Ojamajo Doremi – Episode 23

Let’s get back to Ojamajo Doremi! The gang are at their lowest point yet this week, having not only lost the shop to Majo Ruka, but also entirely run out of magic spheres. The show spent pretty much the entirety of last episode stripping them of their few remaining resources, so it feels like some sort of change has gotta come. That said, this arc has largely defied my expectations from start to finish, both in positive and negative ways, so I can’t begin to guess how they’ll resolve it. Maybe the actual witch government will step in? It seems like they’d have some vested interest in dealing with a witch queen successor who spends all her time poisoning ignorant humans, but I guess I don’t really understand the mechanics of witch politics anyway. Maybe poisoning people is good to them. Who can say.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling. Let’s get right to the Doremi!

Episode 23

Alright, starting off with a shot of the Mota sisters. Looks like the girls will finally get the chance to pass those Level 6 exams, which should give them the ability to begin their counterattack against Ruka. We’re getting somewhere!

The sisters appear to be… combining the girl’s empty wands with nearby musical instruments? Is this show’s overarching music terminology motif actually going to mean something?!?

Oh dang, sweet new Porons full of magic spheres. That’s quite a tantalizing flash-forward

And we start back in the real world, mundane images of traffic centering us both in this reality and with Ai-chan’s dad

What the shit why does he still have one of those hell-tokens

“Big Turnaround!? Ojamajos’ Training.” HELL YEAH. I’M READY FOR IT

Aw jeez, Pop is making a drawing of Majo Rika. Nice bit of character continuity there, a slight reward for people who’ve been watching consistently

The longer this show goes on, the more small details of its world become things we’re actually invested in. This is most clear in the classroom, where each new character focus episode brings a continuing member of the cast to life, but it’s clear that Ojamajo Doremi respects the continuity of its world in all sorts of ways. The system of magic here is fabricated nonsense, but its actual mundane world is treated with the utmost respect. This is my kind of fantasy!

And now they’re having steak for dinner! Things are looking up, Doremi

Are Ruka’s pendants actually addictive? Her whole system here just keeps getting sketchier

What the hell Majo Rika. Why you gotta steal all of Pop’s cakes

Ahaha yes. Doremi just straight-up gives Majo Rika to Pop as a present. Majo Rika, you’ve thoroughly earned this

I suppose it is a kind of character development that Majo Rika has been reduced to being a gremlin that Doremi doesn’t mind tossing to her sister, but it certainly doesn’t make me feel all that much more sympathetic to Rika’s plight

And then there’s Lala over here being a legitimately supportive mentor to Hadzuki. Rika, you really gotta shape up

And now we see Masaru-kun practicing his trumpet by the riverbed. One of the more subtle truths illustrated by Ojamajo Doremi’s ensemble focus is that good works won’t necessarily reward you immediately, but doing good in the world will enrich your life over time. All of the friends these girls have helped are still out there putting that charity forward

If this is reflective of how the show’s going to use its secondary characters in the future, it’s a very good sign. Having former episodic characters return for important but not episode-defining conversations is a great trick

Masaru doesn’t even really offer meaningful advice here, but the fact that he’s a friend who tried to help is important in its own way. Sometimes we just need to be reminded there are people on our side

That’s also a very good lesson for kids to learn from the other side – “even if you don’t think you have the means to help a friend, being there for them is a great kindness in itself.” People often feel discouraged from supporting others if they don’t feel their support is meaningful, but we underestimate how much simply being there can do

Now Ai is practicing on a harmonica. A consistent thread of music running through this episode

Ai’s dad almost falls asleep at the wheel. Jeez

The fruit of his self-destructive labor is a gift for Aiko. On the opposite end, when we hurt ourselves for the sake of the people we love, we’re hurting them as well. A clean contrast illustrated gracefully through these two sequential scenes

And he got her a really nice harmonica. The familial relationships in this show are so wonderful

Aw jeez. He tries to throw out her old harmonica, she explodes, and he slaps her. What an awful progression

This show really doesn’t shy away from the actual darkness of everyday living. That slap landed with more horrific impact than most anime deaths

And now Doremi’s dad is injured by his own charm. Ruka is actively killing these girls’ families. What the hell

The pendants are actually turning their families against them. Doremi’s mom now refuses to toss the pendant, and actively acknowledges it won her the lottery. We are going into some dark territory

Ah, Ai’s old harmonica was the one her mom and dad bought for her

And now we get a flashback to the purchase, with the cracks in her parents’ relationship already visible. They can’t even buy this harmonica without it becoming some kind of contest. What a poignant and unflinching show this is

“When they divorced, on the night my mom left, I was crying while holding onto this.” Welp, there it goes, I’m tearing up. This portrayal of Ai’s feelings is just so strong

That shot of her father out in the living room, slumped shoulders, completely defeated. We’re really getting the defining, often terrible moments of childhood here. That moment when you realize your parents aren’t invincible, that they’re fragile and often wrong too

“If you play this, Aiko won’t cry anymore.” Aw jeez

And they just let this whole sequence play out, Dad’s wobbly harmonica play bringing both of them to tears. Ojamajo Doremi is going to kill me

Jeez. That’s one of the most powerful demonstrations of familial love and strife I’ve seen in anime. Ojamajo Doremi surprises me yet again

“I love Ai-chan more and more.” We all do, Hadzuki

Ai lets her dad stew in his concern for a bit. Good. Striking her was totally inexcusable

Masaru’s help inspires Hadzuki’s own positivity, which she passes on to her friends. We gotta help each other

And they decide to go work part-time in the Witch World, which could certainly be fun

Dodo actually found them one last magic sphere. A remarkable last-minute save by Dodo!

Baaya takes her job very seriously. Nice gag emulating Ai’s explosion here

As usual, their transformation outfits are pretty great. Even these cockroach costumes look somehow adorable

The Motas direct the girls to the Queen’s castle. This episode is certainly going places!

And they’re set to work chopping a vast chamber of firewood. This actually feels like a classic fairy tale

It’s pretty remarkable that Doremi can exemplify both its most fantastical and most grounded, intimate ends in the same episode with both of them feeling totally appropriate. This episode sets a new bar for the show altogether

Ai takes out her frustration with her dad on the logs until her hands are bleeding. This episode is relentless

And this sequence even affirms the girls’ own friendship

They only get one sphere apiece, but it turns out the level 6 exam is just “find a way to get your own magic spheres when you run out.” I guess physical labor is also a part of being a witch

“Give us each of your most precious instruments. We’re fusing them with your Porons.” Huh. Can’t say I’d be happy to have my guitar melted into fuel for a magic stick

Their new Porons look pretty sweet. And triple-powered magic spheres!

And Done

Dear lord was that ever a good episode. Ojamajo Doremi has had strong episodes in the past, even episodes that have made me cry a little, but I was bawling all through that Ai flashback this time. That was one of the finest portrayals of familial love and loss I’ve seen in anime, a touching sequence defined by understatement and phenomenally well-observed moments. And the rest of the episode was no slouch either, offering a stirring mix of character drama, comedy, and light touches of fantasy. Ojamajo Doremi has really outdone itself, and I can’t wait to see where this arc goes next.

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