Crunchyroll.com has a checkered history. It started out as a pirate video site that featured unauthorized anime fansubs. Then, a few months ago, it went legit. It now offers only anime that it has properly licensed from the Japanese content owners or their American licensees. As such it may represent the future of the anime market outside of Japan, at least for the many shows that are not blockbusters. Internet distribution is cheaper than television broadcasting or shipping DVDs, and thus seems a more practical way to distribute shows to a niche audience. It also allows shows to made available soon after they are broadcast in Japan, which in theory should eliminate the main reason for the existence of fansubs.
Of the shows they have licensed, Shugo Chara! is the one that interests me most. It is a traditional magical girl story with a fresh new twist–possibly the funniest series of 2008 and certainly the cutest.
Some people have compared this show to Card Captor Sakura. I don’t think it’s quite that good. It doesn’t have the same kind of meticulous plotting or multi-layered subtlety, and it sometimes feels padded. However its wit, charm and enthusiasm make it constantly entertaining.
Shugo KYARA! (Guardian Characters)
Comedy, Fantasy, Magical Girl
Japanese with subtitles
TV Tokyo 2007-2008
Region 1 Publisher
Because of differences in the licensing agreements, Crunchyroll doesn’t offer the same viewing options for each anime. In the case of Shugo Chara you can watch the episodes whenever you want as streaming video with commercials. If you pay to join their “Anime Club” you can watch a higher resolution version without ads. Unlike some of their other shows, there is no “download to own” option to pay to download the video as a non-copy-protected file that can be played on other devices.
Currently only the first 39 episodes of the first season are available, but they have promised to put up the rest as soon as the subtitles are ready. New episodes of the second season are available one week after they are broadcast in Japan. Anime Club members get to watch them 1 hour after the Japanese broadcast.
This show is fairly nonviolent, even by the standards of magical girl shows, and is unlikely to disturb children. It appears that the worst thing that is likely to happen to the protagonists is for them to have their Heart’s Eggs crushed, and we are given to understand that that is what happens to most people when they grow up. (Actually that is rather scary, but anyone old enough to understand the implications is too old to be frightened by a show like this.)
On the face of it the main drawback to the show is that it is so gosh-darned wholesome that it might cause teenagers to run from the room making gagging sounds. Actually some of the episodes do contain naughty elements, or at least elements that would seem naughty to a twelve-year-old girl. This is very mild stuff by the standards of Japanese children’s television, let alone American prime-time television, but is probably sufficient to keep the series from being licensed by an American television network for daytime broadcast.
Premise and Characters
“All kids hold an egg in their soul: the Egg of Our Hearts, our would-be selves, yet unseen.”
Not only do kids have Heart’s Eggs,
which represent their deepest aspirations, but if a child wishes hard enough the egg will physically appear and hatch into a “guardian character” or “shugo chara
“. This is a little flying chibi
that will flit around, exhorting the child to pursue his dreams.
This sounds pretty annoying and it is certainly fortunate
that charas are invisible to anyone who does not also possess one. However there are compensations. The owner of a shugo chara can perform a “Character Change”, temporarily gaining the use of a super power based on the characteristics of the chara. A few advanced users can do a “Character Transformation”, merging with the chibi to become a costumed superhero.
However Heart’s Eggs can also be a force for evil.
If a child loses faith in his dreams, the egg can turn into a black “X Egg” which can hatch into a destructive “X Character” which will spitefully attack everyone in the vicinity, seeking to destroy their dreams as well.
Eleven-year-old Amu Hinamori
has recently transferred to a new school and has yet to make any real friends. She has a brusque and obstinate personality and dresses in a kind of punkette style. This leads her classmates to think of her as a cool, dangerous rebel. They admire her, but keep their distance.
Inside she feels like a fraud. Her public character isn’t the way she wants to be. Unfortunately she doesn’t know what kind of person she does
want to be. She is left feeling lonely and frustrated.
Amu’s mother Midori Hinamori
is a writer for a women’s magazine. She’s a bit absent-minded and her misguided fashion sense has a lot to do with the way Amu dresses.
Amu’s father Tsumugu Hinamori
is a wildlife photographer. He is devoted to his daughters but tends to act like a hysterical airhead.
Both parents are obsessed with Amu’s little sister Ami
who is cute but bratty.
One day Amu sees a television program featuring the famous psychic Nobuko Saeki
. It seems to Amu that Saeki is speaking directly to her as she talks about “guardian spirits who watch over the real you.”
Fascinated in spite of herself, Amu prays to her guardian spirit to “Please give me the courage to be reborn as the person I truly want to be.”
When she wakes up the next morning she is shocked to find 3 colorful eggs which soon hatch into 3 noisy chibis.
, the first to hatch, is a hyper-energetic girl in a cheerleader costume. She presses Amu to do scary, embarrassing things.
Her powers include enhanced athletic abilities and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
is quiet, tomboyish and reserved. Her powers include drawing, painting and music.
is ultra-cute and feminine. Her talents involve cooking, sewing and fixing things that are broken–the last of which can be a fairly substantial super power.
Amu is a fifth-grader at Seiyo Elementary, an exclusive private school.
It seems a nice enough place, although it may be that the architect was smoking a bit too much pixie dust.
Of course the school has an absurdly powerful student council
called The Guardians. The members wear plaid capes which, combined with the plaid shorts or skirts of the school uniform, make them look absolutely ridiculous. All of the Guardians have shugo charas (that seems to be the primary qualification for membership) and their primary mission is to protect the Heart’s Eggs of their fellow students.
is the leader of the council, or “King’s Chair”, even though like Amu he is only a fifth grader. He is a very cute and polite boy and Amu has a secret crush on him.
He is the only Guardian who uses energy attacks.
Tadase’s chara Kiseki
is a pompous little king who allows Tadase to take on the character of a megalomaniac tyrant.
Kiseki wants to find the Embryo
a legendary magic egg which can grant any wish. With it Tadase could become dictator of the world. When the other shugo charas hear about this they are eager to help him find it. (In many respects the judgement of shugo charas seems questionable.)
, the “Queen’s Chair”, is very refined and feminine. She is a student of traditional Japanese dance.
Her chara Temari
is a very traditional Japanese lady.
With her help Nadeshiko can take on the persona of a fierce warrior.
Sixth grader Kuukai Souma
is the “Jack’s Chair”. He is captain of the soccer club and excels at all kinds of sports. His chara Daichi
gives him enhanced athletic abilities.
the “Ace Chair” is the youngest member. Her speech and behavior are childish and immature.
Her chara Pepe
gives Yaya the power to strike her enemies with a giant baby rattle, which is too lightweight to have much effect. This must be a contender for the title of “The World’s Lamest Super Power.”
The Guardians offer Amu the position of “Joker”. She initially refuses but is eventually convinced to join, though she sensibly refuses to wear the cape.
The Guardians possess a magical item called the Humpty Lock
, and are aware of an ancient prophesy that when a girl appears who has three shugo charas, it should be given to her.
With the power of the Humpty Lock, Amu finds that she can perform Character Transformations, and cast the spell “Open Heart” which can purify X-Eggs.
is a dark, moody high school student. At night he can often be found standing in the moonlight, playing melancholy music on his violin.
Ikuto’s chara Yoru
is a very bad kitty who is always up to no good. He can summon a horde of alley cats to assist in his nefarious activities.
With Yoru’s help Ikuto can transform into a wicked, egg-stealing catboy.
is an annoying third grader with a big crush on Amu. Mostly she tries to ignore him.
is an annoying egotistical oujo
with a clique of subservient followers. She is constantly scheming to get the attention of Tadase, or whichever boy she is obsessed with this week.
is Amu’s home room teacher. He is cheerful, clumsy, absent-minded and ineffectual, and is obviously the last person one should suspect of being an agent for an evil outside entity.
This is the headquarters
of Easter Corporation
, a giant international media conglomerate. Like most such organizations its business model is based on crushing the dreams of children. The mysterious head of the corporation wants to obtain the Embryo for some unspecified (but undoubtedly evil) purpose.
Managing Director Kazuomi Hoshina
directs Easter Corporation’s schemes to find the Embryo.
is a popular teenage singing idol under contract to Easter Corporation. Her emo songs cast her young fans into a black pit of despair.
Utau’s chara Il
(IRU) is sardonic and combative.
Here we see her taking a break.
(ERU) is clumsy and scatterbrained. She can give her owner the power to surrender at the first sign of a fight. Sorry, Pepe, but I’m afraid you’re no longer in contention for “World’s Lamest Super Power.”
Utau’s manager Yukari Sanjou
works closely with Kazuomi Hoshina in schemes to find the Embryo for Easter Corporation.
On the school grounds is a planetarium which few people seem to know about.
However Tsukasa Amakawa
the caretaker is always ready to offer wise advise to any student who happens to wander in.
At the beginning of the new school year,
two new members join the Guardians. Rima Mashiro
is a very pretty, delicate-looking girl who entrances all the boys with her poise and refinement. Though a very quiet girl, she is an obsessive perfectionist and is initially very cold toward Amu.
Rima’s chara Kusukusu
specializes in slapstick comedy.
is very methodical and organized. The other Guardians defer to his managerial skills.
His chara Musashi
is a traditional brave and loyal samurai.
(DAIYA) is an unusually strong-willed X-chara.
The Second Season
Shugo Chara!! Doki! is currently airing in Japan and new episodes can be viewed on Crunchyroll shortly after they are broadcast.
The characters are now a year older and most have enhanced their powers, though they have not gained much insight into the obvious contractions embodied in their charas. The main new gimmick is “Mystery Eggs” which appear when children become conflicted about their goals. People with Mystery Eggs try to impose their dreams on others in inappropriate ways.
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
Wikipedia entry. (Spoilers)
Shugo Chara! section on Crunchroll.
Omo discusses issues with Crunchyroll. (In particular, if you want to watch the high-resolution streams, you had better have a solid, high-speed video connection and a reasonably fast computer.)