OP: 「 わたしのための物語 ~My Uncompleted Story~」 (Watashi no Tame no Monogatari: My Uncompleted Story) by Fhana
「物語症候群」 (Monogatari Shoukougun)
Although Märchen Mädchen has a premise with a lot of potential, the first episode squanders a good portion of that through its presentation and narrative structure. The first sign that things were about to go awry was the OP, where reused clips from the anime, most of which you will see in Episode 1, are set to the tone of the theme song. The zany in-show sequences of nude chase scenes peppered in the OP didn’t do any favors to make the story come off as larger than life as the fairy tales that our heroine Hazuki is glued to.
Unfortunately, Hazuki is a part of the problem with the set-up. We’re supposed to see her as a modern-day Cinderella, trapped in circumstances against her will after her mother passes away, and her family life could use some improvements. What sets Hazuki apart from her, however, is that her shy personality is what makes monsters out of her step-mother, who is too much of a workaholic to make dinner or have Hazuki do the laundry when she can afford housekeepers, and her step-sister, who has her life together and is putting too much pressure on Hazuki to try to do more to get out of trouble.
Her troubles are spelled out within the first ten minutes as spacing out in the middle of class enough so to be called to the Teacher’s Office and avoiding any responsibilities, any attempts to join a club, or any attempts to reach out to her new family by withdrawing into her books. There are numerous characters in fiction who are beloved, endearing, and dabble into escapism through the healing power of literature, but Hazuki’s flightiness make it a chore to try and follow her as she discovers her way into the magical world, especially when the narrative doesn’t do enough to make us feel like she needed to escape from her life for any reason other than wanting to run away from her problems.
Everything is thrust onto Hazuki so quickly that it felt like there was no time for her to think about all of the magical people and powers she came across the day her tome was given to her. She finds Shizuka running, but because she recognizes her cloak from a story book she reads, she is in mad pursuit of her to tell her that she loves her and wants to be her friend. Again, it’s to show how her social skills aren’t top notch and that’s understandable, but at the same time, her motivations only gravitate towards pushing the plot forward.
And then, there’s the academy scenes. The show did very little to explain the lore of the new world she leapt into, nor did it explain how exactly these characters are able to use their magic save for the end of the episode in which Hazuki summons clothes in her embarrassment. In fact, the whole second half could’ve been avoided if she actually explained herself to Yumilia, who was only growing more and more suspicious of who Hazuki was as an outsider that happened to have a magical tome and another student’s belongings. I get it, guys, Hazuki is supposed to be socially inept, but if that’s how conflict is going to happen in this series, we’re really not going to have a good time with this.
Where the show lacked in explaining how the world runs on magic derived from fairy tales, it made up for in nude chase scenes! The last quarter of the episode has an extended sequence where Hazuki, while bathing in a hot springs, is confronted and chased down by Yumilia. Just when you think the episode could be taken seriously, they play hijinks music to go along with it, as if it’s mocking us for thinking it’d be anything else, but zany hijinks. And this how Hazuki comes across her powers; not from combat or a life-saving moment of severity, not even from a fight with Yumilia, but because she needed to cover up with enchanted clothing. They disappeared anyway.
That’s not to say that Märchen Mädchen is going to be bad. The artwork for the character designs is highly detailed and the cute designs for each person in the cast is spot-on. There’s also a ton of potential in the premise as it was awesome to see Yumilia get prepared for battle using Shuten Douji. The hook that the premise has as a magical school with students using stories and fables as their powers is impressive. I mean, how can a fairy-tale school not be somebody’s thing!? Sadly, that’s why this first episode could’ve been more indicative of how amazing that concept sounds.
ED: 「Sleepland」 by Ueda Reina