*** 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?
Thank you for your time.
Jul 27, 2017
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left" -Bertrand Russell
Sometimes, the best war stories are not told from the perspective of the people who fight, but from those who don't. Without offering any sort of resistance in most cases, civilians are defenseless against the cruelties which are present at these times. This way, some horrific stories remain hidden without record and linger profusely in the wounded hearts of many. Gundam is a series that usually relies heavily on action to show off the designs of the mechs, which are the main selling point of the franchise. By this method, a ... lesser emphasis is placed on what is happening in the background of the stories, separate from the pilots who control them. War in the pocket diverts from the norm and instead focuses on Side 6, a neutral colony in space consisting of peaceful civilians. One of these people is Alfred, a 10 year old boy who is still full of dreams and hasn't yet understood the gruesome reality around him. What follows is a coming of age story about overcoming loss and the pointlessness of warfare.
Right from the get-go, we can see that schoolchildren are highly uneducated about the war surrounding them; most of which are not even aware that two opposing sides exist. The demeanor of the children is reminiscent of those isolated in an authoritarian state, where people are blind to what is happening across the borders. Mirroring this, the children are in awe of the battles, eagerly waiting for the next one to occur within their site. While this may seem unrealistic- and it is- we have got to remember that these kids have not yet understood death nor destruction. Likewise, a greater importance is placed on arbitrary ordeals, such as ignoring that one irritating girl in class or proving whether a military badge that they found was real. It all agglutinates into mass irrationality.
The show likes to play with contrasts. There is a reoccurring scene in the beginning of each odd episode, showing the daily routine of citizens in the morning. If you play close enough attention, there are small changes which show the progression of disaster, foreshadowing the climax of the story. These include different items placed in shopping windows, detailed alterations in nuances proving discomfort and abrupt happenings at the end of the entire sequence. Similarly, irony is used to an almost sarcastic degree. When Alfred returns home at the start of the series, he encounters his mother, who provides him with demands such as to complete his homework. After agreeing with every word of hers, she tells him that "You're just full of the right answers today". He then proceeds to repeat "Yes, mom" to every little action in his room, such as while playing a video game. However, while playing, he goes against what the game tells him to do, still repeating the words. He ends up shooting down his own school, home and town. This is sign of boisterous nature and one that characterises his innocence, unaware that this is exactly what could occur at any time in reality.
The train of mendacity is finally altered with the fated encounter of Bernand, a Zeon (enemy) soldier who has crashed into a forest after a battle within the colony. Alfred ran towards the falling Zaku (enemy mech) without being fazed, as he is still unaware that there are two sides in a war. This confrontation is highly symbolic, portrayed by the falling light from Bernand onto Alfred, hinting on potential salvation in the future. It is by this concurrence that a mutual understanding is shared between these people, where a gap in age and social standing allows for a contrast in power to be present. Bernand takes advantage of his situation and thereby uses cunning techniques to obtain intel from Alfred, in any way that he can. Given by Alfred's clueless nature, he agrees to help Bernand collect information almost as a game. Here on, a friendship is built upon misunderstandings and lies. The way the story is structured is genius, where a realistic situation allows for the maturity of an unassuming child.
The title alone is enough to induce brainstorming. A picture is shown at the midsection of each episode, where the title-drop is present. Here, Alfred's pocket is exposed, stuffed with several toys. The thing is, these toys mimic weapons of war. Hinting on the reoccurring themes of contrast and irony, a missile, gun and knife are all miraculously fit into a tight pocket, reflecting on the tight budget of nations during times of war. All these items are essentials for fighting in modern times and are drawn in a pastel-like style, once again illustrating immaturity. Alfred is drawn with a wide smile indicating youthfulness. I don't think that they could have used more suitable imagery that the ones presented here.
Yet another example of excellent planning, is the pacing. This is carefully adjusted to display an adolescent view of the world. What is shown on the screen is always extreme: whether that is tragedy or staleness, the feelings are always palpable. There are clear cuts in the show, which are never jarring and serve to depict the ambiguous state of the setting. Moreover, the setting of the colony itself is allegorical. A capsule surrounded by nothingness: space. The warfare which develops directly outside of the colony produce flashes of light, imitating those emitted by stars, a symbol of false hope. Politics are mostly set aside, which simulate the thinking of children.
People do not fall into hysteria after being shot, but instead silently subdue into a state of panic and fall unconscious rather quickly. This is what would happen in a real world scenario, one that is often overlooked from fiction. However, there are a few times where realism is lessened to make way for bombastic moments. An example of this is when Alfred sees the damages of a battle in his home town. He quickly ignores these (which are of immense scale) and moves on. A child should be more affected by this, which is hardly a complaint judging by the irrationality of the story itself.
Be that as it may, but War in the Pocket is an almost purely character driven tale. Thankfully, all of the primary characters are suitably complex and intricate. The chemistry between Alfred and Bernand is organic, multi-layered and intriguing. Almost like a father-and-son, their conversations are backed by their divergence in age, coupled with simple language and natural gestures. Both characters are pragmatic and mordant especially when exchanging words alone.
Alfred is an astute and well-mannered boy, who uses his intelligence to persuade people with ease. His disposition is matched by his age and so are his actions. He regrets nothing and always moves forward. Unlike a lot of characters his age, he is not unnecessarily immature and he can think for himself. I found myself in awe of how well written his characterisation actually is. His development as a person is key to the kind of tale this is (coming of age). He doesn't become a man after a single tragedy nor does he have a sudden revelation; but the amount of progress and evolution that his character undergoes is akin to that of a series tenfold its length. I can say with safety that he is my favourite youngster in anime. Once the series is over, his past self is but a shadow of his present.
Bernand is a character ridden with many compound emotions. He holds few grudges and shows little animosity, which is a rare trait, especially for a soldier in enemy grounds. Always trying to be the voice of reason, he acts as a source of admiration for Alfred. We know little about him or his past, but what is apparent is his lack of confidence. Never standing out among his peers, he tends to exaggerate or distort his achievements; one such being the number of kills that he has committed. Stating to Alfred that he is one kill away from being awarded an 'ace' title (five kills), he later reveals that he has not yet committed a single execution. This proves that Bernand is not infallible and more - so portends an event which will later test this virtue.
The two improve themselves by learning from each other, while working towards a single goal, each for their own reasons. These reasons later intersect and demonstrate that their initial objectives were shallow and selfish. From this, their growth as characters and (more importantly) as people flourish.
Finally, Chris (shortened from Christina) serves as a distinction in position and as an agreement in charisma. She is like an intermediate between Alfred and Bernand, yet is the catalyst for their problems. She shows sides of vulnerability as well as courage, while being especially honest. She never makes assumptions of people, nor questions their actions and so she tries to focus on facts to provide advice. War in the pocket makes excellent use of her character, where her wisdom is given an almost satirical filter as she is oblivious of her own actions.
Unfortunately, a lot of the side characters are ignored or put aside which is quite apparent. I would have liked to have seen more of the family and schoolchildren, as well as other Zeon soldiers which are mentioned throughout the run-time. Once again, this is a relatively minor distaste, as the focus of the main characters is apparent and is given priority. Besides - they do more of a good enough job to carry the show by themselves.
Art and Animation: 7.5
War in the Pocket is aesthetically pleasing. While a lot of shows airing at the time had numerous animation errors or inconsistencies, these are far and few between here. There are only a few moments of repeated animation and even these are not noticeable. When a battle does occur, it always looks above par. Even the shot of the colony from space featuring CGI is not jarring in any way (and this is from 1989!). Scenes flow nicely due partly from correct framework as well as sufficient number of frames.
All of the characters' designs look great, thanks to the efforts of Haruhiko Mikimoto who famously undertook the designs of Macross. The facial expressions are articulate and vivid, while they never look off-model. What is particularly characteristic of their designs are their eyebrows, which become absent soon after moving up their faces. This gives greater emphasis to the key features of the face which exemplify emotions better.
There are few times however where any cinematography is used. This leaves for a slightly bland experience in terms of artistic abruptness and the show looks slightly uninspired. I also can't help but compare it to other OVA's of its time and being that this was to commemorate Gundam's tenth anniversary, I expected something more exceptional.
Listening to the numerous soundtracks that War in the Pocket offers, I couldn't help but think of marching children. Very few OSTs have ever made me visualise and personify music into something so fitting. Never feeling repetitive nor outstaying its welcome, the composition and its placement always feels just right. The instruments used are not repeated; instead a significant array of organs are used for many different purposes. The songs also never overpower the scenes which they are used in. Rather, they empower them.
I admired the opening and ending songs. I don't usually pay much attention to these as they are mostly used for advertising a certain company or group, but War in the Pocket is not your average show. The opening features a panning shot of a wall and the graffiti covering it. At first, there are detailed drawings showing obscure imagery of war, displaying many colours. In an instant, this changes to monochrome illustrations from who presumably is a child. Chalk is used to hint at this and what would normally be a harmless act is juxtaposed by what it means. The music used is nostalgic while ironic, stating things like "I want to slip away from this artificial world and make myself free" and "I can keep on running until I finally reach the sky". Being that the sky is artificial and that it houses numerous deadly battles, this shows the hopeless wishes of the young artists themselves.
The ending song is very similar in lyrical and artistic composition. If close enough attention is payed, an abundant of different outcomes can be made from its meanings. However, the beat shifts from every sentence spoken, in perfect harmony. From this, a different image is shown, which relates perfectly to what is spoken. The colour layout is fascinating for very specific reasons, but one must watch the entire show to find out what that means.
My only gripe is with the voice-acting quality. While there is plenty emotion here, it is outdated to a degree. That means a dip in quality from what we would get from modern shows. Even with this, the actors did a fantastic job in displaying all the right nuances at the right times and this includes Alfred. Voice-acting for children were notorious in these times but it does not show here.
War in the Pocket is an experience like no other. It never forces emotions out of the viewer, but instead embellishes them. I cried multiple times throughout the story, but not from melodrama. The show produces catharsis without unnecessary tension, which is a very difficult thing to achieve. From start to finish, from comedy to tragedy I was never left behind. War in the Pocket makes use of your most simple, primordial feelings - and like this - nurtures you with care. I will never forget what I witnessed from this.
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Aug 7, 2015
There exists something rare in this medium. In fact, its so rare, that only a handful of titles have managed to do this and still make the anime work. This trait is called realistic chemistry of characters. In a fictional work, it's virtually impossible to create relations so genuine, that it is almost frightening to experience when you do so. You are aware that what you're witnessing is made-up, but can't help comparing the characters' life to yours, as well as the struggles they encounter.
This is where Welcome to the NHK shines, and they don't hold back in making you feel like you are part ... of the story; while being unable to help those who are suffering. It's a terrible feeling, and if you're weak-hearted, I do not suggest you to watch this show: it's simply too powerful.
The setting of NHK is rather straight-forward: a guy lives in his room, away from society, and we get to see how he deals with new-found dilemmas; or, that's what they expect us to believe. In fact, it's nothing about that at all. The story develops into being much more about world conspiracies, proving how fake the world is, as well as the human condition when dealing with rejection and denial. We are brought into this world where everything seems to be against our protagonists, including their own families.
You can comprehend the story in two ways:
1. Mostly Comedic
2. Mostly Depressing
1. Many people believe that the humor that NHK holds is the bread-and-butter of the show, and thus cannot be taken too seriously. Like this, when the show is seen to be getting more serious, they treat this change of heart as dramatization. The problem with this way of thinking, is that it highly undermines the show itself. NHK has many comedic moments, which may or may not be understood as dark-comedy, or simply comic-relief. These people tend to state NHK as being over-dramatic and thus overrated.
2. The other group of people, including myself, see the basis of comedy as a minor genre of the show. However, this group sees the comedy as being dark, so it adds to the depressing overtone, instead of taking it away. Like this, I do not believe that NHK is dramatized at all, instead it's flavor being added. People more accustomed to anime are more likely to belong in this group, thus the show is recommendable to both newcomers as well as veterans of the anime community.
Getting that out of the way, as stated in the introduction, NHK places emphasis on world-conspiracies. They structured this very well, combining the male protagonists backstory with this train of thought. It deals with human psychology in ways very unique to anime, without including paragraphs of monologue which can be very irritating if done wrong or in excess. Everything betrays Satou, which is very depressing to watch. It's like watching a train that is heading towards a person, you know what's going to happen, and you feel powerless against it. While watching the show this feeling was so mutual, that I had to take breaks just to ease the pain.
The story is not perfect however. While being very realistic and innovative ,the ending was bittersweet. And not the kind of bittersweet of which you can walk away and say "Well, at least it was satisfying". They could have explored further into the relations of the characters, but what we got as what we got: a cliffhanger.
There were also many arcs in the story which felt very out-of-place and were slightly unnecessary in my opinion. In addition to this, the pacing was questionable at times, there were moments were I felt it was going too slow and fast respectively. But for the most time, the pacing was on-point.
A series cannot be made depressing without a great cast of likable characters. The way this works, is that the more likable a character is, the more painful it becomes when you watch them meet an obstacle. As stated at the introduction, the chemistry of the characters was so well done that I felt like I was eating a steak made of ice (bad jokes are bad). But seriously though, I couldn't believe my eyes; it was as if I was witnessing the lives of real humans, where every struggle and dilemma have a reasonable impact to the characters, as well as the audience. You felt so condensed with the characters that it was like you knew them for many years. So as a result you really don't want to see them get hurt.
I will now evaluate the characters individually:
He's your main male lead, and straight from the bat he's likable and highly relatable. He's the story's main focus, and we watch him deal with his everyday struggles as a hikikomori. ***SPOILERS***We witness him being rejected by him parents, almost commit suicide, become addicted to visual novels and RPG's, and living alone without any friends, suffering from day to day.***END OF SPOILER*** It's as if the viewer is Sato himself and you are experiencing his life through his eyes. How did they do this, you ask? I have no idea, but he is one of the best written characters I have ever witnessed.
She is the main female lead who, at the start, seems to be your everyday one-dimensional character. It's only until later in the story where we find out her backstory and thus we are able to dive deep into the psychology of her characterization. This is purposely done so that the emphasis is given to Satou instead, thus we can empathize with him first. The same technique was used with Misaki as her backstory was uncovering, and her presence became more necessary. Without including any spoilers, she makes the anime that much more depressing than it already was.
Of course, when I stated the chemistry being golden, it's between these two characters and the romance that follows. It's not your typical love-interest. The characters develop thoroughly throughout the length of the show, and this is done through struggles and leaps. *MINOR SPOILERS*Misaki tries to help Satou into getting out of the zone he finds himself to be in, while returning him back to society as an everyday functional human being.*END OF SPOILERS* Their meeting was purely coincidental, but the anime portrays this coincidence as fate, rather than chance.
The side characters are few and far between, but most of them play a large role in the story. I will not talk about these characters individually, because they introduce themselves later in the story, but what I can tell you is that, for the most part, they are not trouped. They have they own struggles and developments, and do not exist as a means of comic relief, for the most part.
However, there are a few side characters that are more useless than not, and can be quite irritating to watch. A key example is Kobayashi Megumi who was not pleasurable to listen to and had no real purpose for existing.
Art & Animation: 5
Sadly this is were NHK falls, and boy does it fall. For the most part, NHK's art is on-par with the anime at the time, and was relatively fluid, although lacking detail. BUT, there were episodes were the quality decreases so much ,its ridiculous. We have no detail here, literally stick-men. Gladly these episodes were a minority; but the consistency is inexcusable.
THOSE TRUMPETS. THOSE GLORIOUS TRUMPETS. The opening of NHK was wonderful and highly nostalgic. It fits the tone of the anime second to none, and I am glad they did not change it (although the trumpets were removed for some odd reason). The first ending song was unique and intelligent, showing off the dark humor, as well as the psychological aspect of the show very well. The second ending was fantastic, as it was sang by the same artist who performed the opening, and thus had a similar vibe to it.
The voice acting was excellent: exactly what you would expect when watching an anime in Japanese, but I cannot say the same for the English dub, since I have not watched it.
The OST sadly did not stand out to me as much as everything else. There were a few songs that were fantastic, but these were played too many times throughout the length of the show, which is a shame, because you tend to notice these things when watching NHK.
I loved this show, but because it was so depressing to watch, I did not want to see what would happen next due to the pain of experiencing something so genuinely saddening. The huge lack of budget in terms of animation/art as well as overused OST's decreased the value of enjoyment as well, but these are nitpicks. The ending was not complete to my liking, but was still a fantastic closure nevertheless.
A fantastic show that is highly nostalgic. I would only recommend this to those who can handle watching 'tragedies'. If by ANY MEANS you have a weak heart when watching depressing shows, PLEASE skip this one, unless you're watching just for comedic purposes. Otherwise, simply enjoy the brilliance that is NHK, which in my opinion, is one of the best non-monologue-inducing psychological titles anime has to offer.
Thank you for reading my review! RedInfinity out.
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Jun 8, 2015
|This review contains minor spoilers of the shitty story and characters|
Oh Sword Art Online, how you fooled millions of people into thinking that this show will be every gamer and anime fans' dream-come-true. We all came in, watched the first episode and thought " This actually looks pretty cool " , and continued watching like fish on a fishing rod. How wrong were we? Well, I will tell you, fellow readers, how the anime that received one of the largest fan-bases in recent times, holds the pinnacle of the word 'Overrated '; and I will do my best to convince you to NOT watch this ... anime.
Now let's begin this review with discussing about the 'gripping' story, that led such a large fan-base into picking up SAO. So, I am not going to talk about the synopsis, as MAl has it displayed at all times, but I have to say that 'disappointment' is an understatement when describing the story of this anime. The biggest disappointment when watching this anime was the colossal time-skips that the anime takes. At one moment Kirito (the main character of the series) is a weakling, and literally in the blink of an eye, he is the most over-powered in the game. Thus, character-development is thrown out of the window. You just can't bring out a realistic and gripping story with such decisions.
The other fact that made the story ridiculous, was the fact that Kirito simply levels so fast by PLAYING ALONE in a bloody MMORPG. If you have played at least 1 game of this genre, you would be highly aware that this is further than impossible, as you would need at least 100 players to beat a boss, of which all players must be very highly leveled. Thus the story becomes so poor and unrealistic, that it is almost hilarious.
The first arc of SAO, which consists of the first 15 episodes, in terms of story overall, was terrible. There were time-skips and an unrealistic story. However, were the story becomes even more ridiculous is the second arc, which consists of the rest of the story. A damsel-in-distress is again, an understatement. You all should be fully aware of the video-game franchise 'Mario'. Kirito is Mario and Asuna (which I will talk about how awful of a character she is in my character section of this review), is princess Peach. And i am not exaggerating at all. This becomes so annoying, that watching this series, I remember wanting to bash my head against the wall to ease my fury. Oh wait, there's more! Ever wanted to see a character in a non-ecchi anime being 'done' by tentacles? Well this is the anime for you! Cause I am sure that all the kids that watched this series, thinking that it would be like a Disney film ended up getting rather scarred.
The last factor that determines my score of '2' is the slice-of-life elements of the show, that tricked the whole audience of the show into thinking that this anime would be consisted of badass action sequences and a complex story. No. Instead, what we get is two idiots telling how much they love each other (even though they met in a game) for most of the series with little to no action. Enjoy.
Oh you thought that I was telling the worst about this anime, were you? Well don't worry, it gets much worse in this section. To put it simply, the characters in this series are laughable, generic, idiotic and extremely one-dimensional. I will talk about some of the characters of the series.
1. Kirito: So what do you get when you mix Makoto from school Days and every other generic protagonist from a harem series, combined with a bit retardation. You get Kirito of course! This guy is living a harem with 5 girls in this series, for absolutely no reason at all. The girls are treated like mindless retards that the only thing that pleases them is a douche like Kirito because of black hair and clothes. This guy is worse than a regular, clueless male lead from a harem series as he does not only understand the situation he finds himself in, but also does not give a shit. He dumps all he rest of the women (including side-chicks) and guess who he decides to go with in the end; HIS FUCKING SISTER. Yes, this anime is incestuous beyond belief. Kirito is the epitome of everything I hate in an anime character combined.
2. Asuna: This chick is the one which receives the worst development (of almost all) of anime i have seen . She starts off looking like a cool female lead, with a large potential of evolution, and then, all of the sudden, she enters a part of Kirito's harem with what seems like so reason at all. She did not give a damn about Kirito, and then instantly wants his D, after sleeping on a field with him, for whatever reason that is.
The relationship of Asuna and Kirito is not only extraordinarily unrealistic, but also dreadful, as this relationship is seen to be so forceful. |SPOILERS| They end up adopting this one girl they find in the woods, and this is when the characters become so BAD. This father-daughter and mother-daughter relationship is so off from real life it's funny. The end up wasting most of the first arc with deciding whether to keep this girl or not (of which destroys the genres of this series wholly) and makes you think this show is a pathetic Clannad rip-off.
The rest of the characters in this series are so forgettable I have forgotten most of their names as a result. The girls are shown to be whores with no wit, while the antagonists of the show are BEYOND HILARIOUS. The main antagonist of the series has NO purpose to trap this people in this world and kill them off. NO reason at all. This guy simply wants to look evil for no ulterior purpose, because this show needs a reason to exist.
In the end, the characters receive little to no development, while proving to the audience that ' the power of friendship' exists in a couple such as Kirito and Asuna, as the romance is so bad in this series, that it feels like Asuna gets friend-zoned by Kirito for wants to jump his sister, which she was the worst character of all. For absolutely no reason at all, this girl wants to bang her brother (which the anime makes statements here and there stating that they are cousins living in the same house, which is still nonsensical). And Kirito falls for her because his motto is " THE BIGGER THE TITS THE BETTER ".
Animation and Art : 8
I have to give credit to A-1 pictures for producing an anime that has decent-looking colors, and a fair amount of frames within the little battle-sequences this anime holds. The art however is nothing that spectacular as to up the score any more than it already is, as an anime which received such a massive audience deserved a greater production value, in my opinion. The background are usually fairly done, and there is no real lack of consistency when dealing with the anime as a whole.
Yuki Kajiura is an amazing composer and I feel that her music really fit the atmosphere of the show. It's a shame that she wasted her efforts in such a show like this, but whatever. The openings are both fantastic, with greater emphasis to the first one, " Crossing Field " which really suited the tone of the anime itself, combined with an excellent chorus.
As a lot of anime, the voice-acting of SAO was on-par and did their job very well (with reference to the original Japanese dub), so whatever part i had to take seriously, I did due to the well executed emotions portrayed through words. Again, its a shame that they bothered to do such a good job on an anime like this.
I tried to enjoy this show, I really did. But I could not take it seriously due to the harem, ecchi and incestuous nature of the show itself. The characters clearly lacked any substance and the story was laughable, thus further lowering my enjoyment of the show. The only facts that upped my enjoyment, was the fantastic opening, that made me want to watch each episode for that purpose. The animation made me enjoy the anime a bit more as well, but all these do not compensate with the sheer horror of the show's execution.
Of course, the animation/art and sound only play for a small part of the overall score. The story and characters were anything below pathetic, and thus could not credit the show itself. Please, do yourself a favor and skip this entry, it is not worth your time at all. Don't get fooled by the popularity of the show itself, as that is not an indication of how good the show is, instead proves how many souls were lost in wasting their time on an anime like this.
Thanks for reading my review! RedInfinity out.
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Jun 7, 2015
At first, when I read the synopsis of hunter x hunter (2011) (for the rest of this review will be called hxh as abbreviation) I could not quite deduce the rationality of this show being scored and reviewed with such praise as it receives on a daily basis. I am sure many of you ,who are planning to pick up this show sometime soon, are thinking the same as I did before watching this show and I will do my best to change any contravening opinions towards this series.
As you all have likely read the synopsis of hxh, it certainly stands out from most ... other shounen ever made. There is a kid that decides to go on an adventure, for a particular purpose, meets friends, becomes stronger and eventually defeats powerful opponents. It doesn't come off as a very complex or intriguing story/plot, nor is there a generic/forgettable cast and an amassed other facts that would remind you of how forgettable this show probably is. Believe me it's not.
Beyond the first few episodes which this generalised speculation derives from, you will see that hxh differs from most shounen in terms of intelligence (strategic battles, clever arcs and plot) and the pacing of the whole show throughout each arc is outstanding. The absence of fillers throughout the 148 episodes ( excluding recaps) makes this show that much less frustrating to watch.
You may have heard an arc in particular, that the MAL community keeps on raving about: the Chimera Ant arc. Without throwing any spoilers in this review, the hype is worth it. This arc is, by most fans of the franchise, seen as a masterstoke and with good reason. The previous arcs create a substantial build-up to the C.A arc which makes the emphasis and usefulness of the arc that much more prominent.
However, the only factor that prevented my rating of a 9 to a 10, was the slow start and the half-open ending; while it not bad and was a good conclusion to the show, left the viewer rather unsettled with the whole experience.
Where hxh really shines is in the shows' magnificent cast. As stated in my introduction, typically, most shounen do not have the best cast of characters that anime has brought out to the community, and more often than not defeat their enemies using the all-mighty force that is 'the power of friendship(!)' which brings sweet victory and joy to the protagonists of the show. Forget this ever existed in anime when watching hxh, as the sincere friendship that is witnessed between the main cast is nothing short of magnificent. It is realistic and evolves over a long period of time.
What makes the characters of hxh further at a stand-point, is that the antagonists are (for the most part) just as likable as the protagonists. Every character is very well developed ( every = any character that mattered to the story) and therefore does not make you want to spurt out the words " Wow, this character sucks " , with the exception of the bomber which, when watching the series, you will notice that had no real purpose for doing things to the extent that he did.
Finally, I will talk about my three favorite characters of the series:
I love Gon. At first he seems like your everyday generic protagonist that has no potential to evolve as a person. He comes across as useless and annoying.Then along the way something happens to him; something that is rarely in a protagonist like him. This is called ' Character Development '. The development that Gon receives throughout the series is fantastic and will make you love him until the end. He truly is desperate to find his father and the audience can see how he never throws in the towel.
There's something really likable about white-haired guys in anime and Killua does not fall short in this aspect. He has a broad and complex backstory, and again, like Gon, significant development, which is seen to play a phenomenal role to how realistic the friendship between Gon and Killua is. His background as an assassin and his scarring childhood coupled with his raw talent and one-of-a-kind personality makes him a lovable and three-dimensional character.
Without spoiling much, Meruem is truly an unbelievable antagonist. At first you envision he is ruthless for no purpose, and comes off as a cliche and rather irritating being. With the meeting of another character you see how he evolves and how his facade in his personality makes him one of the best,if not the greatest character in the series.
Art and Animation: 9
When watching an anime that has a plethora of episodes such as hxh, one would expect a decline and rise in animation from time to time. However, Madhouse did a terrific job at keeping the animation and art as consistent and fluid as possible. The amount of money that was spent purely on budget really surprised me and the animation only gets better as the series progresses. When entering the C.A arc, you will see that Madhouse used their best animators to produce stunning images intertwined
with outlines, shadows and fluency that serves as 'eye-candy' when watching the series. Battle sequences are as well a proof of how much effort is poured into this show, as the studio does not tend to cut corners, e.g using the same background over and over again.
The opening and endings' animation improves significantly st time progresses, which blows my mind when comparing the differences in appearance. That is to say, the animation was brilliant at the start of the anime as well.
The opening: 'Departure' is used throughout the entire anime although it switches between two different versions of the song, as well as changing the animation sequence each time, and this amazes me as every opening suits the anime perfectly! I did not skip the opening even once when watching the series; instead I stared smiling and singing along to the music.
The endings are all fantastic in my opinion, and I love all the songs that are presented to the audience at the end of each episode. The order for me goes
1>4>2>3>5=6 (5 & 6 are different sections of the same song) but I love them all nevertheless.
The ost of the anime is one of the best I have heard in any anime. My personal favorite is ' A kingdom of Predators'. It consists of a great variety of orchestra (mostly in the C.A arc) and lots of violin and piano that can be heard as well. However, sometimes the ost is not played at the most appropriate moments which prevents a score of 10 being given.
Monumental credibility must be given to the voice actors, and for Gon in particular, which is seen especially at episode 116, the mere brilliance that is spurted as 'emotions though words' is extraordinary. The only complaint that I sometimes hear arriving from people is that the narration in the C.A arc ( for around 10 episodes) is irritating and overwhelms the episodes, making them seem extremely slow-paced. I tend to disagree with this argument , as the pacing seems to only benefit by the narration of those episodes, as it was a crucial moment in the series where narration was essential. I hope you won't find this narration an issue, since I certainly didn't.
Wow what a joyful ride this was. It keeps you hooked from early on and urges you to watch the next episode after experiencing the wonderful ending of each arc. The enjoyment factor, of course, originated from the entirety of the show. If any of the above were to be done poorly, the show would not come out to be nearly as enjoyable as it was. I not once felt bored during this series, and I believe that the pacing is fabulous. There's not a single moment that leaves the viewer wanting to skip ahead or fast-forward. As a result, I am almost certain that you will watch this show, engulfed by the brilliance of this anime.
Believe me when i tell you this: this show is a near masterpiece; as close of a masterpiece as a show of this genre gets. Don't be fooled while watching this anime, and drop it due to its slow start, as you may miss out on a truly miraculous experience.
Thank you for reading my review of Hunter x Hunter (2011). Have a great day. RedInfinity out.
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