by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Märchen Mädchen ?
Raise your hand if you're surprised that the girl with the short silvery hair is Russian! What, nobody? I suppose we're all used to that particular oddity of an anime trope, along with the fact that the Chinese character will invariably wear flowers in her hair and the British and German (and American, usually) characters will be blonde. What's more interesting about the introduction of these girls from the ending theme is their attitudes – German Agathe (I'm guessing that Arthur is the British girl) is confrontational and brusque the minute she meets up with Shizuka, making demands about the Cinderella Origin text and the one who wields it.
She's not the only one, either – with the explanation of the Hexennachte, basically a magical protection ceremony disguised as a competitive game, it becomes apparent why Shizuka is concerned that Hazuki can't perform the Büchulle spell, which will physically bond her with her Origin. If she can't do that, she can't draw on her magic enough to successfully participate in the games, and that could seriously compromise the safety of the school's collection of Origins. Once an Origin is eaten by Stains, basically the magic book equivalent of silverfish, it vanishes from the world forever, its story lost. It's an interesting reversal of the concept of Spanish author Carlos Ruíz Zafon's Cemetery of Lost Books, a treasure trove of the written word where people are allowed to take ownership of one volume to keep alive. Essentially that's what the Maedchen are doing, only in their case the books choose them, and it's up to the girls to learn how to harness that power. Because Hazuki comes from the regular world, she's less equipped to do this, and that's turning into a problem.
Of course, part of that issue is based in prejudice rather than any actual problems on Hazuki's part, because her control of her fabulous pumpkin beasts at the beginning of the episode shows that she's got a pretty good grasp of her magic already. She's just afraid to fully give herself over to the book, which is understandable. Not only is it scary that she feels pulled into the Origin when she tries (I don't know who wouldn't be freaked out by that), but she's also never had a firm sense of self to begin with. Hazuki is a shy person, and her family situation with her overwhelming stepsister certainly hasn't helped that. Her “story syndrome" is how she has defined herself up to this point, and that's an identity based in something she sees as an undesirable trait that's liable to change depending on what book she's reading. Therefore, the thought of losing even that little sense of identity and being literally subsumed by a book is a step too far even for her. Unfortunately, people in the magic part of the world are unlikely to see it that way – Shizuka's meeting with a high-ranking member of magical society already has him advocating to nullify Hazuki's contract with Cinderella via memory erasure simply because she's an outsider.
It's to Shizuka's credit that she's uncomfortable with that idea, and I suspect that even Yumelia wouldn't be happy with it. But Agathe might have other ideas, because it's all but certain that the councilman isn't the only one who feels that Hazuki has no business being an Origin holder. That will doubtless be a bigger part of the story as things move forward next week, so it's probably a good thing that there will be some mild fanservice to lighten things up. Hopefully it won't be as off-model as some of the scenes in this episode were – the art was really slipping near the end of the episode, but it abruptly improved when Hazuki got naked. Whatever the case, it looks as if Hazuki will have to battle more than her preconceived notions about herself and her stepfamily – she'll also have to realize that she belongs here. Proving that to the rest of the world might be her biggest challenge.
Maerchen Maedchen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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