Magical girl anime has become notably grimmer and grimmer recently – and when you have a genre that's been running for nigh on fifty years, it's understandable that it's going to want to subvert and deconstruct itself to stay fresh. So there's actually something very pleasing about the fact that, as one of its first titles, the streaming site Anime Sols has chosen something like Magical Angel Creamy Mami, which is one of the most straightforward and upbeat magical girl series ever to wave a marketable toy wand.
Creamy Mami comes from the long distant before-times of 1983, when transforming heroines were not only new-ish, but also rarely fought monsters. Magical girls tended to use their powers to help friends with problems, mess with teachers, or cause general wacky hijinks. Which is not to say that this show doesn't have its share of what was then considered genre-standard material. However, in releasing it, Studio Pierrot did add a new facet: we got our very first magical pop star.
Our heroine is ten-year-old Yuu Morisawa, the daughter of a pair of crepe shop owners. She is also a colossal tomboy and knows no fear, because she considers being beamed up by an invisible spaceship to be pretty much the best night ever. It's this encounter, during which she shows kindness to a lost alien name Pino Pino, that leads to her receive a magical compact to use however she pleases for one year. This is high-end alien technology she's just been given, and even her guardians – a pair of pocket-sized talking kittens named Posi and Nega – make it pretty clear that they don't care what she does with it. So she uses her colossal powers to turn into a sixteen-year-old version of herself and accidentally land a singing career.
The show is very much Jem and the Holograms two years before there even was a Jem. Or possibly Hannah Montana done well. Yuu balances everyday life with her role as Creamy Mami, Japan's new sweetheart. On the Mami side of things, she has to deal with rival singer Megumi Ayase, a slimy paparazzo named Snake Joe, and the romantic feelings of her producer, Tachibana. In everyday life, there's still school and homework and bedtime … as well as her feelings for her older friend Toshio. (Toshio, incidentally, has a massive crush on Mami, which makes things even tougher on Yuu.)
You'll hear a few familiar voices in the show, but the most impressive is the main character herself, voiced by one Takako Ohta. She was discovered at the age of sixteen on the show Star Tanjou! and ended up not only singing for the lead, but also voicing both Yuu and Mami. This is fairly unprecedented for a star-making anime, where the point is to get some singles out and then grab an experienced voice actor to handle the spoken lines. Though you'll be hard-pressed to hear Ohta in other roles, she's hilarious and adorable as both of Yuu's identities, and Creamy Mami did indeed launch a fairly lengthy singing career for her.
While the series is primarily episodic minus a few running character interactions, it does often harken back to the fact that Yuu is in possession of advanced technology and two small alien companions. There is the occasional nod to her willingness to help the residents of Feather Star, Posi and Nega's home world, though it isn't often expanded upon. It does, however, mean she will encounter her fair share of aliens, ghosts, phantom circuses, and bizarre dream-beings. There are maybe two or three instances of actual battle taking place – but in the end, it's not the sort of magical girl series we've become used to since Sailor Moon.
But just because it's not full of monsters and plot twists and soul gems doesn't mean it's saccharine or childish. It's low-impact and never truly dark, but it also has a weird sort of irreverence about it that keeps it from becoming bland and silly. Somewhere between an evil mirror-Mami trying to sexualize her public image and the bit where Yuu accidentally causes temporal distortion that could destroy the world, you learn that pretty much anything goes here. And with the end of the series mapped out for you in the first episode (remember, she has to give the compact back after a year), there isn't a lot of fretting to do over whether there will be a tragic ending.
It was assumed for the longest time that Creamy Mami would never see a stateside release, but with Anime Sols having launched earlier this week, you can get started on the first few episodes with more to follow on a regular basis. And when it comes to their Kickstarter model, it's already one of their most supported shows: if they meet their fundraising goal in the next couple of months, a DVD box will be forthcoming with more to follow. Considering this year marks the show's 30th anniversary, that wouldn't be a bad way to celebrate at all.'
Kara Dennison is the artist and co-writer of the webcomics at conscrew.com