by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Märchen Mädchen ?
Not all Russian folktales are goofy, but you'd hardly know it from Team Russia in this show. In part that's because they're a bit handicapped by the fact that a few of the more serious ones are off the table because of how the series has chosen to distribute other tales – Vasilissa the Brave can be seen as a Russian variant of Cinderella and is also one of the central tales to feature Baba Yaga, the child-eating mortar-riding witch, and Ivan the Foolish has been taken as a character, thus eliminating stories like The Firebird and certain iterations of Koschei the Deathless from the pool of possibilities. So we're left with The Princess Who Never Laughed (another with many variants) and The Giant Turnip, which are much more lighthearted in nature. This in turn makes it plausible for all of the Russian Maedchen to be on the sillier side, resulting in episodes like both this week's and its direct predecessor.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Now that we know for certain that Lynne Davis is an evil book-defiling (and Origin-defiling) fiend, it's nice to have a lighter touch, because mixed-media plans or no, what she did to Tatiana's Origin is just plain vile. Just because it isn't useful to her personally, she feels that she can destroy it, and that's not only selfish, but also just childish. (That her Origin is about a child may not be a coincidence, although right now she definitely fits Andersen's The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf better than his Matchgirl.) Tatiana's team really is trying their hardest to restore her magic to its proper function, and it's this devotion to their friend that ultimately touches Hazuki, who is able to call upon two different aspects of her Origin to help – she cleans the book, representative of Cinderella herself, but she also does it expressly to grant someone else's wish, which draws upon the character of the fairy godmother. That she can do so even though Tatiana has frozen everyone's magic for three minutes speaks both to the power of her Origin, but also to Hazuki's own inner strength – just as she has been able to rewrite (or rather, rework) Cinderella to suit her needs and preferences, she can also overcome the specific obstacle placed before her when no one else can – or to put it another way, she can make it to the ball, no matter who says she can't.
At this point there are definitely a lot of people who want to keep her at home in the ashes where they feel she belongs, too. The magic council, which suddenly appears to consist entirely of crones (weren't there one or two old men there before?), is, to put it mildly, ripshit over the fact that she's managed to “rewrite” her Origin. Mimicking one group of fairy tale enthusiasts who believe that the later written versions trump the earlier oral tales, the council believes that Hazuki has defiled Cinderella by essentially interpreting it differently than they do. But the thing about a fairy tale is that if it follows a set of specific steps laid out by scholars Aarne and Thompson, it doesn't really matter what else happens, and Cinderella A, also known as the stepsister version, just needs to hit these points quoted from the Aarne-Thompson guide: “The two stepsisters. The stepdaughter at the grave of her own mother, who helps her (milks the cow, shakes the apple-tree, helps the old man…). Three fold visit to church (dance). Slipper test.” Does the story do that? It's AT510A. All that Hazuki is doing is embodying all of the various characters instead of just the heroine.
It's unlikely that she's going to convince anyone on the council of that without a fight, though. Fortunately she's got the headmistress, who can speak out of both sides of her mouth convincingly, on her side, and now the Russians are also willing to go to bat for her. What's much more ominous is that it looks like episode nine, which we won't see for another couple of weeks due to production issues, will have the council trying to shift the blame onto Shizuku as the team leader. We know Hazuki will stand up for her princess, but will the princess be strong enough to stand on her own? There's an argument to be made for both sides of the issue in the Princess Kaguya tale, so we're just going to have to hope that Princess Charming will be as relentless as her masculine counterpart in proving that she'll do anything for Cinderella.
Maerchen Maedchen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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