The different series of Ojamajo Doremi almost don’t count as such, seeing how after the season finale, invariably a cliffhanger about the girls no longer getting to be witches, the first episode of the next season airs the very next week. So it was with the beginning of this season, and so it was again at its end.
However, the seasons seem very much to have been conceived as separate, whole storylines with a good sense of progression and strong themes to define them. The first season revolved around Doremi and co learning to be witches, then taking part in a collection quest while having to face opposition from the mysterious Onpu. By the end of that season, Onpu was more ally than antagonist, but still had the wrong attitude to magic, and it was that which provided the climactic action.
We join Doremi and co given a new chance to be witch apprentices. Through coincidence – or fate – Doremi and co go to the magical world and happen to witness the birth of a new witch from a flower in the Queen’s garden. Naming her Hana-chan, they are now responsible for raising the baby. The first half of the series is more or less concerned with raising Hana, who is adorable but whose strong magical abilities cause problems. The second revolves around Oyajide, the collection quest summarily dispensed with, returning to the Wizard World and then conspiring to kidnap Hana to ransom her for more territory. He is aided by four young wizards, who are more or less counterparts to Doremi and co, though most of the time they manage to get hold of Hana, they just hand her to Oyajide at the wrong time, and he ends up on the receiving end of a spell from the Ojamajos and goes spinning off, Team Rocket-style.
These larger storylines are peppered with one-offs, both character-developing and throwaway. Most revolve around the theme of family – we have Aiko (the tomboy and thus inevitably my favourite) trying to reconcile her family, Doremi and Pop learning the value of their sisterly bond in the short movie (aired between two Digimon movies) and even see Majo Rika’s mother, a lovely but clumsy old dear who has the same habit of saying ‘Ara ara, maa maa’ as Alicia from Aria. Then there are numerous little stories, such as trying to help the fat girl diet before finally just accepting her as she is, and then in the last few episodes the tone swings to that pleasantly non-serious atmosphere of a cute anime going for melancholy as it looks like only a great sacrifice can save Hana-chan from her sudden fever.
It’s almost as if to offer proof that this is an anime for young girls and not for Nanoha fans, the priority being a mother and looking after a baby gets. Hana is more than a doll, and sometimes it’s hard for the girls to care for her in the right away, after all only being children themselves, but they love her very much and regard themselves as Hana’s ‘Mama’. For her part, she’s very cute, always causing problems, and the contrast between the hapless baby and her huge magical power is one of the charming points of the series. Doremi and the others are on occasion tested by the witches to ensure they are raising Hana right in a series of tests, and the writers prove themselves equal to Peach-Pit in taking characters formerly hard to like but then very loveable with an examiner who starts out prickly but eventually softens – as if Onpu were not evidence enough. Recurring comic characters from the first season who take the exam alongside the girls are hilarious, with the examiners Mota and Motamota both raising babies who they brilliantly call Teki and Tekipaki, and if the octopus/squid love story from the first season seemed ill-judged, their hilarious baby Atarimeko-chan more than makes up for it.
There is almost nothing in this series that isn’t cute, but it is also smart, likeable and can be quite moving when it likes. The only thing I could do without is sucking at a baby’s nose to clear its sinuses, but that may just be culture shock…
Series three: here