The red-hooded young girl Chacha is an apprentice to the great and wise sorcerer Seravi (sort of a pretty-boy Merlin with an amusingly sarcastic doll on his shoulder). She proves herself worthy to attend magic school, and goes off on various misadventures with her friends, including the loyal were-puppy Riiya, the chivalrous and clueless mageling Shiine (who is apprentice to Seravi's rival, Dorothy), and a motley cast of other kiddified fairy-tale characters. But Chacha has a secret that not even she knows - she has the power to become the Magical Princess, and can use this power to defeat the forces of Darkness! (If only she can get all those spells right first.)
There are anime that get aired on Saturday morning. And then there are anime that NEED to be aired on Saturday morning. If there was ever an anime cartoon that seriously needs to be distributed outside of Japan, Akazukin Chacha is it. Super-cute, often hilarious, and heavily referencing folktales both Eastern and Western, Chacha is all that is good and wonderful about anime as children's entertainment, and proves that children's shows don't need to be just glorified toy advertisements at all.
The jokes start flying from the first frame. It's obvious that anyone with even an elementary-school knowledge of Japanese that puns are rampant in this series - Chacha for example attempts to summon a bouquet of flowers (hana), but comes up with a bouquet of noses (hana) instead. Most of Chacha's magical goofs end up being silly little things like this, and sometimes they're even translatable.
Easier to translate are the parade of allusions to numerous folktales from across the globe, ranging from quirky irony (like "the wolf", Riiya being "Red Riding Hood" Chacha's semi-boyfriend, or the school bus, which is a giant witch's broom) to direct parody (the three little pigs in one episode using straw, wood, and bricks in an attempt to defeat Chacha) and even throwaway cameos (watch for Momotaro and Hiawatha as Chacha's classmates).
Visually, Akazukin Chacha is one of the cartooniest anime in existence, with backgrounds that often seem like crayon drawings, characters who go into exaggeration expressions (even for anime), and a general aura of cute strangeness that will induce rashes in the super-serious. The school principal, Urara, is especially strange - her eyes have to be seen to be believed.
But beyond the whimsy lies a very heartwarming and intensely cute story of a girl and her friends just being kids, while defeating darkness with the powers of courage, friendship, and love (and I don't just mean the phrase they use to transform Chacha into the Magical Princess, either). Intimidating teachers turn out to be kindly protectors, enemies become allies, and rivals band together. It's all warm and fuzzy and wonderful because it entirely manages to avoid being cheesy. It's all in good fun, and the only thoroughly derivative part of it (the Magical Princess transformation) can be easily forgotten as the afterthought Sailor Moon reference that it is. (The manga actually precedes Sailor Moon and does not include that subplot at all.)
If anything, only the purposely simplistic animation and the whole Magical Princess thing have the potential to bring this down - but for a children's show, the characters and plot are light years beyond the glossier, but more artificial series that are now being offered. And as anime series go, Beyblade and Yu-Gi-Oh don't hold a candle to this series in pure entertainment value. (But don't tell the toy merchants that.)
Akazukin Chacha has been pleasing children and parents alike at our conventions for years, and I am only happy to continue recommending this series as long as there are parents who want to show anime to their children. Now, if only they would license this series locally already.
It's just so much fun!
A cute, wonderful series that needs to be released in North America as soon as possible! If you seriously don't like cute, or only watch "sophisticated, adult" series like Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop, then you can take off a star or two. If, however, you have young children or just generally love the idea of cute grade school versions of your favorite fairy tales, add a star or two. (I won't tell.) — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Fine for most, though people opposed to the idea of magic (Chacha is a witch, after all) should be warned. No more offensive than Bewitched or Kiki's Delivery Service, though. Some mild violence, though, all of it slapstick. No sex, and one episode involving implied alcohol potion usage (and subsequently, a bit of mild language, but nothing that's truly offensive with translation).
Version(s) Viewed: Prelicense digital source
Review Status: Partial (24/74)
Akazukin Chacha © 1993 Ayahana Min / Shueisha / TV Tokyo / NAS
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