Ojamajo Doremi is a Toei animation original from the late 90s to early 00s. It ran for almost a year and had a whole slew of sequels. With this one, there is a good reason to be hopeful since Toei has done pretty well with magical girl series including both Sailor Moon and PreCure. Let’s see if this one can maintain the streak.
We open with our titular heroine, Harukaze Doremi, lamenting her status as the “world’s unluckiest pretty girl.” All because she can’t find a boyfriend at the ripe old age of eight. Please hold while I play the world’s tiniest violin for her. She stops by a strange shop on her way home and discovers that it’s run by an actual witch. Her discovery leads to the witch becoming a magical frog and Doremi finds herself taking on the role of her apprentice in order to return her to normal. She quickly brings her two best friends, Hazuki and Aiko, on board because she can’t keep it a secret properly. Antics ensue.
My big problem with this series is the over emphasis on romance. We have characters who are quite literally in the third grade, and one who’s in Kindergarten. And yet there’s a fixation in quite a few episodes on their nonexistent love lives. I have a ten year old niece. I’ve seen her and her friends interact. They still find it a bit gross when there’s romance in a television show. Kindergärtners sure as hell aren’t thinking about that and neither are a good 90%+ of third graders. If we’re being generous, we can call this an unrealistic element that the series wants to use for comedic effect. The problem there is that the “Doremi has a crush, again” episodes tend to be the weakest, least funny in the series. They pretty much all follow the same arc. Doremi pursues some guy. She and her friends use some magic to help him out of some kind of situation. He turns out to be interested in a different girl.
Aside from that, there is a lot to like about the series. Most episodes have a lot of strong, humorous moments. The series knows how to keep a strong aesthetic emphasising fun while still delving slightly into some more serious topics and handling them optimistically, but pretty well. It helps that the series has a good sense of which topics are serious enough that they can bring them in with some gravity without being so serious that they’re going to ruin the charming, fun aesthetic. That is, ultimately, the aspect I can praise it for the most. It is a delightful series to watch.
The cast is pretty simplistic. Which is fine since this is a more comedic work and it’s for children. The characters do have strong interactions. And one factor I do appreciate is the way the more antagonistic characters are given sympathetic traits. They aren’t just “the mean girls” or stereotypical bullies. Which is a bit refreshing particularly when you compare it to some other media for children where any antagonist is just evil for the evils. Although it is worth noting that there are no real villains in this. Which may explain why they went that route.
This is one element where I can’t give the series too much praise. The art doesn’t look terrible, but it does look very cheap. The character designs are basic with minimalist backgrounds. The various objects and effects are underwhelming. Even with the very basic art style, they still use a lot of stock footage for the magic. It’s like every episode had barely enough of an animation budget to buy a large pizza.
Toei did get an impressive cast for the series. We’ve got Chiba Chiemi as the lead and she sounds uncannily similar to Mitsuishi Kotono voicing Tsukino Usagi. Which suits the character because there are a lot of parallels betwixt the two. We’ve also got Matsuoka Yuki voicing a young transfer student from Osaka. Which she also did in Azumanga Daioh. Akiya Tomoko is just a delight and Shishido Rumi is really good. The worst I can say is that the characters can be overly exaggerated at times, but compared to other children’s media I’ve seen, this one is pretty mild in that regard. Oku Keiichi’s soundtrack is nicely composed and really fits with the aesthetic nicely.
There’s a bit. Hazuki looks at supposedly attractive ladies, I say supposedly because it’s hard to tell with the art style, with hearts in her eyes more than once. Their teacher and school nurse have more than a little chemistry. There’s also a young writer in their class and she seems to develop a bit of a crush on Aiko in one episode. And yes, the fixation on third grade crushes is still weird. The chemistry with the grown teachers is fine, though.
Is Ojamajo Doremi as strong as the other Toei magical girl series I’ve seen? Well, no. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good anime. It’s enjoyable to watch. It has a strong vocal cast and it is really fun. I can appreciate that it’s more comedic and not a typical “save the world from the big bad” type of series. But when compared to Sailor Moon or the PreCure series I’ve reviewed, it’s better than Max Heart but, in general, isn’t as strong. Ultimately, I’ll give it a 7/10. If you want to watch a simple series that just focuses on having fun, I would recommend it. If you’re more interested in something with more of a story and more complex characters or you want really good artwork, this isn’t the series you’re looking for.