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by Rebecca Silverman,

Fairy Princess Minky Momo

Episodes 31-46 Anime Review

Fairy Princess Minky Momo Episodes 31-46 Anime Series Review
As Momo gets ever closer to her goal of sending enough dream energy back to Fenarinarsa, her adventures get darker. She deals with lost loves, gangsters, and shootouts, as well as her own (earth) mother's youth as the daughter of a Chicago mobster. Just when triumph is in reach, a series of terrible events steal away hope—and maybe Momo herself.

It's a moment of magical girl history, right there on the screen: in episode forty-six of Fairy Princess Minky Momo's original 1982-83 television series, Momo is hit by a truck and dies. Even putting aside the question of whether or not this is Truck-kun's first victim, this is a major event in anime history. Later magical girl stories were able to be dark while because of Momo's death – Nurse Angel Ririka couldn't have pulled off its twist ending in 1995, Sailor Moon and the other Sailor Guardians couldn't have recovered from their multiple deaths between 1992 and 1997, and certainly 2011's Puella Magi Madoka Magica couldn't have even existed without Minky Momo's forty-sixth episode. And lest you think that this sort of children's entertainment darkness was confined to Japan (goodness knows that 1981's Unico was emotionally devastating), it's worth mentioning that 1980s children's programming could be dark all over the world; for example just look at My Little Pony: Escape from Midnight Castle (1984) and both theatrical Care Bears movies; in 1986, the Bears infamously raise the dead with the power of caring. But even put in context, Minky Momo's death is still a shocking event in a bleak episode, and arguably why the series' name is even known today.

Although earlier episodes could have been brought to you by the letters w, t, and f, this set of sixteen takes a grimmer tone. Episode thirty-three has a character considering and attempting suicide, and episode thirty-seven raises the specter of her Earth parents getting divorced. Then, episode thirty-eight significantly ups the ante: its plot follows the story of two high school sweethearts separated when Sara moves away. Shortly after she leaves, the truck she's riding in plunges from a snowy cliff, killing her. She becomes a wandering snow spirit, unable to be with her beloved in any season but winter, and even then, she's invisible to him. Momo helps them to spend a brief time together, and she does get happy tears, but the couple's time is fleeting, as Sara has to pass on to the next life. While episode forty-two has Momo accidentally almost start a war, that one is treated with the series' usual goofiness. At the same time, Sara's story is handled seriously, foreshadowing Momo's demise.

The foreshadowing certainly is on full display. Along with the death themes and Sara's truck-based end, we also learn that Momo's Earth mother is the daughter of totally-not-Al Capone, establishing a background based on criminal violence. This allows for the show to indulge in more gangster-based episodes, leading us to episode forty-five, where Momo loses her magic. Or rather, she loses her pendant and Minky Stick, and not just from the chain breaking, as happens in an earlier case: her pendant is hit with a gunshot and shattered. At the same time, the criminals also shoot and kill Peter, a man Momo is helping, gunning him down right in front of her. It's an astoundingly violent turn for a show targeted at little girls, and Momo's depression and frustration are clearly shown.

The infamous death episode draws on her emotions. Momo knows that now she's stuck on Earth, albeit with her animal companions, and she tries to make the best of it – the episode takes care to show her dressing and going to school, the first time she's ever attended. There's nothing creepy or prurient about it; the scenes of her pulling on her shirt for what we viewers in 2024 know is the last time is meant to evoke a sense of quiet loss as we contemplate how she's just an ordinary girl now. We see her doing a variety of ordinary things until her death. Although it was meant more to stick it to the toy company that pulled its sponsorship of the series, we can still read the episode as showing that without her magic, Minky Momo isn't who she was. Even her death, pushing a child out of the way of the truck, demonstrates how she can no longer be everyone's magical princess, bringing joy and dreams to the world. She's just a twelve-year-old girl, and there's nothing she can do in the end.

The episode is incredibly well put together. The sound design is particularly striking, with a span of silence following Momo's scream until an ambulance siren is heard, while toys are shown littering the street. In a fit of symbolism, a toy ambulance is stopped by a wooden block, indicating the futility of the real ambulance's efforts to save the girl. Color also leeches from the scene as the ambulance is stopped, and several minutes are filmed in black and white, including her Earth parents and animal friends all standing at her grave. While there's a debate about whether or not it's age-appropriate (both then and now), the entire thing is very well done.

Although this episode understandably consumes most of our attention – and comprises all some people know of the series – these episodes are remarkable in a few other particulars. Chief among them is the sheer number of insert songs; there's one in nearly every episode from forty on, and all are subbed, which is especially nice since the theme songs aren't. There are also moments of beautiful animation that are several cuts above what the show usually brings to the table; a dance scene during episode forty-three, which offers Momo a short-lived romance, looks very impressive. The show also continues to bring fun references, with Momo at one point transforming into "Scarlet Queen," a female version of Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack, and her mysterious thief character returns alongside Lupinne in a very bizarre Santa-based story. (Santa, for what it's worth, looks like a cross between Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.) Momo's transformation also gets a bit of a shake-up in one case, with her Earth mother crashing into her midway through, resulting in both of them turning into hardboiled detectives, a gag which the show gets a lot of mileage out of. It remains a lot of fun…until, abruptly, it isn't.

Fairy Princess Minky Momo isn't over. There are nearly twenty more episodes to go, filling in the time between her rebirth and the end of episode forty-six, which does read like a finale. But this is where the series earns its place in anime history, setting a precedent that other magical girl shows will follow. Even if you don't care about the genre, it's worth watching at least episodes forty-five and forty-six to see why Mami had to die in PMMM, because this is where the toll of being a magical girl or suddenly losing your powers is established. Is it worth it for Momo? The show itself seems uncertain, torn between the value of her living a normal life as a human with her dreams and the sheer weight of her death because of her lost magic.

Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+

+ Watershed moment in magical girl history, good use of foreshadowing. Subs for insert songs.
Much darker than previous episodes in ways that don't always work, Momo's face looks completely different in episode forty-five.

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Production Info:
Series Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Series Composition: Takeshi Shudō
Ayuko Anzai
Tomoko Konparu
Kyōko Sagiyama
Shigeru Sato
Takeshi Shudō
Hiroshi Toda
Tokio Tsuchiya
Tomomi Tsutsui
Yūji Watanabe
Shōzō Yamazaki
Miho Fujioka
Yūho Hanazono
Denkichi Hirota
Chinatsu Houjou
Masahisa Ishida
Kenichi Kanemaki
Yuki Kikuchi
Hiroshi Konishikawa
Tomoko Konparu
Akira Okeya
Akemi Omode
Shunji Sakata
Shigeru Sato
Fumihiko Shimo
Takeshi Shudō
Junki Takegami
Yukiyo Takihana
Kazuho Takizawa
Hiroshi Toda
Tokio Tsuchiya
Kunihiko Yuyama
Yoshitaka Fujimoto
Hideo Furusawa
Shohei Ishida
Hiroshi Jinsenji
Takao Kato
Tetsuya Kobayashi
Masayuki Kojima
Shinsaku Kōzuma
Masaki Kudō
Mitsuo Kusakabe
Katsumi Minoguchi
Junji Nishimura
Saki Noda
Seiichi Nodate
Kazufumi Nomura
Jutarō Ōba
Masayuki Ōzeki
Kiyoko Sayama
Motoko Shibasaki
Yūzō Yamada
Kenjirō Yoshida
Kunihiko Yuyama
Episode Director:
Masashi Abe
Yoshitaka Fujimoto
Hideo Furusawa
Shohei Ishida
Hiroshi Jinsenji
Takao Kato
Mitsuo Kusakabe
Katsumi Minoguchi
Tatsuo Miura
Junji Nishimura
Seiichi Nodate
Jutarō Ōba
Hiroshi Watanabe
Yūzō Yamada
Kunihiko Yuyama
Tomoki Hasegawa
Hiroshi Takada
Original creator: Takeshi Shudō
Original Manga: Takeshi Shudō
Character Design:
Toyoo Ashida
Ayumi Hattori
Noa Misaki
Hiroshi Watanabe
Art Director:
Torao Arai
Wakana Nagashima
Animation Director:
Takashi Hashimoto
Ichio Hayashi
Satoshi Horisawa
Osamu Horiuchi
Kei Hyōdō
Kazuo Iimura
Taketomo Ishikawa
Satoshi Jingu
Shinichiro Kajiura
Osamu Kamijō
Rika Mishima
Keiichi Satō
Miho Shimogasa
Tamotsu Tanaka
Mari Tominaga
Osamu Tsuruyama
Hiroshi Watanabe
Noriyasu Yamauchi
Sound Director:
Fusanobu Fujiyama
Katsunori Shimizu
Director of Photography:
Takeshi Fukuda
Kazunori Hashimoto
Executive producer: Toshihiko Satō
Toshihiko Fujinami
Tōru Horikoshi
Hiroshi Katō
Minoru Ohno
Masaru Umehara

Full encyclopedia details about
Fairy Princess Minky Momo (TV)
Mahō no Princess Minky Momo: Yume o Dakishimete (TV)

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