Oh, look. Adventures in fan service.
This is a story about girls (called “Maedchen”) who are selected by “Origin”. They attend school of witchcraft located all over the world to wield their magic and become first-rate “Origin Masters”. Their goal is to win at the annual Hexennacht competition, where representatives of each school compete in their abilities to wield their magic. The winner gets to have one wish magically granted. Due to lack of members, Japan might not be able to attend the annual competition this year. but things start to change when one day Shizuka Tsuchimikado, the leader of Japan meets Hazuki Kagimura. -Crunchyroll
See, I’ve been looking forward to this one. But I’ve been in a scramble, trying to actually figure out where it’d be streaming. Come to find out, the day it’s supposed to go up, that Crunchyroll is running it. Good thing I hadn’t made other plans, I guess. But whatever. The premise of the show had me really intrigued. The idea of all the different fairytale worlds being represented by these girls through their magic is interesting. Unfortunately, this first episode was… decidedly subpar, and didn’t do much to really sell us on just how cool a concept this is.
The episode’s OP was the first clue, based solely on the composition. Not the music, but the visuals over it. Put plainly, it was just using scenes from the anime. Some of them it used more than once. And the scenes they used were a huge sign as a fair amount of them were just fan service-y. Then I paused and did some research that I should’ve done a while ago. Oh. It’s Hoods Entertainment. Now, to be fair, they did the animation on Drifters. And that’s about the only thing I can really recommend from their filmography because the vast majority of it otherwise is… not safe for work. In other words, this now makes sense. It’s a bit sad, too. I actually kind of liked the art style.
Sure enough, we’re soon introduced to Hazuki. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “A shrinking violet with no friends and an obsession with books. Her mother/father instilled, in her, the fascination with stories and the wonder of other worlds, but tragically died, leaving her with a foster family who just doesn’t get her.” Now, to be fair, we know my stance on this. I couldn’t care less if you’re not the most original thing that ever did grace the Earth. You could be a play-by-play retread, for all I care, if your execution is good enough to warrant those similarities or surpass others of your ilk. But the rest of the episode wasn’t especially keen on warming me up to it, either.
She meets a character from this other world, tries to return something they accidentally left behind, and wind up getting dragged into the other world as a result. She doesn’t find who she’s looking for and is run out of the building by a fiery hothead, eventually finding some woman who decides to welcome her. And this is where things just got groan-inducing. The next thing we know, she’s in this onsen that the woman just has. I’m sure it belongs to the school or something, but that’s not the point. The point is that the second I say the word “onsen,” you know where this is going. And it goes exactly this route.
So after a contrived series of events and adventures in streaking, Hazuki winds up in the middle of the school’s hall, covering herself with a book half the size of a human (which, by the way, is very inconsistent in its size, all for the sake of accommodating the unfunny joke). And conveniently right when the bell rings for classes to be over. There the hothead finds her again and uses her own Grimoire – yes, they’re called “Originals,” but they’re Grimoire. And despite this episode, still more interesting than Black Clover’s. Go figure.
Anyway, the girl uses her to transform into Yoko Littn- I mean her magical girl costu- no… uh… she transforms into… I’m not really sure what that outfit is supposed to be emulating, but it’s clear they aren’t necessarily all fairytales so it could be some sort of obligatory battle manga or something. Point is, the girl’s fired up and wants to fight.
And having read that, you automatically understand the issue. What you’ll come to find out is that there’s literally no reason Hazuki had to be stark naked for that scene to transpire. No reason for the onsen bit, period. They play it as if it was just so she could use the book to create the new clothes, but the other girl is fully clothed when she transforms, so there’s no real reason at all. It was just gratuitous fan service. At least in other shows that pull this kind of thing, the fanservice is sort of the point. This was just distracting and brought everything to a screeching halt. And if it wasn’t fanservice (which I doubt, due to Hoods’s filmography) then it was a joke. And if it was a joke, it was an unfunny joke that’s been done to death and was dragged out for far too long. The only real saving grace was that it only occupied the last six or seven minutes of the episode. Which is still too long, but my point is that it’s outweighed by everything else.
But. I will say this. There are moments of charm to be found. A few genuinely funny moments before all of that happens, for one. And as stock as she is, Hazuki isn’t unlikably bland. In fact, the ability to relate is there. People who read stories to escape from an unsatisfying reality? Sounds familiar. But the disconnect is that she’s just… shy. That’s it. That’s the entire issue. And the irony of the situation is that the thing she uses to cope with this problem is the thing that’s holding her back. But I’m not overly certain the series is really all that interested in delving into that complex idea. And that’s sad because it would be an interesting one.
Then there’s another thing to mention – the flow of the story. It’s very strange. It almost felt like shoddy editing, but no. The episode just had a bizarre concept of progression. It more or less began with internal monologue. Then it comes back to internal monologue about halfway through, yet with no real rhyme or reason. A voice overlay just starts playing while she’s in the middle of something unrelated, and gives us a little flashback that has nothing to do with anything going on at that moment. Then, later, when Hazuki winds up in the onsen, it’s literally instant. She appears just as surprised to be in it as we are that she’s there. And she doesn’t ask what’s going on until after she’s already in it. It just feels messy and all over the place.
Overall, this is the first episode. And it’s a mess. Do I think the entire series will continue with the same problems? Eh. Not really. Or, if it does, I think it’ll at least manage to do it with a little more focus. But as things are, this episode doesn’t present enough necessary information or anything of the sort that you probably won’t be caught up on in the next episode. So based on that context, I’d say you can just Pass this one, though perhaps that’s being a little harsh as the episode does have merit in some genuinely funny little bits and interesting ideas. So for the sake of mercy, I’ll call it Harmless, for now. I’m cautiously optimistic about the remainder of the series. It could easily climb up to the Junk Food tier. Heck, it could be one of those shows that has a subpar to god-awful first episode, and the rest reasonably good, or even totally awesome. That’s honestly what I’m hoping for. Because I’ve really been looking forward to this one. But, c’est la vie. In the meantime, why not check out our review of another show this season about a cute girl with magical powers? And get ready for nostalgia overload.
If you, like me, are optimistic about the future of this series, however, Maerchen Maedchen is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Thursdays at 11:00am EST.