Sugar Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sugar

Sugar Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     November 03, 2003
Release Date: October 14, 2003


Sugar Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Did you know fairies make it rain? Sugar's Magical Flower begins to bud!! But how can it grow if she hasn't found a "Twinkle"? Basil and Cinnamon accuse Sugar of cheating, so now Sugar desperately continues her search. Meanwhile, Pepper struggles to give a flying lesson to a turtle, because she believes any sincere dream can come true. The apprentice Season Fairies' lives are busier and noisier ever, so naturally Saga's is too!

The Review!
The mystery of the twinkles becomes clearer and the faeries in training get to go through some hands-on tests conducted by the Elder.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language dub. The show has a nice if fairly average stereo mix that doesn't use a whole lot of directionality. The music, which has quite a few soft moments to it, comes across beautifully and dialogue is nice and clear throughout, but mostly through the center channel. We didn't notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Presented in its original aspect ration of 1.78:1 and encoded for anamorphic displays, this transfer looks fantastic for the most part. For the bulk of this release, transfer looks gorgeous with bright vivid colors, lots of depth and a complete lack of cross coloration. This was a real pleasure to watch. With the episodes on this volume there is far less panning going on than earlier episodes, which have resulted in the aliasing problem being far less of a problem this time around.

Packaging:
In a white keepcase we get the nice soft background image of snowflakes falling against a soft pink background. The character art is given over to a nice shot of the three tiny faeries coming down in the midst of snow while holding their instruments and smiling the whole way. The back cover features some nice collages of shots from the show. There's a good intro summary paragraph and a listing of the discs features and extras as well as listing the episode numbers and titles. This is useful since volume numbering does not appear anywhere on the package. The insert has another shot of the front cover while the back has the episode chapter listings. The insert opens to provide the fourth part of a couple of interviews, with this one talking to Nobuyoshi Mitsumune about the music for the series.

Menu:
The main menu is a nice piece that plays part of the instrumental music from the show and has the image of Ginger playing her instrument while rain falls down around her. Selections are quick and easy to make and access times are nice and fast.

Extras:
There are a couple of nice and surprising extras included in this release. There's another round of character profiles included but it's the two video segments that really get the attention. The first is the "Snow Flower" music video, which runs just under four minutes in length (and is anamorphic) that has all animation for it, giving an expanded performance of the song from the first episodes opening. The other extra is the Sugar Promotion Video that runs close to seven minutes and is also anamorphic. This is the piece that was used to sell the show to people prior to its airing. It essentially has the opening part to the first episode and the opening sequence plus some of the highlights from the first episode that introduces Sugar and the concept in general.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the changes from the previous volume as well as getting away from the two-part Bear episode that seemed a touch overwhelming in some strange way, the series moves back into its episodic style but still builds upon what's come before by making some good progress.

One of the big changes is in that we're getting more of an idea of what a twinkle is really made of. With Sugar's flower blossoming, she's being either adored by friends or accused by those who don't care for her, such as Basil and Cinnamon. Those two challenge her to show them what a twinkle is, and even though she hasn't really seen one, she agrees to it and stands up to them the best she can. But she's also afraid to really reveal what's happened since she's still so unsure of it herself. But at the same time, she's so excited about having her flower grow.

One of the things that changes as the search for the twinkles go is that Saga ends up becoming a bit more involved in the entire process. She tries the obvious approach of finding out from the Elder if there's supposed to be some more information for them in regards to finding one, but he rebuffs her and indicates that they'll find it when they do. But he's also a touch cryptic in saying that since she's become so sympathetic to Sugar that there's a good chance that Saga will see it as well and be able to help find it.

Between that and some other advice the trio of trainees has gotten, they organize a bit of a party to go out into the outskirts of the city and into the countryside to search for the twinkles there since they haven't found much in the city itself. This plays out really nicely as everyone gets along with each other and the way it all gets playful. The interaction between these characters continues to be cute and charming, sometimes pushing the limits of accepted cuteness of course, but enjoyable nonetheless.

A pair of episodes moves the focus away from Sugar a bit though and lets some other characters get some screen time. Pepper takes something of center stage with her attachment to nature by working with a turtle that has been brought into the animal hospital where she lives. The turtle, a rather cute one who speaks only in "chu" form, tells her about his desire to fly and Pepper decides that the turtle should be able to do so and she does her best to help. Bringing in the other two faeries, they try all sorts of ways to accomplish this as the turtle has a desire to fly that's slowly revealed. It's a cute sort of throwaway episode that gives Pepper some time to flesh out a bit.

The best episode is at the end though where the Elder has decided to do some testing of the apprentices and their abilities. Going through various trials and meeting with the adult faeries in the various areas, the Elder has them show how well they've come along in learning their trades. Basil and Cinnamon are part of the group in this sense so they join in on the trials as well, though they continue to be hilarious when they perform. There's something about the teeth mashing face that Cinnamon makes while banging on the cymbals. Naturally, there's a problem for Sugar in doing her trial since it's not supposed to snow in the town where she's at, so a little series of troubles arises from that.

The relationship between Saga and the faeries has grown nicely throughout the past episodes but it's more focused and noticeable here since she's now being included in the training. The Elder's change of attitude about her is slight but still interesting since he's giving credence to her abilities and how they may affect the growth and training of the apprentices.

In Summary:
Though I liked the third volume, there was something overly somber with the Bear storyline episodes. That's blissfully missing from these episodes. While there's some tinges of trouble, mostly coming from Sugar being less than honest about how her flower has grown, it doesn't affect in the same way as the bear storyline did. These episodes are definitely more upbeat and playful, a good return of what sold us early on in the series.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character profiles,Sugar promotional video clip,Snow Flower Music Video

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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