Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m delighted to be returning to Ojamajo Doremi Sharp, after far too long away from this outstanding magical girl production. Doremi is simply marvelous in all regards, demonstrating both the creative playfulness and emotional insight of top shelf children’s animation. Whether it’s a thoughtful vignette regarding one of the girls’ classmates, a fantastical exploration of this show’s charming magical world, or a dive into the complex home lives of characters like Onpu and Aiko, every episode of Doremi offers something new and special, demonstrating animation’s ability to enrich the lives of viewers of any age.
Our last episode was another top-shelf tearjerker, as we learned of the anxieties preventing Onpu’s mother from wholeheartedly endorsing her daughter’s next performance. Onpu episodes are always great, and that one fell into a particularly rich vein of Doremi Drama: the show’s sensitive articulation of its parental figures’ doubts and fears, a theme it has harnessed to remarkable effect in both Onpu and Aiko’s stories. Through its humanization of its adult characters, Doremi serves as a gentle guide for its viewers, leading them through the frightening realization that their own parents are not invincible – as well as the ensuing sense of pride and purpose found in giving back to your parents, and bolstering their slumping shoulders with your own emerging strength. I imagine we’re in for a lighter episode after that standout, but regardless of what’s ahead, I’m sure it’ll be an excellent time. Let’s return to Ojamajo Doremi!
Our cold open is a woman who’s clearly a witch sitting in a rocking chair, gently rocking a magical baby. “You must grow up big and strong… and of course, never forget about Mama.” I could easily imagine Majo Rika being someone who’s entirely forgotten her own mother, so I wonder if we’ll be diving into her family life
Ah, these delightfully bouncy and contortion-friendly designs. Yoshihiko Umakoshi is an all-time character designer, and you can see the power of his designs in this OP, where he also served as animation director. Their round faces and noodle limbs stretch wildly to echo their emotions, their forms embodying their feelings in a way that’s entirely unique to animation, yet still oddly representative of how kids seem to emote
It’s odd to me that Umakoshi went from such playful, flexible design work like this to the entirely inflexible designs of My Hero Academia. Perhaps he’s simply constrained by that production’s overall art design mandate, its determination to exactly echo the original manga panels. Either way, it’s a waste – both for him, and for the better show My Hero could be
Whole lotta reckless baby flying in this OP, I gotta say. You girls be careful with Hana!
Hana’s grown a lot since her introduction, and so Rika announces it’s time to give her the seven magical herbs. Have we got a trip to the witch world coming!?
Ah damnit, Dela’s already here with the herbs in tow. Foiled!
We immediately get into the top shelf Good Faces as the gang react to Dela’s herb prices
But Rika mentions there’s another seller at the Izu Plateau! Field trip saved!
“The Search For The Herbs! The Maho-dou’s Bus Trip!”
And thus the gang rolls out that old bus they used to sell goods from when Majo Ruka stole the shop
As bank footage intended for persistent reuse, the transformation sequences of the girls shifting into their witch clothes embody Umakoshi persistently bouncy, stretchy design philosophy. Rather than a focus on magical effects obscuring their transformations, these sequences emphasize the physical process of trying on a new outfit, only exaggerated via the cast’s ability to contort themselves and tuck in their limbs to first fit into and then burst out from their witch dresses
The gang use their magic to transform the bus into a “gardening bus.” I appreciate how a lot of their minor magical tricks are actually things you could pretty easily do without magic, thus encouraging audiences to embrace the small ways they can already impact their own world. A key lesson of Ojamajo Doremi, and of great children’s anime more generally, is “you already possess more power to change your world than you believe”
And Aiko summons a microphone, because karaoke is apparently an essential part of bus trips. I am persistently jealous of how tightly karaoke seems to be integrated into so many aspects of Japanese life
More excellent Doremi hamster faces as Rika announces they’ll be doing some errands along the way
Oh my god, Doremi and Aiko are doing karaoke of their own theme song
I’m also appreciating this return to lush, imaginative layouts. Nice visual flourishes like this brief cut to us looking down on the group through the sunroof – it doesn’t necessarily play an essential dramatic purpose, but inventive layouts like this make their world feel all the more rich and lived-in
The rest area they stop at has a designated baby care room. I wonder if that’s common in Japan, or really in any nation that actually cares about its people’s welfare. Here in the states, the best you can hope for is a fold-out plastic bed in the existing restrooms
Majo Rika is quick to exploit Onpu’s celebrity in order to sell some dang flowers
More lovely painted backgrounds as our crew arrive at their destination. I’m quite fond of the texture effect underlying Doremi’s backgrounds; they appear naturally weathered, like they’ve been painted on corrugated cardboard or something
The proprietor of the store is the old woman from the cold open, who Majo Rika indeed seems to recognize
Excellent pratfall as Rika attempts to stop this woman from tripping on her door frame. Ojamajo Doremi: not afraid to push an old lady down the stairs
Another neat layout framed through the windows as the girls settle in for tea. This one actually does serve a clear dramatic purpose, bridging the gap between the two scenes, as if the camera is spinning to capture their entrance into the building before focusing in alongside them
This witch’s name is Majo Ririka, she is exceedingly clumsy, and she is almost certainly Majo Rika’s mother. Rika gets increasingly anxious as the girls comment on their similar names
I like how Ojamajo Doremi’s unique conception of “witch childhood” naturally pushes back against any sort of biological necessity – as the show has repeatedly demonstrated across its various vignettes, your family are simply the people who love you, and your parents are whoever raised you. Aiko’s journey in particular has dealt gracefully with the complex emotions inherent in parental divorce and new love
“There was an herb garden here, but they found a hot spring underneath. It’s a vacation home now.” A quiet or not-so-quiet antipathy towards development and urbanization is a common thread in anime, a natural consequence of how dramatically the landscape around Tokyo was altered in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Takahata, Oshii, hell even Mitsuo Iso’s Dennou Coil is heavily infused with nostalgia for a mixed urban-rural home
Nonetheless, the girls end up conscripted in helping clean the jungle hot spring feature
Hana has magical hiccups! Whatever can be done!?
Another excellent layout as we return from the ad break, this time framing the whole party through the legs of Ririka’s table. A layout that implies both intimacy and a sort of encroaching pressure, perfect for setting the tone of this new conflict
Aiko helpfully offers to administer a hiccup-halting visage of terror
This only terrifies Hana. Fortunately, magic mints can apparently cure magic hiccups
The girls ask Ririka to keep in contact with them via their magical cellphone. I wonder if these sorts of toys still pop up in modern magical girl shows; pretending to be “like an adult” via a toy cellphone was a common enough idea twenty years ago, but in the age of ubiquitous tablets and smartphones, I imagine a fake version of an outdated piece of technology is less appealing
The dynamic layouts continue, capturing Ririka from high among the bars of her second-floor landing, once again creating a sense of genuine space within the setting. Here, it also serves that same connective-tissue purpose as the window shot earlier, echoing the phone call “rising up” from Doremi and then beaming down to Ririka
This episode tapping into a rich vein of observational comedy: old folks and new devices
Hah, even their ringtone is the OP
Lovely action choreography as Rika bats fresh magical summons away from Hana. Just because Rika’s a shapeless blob doesn’t mean the animators can’t flex with some high kicks and karate chops
Majo Rika really taking a beating this episode. Apparently her head is some kind of flexible putty, that can be basically splattered like a tomato but still reconstitute itself
Rika earns her own case of magical hiccups, at last prompting Ririka to remember her. And with her own baby in trouble, she flies off to gather the herbs herself!
Another thoughtful episode conflict predicated on children coming to learn the limitations that adults also face. An episode urging us to be kind to our grandparents, and understand the frustration they must feel at no longer possessing the physical faculties they once did. Hugtto had a similarly powerful episode focused on Hana’s grandmother
“So these are magical mints?” At the same time, Ririka’s expertise emphasizes how our elders still have much to teach us, even if they can seem frail or eccentric in some ways
“Why didn’t you tell us?” “How could I? The baby she worked so hard to raise turned into a witch frog.” And an even thornier thread, this one as much for the parents in the audience as the kids: learning to forgive ourselves when we falter in achieving the dreams we shared with our own parents. Ririka doesn’t care that Rika’s a frog; she’s just happy to see her again
Through this, the girls learn to further embrace their own hesitant efforts, knowing that even Majo Rika was once as uncertain as they are
Ah, this show is delightful. This was indeed a somewhat lighter episode, but still rich in compassionate reflections on both childhood and adulthood, and how our bonds with and responsibilities towards our loved ones shift over time. Ririka proved an exceptional addition to the cast, naturally facilitating a variety of reflections on our duties towards elderly family members, the sense of disappointment that can arise from failing to meet your childhood expectations, and the way meeting a parent or mentor’s own guardians can enrich your relationship with your loved ones. All that in a tidy narrative shell brimming with generous visual flourishes, from the cozy, inventive layouts to the plethora of goofy faces. Doremi, it is good to be back.