MAR: MÄR (Märchen Awakens Romance) # 1

MÄR apparently stands for “Märchen Awakens Romance”, but let’s not worry too much about that name, because it’s not explained anywhere in this volume, so it remains a mystery to me.  The inclusion of the word “romance” almost implies this is some kind of shoujo love story, but don’t be fooled – this is just a typical shounen fantasy quest.

Our hero is Ginta, age 14, from Tokyo.  I was surprised that he is initially portrayed as a bit of a loser – physically weak, cola bottle glasses, the butt of everyone’s gags.  So he’s a chump by day, but at night he escapes into the fantasy world in his dreams.  And wouldn’t you know it, it’s not long before his dreams become reality and he is actually transported into that fantasy world, which is called MÄR-Heaven.  And not only that, he instantly becomes stronger, has 20/20 vision, and now girls fancy him!  Talk about strike it lucky.

MÄR-Heaven is a land inspired by fairytales and other fantasy stories.  For example, the first person Ginta meets is a witch named Dorothy, who takes a lot of cues from The Wizard of Oz.  She introduces him, and us the viewers, to the basics of this world.  Magic is an important element.  There are a multitude of magical weapons called ÄRM, and it’s the norm for everyone to have at least one.  And there are different types, Guardian ÄRM, Holy ÄRM, Weapon ÄRM, and more.  All this talk of ÄRM and their classifications reminded me very much of JRPGS.  (The fact that ÄRM can be powered up by the insertion of magical stones into a limited number of slots had me remembering Materia from Final Fantasy VII.  While I’m at it, Ginta’s spiky blonde hair is reminiscent of Cloud Strife, too.)

After meeting Dorothy in the first episode, things progress and there are many familiar elements from other similar series.  Ginta gets a weird and comedic sidekick in the form of Babbo.  Babbo is a rare ÄRM, he’s like a cross between a mace and a cup-and-ball toy, and unlike other ÄRM, he can talk.  And he likes to talk – usually about how much of a “gentlemen” he claims to be.  They make an odd couple and the first few episodes see them struggle to get along.  But together they learn of a forthcoming war that threatens to destroy MÄR-Heaven, and they resolve to fight on the side of good.  And so a gang begins to form, and we meet the cast of supporting characters one by one.  Boy with a good heart who needs a bit more courage?  See Jack.  Beautiful princess who is really down-to-Earth?  That would be Princess Snow.  Cool, strong guy with tragic past?  Meet Alviss.  We get some back-story, meet some villains, a bunch of “training” episodes, and by the end of this volume it’s your average shounen fighting saga.

At first, Ginta rushes into battles without thinking, and generally ends up landing flat on his back.  So he has to become stronger, but also he must learn how to work together with Babbo.  It’s all part of this show’s moral core – stand up for what’s right, have courage, look out for your friends, work together.  So nothing new there, but I must admit there is a certain charm about it.  It borrows from traditional stories and fairy tales so fans of that kind of thing might be interested in this.  And there are a few moments that made me crack a smile – particularly Jack’s constant jealousy at Ginta’s effortless attention from the ladies, and Babbo’s obsession with being an honourable gentleman.

The first few episodes contain a load of CGI, but it’s not particularly impressive.  It really stands out, too – it’s almost like the creators thought “Hey, we put a lot of effort into this, you WILL notice the CGI!”.  Instances of CGI after that are limited, though.  Overall the show has a generic look and feel.  MÄR-Heaven looks lively and colourful but the world, and the characters, have been seen many times before.  The audio is also just typical of this kind of thing. Ginta sounds constantly hyperactive on either audio track, while generic J-Pop and J-Rock play in the background.

There’s no extras to speak of here, just trailers.  Only one thing really bothered me.  The music score appears to have been altered from the Japanese version.  Both scores are equally generic, so I really don’t know why they’ve done that.  

In Summary

All I kept thinking of while watching this was “Saturday morning kid’s TV”.  And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It is great for younger anime fans, or older fans who still get a kick out of that kind of thing.  It’s light, doesn’t require too much from the viewer, and it’s quite fun.  Also, this 13 episode set should be available for a decent price.  There’s nothing really bad about it, but there’s nothing really impressive either.  It’s just average.  I didn’t like it, but I’m aware that many people will.  So it gets a 5 from me.

5 / 10