I consider myself someone who believes in reason and poise in his reviews, and therefore I will try to hold myself to such decorum and not break down crying like a 5-year-old girl who skinned her knee.
Oh who am I kidding. THEY CANCELLED SHUGO CHARA!!!! T____T
I knew the very moment I was asked if I was "shugo-genki" that hell had found one of my favorite magical girl series to date and placed its icy grip around its throat mercilessly. I watched in horror as the main character was reduced to an obligatory stand-in. I watched as Ikuto disappeared entirely. I watched as the Guardians followed in suit. I watched as those hellish cosplaying twits sucked up the airtime. And I watched as Pucchi Puchi became what I looked forward to more than the actual series. I knew Shugo Chara, and this was not Shugo Chara.
Laying blame will do no good, as we all know by now that blame deserves to go to a variety of sources. The existence of Rikka and Hikaru is most notable and seems a good launch point. Obviously, Shugo Chara is a show for children, but one of the show's biggest strengths was that none of the characters seemed to pander toward children. They tackled age-appropriate issues with a surprising amount of respect and understanding, and most notably without any condescension or beating the moral into the audience. Rikka and Hikaru did everything in their power to subvert this into oblivion. Cliched as they were at the start, they wasted no time beating the lesson of the day into us every week, were childish to the point of pandering, and just overall irritances who seldom grew as characters. This would not be so bad if the cast I had grown to adore was there to pull me through it, but they were all systematically removed and never heard of again. By the end, there were episodes that only had Amu, her Shugo Chara, Rikka and Hikaru. I weep.
The story... what story? This was pure filler and not even good filler like the Lulu arc in Doki!... yes I liked the Lulu arc. It dragged, but I've seen much worse. Case in point, Rikka and Hikaru. This wasn't so much a story arc as it was just episodic nonsense, often covering ground that the series had already covered, just with younger and more irritating characters. This was offset by the somewhat enjoyable Pucchi Puchi segments. Miki's Laboratory and Shugo Bomber were two recurring stories in Pucchi Puchi I was always happy to see. Shugo Bomber especially, if solely for the Commissioner, which single-handedly made Su my favorite of the charas. But I digress.
What held this sloppy execution together was the young girl singing troupe, Shugo Chara Egg, and make no exaggeration when I say this is the go-to con point for anyone who suggests live-action and anime can coexist in the same series. The four girls are annoying, uninteresting, and Spade at times looks like she's thinking she's made a terrible life decision. Newsflash, honey. You did.
Shortcuts in art appeared incredibly early when opening sequences turned into clip shows. Frozen imagery moved around like Satelight had suddenly inherited the budget of an early Shinbo Akiyuki show. The vibrant world of the series became increasingly dull to the point that they just couldn't hide it by the end. A shame, really.
The soundtrack was still enjoyable, but I had grown to love the songs throughout the series. Even the Guardians 4 OPs in Doki!, but by the end everything felt painfully generic to the point of terrible, Nana Mizuki's last song, while pretty, was not the Utau we had come to know, and Buono! is pretty much gone outside the final ED for each episode.
In one episode of Party!, Amu told Utau that doing something different could be good. If Party is any indication, Amu lied. Party took the formula of the series, tried and true through two seasons, and ruined it with live-action and horrendous filler. The only redeeming point here is Pucchi Puchi, and only then, mostly for Shugo Bomber. Why I'm giving this the rating I'm giving it is both because of Pucchi Puchi and out of respect for the series I loved and the characters it mercilessly tossed to the wolves. Only the diehards will make it through this, and then, only they will be the ones to weep for the commercialization and utter mistreatment of such a wonderful little show about growing up and being yourself.
Why, Shugo Chara? Why did you unlock my heart only to rip it out of my chest, throw it to the ground, and tap dance on it?
Overall, Shugo Chara Party! gets a 5 out of 10.