Little Snow Fairy Sugar Complete Collection 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 15, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Saga finds she can suddenly see a season fairy in training and her friends, her life becomes far more complicated.

What They Say

She never believed in fairies, but unfortunately, THEY believe in HER! When studious and organized young Saga offers a waffle to a small hungry creature in a fluffy outfit, she unknowingly takes the first step in reducing her carefully structured world to complete and total ruin! The "creature" isn't a creature at all; she's Sugar, an apprentice fairy sent to Earth to find a "twinkle" as part of her test to become a full-fledged season fairy!

Unfortunately, neither Sugar nor her two companion fairies, Salt and Pepper, have the slightest idea what a "twinkle" is, but that doesn't stop them from moving in with the extremely unusual girl who can somehow see fairies. Given that no one else can see the fairies, Saga's friends can't understand her strange new behavior, and as more and more season fairies keep arriving, Saga's bemusement turns into desperation. What is a twinkle, how can Saga help the fairies find one, and can she do it before someone takes her to the funny farm?

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!
Audio:
As this show was previously released by Geneon, Sentai provides a bilingual presentation for this series with a pair of stereo tracks encoded at 224kbps. Sugar has a fairly mild mix to it as it's all about the young girls talking about things and the fairies chiming in as well. The mixture of the dialogue and the ambient music is what defines the show and it all comes across well here, though it is fairly unexceptional in its own way. There isn't much in the way of depth or placement because of how the show is designed, but the whole thing on both tracks comes across very well with clearly defined voices and no technical problems such as dropouts or distortions. It's not an expansive stereo mix but it serves the material well in building the atmosphere and mood.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2001 and early 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set includes the first thirteen episodes spread over two discs in a seven/six format. Sugar has a very good clean look to it that translates well here with bright and bold colors that avoid significant noise. The backgrounds tend to be more detailed and done in a soft manner for the colors chosen. The combination of the two results in a very pleasing show, though one where often times there isn't a huge amount of actual animation going on as it's dialogue with little movement. When it does swing into action it looks good and free of motion artifacts or any cross coloration. There's a touch of line noise in a few scenes but it's pretty mild overall and very minimal with the scope of the whole series itself.

Packaging:
Sugar's done up in a single sized black keepcase which holds the discs against the interior of each of the covers. The cover artwork is one of my favorites as it features Saga laying down looking at Sugar eating the waffle while Salt and Pepper watch on from behind. The colors are soft and cool with pinks and blues in the background as well as some nice greens. The logo is retained from the previous releases and it has a very charming and surprisingly calm feeling to all of it. The back cover carries over the background design while adding in a lo of bubbles containing different things. There are a bunch of small shots from the show that push the cute factor more and there's three bubbles worth of summary which almost feels like too much information. Saga and Sugar have a nice pose together as the main artwork piece for the back while the remainder is given over to the production credits. The technical grid is solid with a very clean and accurate breakdown of what to expect from the discs. The disc and episode count is mentioned a few times on this release overall which helps. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menus for Sugar are certainly cute as they take the background colors and designs and adds the character artwork to the right side of it with some of the music playing along. There's a lot of white space along the menu which is given a bit more to it by having the individual episode selection throughout it done in matching shades of the colors used elsewhere. It's a very pleasing looking menu as it's cute but not too sugary cute. It's also functional with a good couple of quick loading submenus and a language selection menu that read our players' language presets and played them accordingly.

Extras:
A few of the extras from the Geneon release are retained here much to my delight. There's a music video piece called “Snow Flower” which runs just under four minutes. The original Japanese promotional video is included as well which runs just under seven minutes. And on the second disc we get the really fun location hunting extra where some of the staffers went to Germany to do photography so they could bring this series to life in as much detail as they have.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series developed by J.C. Staff, A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is a twenty-four episode series that also has two supplemental OVAs. This release takes us through the first thirteen episodes of the TV series and really does simply delight the viewer if they’re willing to deal in a world of light simplicity and fun. Sugar is the kind of show where yes, it is aimed at adults but is also completely accessible to children. It’s an all ages show but one that while it can work for adults, it doesn’t pander to them with all kinds of angles and shots of the younger characters that are disturbing.

Sugar is an interesting show as it’s one steeped in detail and atmosphere as the creative team went to a small town in Germany and have recreated much of its feel here in animated for. The show takes place in what feels like relatively modern times as it focuses on a young woman named Saga. At age eleven, Saga has had a rough couple of years as her mother died three years prior and she now lives with her grandmother. Saga’s the kind of child that tries her best at living though in order to honor her mother, so she makes the most out of every single day. She works at a little coffee shop trying to create a masterful blend of her own and she delivers coffee to a few locations as well before she heads off to school each day. One area she treats herself to is going to the piano store where she’s able to look longingly at one and sometimes play it a little.

Saga’s mother is a huge influence on her life in that she was a master pianist. Saga has the dream of following her in some form, as she continues to practice and work at it, but it doesn’t come across as a massive driving force behind her. Saga’s the kind of calm but proactive child in that she has her plans, her schedules and a list of things that she wants to get done and focuses on achieving that. Saga’s also the type that schedules her time with friends, such as checking out clothes and getting a delicious snack here and there, but not in a way that seems bad. She’s a bright, good natured kid who has some wonderful friend in Norma and Anne and an amusing “rival” in Greta, the daughter of a fairly well to do family who views Saga as someone who is trying to challenge her.

So what can upset Saga and all her plans? It’s the arrival of Sugar, a snow fairy apprentice who has come down to this village in order to complete her training to become a full fledged snow fairy. To do so, she has to find a Twinkle. The problem is that part of her training is to discover what a twinkle is and to go from there. To both Sugar and Saga’s surprise, Saga can actually see Sugar and that means the pint sized child-like fairy has an instant liking to Saga, so much so that she “moves in” with her. That’s made more permanent when the seed she has to grow with the Twinkle takes root in the tiny piano that’s on Saga’s nightstand. It’s not the best relationship because Sugar doesn’t understand the world well and causes lots of problem and Saga like her orderly life with all the predictability in it that she plans for. It’s a fairly obvious pairing of course, but it’s one that works based off of the charms of both and the fact that they’re not extreme versions of these personalities, but rather closer to the middle of the road.

While Sugar and Saga develop a friendship and working relationship of sorts, it’s accentuated by the arrival of a few other Seasonal Fairies as well, though these guys tend to cause nowhere near as much trouble as Sugar. Sugar’s immediate friends are fellow apprentices Salt and Pepper, a boy and girl combo representing the sun and rain fairies respectively. They add a little more to things and help give Sugar others to talk to as well as participate in their search for the elusive Twinkle. A few older fairies are involved as well, such as the mature rain and sun ones with Ginger and Termucin. The amusing one is the introduction of the one sort of overseeing events with the Elder, a wizened happy go lucky guy who has a big crush on Ginger and continually tries to find ways to go out with her. Add in a couple of troublemakers later on with Basil and Cinnamon and you have a decent if predictable supporting cast in the Seasonal Fairy form.

The stories in the first half of Sugar are fairly cute, though we do get a few setup episodes as the various characters are introduced and the overall setting of the town is established. Once past that it moves into simple things that tend to revolve around Sugar and the others looking for the Twinkle and invariably causing some mild trouble, whether it's messing things up at Saga's school or in a friend of hers science experiments that will go horribly wrong even without them. There's a lot to like with these stories and their simple charms, but where things change up a little is a three part story that revolves around a traveling theater group that comes to town to perform the Bear Pianist. The introduction of the cast from the troupe feels a bit long as does the relationship that Saga slowly forms with the man behind the bear costume. There are some positive things that come out of the whole experience, with Saga learning more about herself as well as unknowingly learning more about her mother, but something about this story just leaves me feeling like it's out of sync with the rest of the series.

What helps all of these stories work as well as they do is the animation and design of the series. A lot went into getting the look of this town right, which we saw in the extras, and it's one of those few series where it really shows up on the screen. There is a bit of a softer feeling to it by design which allows the character designs to stand out on top of them a bit more. But it doesn't look like the characters are floating on top of it. The actual character designs are really nice as they have a great vibrant feel to them and the animation for them is very smooth. If there's anything I don't like about the look of the show is that the characters almost never change their outfits. It's one thing in a show with school outfits, but those aren't here. The fairies are easy to forgive on this, but the human characters wearing the same thing day in and day out is the weak part of the show.

In Summary:
When Sugar first came out, it was an incredibly charming little show that left me smiling with each volume. Watching it again now quite a few years later, the charms of the show are still very apparent and it's just as enjoyable watching it in a collected form like this. It's got great production values, a simple but well done premise and characters that ratchet up the cute but don't go above and beyond. This release brings all the good stuff from the singles into a well priced edition that gets it back out into the market and hopefully it will find more fans. Sugar was a big show when it first came out as there weren't many shows like it being licensed and it has fond memories for many. And it's a fondness that's earned because it's a good show that hits most of its notes just right.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sugar