As someone whose Saturday nights revolve around Toonami and Adult Swim, I found myself watching this whenever I had a chance. "MÄR", or "Märchen Awakens Romance", is an anime cartoon which follows the adventures of a young, hyperactive daydreamer named Ginta who is suddenly swept into a fantasy realm known as MÄR and finds himself in the middle of the conflict between good and evil. Since the Toonami broadcast of this show was cancelled early on, I can only review it by the first fifth or eighth or however much of the actual length this show was.
The overall plot is something every fantasy nut dreams of; hopeless geek ends up in another world where he gains superhuman strength, speed, senses, and the ability to "go ghost!" (that last one might be a different show). This is explained by the relative lack of gravity that MÄR has, although his improved sight and newfound ability to ditch his glasses and still somehow see is never really given an explanation. He then befriends a talking ball and chain named "Babbo" who proclaims himself a gentleman, which provides a certain level of comic relief, but nothing that anyone past the age of 13 would really start guffawing over.
The main conflict of the show revolves around a sort of "civilized war" between Ginta and his random fellow adventurers and their evil counterparts, the Legion of Doom...I mean, the "Chess Pieces." This includes a tournament where the heroes and villains are pitted one-on-one, and whoever has the most powerful "aura" seems to win. Their weapons of choice? The ubiquitous mystical items known as "ARM" (pronounced "air-mmm") which can only be activated and used through...guess what?...proper training.
The show might've had potential here in the States if the plot hadn't been so-so. Once it became clear that the combat would revolve around the characters' "mystical energy" and their ability in channeling that energy, it started to seem like a lame rip-off of Dragon Ball Z. All of the weird lights with none of the excitement. It would have been different if the characters seemed to MOVE every once in a while, but the action and the animation make "Yu-Gi-Oh!" feel like Dragon Ball Z on overdrive. (I know this having been hooked on Yu-Gi-Oh for some time.) The music seesaws between some royal ballroom piano and a lot of frenetic metal, and the effect is that the background music is sometimes overwhelming, or otherwise simply not right for the scene. I liked the eerie mix of classical and electric guitar they played to introduce the Chess Pieces, though. It made for some good "evil" music and it's still kinda stuck in my head.
The animation is probably the key point to this show's downfall. A lot of it is CGI, which gives it an overall cheaper look, especially when the characters summon new creatures and objects. Once again, I contrast it with Yu-Gi-Oh, which, despite revolving around a card game, still took a great deal of strength from the animation of its characters (not to mention the Duels) and only a minimal use of CGI (the shadow realm looks so creepy, OMG is it bubbling?!).
Highlight: Ginta saving the girl of his dreams from the bad guys
or at least, the "MÄR" version of the girl of his dreams, who turns out to be a princess. It hints at MÄR being a parallel universe, which brings to mind one question: If I were to journey to MÄR, could I room with myself and re-enact "The Prince and the Pauper"?
Final ruling: Not well-animated or written or anything that will change your life, but it's good for a lazy night in.