Fancy Lala Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2003



What They Say
Once again, Miho explores the world of mystery with her magic pen and sketchbook. Miho discovers that her older sister used to be just like her when she was 9 years old. Why did she turn out so differently though?! Things get a bit exciting when a junior detective tries to unravel a mysterious love triangle at her school! Plus a major crisis! Twin sisters threaten to expose Lala's true identity!

The Review!
The penultimate volume of the series brings about some of the best character episodes yet as we get to know more of the Shinohara family and their lives.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
This cover goes back to the heavy on pink look with a great couple of shots of of Lala in a really nice outfit and Miho working on its conception in her notebook. The back cover provides 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The only extra that made it onto here is an eight page section of “fashion gallery” that shows various black and white piece of artwork of various Lala costumes and a detail or two about the episode it appeared in.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the fun of the last volume, things here with these four episodes cover a variety of topics, but there’s a couple of really stand out episodes in this already very solid and entertaining series.

There’s one big magic episode here and that gets taken care of very early on, as Miho struggles against the life of being a younger sister and having all the baggage that comes with. Of course, with a magic item and a couple of magical creatures with her, this can be dangerous. While she complains, the pen takes a life of its own and lightning strikes, and Miho suddenly finds herself alone in the dark. But this is a special kind of darkness, as she’s now seeing things through her older sister Chisa’s eyes. But it’s not as she sees things today, but rather seven years ago when Miho was two and Chisa was Miho’s age.

The episode plays out well as it shows how little difference there really is between the two as well as a few tidbits about family life back then and how Chisa took advantage of things, much to our amusement. But there’s also another critical side to all of this, as the Mystery Man who gave Miho the pen is here as well, and we see him giving a present to Chisa in the form of two eggs, each with a star on it. Obviously Pigu and Mogu, Miho takes to them quickly but Chisa’s personality instead rebels against it and she does everything she can to get rid of them. This episode does a great job of fleshing out Chisa and providing a better understanding of the two sisters relationship.

Another episode that dealt with the family side of things has Miho as Lala getting a job as a participant on a show called “Challenge V-V”. The coincidence here is that Miho’s mother is the producer of it, so she gets to be fairly involved with Lala on it. Lala’s also got some shoes to fill in it as Miki had done the show the week before, with it being a challenge given to various stars and they have to make it or face humiliation. Miki had it rough as she had to bungie jump off of a bridge, whereas Lala gets off a bit easier in having to do a magic trick with explosives. I know I’d choose that one.

The family aspect of all of this comes from Lala hearing the things said about her mother at work, where she’s a really driven professional and on top of just about everything. This is even more so since she produces at least ten shows. So when Lala hears her mother being called a devil numerous times, she ends up asking her as Miho to quit her job. This sets off an interesting chain that reveals more about the family past and how their mother used to be more open about her work. It’s all quite interesting and provides a different look at how a family functions.

The weak episode on the disc is one of the few “discovery” type episodes that have been made for the series, something for which I’m eternally grateful. Miho finds herself the subject of investigation by two twins at her school who operate the out of touch and virtually ignored newspaper. The two tend to go for the sensational headline and then tweak it with something that will cover themselves in hopes of getting a better circulation and an actual club room as opposed to the gym storage room. When they follow Miho after she skips out on an interview about the Water Imp, they start putting things together about who is who, but both are just so clueless it’s easy to ignore them. Unless you’re a panicky Miho. This storyline also crosses paths with an odd and somewhat creepy stalker-type who is after Lala and doesn’t get resolved all that well at all.

There’s lots to enjoy with this volume and both sides of Miho’s life get sufficient exploration, though the little dragons make out the worst, though you could argue their screentime came in the form of an egg. This series continues to get better and better as it progresses along and makes some detours that one wouldn’t expect them to do. Fancy Lala is probably one of the more under appreciated series running right now.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Fashion Gallery

Review Equipment
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
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fancy Lala