March 26th, 2016

Firechick's Anime Reviews: Magical Girl Pretty Sammy (TV series)

I give this magical girl parody 81/100!

When Sailor Moon first came out, every magical girl anime since then wanted to ride on its success and be just as popular as it. It got so bad that some companies wanted to take a jab at Sailor Moon's success. Thus, with intent to parody and call the heck out of those magical girl tropes that bordered on overused at the time, Magical Girl Pretty Sammy was born. Actually, this show is an AU spin-off of a popular harem/sci-fi OVA series called Tenchi Muyo, which I haven't seen nor do I ever intend to, as it doesn't seem to appeal to me. But some people I knew said they liked Pretty Sammy and that I don't need to know anything about Tenchi Muyo to enjoy it. Since I was bored and didn't have much to watch, I decided to track it down and give it a watch. Surprisingly, it's one of the best comedies and parodies I've seen! Sure, it has a LOT of flaws that prevent it from being great, but it's a fun watch all the way through!

Seriously, this show parodies every magical girl trope you can imagine. Sasami Kawai is a normal ten-year-old girl who's perfectly happy with her life. She has loving parents, a great best friend in shy girl Misao Amano, enjoys school, and is pretty average...however, one day, a strange woman named Tsunami appears in her house, giving her a strange baton and asking her to become a magical girl named Pretty Sammy. Tsunami is a woman from a magical world called Juraihelm, and she is a candidate to become queen, but she is up against two other candidates, Romio and Ramia. As part of the succession rites, Tsunami has to find someone, a kindred spirit, on Earth to give magical powers to so she can restore Juraihelm's balance. Sasami is in no way happy about this sudden change in her life, and questions why she even has to do this when she's not even the queen-to-be. Things get complicated when another magical girl, Pixy Misa, keeps getting in her way and sending Love-Love Monsters after her. Seeing as there's no way out, Sasami has to deal with being a magical girl and all the baggage that comes with it.

For its time, the animations looks quite good. It looks smooth, the characters are well designed most of the time, and it does its job well. The fact that it goes out of its way to make its characters look zany and stupid, especially during the comedic moments in the show, also works for the show's benefit since this is a parody, and we can't have a parody without some humor, right? However, I do have some issues with the magical girl outfits that Sammy and Misa are forced to wear. Do their skirts REALLY have to be so ridiclously short and skimpy? And they're ten years old! Then again, I think the show is trying to make fun of how silly most magical girl outfits were at the time, and the good thing is the show doesn't make any attempts to use them for fanservice (panty shots, anyone?), so I can give it some plus points for that. The soundtrack isn't really particularly memorable. The opening admittedly very badly sung, like the singer is trying waaaaay too hard to sound cutesy and high pitched, and all it does is grate on my ears. But there are some fun BGMs that really get you in the moment when something's about to happen, and it uses a wide range of music genres like jazz, pop, orchestra, etc.

The characters are arguably a mixed bag. The two main characters, Sasami and Misao, are easily the best characters, as they receive the most development throughout the entire series, and the two are just a joy to watch. I wish I could tell you more about them but to do so would make way for spoilers. Sasami's parents are very good parents who love their daughter deeply and even when she gets bad grades, they don't make her feel bad about herself about it and actually spend time with her (Hear that, Sailor Moon?!), even if Sasami's dad, Ginji, is ridiculously overpowered and knows way more about stuff he shouldn't than he should. Washu and some of the other adult characters...I don't really care for. Washu was just overpowered and Mihoshi is a pretty poor excuse of a teacher with a really annoying voice who doesn't do much of anything, and DEAR GOD I hated those two girls Konoha and Eimi, the former because she's an annoying little brat who pesters the heck out of one of the boys (the show even points this out), bullies Misao for stupid reasons, and generally causes trouble for everyone, and Eimi is a stuck-up little prick who freaks out over the littlest things, claiming they're against school rules even when they have nothing to do with school. Every time they opened their mouths I wanted to deck'em! But the worst of them is Tsunami herself: she pretty much does NOTHING throughout the entire series. The whole thing is about her becoming queen of Juraihelm, but she doesn't even do anything to warrant becoming a queen, makes Sasami do everything for her where she could easily do those things herself had she not been put under the restriction not to leave Juraihelm, and is so dense and ditzy that you wonder if she's even aware of anything going on around her. You could replace her with another, much better character, and nothing would be lost. She's pretty much woefully useless, and it really says a lot when the villains are WAY more proactive than she is.

But bad supporting characters isn't the only major flaw Pretty Sammy has. When I first began watching it, one aspect almost turned me off to the show entirely: The ridiculously over-the-top voice acting! Some of the actresses try way too hard to make their voices go as high pitched as possible, amping them up to completely unlistenable levels, not only coming off as shrill, but ear-dum blastingly annoying. Sasami, Sasami's mother, Konoha, Eimi, and Mihoshi are the biggest offenders. Sasami's voice actress, Chisa Yokoyama, is trying WAY TOO HARD to sound cute, and when she shouts her transformation phrase, I always turned the volume lower because it was that annoying. It's a shame, because the voice she uses for Tsunami is just fine, and she can do better, more natural sounding voices without needing to go so over-the-top. Sasami's mother also has a thankfully not annoying high pitched voice, but she still sounds like a little girl even when she's a mom, Konoha and Eimi's voices are just shrill and annoying, especially when they yell, and Mihoshi...she has the worst voice of all! She sounds like she inhaled way too much helium, and when she cries and yells she comes off as even more shrill, almost to the point where my eardrums almost exploded! It's especially jarring because her voice actress, Yuko Mizutani, is capable of doing much more mature, natural sounding voices, even more so since this was three years before she got to voice Sora from Digimon, and it really says something when her voice for Sora is MUCH more mature and listenable than Mihoshi's could ever be!

There were also some concepts and even individual episodes that didn't make any sense, such as one episode where Sasami and her dad end up in a ninja village and they get into a fight with a Western cowboy faction. There was also one where some kid raises the monsters that Pixy Misa creates even though Pretty Sammy managed to defeat them. Also...Washu is confirmed to be 12 years old yet she's teaching at an elementary school. How does that many any sense whatsoever? And she can create a gigantic rocket controlled by robotic puppets of herself. I won't explain the context, as that would give away spoilers. So yeah, not even a parody series is safe from gigantic plot holes and inconsistencies.

Even so, I still really enjoyed this series. It has its flaws, yes, but I found myself invested in almost every episode, even the bad ones. I found most of the jokes and take thats to the genre genuinely funny (especially when the show asks when Sasami's parents will figure out that their daughter is the magical girl they see saving the world all the time), Sasami and Misao are a joy to watch, the battles were funny yet, and...the final villain, who I won't name because of spoilers, is one of the best villains ever. (Red from Happiness Charge, you could learn a thing or two from this villain! Seriously!) Not only that, it does both comedy and drama really well, and because we get time to get to know the characters, we actually care about their plights when bad things happen, and when things get serious, boy, do they ever! Plus...this is the ONLY anime that has a school cultural festival that I actually liked AND cared about, and usually those episodes either bore me to death or annoy me with their flaws (As much as I hate to admit it, Go! Princess Pretty Cure is a pretty bad offender with this one). Not an easy feat to accomplish. So yeah, even if it does have major flaws that keep it from being perfect, I still enjoyed it, and given the choice, I'd watch it again! Seriously, as much as I like Sailor Moon, why couldn't THIS show be the most well known magical girl show of all time?! It doesn't even have an English dub, and it could really benefit from one if done right!

Not a perfect magical girl show, but a reasonably fun parody and a genuinely fun show to watch if you're ever bored or want to kill some time. Just jam some ear plugs in if you can't stand many of the annoying high pitched voices.