Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 23 Nov 2008
Fifth grader Sasami Iwakura is a magical girl. However, people who can perform magic are advised to keep it a secret from everyone and lead normal lives. When the new teacher Washu arrives at her school, she quickly deduces that Sasami is a Magical Girl and proceeds to create the “cooking” club, to bring Sasami under her wing and train her in her magical abilities.
The most far-removed Tenchi Muyo! spinoff yet, this is a great little series even without the connections to its source. There is no deep-seated connection to Tenchi Muyo! in Sasami, so even if you’ve never seen the original series, you’ll have no trouble following the action here. Character cameos are kept to a minimum, and this time even the voice actors have changed. More on that later.
It seems perplexing as to why new titles related to Tenchi Muyo!, which debuted fourteen years before this series, are still being produced. Maybe it’s because Tenchi Muyo! was once (and perhaps still is) a flagship title for AIC. Or maybe it’s just because Sasami as a character is so darn cute. My money’s on the latter. In 1992, Sasami was an epitome of the “cute little girl” character type, years before it exploded in popularity to the heights it enjoys today. Sasami Magical Girls Club is an alternate take on the Pretty Sammy spinoff character which debuted in 1994 with her introduction in the Tenchi Muyo! Mihoshi Special, itself a spinoff from the original OVA series.
With the history lesson out of the way, on to the series itself. First, I’d like to address the Japanese voice talent for this series. Every fan of the Japanese language version of Tenchi Muyo! knows that Sasami is voiced by the one and only Chisa Yokoyama. Chisa is Sasami, without question. In Sasami the series, for the first time, she is not. Sasami’s new voice actor, Mana Ogawa, wasn’t even born yet when the character of Sasami made her debut in the Tenchi Muyo! OVA in 1992! In fact, the voice actors for each of the five lead girls in this series were all no older than fifteen years of age, with the youngest being about twelve, and all made their debuts in Sasami, as far as I can tell. For obvious reasons, this means that the girls don’t have to “act” younger, since they were barely much older than the characters which they were portraying. Given that Yokoyama was about 36 years of age when Sasami was produced, it may have been a wise (if risky) choice to bring in new talent, even for a character whose voice is so tied to its identity. I actually find that the youth and inexperience of the actors for Sasami adds to the show’s overall charm. Sasami’s new voice did take some getting used to, but it still remains cute, even if in a new way.
And finally, the story. Sasami‘s plot is not complicated at all. Once Sasami is found out by Washu, the Cooking Club is formed to bring Sasami under Washu’s watch and instruction in the ways of magic. They soon find out that Sasami is not the only magical girl at school, and soon Sasami’s best friend Misao also joins the club. Not long after, the tiny Makoto, mysterious Tsukasa, and Tsukasa-worshipping Anri join the cooking club, and their magic training begins under Washu’s watchful eyes. From there, it’s pretty much just the trials and tribulations of elementary school girls and the things they go through all while learning magic. It’s a fun fantasy, with just the right amount of drama added to keep things interesting. Character designs are cute (and a departure from the Tenchi Muyo! and Pretty Sammy molds), even if the girls’ eyes are a bit unsettling. But I got used to that, too.
So, if you want a fun show about magical girls that breaks the mold, check out Sasami. You don’t even have to be a Tenchi Muyo! fan.