MÄR: Märchen Awakens Romance, TV Tokyo
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Ginta Toramizu is an 8th grader with zero athletic skill, who's constantly daydreaming about a fantasy realm where he's a hero. He's had the same dream over 100 times, but the only person who doesn't laugh at his stories is a girl in his class named Koyuki. She also happens to look exactly like Princess Snow, from the fantasy world. Then one day, the lights go out in Ginta's classroom, and a gateway to his dream world opens up, so he sets off on an adventure, this time while awake! He finds that he can see perfectly without his glasses, plus he has great strength and stamina.
The first person he meets in this other world (which is called MÄR) is a beautiful witch named Dorothy. She tells him about magical items called ÄRMs, which come in various forms (including simple, sacred, weapon, darkness, dimension, guardian, nature, ghost, and unique ÄRMs), each of which have different uses. Dorothy collects unique ÄRMs, and she's currently looking for one called Babbo. Ginta goes along with her, completely excited to be in his dream world for real, and ends up obtaining Babbo, which is a talking steel hammer with a ball and chain (which resembles a Japanese toy called a kendama). Dorothy seems shocked to find that Babbo can talk, since ÄRMs aren't supposed to do that. She's also surprised that it's not a piece of jewelry.
Well, soon after Ginta acquires Babbo (who thinks himself a gentleman), Dorothy leaves, but we'll see her again. Anyway, not long after that, Ginta and Babbo meet a boy named Jack, who has an ÄRM which is a battle shovel, and he joins them on their journey. Meanwhile, someone else out there wants to obtain Babbo, and puts out a reward for members of the Thieves' Guild to bring him the living ÄRM. And after that, Ginta meets a boy named Alviss, who, it turns out, had used a dimension ÄRM called the Gate Keeper Clown to bring Ginta to MÄR. He told Ginta that an evil army called the Chess Pieces, who were barely defeated six years ago by someone else from Ginta's world, called "the Boss," were now being resurrected. And Ginta is the one who will have to defeat them, this time, but he needs a lot of training first. Um, there's also a fairy named Bell, who follows Alviss around.
The Chess Pieces, btw, have a hierarchy, with the King and Queen at the top. Under them are Knights, the most powerful of whom is called Phantom- who used to own Babbo (though Babbo has no memory of his past). It's also important to note that Phantom was killed by the Boss, but he is a living corpse, so... he can't really be killed. Not permanently, anyway. Another Knight is called Halloween, and his appearance certainly lives up to the name. Below the Knights are Bishops, then Rooks, then Pawns.
After learning about the Chess Pieces, Ginta and Jack meet a small talking dog named Edward, who is a servant of Princess Snow of Lestava (the capital of MÄR), and he wants their help rescuing her. She had sealed herself in ice to protect herself from her wicked step-mother's servants. When Ginta and the others went to rescue Snow, there were a couple of Rooks there, Ian and Loco (who looks like a cute little girl, but is actually older). They wanted to capture Snow, but Ginta did what he could, and then... Edward turned into a human, who apparently used to be called Alan, and who fought in the last war, in a group called the Cross Guard, who opposed the Chess Pieces. And he had been a friend of the person from Ginta's world, called Boss, who helped defeat them in the last Great War. Anyway, now Alan and Ed share a body, and when Ed falls asleep 3 times, he turns into Alan. When Alan falls asleep once, he turns into Ed. Alan gave an ÄRM of Fire to Ginta, who released Snow. And Halloween showed up with new orders: all the Chess Pieces had to return the castle, as it was time to begin the second Great War.
So, anyway, Alan uses a dimension ÄRM called the Training Gate to send Ginta and Jack to some other dimension (or two separate dimensions, actually) to train for like a few months, but in that time, only three days will pass in MÄR. Snow went with Ginta and Dorothy with Jack. Meanwhile, Chess Pieces are attacking cities and towns all over the world. After they all return, much stronger now (and with Babbo able to transform into different forms), they form Team MÄR, which will have seven members, including Ginta, Jack, Snow, Alan/Edward, Dorothy, Alviss (who was very young during the last war, but somehow joined the Cross Guard anyway), and Nanashi, leader of a group of thieves called Luberia, who wants revenge for the killing of his comrades by a Knight named Peta (the same person who initially offered them a reward to capture Babbo). Anyway, since the Cross Guard has been essentially eliminated as a threat to the Chess Pieces by now, Team MÄR will stand as the new opposition.
The Chess Pieces don't simply wage normal war, though, they hold "War Games," which I suppose is natural for a group named after a game like Chess. Of course, Phantom really thinks of all this as entertainment, and enjoys watching the battles from his castle. He's particularly entertained by Ginta. Anyway, Team MÄR will be forced to face off against various Chess Pieces in a series of one-on-one battles (each of which is part of a set of different matches, and each match has a different number of team mates on each side, fighting on different battlefields). So of course, we'll get to see lots of different Chess Pieces, while higher-ups like Queen, Phantom, and the 13 Zodiac Knights (Peta, Halloween, etc.), look on. They won't join the fighting til later, I guess. Anyway, after the first round of fights, Ginta and Jack undergo further training with a former Cross Guard named Gaira. We also learn a secret about the Boss which, actually, was pretty predictable....
As I mentioned before, in the course of Ginta's training, he learns that Babbo can transform. He gets these magic stones to put into Babbo, each of which can absorb data from Ginta's imagination... so he can give Babbo any power he can imagine. Version 1 is a hammer, or sometimes a dagger, which Babbo transforms into and merges with Ginta's arm. Version 2 is a bubble launcher, and the bubbles (which look like mini Babbos) explode. Version 3 is a huge and incredibly powerful Gargoyle, so Babbo becomes a guardian ÄRM. Version 4 is called Sacred Guardian Alice, so Babbo transforms into an incredibly sexy (and scantily clad) woman who can heal injuries and undo curses. Jack and Nanashi both go totally gaga over Alice, though they have to remind themselves she's really Babbo. After the third round of fights (for which Ginta and Jack were back, after being gone for the second round), Ginta uses Alice to undo the curse on Alan and Edward, separating them back into their own bodies. However, there is a zombie tattoo curse which Phantom placed on Alviss years ago, which would eventually turn him into a living corpse like Phantom. This curse is impossible to undo by any means except Phantom's death (which is, as I mentioned earlier, apparently also impossible).
The final match of the third round was Alviss vs. Rolan, the first Knight to actually fight Team MÄR in the War Games. He also has a zombie tattoo given to him by Phantom, but unlike Alviss, he considers it a blessing, as he hopes to become like Phantom someday. Meanwhile, Snow goes into another dimension to rest while the others fight in the fourth round, though of course she also does some training. Toward the end of the fourth round, Ginta fights a Chess Piece named Girom, who he had fought once before, but not in the War Games. During his battle, he came up with Version 5 for Babbo, using a magic stone Phantom had given him. The new version was "cushion jelly," which is used defensively.
There's not much else I can say yet, except that Jack has a crush on Dorothy, who has a crush on Ginta, who seems more interested in Snow (of whom Dorothy is frequently jealous), though he's embarrassed about that, and really I think he wants to be with Koyuki. Of course, he doesn't think much about romance or anything, he's mostly just determined to defeat the Chess Pieces. And he's still really excited to be in the world of MÄR, he's like a total geek about it, actually, and just thinks it's all really cool. I like that about him, and it's pretty much the same way I feel about this show. It's just so awesome! I suppose I should also mention that back in Ginta's world, Koyuki has dreams about what's happening in MÄR, and seems to see it through Snow's eyes. And she tells Ginta's mother (who writes fantasy stories, but doesn't believe in such things) that Ginta is alright, since he disappeared. Her husband also disappeared years ago, and was apparently into fantasy stories the same way Ginta is... Anyway, I'm having a lot of fun watching the series, learning more about what's going on, and look forward to getting to know a ton more characters as the story progresses.... (Alas, I didn't get a chance to see the whole series. Hopefully I'll get back into it, someday.)