Fancy Lala Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fancy Lala

Fancy Lala Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     July 02, 2002
Release Date: July 09, 2002


Fancy Lala Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
What would you do if you could be anything you wanted? Miho Shinohara gets her chance when some little friends drop off a magical crayon that changes her life forever! 10-year old Miho is about to see what life is like as 15-year old Lala – pop star, model, and actress traordinaire! With the ability to transform to Lala, Miho’s life suddenly transforms into a magical fairytale…but life as a normal girl and a pop star can be pretty crazy!


The Review!
Bandai dips its fingers into the shoujo magical girl world with the release of Fancy Lala. With so many mecha shows under their belt, I was curious as to whether they’d be able to work their magic with this release.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. On both tracks however, we noticed that the audio is a little bit lower than most shows we were watching on the same day. Other than that, this is a pretty basic but good sounding stereo soundtrack where the music is the piece that tends to make out the best. Dialogue is nice and clear with little in the way of directionality.

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, with only some minor cross coloration slipping into scenes here and there and some very minor aliasing. The cross coloration usually shows up during the drawings that Miho makes. Colors are great looking here with a very well layered look to it but still keeping in a real-world style.

Packaging:
Definitely looking very shoujo, the cover to the first installment of Fancy Lala is very…. Pink. There’s shades of red and more pink throughout, as well as the eye-catching blue hair of Lala, but this is a good looking cover. I just don’t know if it’s the kind of cover that will sell. The back cover provides a couple of screenshots of the show and a decent summary of the series premise. Episode titles and numbers are listed while volume numbering shows up both on the spine and 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 included with this volume is a textless opening. This is a real plus considering how slick looking the opening is, I was really glad I could sit down and just admire it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After years of watching hentai, it takes a show like Fancy Lala to actually make me uncomfortable to watch.

The story of Lala is a very simple one, one that takes the basics of the magical girl genre and makes a slight twist to them and moves forward. We’re introduced to nine year old Miho Shinohara, a very spunky and highly imaginative girl from a well adjusted and loving family. She’s got an older sister named Chisa, probably around fifteen, who gives her a little bit of grief but on about the same level as Toya from Cardcaptor Sakura. Her mother, Mamiko, works in the TV business as a producer while her father, Youichiro, is a research paleontologist who does most of his work at home. Miho dreams of new worlds to be in and in general is eager to grow up, much like many nine year olds.

Early on, through the generosity of a mysterious but smiling stranger (who continues to show up in the oddest places throughout the episodes), Miho comes into possession of two very cute plush toys. Well, as we learn quickly, they’re not plush toys but some kind of cute magical animal. The two of them, Pigu and Mogu, repay Miho’s taking them in with a magical pen. With it, she can draw her very hip designs for clothes that will then appear to her. Further, with the pen, she can transform herself indefinitely into an older version of herself.

Thus, she turns into fifteen year old blue haired Fancy Lala.

As Lala, she tries to get herself picked up as a model much as her sister did some time ago. She wants to be able to refuse in the same way Chisa did, implying yakuza connections. When she’s actually approached, she barely handles it all, and simply ends up running away. But fate ends up getting her into the modeling business when she runs into Yumi Haneishi, the president of Lyrical Productions. Yumi’s hard up for a model with Lala’s measurements for a shoot that’s happening right at the moment, so she cajoles Lala into posing for a catalog shoot.

After some initial trepidation, Lala turns into a natural. She moves easily into the world of the photoshoot, and eventually agrees to work with Yumi, though allowing for her still being in school. Yumi of course figures it’s the typical schedule of a high school girl though, and not an elementary schooler. These lead to some of the usual situations you’d expect, where Miho wants to spend a day with her friends for an event but gets scheduled as Lala for a potentially big TV role. Under Yumi’s guidance though, Lala becomes an up and coming star and has no problem with anything that she puts herself towards.

The show is a bit of a slow starter, taking its time to build its cast of characters. There’s the usual school kids who figure into her life, the boy that causes trouble but that she may have some kind of crush on as well as the handsome model she gets to know as Lala. Time is spent with those at Lyrical, helping to flesh Yumi out as well as some bits on her staff, but a good amount of time is spent with the family. That’s a good solid foundation for the character to build off of.

What makes the show make me feel weird about is, is that when we’re following Lala around and she’s dealing with the more “adult” life of an aspiring model, you can’t help but remember that she’s really only a nine year old girl. But in a very attractively animated body of a fifteen year old. Yeah, splitting hairs, but if you watch anime, at some time or another you’ll admit to liking how characters look. It’s human nature. But here, you have a mentally younger person inside this older body whose getting involved in these situations, and at times, just makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable with. But from what I can tell by these five episodes, that’s not the point of the series.

Taking that out of the picture, this is a very charming story. Each side of the coin could easily carry their own series. Lala’s foray into the world of modeling is an interesting one, and less rushed and overblown than other series have portrayed it. Miho’s world of imagination and longing to be older is also interesting to follow. Together, each story manages to get enough time in without feeling like it’s rushed. It just takes a little bit of time for it to get into its groove.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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