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Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Nov 7th 2002
DVD 1: A Star is Born!
Fancy Lala tells the tale of a young girl named Miho who dreams of becoming a comic artist so she can live the life of the famous. One day, she meets two fairies who give her a magic pen, which allows her to transform into Lala, a fifteen year old version of herself who is soon turned into a star by a small modeling agency. Miho must now deal with the intricacies of living a double life as both herself and as Lala.
The first volume of Fancy Lala kicks off with a fantastic start, combining the shoujo genre with originality that is able to hook viewers. Released by Bandai, the first DVD contains five episodes, which is a very good deal for those who are financially strained. Just having five episodes available with the first volume alleviates any disappointment about the lack of any extras on the disc. The physical packaging of the series follows the standard format of DVD slipcase with insert, but has an odd quirk about it. Whether on the insert or the back cover, the written synopses are done very poorly. They carry almost no relevance to the subject matter they are dealing with whatsoever, which makes it useless for viewers to even bother with them. Fortunately, the value of the first volume lies in the episodes themselves, which are very fun to watch for almost anyone.
The story itself is very simple and easy to understand. While it is somewhat predictable at times, it is accompanied by plenty of small side sub-stories and fun character antics, which make the series pass by quickly. There are also attempts to make the story more intriguing and mysterious by putting in dream sequences and a character whom Bandai has uncreatively tagged the “Mystery Man.” Although the addition of this background mysterious edge contributes to the greater story arc, and gives the story more depth, it is introduced in a somewhat awkward manner that makes it seem out of place. Instead of presenting it so that it blends in with the events of the series, the scenes are randomly placed within the episodes, or abruptly woven into the conversations, making it seem more like an afterthought placed by a producer who wanted to give the series more bite. Other than that, the episodes are very cute and fun to watch. Miho is a character who, though not easily identifiable to viewers, slips easily into the mahou shoujo protagonist role. Refreshingly, the episodes follow a linear story scheme, making them much more exciting to watch than the usual generic cyclic approach taken by other magical girl shows. Each episode follows directly after the last, so viewers won't be bored with any recurring story patterns.
An interesting aspect about the series is the character design. Whereas all of the female characters are drawn carefully, with well-thought out outfits, and expressive eyes, many of the male characters seem more crudely drawn, with bland clothing, and haphazardly drawn eyes. While this doesn't effect the enjoyment of the series in any way, it's something amusing to take note of while watching the series. The rest of the art in the series is done well, but not excessively so. Both the foreground and background objects are drawn so that they are readily recognizable and have just enough detail so that they don't look too fake. The animation is also mediocre, but the quality of animation is consistent throughout the series, which masks any picky criticism about fluidity. One terrific aspect about the animation is the toning down of blatantly recycled footage, like many other magical girl series. During Miho's transformation scenes, the cels are reused, but at least there are different clothes layered on to the sequences, making the viewer feel as though a different transformation event is happening every time.
As for the audio aspects of the series, the music also falls in the range between average and fun. Although the tracks are such that one might buy the soundtracks for nostalgia, there is nothing that stands out about the instrumental tracks. The tracks range between happy, trilling music, and slower music which was the composer's rendition of what should fit into the mysterious scenes. While the instrumental tracks are nothing to get excited over, the vocal themes are very pleasant to listen to and sing along with. The opening theme is very cute, and is rivaled in its ability to cheer up viewers only by the image song sung by LaLa near the end of the first volume. The sugary J-Pop and the overall pop culture sensation around the series makes the vocal tracks carry on the musical integrity of the series. While the vocals are anything but artistic or profound, they are sure to find a comfortable place among the hearts of fans across the country.
The dialogue tracks were also done well. The subtitled track was done especially nicely, that even though the translations didn't translate anything said by background cameo figures, the main characters received large, well-timed subtitles that were easy to read. The Japanese voicing cast did a good job with the series, including the fairy dinosaurs that accompany Miho, whose voices were cute almost beyond belief. While the English script was translated superbly, and was well acted out by the dub actors in a technical sense, the voices somehow sounded very condescending, and reminiscent of a children's educational cartoon. Perhaps it was because of the childlike nature of the series and characters, but some of the actors took on an almost patronizing tone of voice, giving the overall dub performance a hokey feeling that is almost unbearable.
Despite the negative aspects of the series, the first volume is still very enjoyable as a whole. The storyline itself is the major winning factor that gives the series the drive to make viewers interested continually in the next episode. While the various artistic aspects of the series can be seen as slightly on the average side, the overall effect of the series is one of cheer and happiness. In fact, even the most crusted anime fan would have a hard time not chuckling at least once throughout the volume.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C
+ Cute shoujo series that doesn't follow a set story pattern
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