Amu is an ordinary girl but her classmates see her as having a cool and spicy personality. She just wants to be cute and normal and find the courage to confess to the Prince of the school, Tadase. After making a wish one night, she wakes up to find three eggs in her bed. When the eggs hatch, Amu’s life is going to change as the school Guardians know she’s got them and suddenly want her to become the Joker.
In case you didn’t pick it up from the super shiny pink colour scheme or the overview, Shugo Chara is another magical girl series, though technically there are as many magical boys in this show as girls so we’ll leave that to the side for now. Essentially if you are up for transformation, ridiculous costumes, a monster of the week that mostly seems ineffectual but somehow helps our hero learn more about herself and others, before building to a massive overly emotional final battle, then Shugo Chara is the show for you.
In this version of the magical girl/kids with super powers story various young people have a guardian egg and for those with particularly strong dreams or wishes the eggs become visible and may hatch into guardian characters. The guardian characters can do a character change with their owner which gives them some power though they are still strictly human at that point. For Amu, when she does a character change with Ran, she becomes very enthusiastic and becomes really good at sports (cheerleader). Going a further step, they might be able to do a character transformation where they get a full transformation sequence and then the powers get really over the top. By the way, don’t break the egg. Bad idea.
Though it probably wouldn’t be fair to simply leave it at that because even within the magical girl genre there’s quite a bit of variety. Shugo Chara manages to be one of those adorably sweet shows that has just enough actual drama and heartache to keep it from tipping into cavity territory. Mostly that is because of the two older characters in the cast, Ikuto and Utau. Even though they are still students, admittedly older than our fifth grade protagonists, they have enough of a tragic back story for to fill an entire young adult novel all on their own.
So rather than skipping all over the place with this I’m going to take a plus/minus approach to this show.
Pretty much every encounter between Amu and Ikuto is golden. Whether it is early in the story where Ikuto is strictly set up as the dangerous bad-boy, or later on where you start to see him as the stray cat, or further down the story where you realise he really is just a lonely teenager starved for actual relationships, his encounters with Amu really are the highlight of the show, and not just because his character change turns him into a cat boy and quite adorable with his ears out. This relationship is enough to keep you going through the many episodes of this series (there’s 51 in the first series of Shugo Chara and then it just keeps going).
The rest of the guardians from the school (King, Queen, Jack, and Ace). While each of them get a moment at some point in the series, and the King, Tadase, is technically set up as Amu’s actual lover interest early on, to be perfectly honest I’m not sure these characters serve any point other than this show decided it wanted a team of 5 people. For a large majority of the series the other guardians can’t do character transformations so their powers are pretty limited, and to be honest Tadase’s character change is incredibly annoying. Even after they can do character transformations, most of them aren’t overly helpful. Yaya in particular has the most ridiculous costume ever and her attack remains laughable. I kind of get that Amu developed as a character through the support these guys gave her, but they could have easily given her one or two friends who would have served the same essential role and then they wouldn’t have had to keep coming up with excuses to make the rest of the cast relevant.
If you want something kid safe, this one is more or less a winner. While some of the themes around Ikuto are a bit more mature there is no foul language, no overt nudity (although a couple of the costumes are a little on the skimpy side), and the violence is fairly limited to magical attacks rather than weapons (with one or two exceptions).
Do not expect a complex storyline. The plot is strictly formulaic. At first the guardians are on a quest to find the embryo, some magical thingy that will apparently grant a wish. The evil company, Easter (not joking), is also trying to seek the embryo. Incidentally, both Ikuto and Utau are either working for or controlled by Easter for a fair amount of the series, as does a teacher who comes to the school. The guardians have the genius plan of randomly running around and hoping they spot it (seriously, I don’t think ever come up with a better plan because they are strictly reactive in terms of seeking the thing) whereas Easter has the even more genius plan of corrupting other kid’s eggs and turning them into x eggs, which sends them on a rampage requiring them to be purified by Amu etc, etc. Occasionally Easter comes up with plans in order to collect large number of heart’s eggs at once and are essentially ripping the dreams out of small children but seriously, their plans kind of remind me of most of the throw away villains from Sailor Moon. Some of the subplots fare better with Utau and Amu at one point swapping eggs and being forced to confront each other and their own weaknesses and Ikuto’s entire plot line is fairly interesting, but the overall story is as cookie cutter as they come in this genre.
There is some really good music in this series. Okay, the theme songs are catchy but fairly horrendous when you think about them but within the show itself you have Utau who is an idol and regularly performs. Because Easter runs an entertainment company there are quite a lot of episodes that feature performances from various bit characters. However, the true stand out would be Ikuto on the violin. It is no wonder Amu tracked that sound down in the park because it was beautiful.
It never really felt like there was much point in Amu having 3 and then 4 guardian characters. Admittedly, it was used as a plot point toward the end and early on it was showing that she didn’t have one clear dream but other than Ran, the other two guardians don’t get to do much, and the final one doesn’t come until very late into the show. It just felt like they could have done more with that.
A final plus to finish on, Amu is the kind of heroine I could get behind. While she tries really hard sometimes to be upbeat, most of the time she is full of self doubt and confusion. She doesn’t really get the guardian eggs or why she needs to fight and she certainly doesn’t understand her feelings for either Tadase or Ikuto. I like that she is essentially a good person but she is a kid. She starts the story in the fifth grade and while her outer persona may be super cool sometimes, you never really forget how young she really is. Over the course of the series I came to really admire her because she didn’t run away from her problems (although she did occasionally sulk) but neither was she the super positive, we can do it, kind of protagonist that just kind of gets on your nerves after awhile.
Realistically, this show is kind of average in every respect. It is completely watchable and if you are in to the genre it is very binge worthy, however it is also quickly forgettable save one or two minor plot lines. It is cute and adorable and if you want a show where love, friendship, and dreams will eventually win the day, it is well worth checking out.
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