by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Märchen Mädchen ?
Maerchen Maedchen took a two-week break for production issues, but now it's back—with kind of a dull episode. We get the bare minimum of the American school's fight with the Chinese school, including a couple more Origin reveals, and then it's off to the ubiquitous training camp episode before Japan and America go head-to-head on the second night of the Hexennacht, which is almost certain to be rigged in America's favor. The setup for this is the most interesting and important part of the episode. Lynne is now even more strongly confirmed to have been cheating, and her team is not happy about it. It's one thing for her to have learned how to disable someone's spell through legitimate research, but it's another entirely for her to have tampered with an Origin, or gone so far as to mess with the justice system in order to take Shizuka out of the game entirely. That may be outright illegal, to say nothing of just being a terrible thing to do. It's heartening that even her sister thinks that Lynne's gone too far, and this may result in the American team being banned from this and future games.
But all of this is limited to a few short scenes in an episode mostly devoted to Hazuki freaking out about going on a trip, and the headmistress randomly adding extra people to said trip. I'll admit that that annoys me unreasonably that she makes obnoxious assumptions about things being more fun “at your age” with more people, because for Hazuki, that could just as easily make things more terrifying (luckily it does not), plus she's imposing on Shizuka's family by sending a mess of extra teenage girls along. But more importantly, it feels like a lame attempt to cram more characters into an episode that could easily have done without them. The purpose of the training camp is to help Hazuki perfect her Castle spell and get a better handle on her Cinderella powers in general, and that could have reasonably been accomplished with just her teammates, which also would have allowed Hazuki to focus more on her magic instead of her social worries. But it's also the part of the episode that gets the least attention, even less so than Lynne's machinations – sure, we learn that Castle has a time limit, but not whether or not it can be immediately recast, which seems like an important question.
The art and animation quality are also an issue this week. Characters constantly look off-model, and the perspective is frequently just plain wrong; the scene on the bullet train has the girls looking like they're actually sitting on different levels rather than next to each other, and the screencap above shows some distinctly awkward sitting. There are many scenes where there's just something off about the animation, with far too few frames used to communicate even basic movements. It's a distinctly ugly episode, and coupled with the fluff surrounding the plot points, it makes me think, "We waited two weeks for this?"
And then there's the new Origins. The Santa Claus story makes sense in that it has become a myth on its own (and America's done a fine job of commercializing Christmas, so it also works to have that be an American Origin), but I'm sorry to say that “Zombie” is in no way an established story. The Haitian Creole term zonbi comes from the Voudou religion, and the creatures are a fixture of many stories, but unlike Russia's Ivan the Fool, there is no one distinct character or theme to zombie stories. They're a character type rather than a distinct character or theme, so having “Zombie” be an Origin simply doesn't make sense; that would be like having “Travel Narrative” instead of Journey to the West. There's also some questionable ground tread with calling one of China's Origins “Journey to the East,” but that may be a translation issue more than anything; a better name would be simply “The Eight Immortals.”
Maerchen Maedchen is definitely stumbling. With noticeably poor art and animation, and a plot that's trying too hard to introduce cute elements to an increasingly fraught situation, it isn't making the best use of its runtime. Hopefully now that this episode is over, we'll see things get back in gear next week. With Shizuka out (at least temporarily) and a new player in, there's ample room for real plot development. Here's hoping we see the show improve.
Maerchen Maedchen is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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