Maerchen Maedchen
Episode 4

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Märchen Mädchen ?

Oh, censorship. You never fail to annoy me. This week's promised hot springs bathing scene is fine for the plot, but the use of glowing fog definitely goes overboard. Seriously, at a few points Maria and Hazuki look like they're wearing bathing suits made out of radioactive cotton balls.

That aside, I think Hans Christian Andersen may be screaming from the afterlife at Maerchen Maedchen's version of his classic literary fairy tale The Little Matchgirl. Andersen's original text is meant to be a story about redemption after death, with the Poor Little Matchgirl freezing to death being portrayed as a rewarding ending in that she goes to heaven and is freed from all suffering because she was so good in her short life. Lynne Daves, the character who wields the Origin of the tale in the show, uses giant poisoned matches to defeat enemies she's already trying to take down behind the scenes. “Good and kind” in no way describe her. (If she gives them all phossy jaw, I'm out of here.) I also find it a little funny that the American school has the Danish story's Origin but no one seems to be objecting; given the heat that poor Hazuki is under for having a text with universal origins, it definitely feels a little weird, even more so because Ariko's Origin is revealed this week to be the specifically Japanese variant of the Little Thumbling tale type, Isshun Boshi.

All of that could just be me knowing too much about folklore for the show's comfort, of course, because while Maerchen Maedchen is interested in using real aspects of each Origin's actual story, it's more invested in its own narrative. That's really as it should be, especially since the conflicts of interest between different schools come to the fore this week. We already know that Hazuki is facing prejudice and intensified scrutiny because she's from the regular world (tellingly called the “other” world) and has such a powerful Origin. The depth of the magical world's jealousy and anger comes out much more clearly this week as girls from other schools assemble ahead of the Hexennacht. Russian Maria simply wants Hazuki to transfer to the Russian school, in part because they once held the Cinderella Origin, but Lynne would rather kill Hazuki and free the book up all together (presumably with the goal of then whisking it away to the American school). To that end she's not above sabotaging poor Hazuki by conspiring with Yumelia, who it turns out may have been a plant in the Japanese school all along rather than a bonafide exchange student. That's the absolute best use of one of the Origins in terms of the actual tale in the show thus far—Shuten Doji is about a demon, so Yumelia's deception and betrayal of her supposed teammates is spot-on. It even works if we consider that not everyone at her old school was likely aware of her contract with Lynne, making her look like a traitor to all sides.

Poor Hazuki is basically collateral damage for most of this episode, even though she's technically the target. She understands so little of what's actually going on, and her inability to transform has her so fixated that she's still only tangentially aware of the interschool drama going on around her. Her experience as a regular student has her thinking the Hexennacht is just another school festival, which reads as irritatingly naïve to the other Maedchen and further convinces them that she doesn't deserve to have a contract with Cinderella. None of them can see past her as an “Other” and new to magic; all they have is rage and jealousy that such an apparently stupid and undeserving girl has been given such a powerful Origin. Presumably this blind prejudice is what is making all of them overlook the fact that she didn't just randomly pick up the book and form a contract—Cinderella chose her. Not trusting such a venerated Origin doesn't seem like an awesome plan on their parts, and I'm hoping that the next couple of episodes will show them that their rage is the product of their own envy and bias.

That's where the fact that Hazuki has Cinderella may come into play in a different way. Cinderella herself is a character who suffers from the blind hatred of her stepfamily only to find a way out of it, and in some variants, to forgive it. That Hazuki is clearly the stepchild of the magic school in this situation stands to reinforce early parts of the fairy tale, and the fact that her closest ally, Shizuka, is being referred to as the Moon Princess rather than Tale of the Bamboo Cutter feels like she could be the Prince Charming figure. Things will clearly get worse for Hazuki before she and Princess Charming get to ride off into the sunset, but crimes against Hans Christian Andersen aside, there're still a lot of interesting stories being told here that are following.

Rating: B

Maerchen Maedchen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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