by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Märchen Mädchen ?
This week we get to the point that Maerchen Maedchen has clearly been trying to reach: the moment when Hazuki claims her powers and upends the stodgy old magic folks. It's a pretty great moment, too – not only does Hazuki come in at the last minute to save her team, but she also manages to point out the major issue holding current magic users back – they think they're beholden to their Origins' earliest texts. While that's a very heroine-of-this-kind-of-show thing to do, it's also an interesting statement on how folk and fairy tales survive throughout time: by changing.
To put this in context, there's a school of thought that says that when fairy tales were first written down, their natural evolution as stories was halted. The written versions became “official” versions, and people who remembered them differently or knew a variant from childhood were now wrong rather than simply different. We can still see the root of this belief today in the simple fact that most people hold up the Brothers Grimm's written texts as the “real” ones, even though they're anything but; they're just the most well-known people to have recorded oral German tales. In fact, between the first edition of 1812 and the final Grimm-edited edition of 1857, Wilhelm Grimm specifically did a lot of tinkering with the stories, which is precisely what creators like Walt Disney continued to do starting in 1937. It's the exact same thing that oral storytellers had been doing for centuries, but because there now exist written copies, the practice of folktale evolution has become meddling with the sacrosanct.
All of this ties in impressively well with Hazuki's approach to being a Maedchen, probably the result of her not being raised in the magic world and being such a voracious reader. With her reading experience, she's no doubt encountered lots of stories that are basically variations on a theme or flat-out retellings, so she doesn't see anything wrong with rewriting Cinderella to suit her own purposes. Because she never learned that the Origins were anything special (besides being magic), she doesn't have the same hang-ups as the other girls, so she can retell her Origin to suit herself. If she leaves the base narrative intact, she's fine – and that's something that Shizuka and Yumelia can't bring themselves to do.
The degree to which they're caught up in the idea that Origins are sacred texts shows when Yumelia uses her Origin to take down Shizuka's faith in herself – bad guy Shuten Doji reminds Princess Kaguya that she'll always be alone because she has to leave the ones she loves to return to the moon kingdom. There's no other option – it's right there on the page. So all five girls present are visibly shocked when Hazuki actually rewrites her Origin's text before performing buchulle right in front of them; the old guard back at the school are similarly aghast. One of them yells out that the earlier story is being lost, which is a common gripe any time a text is reimagined for whatever reason. But the earlier Cinderella story is still around, and Hazuki's reworking of the text to better suit herself doesn't change that. Origins, like their folkloric sources, are strong enough to hold up to readers and Maedchen reshaping them into something that continues to resonate.
Given this strong content, it's really a shame that the visuals take a major nosedive this week. It's not just the questionable Puss in Boots costume, which appears to be missing a swathe of fabric, the midsection, and inexplicably has a cat tail on the hat instead of the butt; almost the entire episode is simplified or off-model. Some things, like Hazuki's bare feet turning into foot-colored shoes, are relatively excusable, but it's hard to dismiss how far the quality has slipped.
Hopefully things will iron out for next week, when the characters will spend most of their time in the baths again, so looking attractive might be considered more important. Whatever the case, I'm looking forward to our new Cinderella and her powers, born out of the desire to write her own story and ensure that everyone lives happily ever after.
Maerchen Maedchen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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