Though I’ve been watching Doremi for years now, it’s only with this series that I’ve really started to love it. I suppose it’s quite telling that while it took me six months to watch Sharp, I watched the full fifty episodes (plus rather surreal short movie) of Mo~tto in under four weeks. It’s really the only series I’m watching just now that leaves me wanting more each time – and it’s a silly, playful comedy about little girls, for little girls. But at the same time, it’s very well-done.
After the climactic action of Sharp, the Ojamajos were again left without magical powers, having sacrificed their crystals to save Hana-chan from a deadly fever. But involved here is the fate of a very powerful witch destined to be the new queen, as well as the politics of bringing the witch and human worlds back together – and so the queen proclaims that the gang can be restored as Witch Apprentices, as long as they convince every member of the witch high council who opposes their restoration that they are worthy. For whatever reason, the way they are to convince these high witches of their worthiness is to bake cakes for them, which sometimes gets a bit Yakitate!!. To help them in this task, the Queen introduces them to Momoko, a blonde Japanese girl who moved to New York at a young age and forgot most of her Japanese, but there met a witch named Majo Monroe (who even has Marilyn’s beauty spot), and from her not only learned magic but how to be a pâtissière. Meanwhile, Hana does not cope well being taken away from her ‘mamas’ to be kept in a magical kindergarten, as is traditional in the magical world, a situation that comes to a head when the lingering spirit of the queen-before-last, responsible for the curse that turns witches whose cover is blown in the human world into frogs, takes notice of Hana and curses her to hate vegetables.
Thus, several plot strands run concurrently – the various dessert-making exams, more or less replacing the last season’s health tests; the heartache of missing the child you bonded with, which after a while turns into the attempt to make Hana like vegetables again by disguising them in different foods or changing the circumstances in which she is eating; and Momoko’s attempts to fit into Japanese society again when she is culturally very much American and doesn’t have a very good grasp of honne and tatemae. This last part spreads out to encompass the various other little stories of girls in Doremi’s class, including the other ojamajos, and is very much the backbone of the whole series, and its heart. It’s what makes the series much more interesting than the last ones, for while it covers similar ground to the ones in Sharp revolving around the young wizards (who I was quite sad to see were never mentioned again, even by Oyajide), they were much better. There’re some very touching little stories here, including ones revolving around classmates old and new: one girl is a hikkikomori who needs friends just like Doremi; another wants to be best friends with the writer girl who idolises Aiko. The SOS trio is split up, and one very cute boy wants to join in the terrible comedy action. A new smart boy is in Doremi’s class, who rather oddly is the second character voiced by Takeuchi Junko (or third if you count a female witch who happens to look just like her first character Kimitaka), which is a slightly strange choice given that her voice, best known as Naruto and the original Gon, is so distinctive. He comes into conflict with proud Tamaki, as does straightforward Momoko, but in reconciling some interesting ideas about racism, arrogance and tact get explored. These are the sort of episodes that really flesh out characters and make them interesting, and it’s these that make me so interested in what happens next.
Momoko’s seiyuu finally provides a strong link with Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, which always seemed to me a poor imitation of Ojamajo Doremi – previously other main Ojamajo girls played minor characters in PPGZ, Hazuki having been Miss Keane and Onpu having been rather oddly having been Sedusa, but Momoko was Bubbles herself. She’s an interesting voice actress, having learned English while at an international school at
, and thus being seen as a specialist in English. Her pronunciation is certainly far from natural, but it’s definitely a step up from a lot of supposed English-speakers in anime. She was previously on the cast – as the cool guy Masaru – but now she really gets to shine, and though it took a little while I soon warmed to her. Though she looked like she was…really designed to be a white girl but then it was decided that’d be too alien and turned into a blonde Japanese girl (in a world of natural blue and purple hair, mind), it allowed for some interesting things that aren’t often covered in anime, like xenophobia and tolerance. Austria
A strange thought occurred to me when at one point I watched a new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it struck me that the two are really very similar. Several of the girls are much like those of the popular pony cartoon’s so-called ‘mane six’, there are similarities between the Magical World and Equestria, and the way stories are told when an individual main character causes problems when facets of their personality are exaggerated certainly has some crossover. Of course, Ojamajo Doremi isn’t as slick, as widely-lauded or as funny as MLP:FiM, but I have to say that nothing in the season and a half that show has produced so far has inspired the same sort of feelings I had when Aiko’s father lost his job and tried to drive his daughter away to have a better life with her mother.