Yes, this is a brand of magical girl show, done a lot better than the ‘mow-‘em-all-down’ approach we currently have, but not as mindlessly frothy as previous versions. For this go-around, we have “Urara Meirocho” (“Urara Labyrinth City”). You see, Meirocho is a town filled with fortune tellers known as Uraras, who each specialize in different forms of fortune telling (Ooh! Ooh! Can I do tyromancy?)
Chiya, (far left) is a girl who was raised in the mountain woods and comes to Meirocho seeking the whereabouts of her mother. You see, when you reach the age of 15, you get a letter, summoning you to the city, where you will apprentice under a mentor. Like Hogwarts, but not as perilous. She goes to the Natsume-ya Teahouse, where she will be educated with three other trainees: (left to right) Kon Tatsumi, Nono Natsume and Koume Yukimi. Chiya aims to become the highest ranked Urara in order to enlist the help of the legendary Urara and find her mother.
One of Chiya’s charms is the fact that animals all flock to her. All that time spent in the mountains put her in good stead with the woodland creatures and they do come to her help when she runs afoul of Captain Saku Iroi, Bloque 10 Patrol Leader. Yes, let us talk about Labyrinth City.
The overall city is divided into ten areas or ‘bloques’. Rules here are very strict: you cannot pass up into another bloque without having earned your degree to do so. All the tyros are rated as a ‘10’ and you have to pass your promotional exams (or OWLs, if you want to Potterize things) to move to the next bloque (although I think you can always go down to a lower bloque to go visit or check out an udon shop). And if you fail, you go back from whence you came.
Now, the other girls have a fortune telling ability already and are just learning how to hone it. Kon does kokkuri, which is a kind of Ouija board; Nono speaks through a doll she possesses; and Koume does tarot. Chiya is basically starting from nothing and there is a ton she has to learn. We see them put through their paces, not only to learn how to become better in their profession, but deepen those friendships that is the hallmark of this show.
Yes, it does smack heavily of Harry Potter, but I think any show that has to do with magic in any caliber is going to be tethered to that franchise. It is more of a series of misadventures, as Chiya learns about life in the big city and what is going to be asked of her. This is a rather gentle show, even with some elements of peril, as friendship is the greatest magic of all, right? OK, OK, I’m not trying to sound dismissive of things, but it seems to me that when you get a grouping of gals together, it seems to be either that we will be the bestest of friends or I will have to kill you. Or even both.
Can the show last 10 seasons? Not even close, but if it takes a year to complete a level, that is the projected time frame. And we can’t move it faster or jump ahead, as that would play havoc with how the relationships grow and develop. But it just doesn’t have that level of stamina. So it will be a cute show that will have a couple of seasons and that’s it. Read the manga.
An addendum: I went to Anime Expo and actually had the chance to ask the creative team for this anime an important question: in theory, it takes a year to progress one level. Are there plans to have this go for a solid ten years or will there be creative shortcuts? “Err….uh…ahem….that is…..a very interesting question and we have to see if we can get picked up for the second season.” Nice recovery for a non-answer answer. PS, tyromancy is divination by using cheese: looking at the veining, seeing how it coagulates, examining the curd, even via its scent. Yeah, tarot cards are a lot cleaner.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Everyone is just so cute!)
Plot 7 (Kinda sorta)
Pacing 7 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 7 (Good use of teasers)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Not bad, but nothing new)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I will find my mother.