The classic tales of Cinderella, The Little Match Girl, Snow White, and just about every story with a Prince Charming attached to it have been revamped, redone, and reimagined in every way possible. From Disney classics and Stephen Sondheim musicals to Terry Gilliam visual spectacles and creepy video game interpretations, the stories of princesses and princes finding their true selves after a long harrowing battle have been told over and over again with just a glimmering of newness to make it interesting again. So of course the anime industry would one day take the fairy tale concept and transform it into a magical girl show. Unfortunately, the end result known as Maerchen Maedchen is a few Fairy Godmothers shy of being a real magical undertaking.
Based on the final light novel series by Tomohiro Matsu (Mayoi Neko Overrun!), Maerchen Maedchen places its focus on a nervous young girl named Hazuki Kagimura (Tomori Kusunoki). She often finds her nose within a book due to her social issues, with her diagnosed "Story Syndrome" keeping her fantasies engulf around her in order to cope with stressful situations. One day after school, a cloaked figure drops a Cinderella book near Hazuki, and upon following her discovers an abandoned library that leads to another dimension. Hazuki soon finds herself at Kuzunoha Girl's Magical Academy, where she soon finds herself transferring over to and learning how to be a special Mage known as a Maedchen, a book user.
In these magical academies, students learn how to use magic based on classic tales, from Shizuka (Rie Suegara) honing skills based on Princess Kaguya and Lynne's (Rina Hidaka) weaponry inspired humorously by The Little Match Girl. As Hazuki learns about her new skills, she slowly finds herself peeking out from her shell and making real friends in her new surroundings. But when a tournament known as Hexennacht approaches in the students' radars, the race to become a good-enough Mage soon catches up to the new magical girl in ways that are both positive and negative for her well-being.
On paper, Maerchen Maedchen should be an interesting premise. The character of Hazuki is surprisingly well-rounded, and the world that she finds herself in is impressively imaginative. Crafting magic from fairy tales serves as a great metaphor for how children take a fictional story and use its teachings later in life to better themselves when they enter the real world. It's a shame then that the story isn't executed well enough to be anything memorable in the long run. (Part of the reason for this is because Matsu passed away only after finishing the first draft of the light-novel, so fault can't be placed on him.)
The problem with Maerchen Maedchen is that the characters don't do much to make enough use of the magic that they've been granted. On top of that, the situations thrown at them worthy of being interesting enough to take hold of the average viewer. A tournament like Hexennacht should be brimming with awe, pomp, and fighting glory, but instead the fights that the Japanese team find themselves in are rather yawn-inducing. Even though there are some good laughs when they go up against Team Russia, the magical battle aspect is watered down from what was promised when first brought up. To put it bluntly, it's incredibly boring!
Visually, the anime is not one of the prettiest to come around this year. For a production company that has something as badass as Drifters on its resume, Hoods Entertainment's efforts here are incredibly lazy. Although the characters are cute to look at, the world and the actions appear jagged and wonky. Even something as simple as a character running just looks off within the eye of this beholder. (Considering that the show will be delayed a couple weeks to fix up the next episode, it shows they know they've got a lot of improvements to make to have Maerchen Maedchen shine better before its home video release.)
Even though they're doing their best with what they're working with, the majority of the voice cast doesn't quite capture the excitement this series is looking for. The only one who stands out most is Kusunoki, who crafts Hazuki from a timid child to one doing all she can to break out of her insecurities and be the hero she was destined to be. Even her speech where she rewrites Cinderella into someone she can relate to is riddled with enough emotion to give anyone goosebumps. I just wish we could see the same amount of heartwarming performances from the rest of the cast.
Considering it's their first crack at scoring an anime, rionos is pretty amateurish. Nowhere in its score do I hear any sort of originality, with melodies feeling like they were ripped right from other fantasy series. Even its episode title jingle makes me cringe due to its lazy, magic-less presentation. At least the anime has gifted us with opening and ending themes that are far more memorable. J-POP band fhána once again shows they can't write a bad song, as "Watashi no Tame no Monogatari ~My Uncompleted Story~" is wonderfully fast-paced and brimming with personality. Reina Ueda's "sleepland" matches its namesake well, with a soothing sound and beautiful vocals that will help you drift you off to the land of dreams.
Maerchen Maedchen could have been something special, but sadly that wasn't the case. A story involving magical powers based on classic literature should've been an easy thing to make both exciting and interesting to the eye. It's a shame then that Hazuki's adventure is more wooden than Pinocchio and wetter than Ariel's underwater kingdom. You'd have a much more enjoyable time forcibly doing chores for your wicked stepmother and stepsisters than watch something as dull as Maerchen Maedchen.
Final Grade (not an average):