Ojamajo Doremi 16 is a spin-off light novel series restarting the Ojamajo Doremi franchise, now focusing on the original casts' high school lives.
Doremi Harukaze, a 10th grade student! Today is my elementary school reunion. I should meet Hazuki-chan, Ai-chan, and everyone else, but Onpu-chan isn't here...
What happened to her? Also, when I try going back to the place of my memories, somehow, the MAHO Dou is there. And now, why is Majorika even here?! I generally have a probable bad feeling about this. Can I become a witch apprentice again? Will I become one? What should I do?!
In this Ojamajo Doremi, everyone has turned 16 years old and came back!!
Lengthy review of a comparably niche continuation of a series.
Spoilers present INCLUDING spoilers of Ojamajo Doremi Dokkan, the 4th season of the anime.
The original Ojamajo Doremi anime is a very popular Magical Girl show back in its days. Unlike some other shows of the same genre, it mainly uses magic as a plot device to exploit the relationships between humans, and inter-world relationships.
The OD16 (light novel) series... doesn't even focus on magic as a plot device too much. The series mostly serves as a canonical continuation on how the girls would develop after the show, and to a great extent focuses on the proper way
to deal with boys and your boyfriend.
While the Ojamajo Doremi anime is overall well-written, some of its conclusions are, to be fair, only suited for a young audience; and while the anime series' ending has achieved success, it also has its detractors who see it as logically and morally flawed when taken seriously.
Ojamajo Doremi 16 apparently starts out by applying the latter view, displaying that
> Onpu has encountered serious problems in her life, and then showing that some problems in life actually have to be solved with magic
> The decision to leave Hana resulted in her (seemingly) growing into an extremely rebellious girl. 'Hitori nanoni, hitoribotchi ja nai (Even when I'm all by myself, I don't feel that I'm all alone - A line in Hana's 4th character song)'? Easy to say, hard to do.
After reading that, I was totally expecting that OD16 was going to take a more interesting and mature approach. And it all goes down from here.
Since the light novel series is aimed towards a much older audience, the morals OD16 delivers should have been more mature ones, and ideally, it can deconstruct the more naive ideas delivered in the original anime, like the decision to leave Hana being resolved so cheaply.
Well, the first moral we encounter is that magic is seen as a cheap means of solving problems and benefitting oneself, and should be reserved as a desperate measure and not be relied upon.
Hmm, sounds familiar? Yeah, it's basically the moral presented in the Dokkan ending. The problem is, it doesn't work anymore. To be fair, the 'not relying upon' part works, but utilising magic well isn't just about reserving it as a desperate measure, and this is what the girls never learnt well.
To make things clearer:
The original anime did a good job on making magic a symbol of naivety, and the ditching magic part a graduation from naivety. However, these should only be taken at symbolic value, since they serve their purpose to start and end the story (ditching magic is an answer to the naive view of magic at the beginning of the series).
On practical matters in-universe, to say that magic resembles naivety is incorrect - reliance on magic does. Magic itself is a very useful tool, and since it exists, in a sense it isn't even magic anymore - it's SCIENCE. So how would you deal with science? Reserve it as a desperate measure? Or saying something like, using a computer to aid you doesn't count as achieving something with your own efforts?
The series' view of magic turns more problematic when later, after learning Non-chan's story, Hana-chan wants to learn medicine in the human world to aid her own world.
Speaking of magic, there's one line in the Dokkan ending that one should still recall:
'We will return to the human world to make people accept magic. Our generation may not last long, but our descendants may be able to accept magic.'
OK, that's nice. So how's the propaganda work going on... Hey, don't just spend all your brains on wooing Kotake all day, Doremi!
See, the light novels have put a larger focus on interpersonal relationships (read: melodrama. Somewhat of an exaggeration though) than before. I don't know if it's due to the stereotype that girl viewers love reading stories of interpersonal relationships, but anyway, it doesn't work well to me. We're putting the macroscopic problems posed in the anime out of focus and creating a falsehood with a grand reunion. Well, at least Hana cares about the Witch World, as mentioned earlier, though she is more obliged to do so.
As one fan has put it, unresolved macroscopic issues are still unresolved when the audience is mature enough to accept stuff like world politics.
We can only pray that Doremi would fulfill her promise after she becomes a teacher, but who knows.
Now, let's more on chronologically.
When the girls become witch apprentices once more, they self-impose a rule that if one of them uses magic for her own purposes, all the girls would lose magical powers.
A good display of a typical naive ideology. For counterexample, it's acceptable to be selfish if it puts you out of misery, and/or harms no one! Interestingly, the novels were released after Puella Magi Madoka Magica where the Sayaka/Kyouko arc pretty much established that selflessness is too ideal.
As I see it, on utilising magic, the first step of maturity, which is achieved in the anime, is to know that magic is not something that should be relied upon. But when the girls had to self impose a rule that they must use magic for others, they failed to reach the second step of maturity which is self control, and then full utilisation of magic.
Ironically, soon afterwards the girls start to abuse this rule themselves. OK, so Onpu is in trouble? No worries, just tell us and we will cast the Magical Stage without you and help you solve this problem.
As the story progresses, Hazuki becomes the target of school bullying, and it turns so serious that Hazuki hardly wants to go to school. This is one of the better subplots and digs into the common problems with Japanese school bullying.
(Un)fortunately, the crisis is easily solved as soon as the girls communicate with the main culprit. This seems to be a trait of the series: Problems are either those that can be solved easily, or recurring plots that last through an entire series. Well, this is sort of nitpicking though.
Then in the 3rd book of OD16 comes the final nail that pretty much puts the full stop mark on the quality evaluation of the series.
The issue of Hana becoming extremely rebellious... was a tactic for a purpose. (And the purpose itself includes a massive plothole.)
Adding salt to injury, when the girls first heard that Hana turned into a 'brat', Doremi's thought was that 'something was wrong; this isn't the Hana-chan that we know' i.e. it must be due to an unusual incident instead of a natural consequence. And she was right.
Still, Hana was not without faults for that incident. So how do we deal it? Largely forget about it and portray Hana as a nice and cute ditz from here on. Kids just 'git gud' naturally, right?
The problem with this part's writing is rather obvious, but still, to point out the obvious:
To deliver morals with the Hana's behaviour worsening part, one can fully exploit the causes behind it (Like, is it due to the girls leaving Hana being a bad choice, or that the girls or Majorika chose bad strategies in bringing Hana up?), AND make the other characters properly educate Hana. Or make it stay as is BUT display more problems resulting from it later, and then deliver morals on bringing up children.
Instead, right after they meet Hana, the girls do next to nothing to tell Hana what she has done wrong just because the causes were largely understandable... and starting from Vol.2 Book 3, it's basically 'Hana's a nice and innocent cutie, and Doremi is excited to reunite with Hana'.
It appears as if the authors just wanted to save Hana's image and came up with this plot. While I believe that technically it didn't fail in this sense since Hana's image did remain largely good at the end of the series, not only was it too cheesy, but it also delivered(continued?) the WTH idea that it's fine to be lenient on Hana as long as she is good to her core.
By this point, the novels have pretty much failed my expectations of a more mature approach towards various issues. Not that they're devoid of mature themes and issues, but when the story drops a moral on your head, it's often a naive one for some reason.
The interpersonal issues parts are OK, but still pale in comparison with the anime. The uniqueness of the original anime comes in that it often exploits magic for interpersonal issues. Here, magic isn't so often exploited, the script is in text form and lacks the colourful backgrounds and the symbols of the anime etc.
In summary: To stand out as unique among other works, the last thing that OD should aim to become is a shoujo story focused on romance. Unfortunately, this is what the OD16 series largely is - a shoujo story focused on romance.
Score: 5/10 (adjusted to MAL scales)
(Plot: 4/10 - Magic underexploited, romance takes up a larger role than before and also has back and forth melodrama, morals are still 'too young, too simple, sometimes naive'.
Characters: 6/10 - The main girls, including Hana even after that misbehaviour, are still much lovable. Compared to the original anime, they get less character development.
Illustrations: 5/10 - Covers are colourful, drawings in the book are monochrome and intentionally done in a blurry art style. Cover quality is pretty inconsistent: e.g. While Hana is normally drawn and stated to be very cute, the cover of OD17 Book 3 is a disaster.)