by Theron Martin,
While hardly omnipresent within the genre, magical girl parodies and/or spin-offs have been a common element of harem series ever since the founding harem series, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki, established the precedent back in 1994 with Pretty Sammy, the alter ego of Sasami in the Mishoshi Special episode. In the first half of this episode, which is cleanly divided into two separate stories, that tradition continues.
Hence we have Magical Pâtissière Kosaki, who has made a pact with a rat suspiciously named Rurin, in order to become a magical girl to fight evil. Other cast members get in on the act, too, with Marika (naturally!) becoming a magical police girl and Chitoge (naturally!) becoming a magical gorilla girl who has a cat who can transform into a magical girl form of Seishiro. The evil mastermind then has to be Shu (aka Dr. Maikou), who – quite logically – is actually not aiming for world domination but instead just wants to draw out and get the attention of magical girls, whom he finds so pretty and sexy. Raku, interestingly, is nowhere to be found in this scenario, which otherwise clearly delights in poking fun at how a genre once exclusively targeted at teen and preteen girls has created a branch aimed more at otaku. It does this by exploiting how magical girls commonly are briefly nude during their transformation scenes and playing that up as deliberate and pointed fan service, which of course causes the shy Kosaki no small degree of consternation but is far less bothersome to Marika. It rides the joke further with the whole “you have to remain naked for five minutes to power up your ultimate attack” routine.
Perhaps needless to say, that does result in a heavy amount of fan service by this franchise's standards. The nudity-in-transformation business is something very much worth poking fun at, though, and the service is comparatively tasteful. That and the novelty of it all (it even has its own opening theme) are really the main draws, as overall the sketch is more lightly amusing than outright funny; the bit about Kosaki popping into the bathroom to do her transformations is a good joke, but even that has been done within the genre before and done better. (See the To Love-Ru franchise's take on it.) Parodying magical girls has been so ingrained into anime for so long that a series has to do something truly special with it to show sharp wit, and this one does not go that far.
In terms over overall story/character progression, the return to normal in the second half is vastly more important. Raku is, once again, asked to help out as a baker at the Onodera store, which Haru is mortified by but Kosaki sees as an opportunity to get Haru to not be so hostile towards him. Haru furiously tries to reject at every turn that there is anything good about Raku, including refusing to believe that he actually is the prince who saved her from ruffians on the first day of school, and so she is unwilling to admit that Raku might actually not only know what he is doing on the cooking front but also even share her passion for cooking. In fact, of all of the girls swirling around Raku, she might actually be the best fit for him in terms of interests and capabilities. This is not something she is ready to accept by the end of the episode but the groundwork has already been lain for her to eventually come around.
While still pretty typical content, the second half actually works a little better. Perhaps it's the renewed presence of Kosaki and Haru's mother, who is just saucy enough to have a little fun with her girls' fledgling romances. Whatever the case, it provides a more grounded counterpoint to the whimsical nature of the first half.
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