Jul 23, 2020
Mahou Shoujo Lalabel had the building blocks for a good story about a girl discovering her humanity, but failed because of mishandling its initial setup, being overly repetitive in its episodic stories, and having no character development besides for Lalabel, and even hers was rather marginal.
Story: In terms of overarching narrative the show is trying to tell the story of how Lalabel becomes/realizes she is just a normal girl. However, there is never anything Lalabel does in terms of personality or actions that makes the viewer think she is any different from a normal girl. While she might not know Japanese customs and doesn't think
of herself as human she still acts like a normal young girl from the get go. Because of this, the development Lalabel makes towards becoming nicer/better a person feels pointless because it doesn't match the level of 'realizing she's human' since any differences outside of magic are trivial. Furthermore, this development of becoming a better person often gets conflated with using magic less or not at all without sufficient reason that would explain why she can't just be more focused or careful with magic. Finally, I think the ending should definitely have been foreshadowed and that doing so would have actually helped to drive Lalabel's growth in a more realistic way that would have mitigated some of my complaints.
On an episodic level, most of the episodes revolved around Biscus doing some trivial scams to get money to buy ramen (which he never seems to have problem buying even before his scams). The second most common story type was Lalabel using her magic for convenience and messing something up which she then needs to fix. The first got boring very quickly because I didn't find most of the scams to be very creative or funny and although the second provided some growth for Lalabel, sometimes (for me at least) the messaged veered to 'don't use magic because it's not your real ability' instead of 'use magic well' without enough justification, because to me it seems that since the ONLY significant difference Lalabel has ever shown between herself and humans is magic, it is actually her ability. This sometimes made the message seem a little forced instead of naturally developed.
Characters: Beginning with the characters around Lalabel, I thought the core cast of two diverse friends and wise but imperfect grandparents provided a well rounded group for Lalabel's growth and these characters are what I meant when I said the show had the building blocks for a better story. Lalabel herself was interesting enough (although not sufficiently established as different than humans), and it is satisfying to see her become a nicer person over time. The rest of the characters never really change, with some even remaining rude after Lalabel helps them multiple times or others not changing when it seems something happens that would elicit change. I don't necessarily think there has to be character growth in an episodic series, but when the episode setups are so weak it is more frustrating. Briefly touching on the villains, Biscus as a main villain was boring and I didn't find his humorous moments funny outside of his incorrect speaking style and his partner was only interesting when he was transformed into an animal or working against Biscus. In episodic series I think it is very hard for just one villain to suffice for multiple episodes let alone ~50 unless they are particularly interesting or well written.
Art: I thought the animation was solid and most of the main character designs were decent. However for some of the background or minor characters the faces looked a little too similar. I also thought the designs for the magic items and art for when magic was being used were pretty uninteresting.
Sound: I personally didn't care for the opening, but thought the ending was catchy. In terms of OST my main complaint is that the music for sad parts was not varied enough meaning that for only minor inconveniences or misfortune there would sometimes be heavy dramatic music that didn't match what was happening.
Enjoyment: My enjoyment for most of the early and middle parts of the series was rather low because of the very repetitive story beats and meager character development, although the core cast of characters interactions were still solid. Some of the later episodes were much more enjoyable, mostly when different story types were experimented with, such as putting Biscus into the role of a good guy, or pitting him against his assistant. Episode 45 with a girl from America in particular stood out above the rest for being hilarious and less repetitive. This show would have been more fun if it had put more effort into diversifying its episode arcs, had more widespread character development for more of the cast, and tightened the main narrative arc by making Lalabel seem more different than just a normal girl, by changing her actions at the beginning of the show and trying to drop more hints of the ending.
Overall I wouldn't recommend this show unless you are an avid mahou shoujo fan and are interested in some earlier stories that do not involve transformations or an Earthling gaining magical powers.
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