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Fairy Musketeers PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00
Fairy MusketeersHere's one that took me more than a year to plough my way through, but don't let that fool you - it wasn't because of any lack of enjoyment with the series itself. Currently hidden away on Crunchyroll, Fairy Musketeers takes some fairly familiar fairytale themes, has a little fun with them, and then brings a little bit of fairytale darkness to proceedings...

Young boy Souta Suzukaze's been having strange dreams, of being chased through a forest by a demon and being saved by a girl who wears armour and fights with two shortswords. While out looking for information on a fairytale his mother used to tell him, Souta's attacked by a demon, just like the one in his dream - and true to the dream, a young girl, Red Riding Hood, appears and dispatches the demon. It seems that Red Riding Hood, her wolf Val and the demons attacking him have all emerged from a link between two worlds - Red Riding Hood's world is the world of magic, while Souta's world is the world of science, just like in a story his mom used to tell him. Those who use dark magic are attempting to take over the magical world, and Red Riding Hood's been sent to the 'real' world to find the Sealed Key that could stop them - and the Key is Souta...

Red's musketeers comrades Snow White and Briar Rose soon join the gang and they, along with Souta's best friend (and potential love interest) Ringo, head back to the magical world of Phandavale to deal with the person behind the demons: Cendrillon (or Cinderella, in some renderings), who is holding the King of Phandavale, Fernando, captive while waiting for her opportunity to use Souta's Key to advance her evil plans. Insert "Bwahahaha!" here. Cendrillon is assisted by clueless kitty Randagio, who just wants to impress, and siblings Hansel (a magician with very little emotion left) and Gretel (who fights for her brother's approval, but isn't at all convinced that they're on the right side). Add other characters such as Hamelin, the Lycans and more besides, and you have the basis for 39 episodes of magical fun.

Souta is the "hero" of the piece, and as you'd expect is little more than a genuinely nice guy thrown into unusual circumstances - and with a history behind him that makes him particularly suited for the tasks ahead. If anything, though, he's almost too nice, meaning that on the odd occasion where he does something that's not for the greater good it just doesn't feel right. Red is a ditz who always does what's right; Snow White is the princess who feels the need to always be the centre of attention (which is adorable in its own way, when it's not overdone) and Briar Rose spends as much time as possible asleep, which means that she unfortunately gets a raw deal as far as character development goes - it's hard to flesh out a personality when you only ever wake up to fight. Ringo, rounding out the main group, is devoted to Souta and well-meaning, but a little out of her depth in Phandavale as she lacks the magic that the other girls have, leaving her often feeling that she's a burden on the team. She has her positive qualities, though, and is one of my favourite characters in the series.

At heart, Fairy Musketeers is a magical girl show, with most of the series following the tried-and-tested Monster of the Week format and allowing the lead trio of Red, Briar Rose and Snow White to cut loose with their magic and save the day. In this phase, the series is enjoyable enough, but nothing particularly special - it can get very samey and predictable, particularly if you're watching in batches. It pays to watch in bitesized chunks. In the final third of the series, though, things begin to get rather more interesting as several plot threads begin to play out: Souta's connection to Phandavale, which comes through his mother, who seemed to have come from there in the first place; the existence of a second Key, in the possession og King Fernando, and what Cendrillon's plans for the two Keys may be; and the origins of Cendrillon, whose story began with a young girl named Marlene who once felt the pain of a love scorned and felt the need to to something about it. Along with these major threads, there are minor ones following Randagio and Hansel & Gretel as they do Cendrillon's bidding - at first willingly, but (particularly in Gretel's case) with more and more doubts as the series goes on.

Once it gets stuck into the main plot, Fairy Musketeers makes the change from lighthearted, mindless fun to something more serious, at which point it becomes vastly more interesting - from being something you watch on occasion, it becomes something that you can marathon, and where enough information is teased out of the main characters in each episode that the urge to quickly put the next one on and see what happens next is almost irresistable. It helps that that vast majority of characters - even amongst the "baddies" - are instantly likeable. The way Cendrillon's past is developed and explained lets you see the world from her point of view - you may not agree with what she's doing, but you can certainly understand why; Gretel's desire to simply make her brother proud, and the conflict that causes within her, make you want to just give her a hug; and Randagio makes for great comic relief - and yet they all cause their fair share of problems for Souta and his group, never being pushovers. It's all surprisingly enjoyable, given how simple the series first appears on the surface.

It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, to learn that come the end of the series I simply loved it, and didn't want it to end - although the story does come to a definite end, with little scope for future continuation. The series sadly seems to have sneaked under the radar of even the most dedicated magical girl fans, and that's unfortunate - there's plenty here to like, from characters, to clever reuse of fairytale ideas, to the well-crafted story, and it really does deserve a little more love. With Crunchyroll streaming the series for free, there's really no excuse not to give it a try. Go on. You know you want to...

Rating - ****