Shugo Chara!

Shugo Chara!

20140610-194232-70952874.jpgAmu Hinamori is considered by her fellow student body to be a “cool and spicy” girl, but underneath it all she is actually introvert and shy. Unsure of who she actually is, she awakes one morning to find three eggs which hatch into her Shugo Chara (Guardian Characters). They are Amu’s would-be selves, each having characteristics that she herself wishes she had: Ran is sporty and cheery, Miki is artistic and cool, and Su being domestic and girly. When her student council, the Guardians, find out about her Shugo Chara, Amu is recruited to their group. Aside from representing the students, the Guardians also help to protect other girls and boys’ eggs from being transformed into X-eggs by the evil organisation Easter. By ‘Chara changing’ with one of her Shugo Chara, Amu is able to fight off Easter and help protect young peoples dreams and aspirations.

For those of you that don’t already know, I am a big mahou shoujo fan. I have to be watching at least one magical girl anime or I feel that something’s dreadfully amiss in my anime line-up. Hence Shugo Chara! was a no-brainer for me. It hold the typical formula, with the Chara changes representing the transformation. Charas are fairy-like characters that can only be seen by the bearer and others who have ‘given birth’ to their own Shugo Charas. Sometimes the Charas are something the bearer aspires to be, and sometimes they are what the person feels that they are lacking – clashing with the personality that their bearer shows to others. It’s a new and interesting turn on the magical creatures usually introduced through these types of shows.

Amu herself is a great character. She’s not your usual ditzy, klutzy schoolgirl protagonist. She can be quite sharp, cynical and sarcastic to others. As she begins to transform and ‘bond’ with Ran, Miki, Su (and eventually Dia) Amu begins to change herself. She begins to become a softer, mature and more caring person. It’s something that happens steadily through the series in small increments and not just Amu – the other Guardian’s grow and mature  as realistic characters would do.

Apart from this shot, for which I have no words.
Apart from this shot, for which I have no words.

Of course, as a magical girl anime, there is a love interest (or two, or three!). The main object of Amu’s affections is the cute and popular Tadase. Not your usual older, sensible knight-in-shining-armour shoujo type, Tadase is more than happy to follow Amu’s lead, which is a refreshing change of pace (even from Usagi and Mamoru of Sailormoon fame). His soft-spoken shyness leads to him having self-proclaimed king Kiseki as a Shugo Chara.

In fact, none of the characters are particular shoujo anime archtypes – or at least they don’t stay that way for long. Even Yaya, the youngest Guardian, whose dream is to stay young and have everyone fawn over and protect her, grows throughout the show alongside her baby Shugo Chara Pepe-chan. There is also a noticeable time progression in the series, with definite seasonal episodes that eventually lead to the characters moving up in the school years (whereas with some magical girl series everything seems to remain in a sort of time stasis until the end of the story arc). Eldest ‘older-brother’ type Guardian Kukai graduates and is replaced with the serious Kairi. Gentle and feminine Nadeshiko travels abroad and short, haughty Rima takes her place.

20140610-194232-70952556.jpgFrom what I’ve read of the manga, I can see that the anime is very true to the storyline for the most part. Also, the music accompanying Shugo Chara! anime is definitely some of the catchiest I have heard for some time. Nana Mizuki and pop group Buono! have some amazing tunes I have been itching to download for myself (Buono!’s MY BOY is so damn difficult to get out of my head once it starts going).

Alas, there are a few drawbacks. The first one I would point out would be the filler episodes. Now, I’m a huge Naruto Shippuden fan, so I can suffer a substantial amount of filler for the greater good, but it can still be very frustrating. Secondly, in a very similar vein, there is another bugbear in a magical girl anime that only needs one word: transformations. The spinning semi-nakedness and sparkles does get a bit tedious when you see it every episode. And it’s not just Amu that gets a fully-extended transformation scene. If all the Guardian’s are getting in on this particular battle, they’ve all got to have their own one too. I do dislike feeling the need to skip over certain parts of anime, but after watching it fifty or so times you start to wonder why the bad guys haven’t seized their chance and clobbered them all whilst they’re all standing there holding an egg with their eyes closed.

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Despite these common long-running magical girl shortcomings, Shugo Chara! is cute and funny, and I enjoyed watching its light-hearted easy-viewing content to balance out the extensive amount of weapons-and-battles shonen anime I’ve queued up at the moment. Now that I’ve reached the end of the story, much like the end of a good book, I feel a little sad about not having it to watch anymore.