THERE you go.
Still not perfect. There’s the odd problem, here and there, but this episode actually faired a lot better than the fanservice-laden first episode. The last one was certainly watchable and had its fun moments. But the absolute halt in the final third hurt it. Bad. This episode actually started showing us a little more of how things are going to work, and I appreciate that. It also did a bit to actually set up central characters and generally managed to get a surprising amount done. Color me impressed. Though that may have to do with how low a standard the previous episode set. I was pleasantly surprised, regardless.
I didn’t really give Hazuki a particularly fair chance, last time. She’s still as stock as they come, but as I said before, she’s not unlikable. She’s relatable and endearingly awkward. The issue with the last episode really was in the overall execution. And Hazuki is a significant part of this episode’s strength. Her desire to make friends is sweet, if a bit forced. Her lack of social skills is only compounded by her tendency to let her mind drift off, which is kind of cute. Especially when she starts rambling about the similarities to things she’s familiar with. As anyone in her situation would. She’s a huge nerd, and her nerdiness lets her forget about her shell at times, which just gradually makes me warm up to her even more.
Her interactions with Shizuka (the girl in the cloak from last time) are the real highlight of the episode. Granted, they make up the majority of it, so that isn’t surprising. It’s not so much anything Shizuka does, but more in her Hazuki’s responses to her. She desperately wants to make friends with the girl, which is charming in a way. Though I do still question why she fixates so much on her. Granted, Shizuka is so far the only person who’s been nice to her in any real capacity. But as I said before, her need to make friends with Shizuka specifically seems a bit forced. I mean, there’s the possibility of some sort of romantic subtext? But I’m pretty sure that’s not really the case at all. Hazuki’s just awkward and doesn’t really know how friendship works since she’s never had one. Thus her daydreams on the subject tend to be a little… well… quite literally rose-tinted.
Hazuki’s endearing nature also leads to another strength in the episode that I wasn’t really expecting – the emotional core. The episode takes a rather slight turn, come the final act. As a result, Hazuki is deeply hurt by something that happens. And in that moment I genuinely felt bad for her. That’s an effect the scene likely wouldn’t have had if Hazuki, herself, wasn’t so endearing. I also like how she handled the situation in a sense, not completely shutting down or becoming an emotional wreck, but sort of trying the play like she was brushing it off while plainly wearing her heart on her sleeve. I like scenes where the words don’t match the smile. When done right, they can be incredibly effective at conveying both emotion and the character of the person experiencing them.
Speaking of Shizuka, I’m surprised and pleased she isn’t some ice queen. Given her introduction, I expected her to just be kind of cold, then Hazuki would spend the entire series trying to make friends with her. On the one hand, that seems like it would’ve been the more natural route for Hazuki’s arc, seeing as her main problem was making friends. Spoiler alert: She accomplishes the goal by the end of the episode. Thanks in no small part to a scene with Shizuka in the burger joint from the last episode that I actually really enjoyed. It sets up her character handily and, while it’s also not a particularly special backstory, it does a good job of informing the character a bit. She’s formal, similarly lacking in social skills, but not some emotional glacier. And I think this kind of makes for a neat dynamic between the two of them. Because neither of them really knows how this is supposed to work. I do look forward to seeing how that friendship evolves over time.
The episode does a nice job of establishing the rules as well. Using spells from their Grimoires to transform into magical girls – I know that’s not what they’re doing, but even Hazuki points out the similarity, so I’m running with it. They can also use them to perform other kinds of magic. We learn that Hazuki’s book is Cinderella, apparently one of the more powerful ones. While the supposed tournament arc is mentioned, it’s clear they won’t be visiting that piece of the story until later. Possibly even a full season down the line, honestly, given how much Hazuki has to learn. Basically, this episode had all of the information that really should’ve been conveyed in the first episode, even if only in passing dialogue.
My problems with the episode are actually quite minor. There was still a rather awkward fanservice scene thrown in that just stands out against literally the entire rest of the episode. Remember how Anime-Gataris had those out-of-place fanservice parody moments before the credits of most of the episodes for Minoa’s friend? It’s kind of like that, except it’s not really played as a parody and, as far as I can tell, isn’t on purpose at all. So it just comes across as grating because it is literally the only scene like that in the entire episode. If the whole show was like that then… fine? At least it wouldn’t feel out of place? But it just comes across as jarring. And then there’s the principle.
Still no one bothers to ask why she took Hazuki’s clothes in the last episode. Seriously. Why? Why not just bring her to the school? It’s not even like she’s treated with a particularly quirky personality in this episode. In fact, she’s mostly seriously throughout the whole thing, with a very brief couple moments of levity that still don’t really make her out to be particularly strange. If she was just kind of quirky and off-beat, with a bizarre internal logic when it came to teaching her students, I’d accept that a little more. But based on this, that bit just confirms my suspicions that that scene in the last episode just didn’t have a purpose.
But, as I said, nitpicks. This episode was head-and-shoulders above its predecessor, and if not for the factor of Hazuki being introduced to this world last time, I’d almost say to just come straight to this episode instead of bothering with the first. But I dunno. That could just be me. A charming lead character, a bit more development toward the actual premise of the series, a surprising emotional center with a bit of heart, and as with before, the episode is reasonably fun. There isn’t an overly long, out-of-place segment that brings the whole episode to a hard stop. And while it’s nothing particularly amazing, be it visually or in storytelling, it’s pretty enjoyable. Something that might not be for everyone, but it’s just the kind of thing I’d call delightful Junk Food. But I understand if it isn’t your thing. If you’d prefer something a bit less conventional… well, I’m at a loss, this season. But if you want something (probably) more mature, check out my first impression of Beatless.
Or, if you think Maerchen Maedchen has what it takes to be one of this season’s hidden gems as I do, feel free to give it a try. It’s Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Thursdays at 11:00am EST. That’s all from me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.