An interpretation of the Little Prince, Michel is cute and simple but executed smoothly enough to entice its target audience.
What They Say
Underneath the dazzling Sun; far across the sparkling, blue ocean; and beyond lush forests, is a beautiful island called Sitel Island. On that mythical island stands the Tree of Life. This magnificent tree is the guardian of nature and has stood there since the Earth was created. On that island I saw him for the first time... The protector of nature and its fairies: Michel.
Based on the well-known literary character, Michel is a "Little Prince" of a boy who holds the secrets of life. But the evil Black Hammers are out to take the precious goods that belong to Michel's magical and mystical world. In flies Kim to the rescue! In a vintage plane, with a few tricks of her own; this amazing girl is the only one who can save Michel and the fairies.
Michel retains the same bilingual presentation that the show had in its original release and we watched it in its Korean language this time. Originally released in a stereo mix in Korean, the show in both tracks is solid but doesn't have too much exceptional to it. The show has some good moments of minor directionality to it across the forward soundstage but this is for the most part a pretty basic show that's using the center channel with a full sounding mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release utilizes the same discs from the single disc releases so there are no changes to the encoding or presentation of the series. The source materials for this transfer are quite a mix and really surprised me since I hadn't seen anything like this in some time. The opening and ending sequences depending on your display look like a couple generations removed VHS transfer. On our main display, the opening and endings had a lot of noise to them, heavy aliasing and jaggies and a soft look not complimented well by the cross coloration that is in it. On our smaller 23" display it wasn't quite as pronounced but still very visible. When it comes to the main show itself, the colors look great, very solid and vibrant while free of just about all of the problems listed above though there are some obvious moments of noise throughout at different times briefly.
Michel gets done up in a decent brick format where we have the oversized keepcase that has two hinges inside the helps to hold all six discs of the series. The front cover is definitely very kid oriented in that it’s got a couple of the fairies from the show with simple designs and bright colors alongside a very upbeat image of Michel. The whole thing has way too much blue to it and just has a very thrown together at the last minute kind of look with one of the fairies taking up almost half the cover. The single volumes weren’t the best thing ever, but they’re certainly better than this overall. The back cover is rather straightforward with character artwork and shots from the show itself ringing around the brief summary in the middle which has a couple of basic taglines and a real push that it’ll be a hit with the kids. The background is just shades of blue with some swirls here and there while the rest is given over to the usual production credits and technical grid that covers all the details well and in a very clean form. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout is typical of the "ADV Kids" line-up where it's just a string of episode numbers through the middle for navigation and a language subsection while the background is a piece of the background which has the various fairies popping into the screen with a bit of music. While in some ways it may not feel much different than some of their other basic releases, there's just something about how it's done with the Kids releases that makes it feel even more basic. Access times are nice and fast though and the disc defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles which isn't a surprise due to there not being any Japanese as our player is set to pick up.
The only extras included in this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When ADV Films existed, it tried a lot of different things to try and branch out of the core fan base. One of those things was their poorly marketed and almost unheard of ADV Kids label that had a couple of titles come out on, though only Michel really stands out in my memory. Michel was rather quietly announced at a convention and essentially ignored by most people. What little was said about it beforehand made it look like an ideal title for the younger set so it's not a surprise to see it under the Kids banner but it is almost like the kiss of death for most fans. Another strike against it in the minds of many I'm sure is that it's actually a Korean project, though the company is known for quite a lot of anime projects, but this is the first that they've done all themselves.
Unfortunately, that shows through at times. The summary on this release paints a slight connection to the much more famous property of The Little Prince and once you know that, and if you've seen that film or know of the actual written work, this series takes on a bit more of an interesting note for a few minutes at least. The series is very straightforward in its nature but has some definite eastern sensibilities to it that you won't normally see in western kids animation. The series introduces us to Kim, a young female pilot whose father was quite an inventor before he died recently. Unluckily for both of them, a woman named Salome had acquired much of his works - which are easily used as weapons and devices for evil - and is hell-bent on becoming quite the villainess. She has a trio of complete idiots who work for her named Boogy, Woogy and Meggi and they provide a lot of the comedic effect for the show.
Kim is intent on stopping Salome when she arrives in her hometown and tries to steal a precious diamond. Kim's a fairly straight shooter though she has at least one useful weapon from her father with a gun that's rather powerful but even still she's outmatched by Salome's overall power and weaponry. The aerial chase that they engage in ends up taking them into the Devil's Coast, a series of clouds where supposedly nobody returns. It's actually a gateway to a place called the Sitel Island. This beautiful little island full of lush trees and plenty of nature is home to the Tree of Life from which all things grew. It's protected by a number of cute little curious fairies who prod and poke at Kim after she crashes there some distance from Salome and the others. It's here that she meets the young Michel who is oblivious that he's really the guardian of the Tree of Life. He's able to work with the fairies to do things such as combine them into different shapes or creatures and so forth.
Naturally, Salome sees a lot of potential from this place and from the Tree of Life itself but nothing works out quite as expected and the Tree is destroyed, leaving Michel and Kim to work through the efforts of re-establishing what it means as it's spread out among the world. They end up on a series of adventures leading them to different places where they interact with local creatures, fairies and others while dodging or thwarting Salome's plans. Once the setting and initial storyline is setup, the show moves into a pretty standard formula in each episode by providing mostly standalone tales against the larger background with plenty of environmentalism mixed into it. With it being aimed at kids, it's fairly non-threatening for the most part and is filled with a lot of cute and mysterious creatures. Michel is usually found alongside Poyo, a little yellow fairy hippo I guess you could call it and there are others from different elemental backgrounds that do their cute little things and make sounds. They're really no different than any sort of animal familiars seen in dozens of anime shows for the last couple of decades.
As the series goes on, it really does stick pretty well to the episodic style and stories that involve various fairies and the way they’ve changed since being out in the real world before Kim and Michel have to change them back. There are some nice nods towards other parts of life, such as we see Kim’s background and what led her to chasing after Salome at first, but by and large it is rather standard material, albeit cute and entertaining enough for what it is, so there are no real surprises for the bulk of it. The opening episodes set everything up and then it launches into building up all the fairies that need to be rescued.
The episodes leading up to the end are much the same as previous ones as Kim and Michel continue their hunt for Salome and the missing fairies. A trip across a desert land leads to some amusing cultural interpretations while another revolves around a fairy encouraging a young boy to achieve in order to save his sickly mother. Along the way, whatever they get involved in ends up crossing paths with Salome either over a treasure or a fairy. As the show gets closer to the end, we learn that there are only a couple of fairies left that need to be returned to the tree. The problem comes in that Michel himself has been away so long that he's getting weaker and weaker, particularly after all the things he's done.
One of the better parts of this series though is the last episode in how a few things play out. One area is watching the guys in the Black Hammer gang question whether they should retire or not after all that's happened. The other is how Biam is treated throughout it, both by the Black Hammer gang and Salome as well as with Michel and the other fairies. Not much has been made of it during the series for the most part but with Biam being a fairy himself he ends up being one of the last ones that needs to be returned. Getting him to be a bit more involved other than cackling over the latest plan is a nice touch to close things out with.
While the show is certainly competent at what it does, it left me feeling pretty bland about it but it certainly wowed its target audience back when I first show them this in 2006. My six year old refused to watch this when I put it into the player because she wanted to watch more Pokemon episodes, but once it got past the Korean opening song, she was completely caught up in it. In bringing it out again now four years later, my eldest instantly recognized it and smiled and sat down to watch it with me. The show has definitely left a good impression on her from when she was six and she enjoyed watching it again well enough, this time in Korean, and felt that it had a very different and more enjoyable feel to it. Since she watches a lot of my shows in Japanese, this didn’t surprise me.
Michel's been a fun show to watch even though it’s all about the basic storytelling techniques and cultural nods that are in many Asian shows. The eco-friendly side of it is patently obvious to adults but it doesn't play as condescending for the younger set which makes this work all the better. While this is certainly not a show I'd recommend to teens or adults, it is one that I recommend to parents of younger children. This is the kind of show that manages to avoid being preachy while still working within some basic educational parameters and making sure that it’s fun and exciting as well as a bit silly. It’s the kind of show that I admit I have a hard time really ragging on because I’m nowhere near its target audience and even though I’m not, it doesn’t insult my intelligence constantly. It’s an opening to a larger world for potential younger fans and it plays by the rules and does it well.
Features Korean 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.
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