritarian, guardian like figure for the girls at school, and in some instances away from school as well. Each having their own unique personality; Seki being the stricter, honest, and passionate figure, with Yuki being easy-going and gentle. The girls learn valuable lessons through them, and play an important role throughout each season.
Outside of the circle of main characters’ relationships with one and other, most of the girls have a relationship established with a supporting cast member. Masaru is the one Hazuki has the most interactions and development with as the series progresses; serving as a childhood friend that Hazuki cared deeply about and vice versa. Masaru is a cold character, but is shown to open up more around Hazuki, having very heartwarming episodes with their relationship, shown at its best near the ending seasons. Nobuko is Aiko’s leading supporting character interactions and friendship. An interesting take occurs later with another supporting character, Miho, after Aiko and Nobuko have a falling out. Miho is initially jealous over Aiko's close bond she shares with Nobuko, and initially came off as being hostile and envious around her because of her feelings of inferiority, establishing a good scenario to showcase young girl drama at its finest. Tamaki is another supporting character that greatly shines. Her purpose as the opposing force to Doremi, the school bully, and diva, make her a compulsive character to follow. Initially, the audience will most likely hate this character, which is what the writers of Ojamajo Doremi want you to feel. This way, when the redeeming and development for her is shown through time and maturity, it feels earned. Both Doremi and Momoko specifically show an interest in making Tamaki a better person as the series progresses. How each supporting character is handled, no matter their role, can’t be described any other way than pure genius. They don’t take significant screen time away from the girls, and when episodes are centered on them, it’s utilizes in a way that both the main and supporting character benefit and develop from.
The technical aspects of Ojamajo Doremi vary through each season. The first season of Ojamajo Doremi suffers the most with animation and logic problems, as well as multiple technical errors. Majority of the first season problems stem from disarrangement of colors, animation issues such as cutting frames, and various issues surrounding the taps and pollons in general. According to the wiki, and after viewing the first episode with the errors in-mind, most of the time there can be upwards of over 10 errors in each episode. Most of them won’t be noticed while casually watching, such as color misalignment or missing objects, but animation problems are staggering and display the low budget Toei had to work with for the first season. The Sharp season has less errors, but never truly get fixed until the Dokkaan and Naisho seasons, where errors are almost unnoticeable. Ojamajo Doremi’s attention to detail is, as expected, also weaker in the earlier seasons due to budget reasons, but personally I never had a problem dealing with it. Graphical improvements are also very noticeable as each season progresses. The character designs from the first season are noticeably more childlike than the final designs in the Naisho season. The change in design is subtle, since time progresses in the seasons as one year, it feels natural that the girls overtime would start to mature in design more. The city of Misora, the central location of the series, on its own is quite fascinating despite being similar to most established cities in anime. Multiple key interest points, businesses, parks, schools and shrines exist to give the city an authentic feel towards it. The attention put into the magic transformations and spells is by far the best and most noticeable from the show, and despite many technical issues, it’s covered up well by distracting your attention away with the magic aspect of the show.
Music plays a huge role in the first season, and is succeeded each season with a new gimmick the girls have on-top of the music. Each girl has a respected instrument that’s used to power up their magic. The instruments they possess trace back to a time when it meant the most to them. Doremi’s piano is shown to have both a positive and negative effect, with her love for the piano and lessons from her mother being a fond memory, but a tragic incident at a recital with the wrong notes being played a psychological impact with Doremi still appreciating the piano, but not being able to play it. Hazuki’s violin also traces back to her childhood, being the instrument she loves playing the most, and the reason behind Doremi and herself eventually befriending one and other, and Aiko’s harmonica plays a role with her parents and the fond memories of when they were still together, being a reminder of her goal as a witch to eventually get them back together. Hana’s accordion plays a crucial role in the Dokkaan season with defeating the curses, and so on. Supporting characters, such as Masaru, also have a unique instrument that ties in with their character. The trumpet is later found out to be what Masaru’s dad used to play, and wants to fulfill that role of carrying the legacy of the trumpet. Each instrument that the girls possess have a harmonic and elemental tone towards them, which is shown significantly throughout the seasons. Various character songs, lullabies, and tunes give Ojamajo Doremi a unique feel towards it that no other show manages to do. At least one song, jingle, or transformation tune will get stuck in your head, only to be shadowed by another. As far as the actual OST track goes, every song works. Hyperactive music with the witches transforming, to melodramatic tracks used for serious moments range throughout each episodes. My personal favorite track is the opening themes and ending themes for most of the seasons. The first season’s OP and ED in particular are my favorites and never get old listening to them.
Ojamajo Doremi is a series that, overtime, has grown and made an impact on how I view the medium as a whole. Each season incorporates something for everyone; characters having a purpose, whether small or impactful, that progresses the narrative further. Development of the main characters, along with some supporting cast, is displayed at a realistic pace rather than catering to a majority of audience members. Fun times and heartwarming moments that each character shares with one another, to more mature, dark, and gripping aspects that give light on a different perspective and interpretation on how certain situations are handled and dealt with. Fantasy, music, mahou shoujo, slice of life, CGDGT, and various other genre lovers will most likely get value and entertainment from watching Ojamajo Doremi, as it becomes so much more grand and thematic than a typical mahou shoujo anime. Passion and value put into how each character is handled and the overall narrative is what make Ojamajo Doremi a piece from the medium that can’t be described easily. It’s a series where you just have to experience it yourself instead of an outside source telling you the positives and or negatives that the series offers. A series that will make you laugh at the childish, and subtle adult humor of the characters, cry over the heartwarming moments to gut-wrenching, tragic situations, feel a sense of accomplishment and growth within the characters, and learn life lessons through them that hold intrinsic value and dedication to the team working on the series. Ojamajo Doremi a reflection of our lives with a fantasy spin told through the eyes of young girls. It’s a message to all of us that there’s still good in this world, that dreams can become a reality if one sets their mind to it, sacrifices that are made in order to outcome the best possible desires, and friendships that have a lasting, eternal bond that can’t be broken. Nothing has, and I doubt nothing ever will, come close to how Ojamajo Doremi has affected my overall understanding, and passion for the medium. A hidden gem that more people should witness for themselves.
No other word could perfectly describe my take on the Ojamajo Doremi series than passion; a masterpiece of the medium, and a series that will stick with me for years to come.