Fancy Lala Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, December 28, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, January 07, 2003
What They Say
While working in the entertainment world, Lala experiences many happy things and a few sad things as well. Meeting a happy five-year-old boy, whose parents are divorced, gives her a new perspective and the reassurance that her parents will keep on loving her no matter what happens! Visiting her grandparents for the first time, will she the mysterious water imp and the labyrinth of thick woods?
A great fantasy for kids animated by Studio Pierrot (FUSHIGI YUUGI) with character designs by Akemi Takada (ORANGE ROAD, PATLABOR).
Miho ends up getting most of the screen time across this disc, and we get to spend a lot of time getting to know more about her than dealing with Lala’s trials and tribulations.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. While we noted on the first volume that the audio levels seemed a bit low, it does seem to be somewhat better here, though still lower than other shows we were checking out on the same day. Other than that, this is a good sounding track that has a few moments of directionality across the forward soundstage and provides clear and undistorted sound.
Originally airing in 1998, this is a very fresh looking show with some great vibrant animation. The transfer here is just gorgeous for the most part, though with more cross coloration slipping into scenes than the previous volume and some very minor aliasing. The cross coloration usually shows up during the drawings that Miho makes, though it does creep into the hair and a few other areas on occasion. Colors are great looking here with a very well layered look to it but still keeping in a real-world style.
Lala’s presence on the cover is more minimal than usual, with Hiroya getting most of the cover, but at least admiring a poster of Lala. This looks really good and is a nice contrast to the past covers. The back cover makes up for the lack of pink on the front with a couple of pictures from the show done up as photographs as well as a brief summary of the shows premise and some of what to expect in these episodes. The discs episode numbers and titles are also listed on the back and we get the extra bonus of volume numbering on the spine and on the front cover. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it opens up to provide detailed summaries of each of the episodes along with some animation shots and a good background image. The back cover provides the full production credits and actor credits for both languages, though once again the English actors are not tied to their roles. That’s the main disappointment with this packaging.
There’s a brief bit of animation as the pen that Miho uses gets zoomed in on while the logo goes in reverse. Music with Japanese vocals play along to some animation in a small window on the pen with the selections ringed around it. Moving about is pretty straightforward and access times are nice and fast.
The only extra included on this volume is a small ten page black and white art gallery that highlights a particular outfit from the first ten episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Outside of the first episode, which is a rather good episode, the majority of the show here on volume four has us following Miho as she heads off to visit her grandparents out in the country.
Before she does that, we get a really nice standalone episode that pushes most of the main cast off of the center stage and centers around some of the secondary cast. Lala ends up spending time watching Hiroya record and gets to meet those who work with him, which includes the guitarist Kishi. Lala’s amusingly quiet when it gets to a small crowd, since she’s just as much a part of their industry as they are, but she continues to be deferential based on age to some likely degree.
With Kishi being introduced, we get a new tie to bind in the form of his young son Tappei. Lala then learns that Tappei is actually her bosses child. Ms. Haneishi and Kishi were once quite the item and married happily, but had different goals in their life. With Lala stepping to the side, we get to explore Haneishi’s background and family and the start of Lyrical Productions, which does a wonderful job of fleshing out her character as well as her motivation and what really drives her.
With all that said and done, Miho’s lined up her summer vacation to spend a week or so with her grandparents out in the country, about three hours away by train. This is one of those big moments in a child’s life when they go off on their own without their parents, so watching how the family members deal with it is very amusing, especially if you yourself have children. Miho’s father in particular is great as he writes out a very detailed travel itinerary for her to follow, right down to recommending what foods to buy at the various stations. That’s me to a T.
Of course, Miho gets a bit overconfident as she gets traveling and ends up missing one of the connecting trains and just takes the next one. This is critical in a country where there’s such a thing as a regular express and a super express. This problem tends to cause more issues for Pigu and Mogu who are dying of starvation than it does for Miho, but it also does provide a smart moment for Lala to appear and have fun with the situation. But for the most part, it’s played out seriously and Miho’s left with trying to solve it on her own.
Miho’s time back with her grandparents is very much welcomed at this point in the series, as other than a few areas for these three episodes, Lala is pushed to the background and the young girl is given the primary focus. She reminiscences about her last trip here three years ago and all that she experienced then (though it looks like she had a bad time from all the things that happened), particularly with one boy named Shoichi who always seemed to torment her. But with three years difference, she now finds that Shoichi has grown into something different than what he was, especially with all the girls after him in junior high.
Shoichi, likely feeling some amount of remorse from the past or at the least an affection for Miho, helps her out a lot during her stay and doing things with her. He even gets roped into dealing with a TV show crew that comes to town to do a piece on the area, which inadvertently changes to a special about water imps. This has a particularly personal touch for both Miho and Shoichi, as Miho had seen one up close during her last trip to here.
I was really happy with these episodes and the way they played out, from the small comical humor of the two “dolls” to Miho’s attempts to just deal with life. I found her grandfather especially amusing and endearing as well, since I can see things like that within my own life. Things are less hectic here than they have been in previous episodes, giving it a nice smooth and lighter feeling, which is much needed after the busy first half of the series.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fancy Lala