[This review covers all seasons of Ojamajo Doremi, meant as an extensive coverage of the series]
Passion, a compelling desire towards something; something you can talk about countless times, watch/read/experience day in and day out, and have strong opinions to justify why you’d ever feel passionate talking about it. Good or bad, everyone has a series they’re passionate to talk about; ranging from various genres of literature, media, and art. With enough research or conversation, it’s practically unavoidable for someone, or yourself, to bring up a topic that sparks a fire of emotions and or controversies within them/yourself. It could also be quite a challenge to regulate what series is determined to be a favorite to talk immensely about, sometimes taking multiple revisits or different opinions to get a grasp on the general consensus and topic everyone’s most interested in knowing about. Passion in a work can be noticeable for some, while negligible for others. I believe the ultimate goal for any series, work, or fiction writing in general should strive for is creating such passion to leave an everlasting impression and parting ways with someone that they’ll never forget what the series opened up for them.
No other word could perfectly describe my take on the Ojamajo Doremi series than passion; encompassing itself in it through practically all aspects that make a compelling, interesting, and unlikely thematic narrative to follow, while never seemingly circumscribing its audience with complexity or challenging themes that turn the show on its head. In an essence, Ojamajo Doremi is simplicity at its finest, but takes that simplicity and utilizes its full potential to create a masterpiece. A seemingly tale for children is but far from the truth about the series, and almost anyone, no matter the age, can take something in from watching Ojamajo Doremi. Not once does it ever lead your perception on the show to shift drastically, nor break the established core formula each season produces that drives the narrative forward. Mahou shoujo is the core essence of the franchise, but evolves tremendously into something far more than your typical heroine(s) save the world formula most mahou shoujo follow as each season progresses. Ojamajo Doremi explores many real world issues and struggles that people go through: experiencing hardships of failure, motherhood and raising a child, helping individuals with depression, or various other mental illnesses, making someone’s dreams come true when there’s very little time left for them, segregation, dealing with divorce of your parents and how it affects you growing up, and countless other themes to explore as each season progresses, making the series seem far more mature than what the cover and synopsis would make you believe otherwise. What Toei Animation, notorious for milking franchises to the bone, produced here is quite possibly their crowning achievement with a series of this magnitude never diminishing or stagnating in quality even once, making sure each episode has extensive care and, of course, passion put into it.
Witches are a concept that make for great story telling, but never utilized to their full-potential. A suspension of disbelief is required to get the most enjoyment factor from these type of fantasy tales, as well as the fantasy genre in general. Typically, witches are displayed as an evil, antagonistic force that spread divination and typically evil-doings around the world. Tales such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with the 3 witches perfectly fitting the description of wicked and deceitful appearances of a typical witch, or Miller’s The Crucible with the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, showcasing innocent people being falsely accused of witches as means to either political/social gain, or the person being accused as a witch doing something that, at the time, couldn’t be explained through the power of God and basic human reasoning. The definition of a witch and witchcraft in general is vague and can multiple meanings to many cultures. What makes Ojamajo Doremi unique to this seemingly established formula is how it takes the approach of witches and brings it into a new light; one that’s a positive and carefree outlook on the lives each of the witches share in the world. Witches are friendly and never have evil intentions, instead they choose to live in peace and harmony, with a sense of an established society and economy. Vast amount of lore, exposition, and mythical elements are all present in Ojamajo Doremi’s witch world: magical frogs, who were once witches in their prime, after human’s finding out their identity due to a curse placed in the past (how the story is initially began with Doremi Harukaze, the main character, discovering Majo Rika), mythical creatures, like Pao-chan in the Dokkaan season, talking trees, plants, animals, and humanoid fairy creatures that accompany a witch, along with a multiple parallel of various worlds that household other creatures and societies, such as the wizard world. The established universe of Ojamajo Doremi feels connected and vast, but never overwhelming or complicated.
Magic is also a crucial element to Ojamajo Doremi that is unique on its own. Using magic in the series comes at a price, with the cost being ‘magical spheres’; used to power up a witch in-training’s ‘pollon’ (wand), and also used as the currency in the witch world. Magic can’t be used all the time as well, certain spells that are forbidden to cast exist; such as healing other’s wounds, manipulating the thoughts of others, or bringing the dead to life. Magic this way must be used carefully and cautiously, something the main characters of the series learn to adapt and deal with, as shown in the early episodes when Doremi and the others use up spheres frequently when training. Magic is upgraded and changed as each season progresses, meaning you won’t see the same transformation sequences or spell enchantments being cast in every season, making Ojamajo Doremi not feel stagnated and repetitive. A sense of careful thought and creativity is displayed when showcasing elements that make the world and rules of the universe in Ojamajo Doremi established and well connected, which on a technical and enjoyment level, is one of the many strong aspects the series displays and nails. Through them, the story of Doremi taking on the role as a witch apprentice begins, along with her two friends Hazuki Fujiwara and Aiko Senoo joining her as they all have desires and goal-like dreams they want to accomplish as their reasoning for becoming witch apprentices. Using this magic will come at a cost though, as mentioned above, magic isn’t free, and the girls will need to work for Majo Rika at the Maho Dou, a shop to buy witch goods in the first season, as well as having multiple different changes in the later seasons. The series follows them and their way to becoming full-fledged witches, along with meeting many new characters and developing phenomenally.
With an airtime from February 1999 to December 2004, spanning five seasons, two films, and 216 episodes in total, it can seem a bit intimidating for most people to get invested in the series. The juggernaut of a length alone is the factor that turns away most people from ever giving it a chance. I don’t blame these individuals who turn away from the length, as it’s commonly told that the ‘good’ stuff out of the series comes in the latter two seasons: Na-i-sho and Dokkaan. I do believe, however, that this is a popular misconception most people have when viewing the series. Yes, it’s not a lie when most people, including myself, say that the final two seasons are of much better quality in almost every aspect from the previous three, for reasons that will be talked about later, but with the general understanding that Na-i-sho and Dokkaan have a more mature and thematic approach to each story arc and episode when compared to the more lighthearted nature of the previous three. But it’s precisely because of how the previous three seasons explored the characters and developed them that Ojamajo Doremi could get away with crafting a different, yet almost familiar experience, bringing everything to the table for the last 2 seasons with improvements both technically and thematically, further developing and solidifying each character and their presented story arcs that was already established and explored in the first three seasons. Without them, it wouldn’t have the same impact than it otherwise would have. Each season follows a specific story-line that the girls must achieve by the end, with each one being connected with one and other that builds the bases to the final act and grand conclusion to their journey to become full-fledged witches. Ojamajo Doremi has very little episodic episodes towards it, instead it builds a cohesive timeline with the girls maturing and growing each season, with one season being a year, for a total of 4 and a half years of us experiencing the girls being witches. A sense of growth is accomplished this way, and is by far one of the best aspect of many the series does correctly; building a sense of progression that is well paid off by the end; with individual episodes from all seasons having something everyone can take in and reflect on, exploring countless scenarios and themes that bring the series to life, making it stand out from the rest of mahou shoujo airing at the time.
A lighthearted story is what most audiences will expect and receive upon watching Ojamajo Doremi. From Doremi being clumsy, eye candy transformation sequences and catchy incantation spell, to Pao-chan and Hana’s duo all appealing to the targeted children side of the entertainment value that the series provides. Moments with each girl getting along with each other, to the countless different situations they may find themselves in that questions their friendships with one another, or a task to further their training in witches all being key factors as well to give a sense of familiarity and signature aspects that the show accomplishes well. Ojamajo Doremi is the purest, and in my opinion, most showcased example of how true a ‘G’ rating holds for a title. A title that describes anyone of any age can watch and grasp. While the primary demographic for Ojamajo Doremi is targeted for young girls, moments that really shine have a lot to interpret and analyze from, having serious shifts in tone, atmosphere, and subject matter that gives it a bigger emotional heft than what it initially presents itself as. An example from the countless others is everything to do with Aiko and her parents. Dealing with divorce can leave a psychological impact on a developing mind of a child without the nurture of both his/her parents and their support from one and other. Throughout each season, Aiko’s character dilemma is the effect of being separated from her mother after a nasty divorce over one of their jobs. Dokkaan concludes this story arc of Aiko’s phenomenally and is one of the many fantastic character development arcs that each season, especially the latter two, accomplish.
Another example is Onpu Segawa’s, a character introduced in the second half of the first season, struggles of fitting in her school and social life with her idol work. Onpu’s character can be related to almost anyone who deals with anxiety, work load, or anything to do with business in general, despite her being a little girl. It shows the audience firsthand how mixing in both these duel lives can stress a person out, and being strong-willed and determine to succeed is the best outcome for dealing with it. Onpu not being able to be with Hana as much as the other girls do shows in multiple episodes how the seemingly perfect life Onpu lives isn’t all perfect on the surface, as she would rather spend time with her best friends and Hana rather than the work eating away her youth. Moments like these showcase why Ojamajo Doremi is unique from the genre. It takes dilemmas and situations based on real life issues to prescribe the audience with authentic storytelling, creating many memorable moments that leave a lasting impression on the series as you journey through the experiences of the characters.
With that being said, the characters of Ojamajo Doremi stand out from any other anime I’ve ever watched, even excluding shoujo titles in general. Each and every character, no matter their role in the story, feels like they have a rightful place in the narrative and overall atmosphere of the series. The main cast of ojamajos, the witches, stand out as preeminent aspects of writing well developed characters. At least one, if not all, will have a unique trait, conflict, or gag to them that you’ll either relate, sympathize, or laugh with. From their fantastic character designs of various bright and eye-catching witch uniforms, to each having a unique personality towards them feeling distinct and varied from the rest, each witch has their own slice of what makes Ojamajo Doremi great. The first of the three ojamajos, Doremi, is ditzy, clumsy, but has a huge heart and willingness to lead others, bringing the peace to most situations. She’s the primary and central protagonist of the story and we closely follow her life the most, which means by far having the most development put into as she evolves into a tremendous and likable character overtime. Doremi’s interactions with everyone is what makes the conclusion to Dokkaan the most magical and awe-inspiring moments that is replicated nowhere else in any show. Hazuki is shy, has a tendered attitude, but at times serious nature, especially when it comes to responsibilities and raising Hana. Hazuki is Doremi’s first friend and will always be there for her. This is shown countless times, from their first fight episode, to the ending of Dokkaan, they share a special connection that’s stronger than any of the other girl’s relationships with one another. Hazuki has a deep bond with her family, Baya, and her childhood friend Masaru, and is shown to care for others immensely. Aiko has leadership and determination skills, but a soft and easily fragile heart, shown with episodes relating to her parents mentioned above, being one of the best story arcs the series goes through. Aiko’s cheerful and reassurance personality make her a fan favorite for most people and a very interesting character to follow and see her development.
The four other ojamajos that are later introduced in the series also play a crucial and important role that the 3 central characters possess. Onpu has an initial snobby and charming personality, but later shows multiple layers of complexity towards her character and difficult lifestyle she lives. She starts out as a sort of antagonist for the girls in season one, but quickly becomes a part of the crew when tasked to raise Hana. Onpu’s dual life of an idol and normal student, along with a witch later on, make her a character that can be easily relatable too, along with another fan favorite. Momoko Asuka is later introduced in the Motto season and has energetic and outgoing nature, with an overly emotional barrier surrounding her; Beth and her lifestyle back in America, to Majomonroe and how much she impacted her life. She’s a welcome addition to the cast as she brings something new and unique with her English gimmicks and carefree personality. Hana’s growing up and upbringing by her mother’s into her eventually transformation in Dokkaan is also a notable trait to her character. Hana is as innocent as a pure soul and you really grow to love her. She brings life into the girls and the audience with her cute personality and charm. Pop is the last of the main cast, and struggles to live up to the shoes of her sister. She eventually overcomes this, along with the willingness to put any differences she had with Doremi in the past. These seven characters make the main cast interesting and likable on their own, in an essence being Ojamajo Doremi and why it’s a joy to experience. Each character brings something forth and essential to how the plot is carried out.
Through different conflicting views with one another, opinions that vary and lead to fights, to language barriers being misinterpreted, the conflict each girl goes through with one another, while subtle most of the time, makes for drama that doesn’t feel cheesy or out of place. The situations each girl learns from their mistakes or misunderstandings help develop and further their maturity in a realistic outcome than elementary drama, and as we follow in their footsteps, we start to see each and every one shine brightly and develop further. One example is the motherhood aspect the girls learn and experience when raising Hana in the Sharp season also brings forth a new level of depth to their development. Raising a child isn’t easy, the task at hand can be challenging and comes with a whole new level of stress and responsibility. The girls throughout all of Sharp and beyond place their care into raising and eventually having a loving, motherly, a nurturing nature towards Hana as if they were her real mothers. Ojamajo Doremi displays first-hand how raising a baby comes with its challenges; a multitude of tasks ranging from changing her diaper, feeding her milk properly, each watching her overnight and easing her cries, playing and spending time with her, while still maintain their witch training and going to school. The Sharp season revolves around how each girl time manages their time with Hana properly, as well as going through each baby examination for Hana’s growth, a step up from how the first season’s plot played out, keeping the story and characters fresh as they undergo changes. In the Motto season, Momoko’s lack of responsibility when raising Hana also has an effect on how her character is developed. The lecture she receives from Doremi and the others about how she needs to take caring for her seriously and with a more responsible attitude if she wants Hana to accept her as a mother, eventually realizing and overcoming this with Hana and the girls’ support. Each season accomplishes this level of new inventiveness for the story within the characters and them adapting and learning from each new experience.
While a rare occurrence for most TV shows, the supporting cast for Ojamajo Doremi play a pivotal part in the story and towards the development of the main cast. You have instances when a specific supporting character plays a more crucial role in that episodes format than the girls do themselves, as well as, in most cases, be the obstacle that the girls will likely help out. No better example of the two points is made than each episode with Kayoko Nagato and her reclusive behavior towards school and people in general. Her anxiety and fear of feeling rejected by her fellow classmates, pressure by her parents and teachers to come back to school, and with Doremi trying to get her back on her feet through various logical reasoning and methods made for a compelling subplot for both the Motto and Dokkaan seasons. Darker aspects are also implied with Nagato when the overabundant anxiety of going to school caught up to her at her lowest point of the series that she wished to disappear from the burden she thought she gave others, with Doremi, the teachers, and others always being concerned over her; greatly implying suicidal thoughts, which make this subplot a more exacting and serious subject matter from the majority of other episodes. The two senseis in Ojamajo Doremi, Yuki and Seki, also play a crucial role in being the authoritarian, guardian like figure for the girls at school, and in some instances away from school as well. Each having their own unique personality; Seki being the stricter, honest, and passionate figure, with Yuki being easy-going and gentle. The girls learn valuable lessons through them, and play an important role throughout each season.
Outside of the circle of main characters’ relationships with one and other, most of the girls have a relationship established with a supporting cast member. Masaru is the one Hazuki has the most interactions and development with as the series progresses; serving as a childhood friend that Hazuki cared deeply about and vice versa. Masaru is a cold character, but is shown to open up more around Hazuki, having very heartwarming episodes with their relationship, shown at its best near the ending seasons. Nobuko is Aiko’s leading supporting character interactions and friendship. An interesting take occurs later with another supporting character, Miho, after Aiko and Nobuko have a falling out. Miho is initially jealous over Aiko's close bond she shares with Nobuko, and initially came off as being hostile and envious around her because of her feelings of inferiority, establishing a good scenario to showcase young girl drama at its finest. Tamaki is another supporting character that greatly shines. Her purpose as the opposing force to Doremi, the school bully, and diva, make her a compulsive character to follow. Initially, the audience will most likely hate this character, which is what the writers of Ojamajo Doremi want you to feel. This way, when the redeeming and development for her is shown through time and maturity, it feels earned. Both Doremi and Momoko specifically show an interest in making Tamaki a better person as the series progresses. How each supporting character is handled, no matter their role, can’t be described any other way than pure genius. They don’t take significant screen time away from the girls, and when episodes are centered on them, it’s utilizes in a way that both the main and supporting character benefit and develop from.
The technical aspects of Ojamajo Doremi vary through each season. The first season of Ojamajo Doremi suffers the most with animation and logic problems, as well as multiple technical errors. Majority of the first season problems stem from disarrangement of colors, animation issues such as cutting frames, and various issues surrounding the taps and pollons in general. According to the wiki, and after viewing the first episode with the errors in-mind, most of the time there can be upwards of over 10 errors in each episode. Most of them won’t be noticed while casually watching, such as color misalignment or missing objects, but animation problems are staggering and display the low budget Toei had to work with for the first season. The Sharp season has less errors, but never truly get fixed until the Dokkaan and Naisho seasons, where errors are almost unnoticeable. Ojamajo Doremi’s attention to detail is, as expected, also weaker in the earlier seasons due to budget reasons, but personally I never had a problem dealing with it. Graphical improvements are also very noticeable as each season progresses. The character designs from the first season are noticeably more childlike than the final designs in the Naisho season. The change in design is subtle, since time progresses in the seasons as one year, it feels natural that the girls overtime would start to mature in design more. The city of Misora, the central location of the series, on its own is quite fascinating despite being similar to most established cities in anime. Multiple key interest points, businesses, parks, schools and shrines exist to give the city an authentic feel towards it. The attention put into the magic transformations and spells is by far the best and most noticeable from the show, and despite many technical issues, it’s covered up well by distracting your attention away with the magic aspect of the show.
Music plays a huge role in the first season, and is succeeded each season with a new gimmick the girls have on-top of the music. Each girl has a respected instrument that’s used to power up their magic. The instruments they possess trace back to a time when it meant the most to them. Doremi’s piano is shown to have both a positive and negative effect, with her love for the piano and lessons from her mother being a fond memory, but a tragic incident at a recital with the wrong notes being played a psychological impact with Doremi still appreciating the piano, but not being able to play it. Hazuki’s violin also traces back to her childhood, being the instrument she loves playing the most, and the reason behind Doremi and herself eventually befriending one and other, and Aiko’s harmonica plays a role with her parents and the fond memories of when they were still together, being a reminder of her goal as a witch to eventually get them back together. Hana’s accordion plays a crucial role in the Dokkaan season with defeating the curses, and so on. Supporting characters, such as Masaru, also have a unique instrument that ties in with their character. The trumpet is later found out to be what Masaru’s dad used to play, and wants to fulfill that role of carrying the legacy of the trumpet. Each instrument that the girls possess have a harmonic and elemental tone towards them, which is shown significantly throughout the seasons. Various character songs, lullabies, and tunes give Ojamajo Doremi a unique feel towards it that no other show manages to do. At least one song, jingle, or transformation tune will get stuck in your head, only to be shadowed by another. As far as the actual OST track goes, every song works. Hyperactive music with the witches transforming, to melodramatic tracks used for serious moments range throughout each episodes. My personal favorite track is the opening themes and ending themes for most of the seasons. The first season’s OP and ED in particular are my favorites and never get old listening to them.
Ojamajo Doremi is a series that, overtime, has grown and made an impact on how I view the medium as a whole. Each season incorporates something for everyone; characters having a purpose, whether small or impactful, that progresses the narrative further. Development of the main characters, along with some supporting cast, is displayed at a realistic pace rather than catering to a majority of audience members. Fun times and heartwarming moments that each character shares with one another, to more mature, dark, and gripping aspects that give light on a different perspective and interpretation on how certain situations are handled and dealt with. Fantasy, music, mahou shoujo, slice of life, CGDGT, and various other genre lovers will most likely get value and entertainment from watching Ojamajo Doremi, as it becomes so much more grand and thematic than a typical mahou shoujo anime. Passion and value put into how each character is handled and the overall narrative is what make Ojamajo Doremi a piece from the medium that can’t be described easily. It’s a series where you just have to experience it yourself instead of an outside source telling you the positives and or negatives that the series offers. A series that will make you laugh at the childish, and subtle adult humor of the characters, cry over the heartwarming moments to gut-wrenching, tragic situations, feel a sense of accomplishment and growth within the characters, and learn life lessons through them that hold intrinsic value and dedication to the team working on the series. Ojamajo Doremi a reflection of our lives with a fantasy spin told through the eyes of young girls. It’s a message to all of us that there’s still good in this world, that dreams can become a reality if one sets their mind to it, sacrifices that are made in order to outcome the best possible desires, and friendships that have a lasting, eternal bond that can’t be broken. Nothing has, and I doubt nothing ever will, come close to how Ojamajo Doremi has affected my overall understanding, and passion for the medium. A hidden gem that more people should witness for themselves.
No other word could perfectly describe my take on the Ojamajo Doremi series than passion; a masterpiece of the medium, and a series that will stick with me for years to come.