May 23, 2011

Mystery Meat -- Akazukin Chacha

Today's Mystery Meat isAkazukin Chacha. It dates from 1994, and I don't have the slightest idea why I downloaded it. In fact, I'm not ever sure where I got it.

It's a magical girl show, and fundamentally a comedy. Our main character is Chacha, who looks to be maybe 7 years old. She's an orphan with a (tadadum) mysterious past who has been raised by Seravey, self-proclaimed (and apparently widely acknowledged) finest magician alive. Chacha has been trained by him in magic, but she's a screwup; every spell she casts goes awry.

For instance, she tries to turn a cloud of dandelion seeds into a cloud (雲 kumo), but instead gets spiders (蜘蛛 kumo).

Seravey is leery about sending her to magic school, but ultimately decides that she needs to go. But having an intuition that someone will be gunning for her, he gives her some powerful magic items to protect her: a medallion, a bracelet, and a ring. If she wears the medallion, and gives the bracelet and ring to two friends, then she can transform. I mean, that's in the rules, isn't it?

So this:


becomes this:


So who are the two friends? One is Riiya, childhood friend. He can transform himself into a tiny white wolf, or maybe it's a fox. Whatever it is, whenever he does it Chacha grabs him and goes "kawaii! kawaii!" The other is Shiine, who is a bit strange. He, too, can transform, but he becomes a chipmunk. Chacha goes "Eww! A rat! I hate rats!" and hits him with her shoe, much to his disappointment.

He's a student of Dorothy, a rival mage. There may be some romantic history between her and Serevay. Anyway, Dorothy is tremendously strange. She forces Shiine to wear something that might be a long robe, but it looks like a dress. Shiine has a love-at-first-sight reaction to Chacha, and since Riiya is long since smitten as well, we've got our comedic love triangle. Which isn't very serious, because these kids are all very young.

Those are the three main characters. The villain is someone called the Dark Lord ("Dai maou sama", and where have we heard that before?), whose face we aren't shown. He has one of his minions send a magic mirror to Dorothy, which fills her with resentment about Serevay, whom she kidnaps and imprisons in a bottle. Chacha determines to save him, but has trouble with her magic. Yet in the end she is able to (mis)use it in ways which resullt in a rescue especially after she gives the bracelet and ring to Riiya and Shiine and becomes that magic archer.

The whole thing is very light, yet it doesn't seem to descend to farce. And the long term story is about Chacha eventually going on a quest to find out where she really came from.

This seems to have been a classic of the form, and it also seems to be blazing trails. Remember Friagne's doll Marianne? Serevay has a doll named Elizabeth, but there isn't anything sinister about it. It's a ventriloquist dummy and Serevay operates it and does its speaking for it. Now why he does this is anybody's guess, but he doesn't seem to be crazy. When I saw Serevay holding Elizabeth and, seemingly, talking to her, I wondered whether Friagne's doll was a reference to this series.

This show ran 74 episodes, and I have no idea whether I'll want to watch it all. But the first episode was fun, frothy without being sickening. Chacha could have been intolerable but she isn't. A lot of things about this could have been awful, but weren't. I'm impressed.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 03:53 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 614 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Did you recognize Shiine's voice (Noriko Hidaka) as Hajime Murata's mother ("kochira Murata desu" - "kochimo Murata desu")? The cast list of this thing is such a blast from the past.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 23, 2011 04:40 PM (9KseV)

2 His work as an episode director on Akazukin Chacha was the breakthrough for Akitaro Daichi, who went on to be series director for Nurse Angel Ririka, Fruits Basket, Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl (both series), Now and Then, Here and There, and Kodomo no Omocha among others.  To my mind, he's a master in handling transitions between comedy and serious material--and at bringing his own directorial twist to the material he works with.  But then, I can hardly claim to be unbiased, having purchased the Japanese LDs of most of his magical girl shows.  Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: go-daigo at May 23, 2011 04:53 PM (FGeRI)

3 I remember seeing a raw of this years ago. The archer is called "Holy Up", the transformation was created for the anime and doesn't appear in the original manga. About Elizabeth, I think Rascal Teacher appears in the second ep. It's supposed to turn more serious later.

Posted by: muon at May 23, 2011 11:44 PM (JXm2R)

4 I loved Akazukin Chacha.  I mean, I loved it.

It's an all-time favorite of mine.

Posted by: atomic_fungus at June 01, 2011 01:16 PM (5ZpcV)

5 Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't get pulled in. I haven't watched any more of it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 01, 2011 03:58 PM (+rSRq)

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