Thursday, January 3, 2008

Just Like Magic, Simple as Do Re Mi

Now that my laptop has a new fan, I've been catching up on the stuff I couldn't watch for fear of overheating. Which includes four episodes of Magical DoReMi, the 4Kids version of Ojamajo Doremi, including the long-awaited episode where Onpu/Ellie finally shows up.

First, let me get this out of the way. I like the dub. I think that it is all right. I'm not saying I think it's perfect, or that it replaces the original Japanese. Some of the changes make me really mad, others I like, and some I feel 'eh' about (most of the name changes, really). But the very fact that we have Ojamajo Doremi over here in the states, where magical girl shows typically do not do well, and kids' anime does even worse, really, is a bit of a miracle in and of itself, and while we could have gotten it under better circumstances, something is indeed better than nothing.
Or it could be that I feel this way because I have access to some, if not all, of the original series and sequels. More about that later.

A little history: Ojamajo Doremi first started airing in 1999. The original series ran for 51 episodes, and it spawned three sequels (Sharp, Mo~tto, and Dokkaan!), two half-hour movies, and an OAV. Basically, it tells the tale of 3rd grader (in the first series, anyway) Doremi and the adventures she has with her friends as they train to become witches.

I first learned about Ojamajo Doremi from a site that has long been defunct, the Anime Intro Archive, which aimed to provide the openings and endings of all current animes running in Japan, and any other relevant clips the webmaster wanted to include. He always had trouble finding a way to actually get these files uploaded, but one way or another I got to see the openings of the original and Sharp, which were the only ones out at the time. Even though I didn't understand the lyrics at the time, I fell in love with the songs, especially Sharp. In fact, Sharp became my favorite of the four.

While I got pieces here and there of information and video clips, it wasn't until I was in college that I got to see full episodes. Dokkaan! was in full swing then, and there was a certain IRC chat room where people could go and get raw episodes from all the seasons, provided the right people uploaded them. This was how I finally got to see the FLAT4 in action and why I saw more of Sharp than any of the other seasons, but that's a post for a different day. But the episodes uploaded were all realmedia files, in two parts, and not the best quality. In February 2003, Dokkaan ended; we all cried at the touching ending and got depressed because that was the last season. But we burned the episodes we had to CDs and looked for Japanese fanart.

That summer I went to Japan and had a good time. Among other things, I got the Sharp CD that had all the FLAT4's themes and the collected character songs, but I also rented the VHS volume that had the episode where Onpu debuted, since I hadn't seen that one, and I was curious about it. I mention this because of the four episodes I watched today, three of them were from that video. So it was interesting to see how 4Kids handled those episodes. But I only vaguely remember what happened (I fell asleep during one, too, so I didn't remember that one at all) in each of them, so I can't really comment too much.

Anyway, 4Kids started airing Magical DoReMi in Fall of 2006, and after 26 episodes, it disappeared from their line up, only to show up again online this past November. This secretly gives me hope that they'll at least dub Sharp, if only so I can know whether they'd call Hana-chan Flora, Blossom, or some specific flower, like Lily or Rose. And if they ever dub Mo~tto, I hope that they make Momoko French, although with that blonde hair, if she became Dutch, I would laugh so hard.

The thing is, it's kind of hard to find anyone who likes both versions of the show. Most fans of the original hate the dub with a fiery passion, and the only fans of the dub I've met have been very young people on the 4Kids forums, which seems to indicate that the only people who actually like the dub are those who "don't know any better," so to speak.

In spite of that, I like the dub. And I love the songs, which is blasphemy to most Doremi fans. I hope that some day there'll be a CD released, but I'm not holding my breath. But seriously, I miss the Witchling Sing-alongs, which aren't included on the online episodes. And I have to say, Ted Lewis is perfect for Oyajiide/Ferdagio. All the more reason to hope that 4Kids dubs and releases Sharp.

One last note: you may have been wondering about the original title, Ojamajo Doremi. The ojamajo part is quite untranslatable, since it's a complicated pun. First off, "jama" means something in the way, an obstacle, and when used to refer to a person, it usually means someone you don't like and would rather do without. The kanji used for jama is in two parts, and the 'ma' part just happens to be the same as the 'ma' of "majo," witch. In the series, Majorika (Patina in the dub) made up this name for Doremi, and frequently calls her this, basically meaning "a witch I wish I didn't have to deal with." The 'o' part is just to make it more personal. Most people translate the title as Bothersome Witch Doremi, if they translate it at all. Hence why almost all other versions are called Magical Doremi instead. It's just easier.


Chris Fritz said...

I've been hoping to see Magical Doremi for some time now -- too bad I'm greeting with the message "Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows XP Media Center 2005, Mac OSX 10.3 or Mac OSX 10.4 is required to view this page" on the site =( I've watched through the first two series, and am waiting for the official Taiwan release of the next two series to pick them up [as I've heard good things about Momoko's English]. Taiwan release, now there's a dub I can't listen to for very long! Maybe it's because I don't understand what the characters say, but the voices don't seem to sit well with me. I simply switch to Japanese track. The release can't compare to the Japanese DVDs, as the Taiwanese release embeds Chinese subtitles onto the video and has low video quality, but it also doesn't cost me US$600 for a series, so...

Ted Lewis as the old man, eh? Most of the voice actors in the English dub I'm unfamiliar with. I recently started watching Piano, and the main character is voiced by the gal who did Hazuki/Reanne's voice, so I get an idea of how she might sound.

I'll have to try loading the site with the dub episodes in Windows Vista on my laptop later, as there doesn't seem to be any other way to see the episodes (unless I want to track down the few dolls released which come with a couple of episodes).

I can be pretty leniant when it comes to dubs, but one of the things I have trouble with the most is voice actors trying to sound like kids rather than sounding like kids. This pretty much kills any anticipation I have for checking out Magical Doremi. I can't imagine any voice being able to compare with Chiemi Chiba as Doremi (and she plays a wonderful Nanaka in Nanaka 6/17 as well) Chiba definitely should take on more roles.

Fern RULES said...

I love Magical Do Re Mi... i stay up till 1:00am to watch it on Nickelodeon every Thursday and Sunday night.... one last thing............... GO MIRABELLE