Reviewby Mike Crandol, Apr 4th 2003
Little Snow Fairy Sugar
DVD 1: Sweet Mischief
Saga is a no-nonsense little girl living in a picture-perfect European town. One day she happens upon a hungry little fairy that only she can see. She gives the famished pixie a waffle, and the Snow Fairy, named Sugar, follows her home, where Saga's neatly ordered life is turned upside down by Sugar's antics. In order to become a full-fledged Snow Fairy, Sugar must grow a magic seed that has taken root in Saga's toy piano. Sugar, along with Salt the Sun Fairy and Pepper the Wind Fairy, hunts for “Twinkles” to make the magic seed grow, while Saga struggles to maintain her normal routine and makes her friends wonder if she's going crazy.
Kawaii: Japanese for excessively cute. With a title like “Little Snow Fairy Sugar”, you'd better believe this series is about as kawaii as it gets. A heartwarming childhood tale of the friendship between a cute little girl and an extremely cute, extremely little fairy that makes the snow fall and has an appetite for waffles….if you haven't run away screaming by now, then you'll be surprised to find that despite this cloying setup, “Sugar” is a smart and engaging children's anime that doesn't talk down to its audience, and a first-rate piece of family entertainment.
Folks who grew up watching the Littl' Bits and the Noozles on Nick Jr. will get a big nostalgia kick out of “Sugar's” simple but sophisticated fantasy. Saga lives in a modern-day European fairy-tale village where her biggest concerns are getting to school on time and helping out at the local music store. Sugar's mission in life is to find “Twinkles” so she can graduate to a full-fledged Snow Fairy. Many American kiddie cartoons would unnecessarily dumb-down this elementary setup, but “Sugar” trusts its young viewers to follow along and tells its story with wit, savvy, and a great sense of entertainment. This makes it one of those rare children's programs that doesn't insult kids' intelligence, and is equally enjoyable for the adults in the audience.
“Sugar's” winning characterizations also go a long way. The dynamic between the punctual, orderly Saga and the wild, spontaneous Sugar is the key to the show's charm; Saga, who is more “adult” than her classmates, is infuriated by Sugar's unpredictable behavior, which often interferes with Saga's precise daily schedule. Though it is perhaps too early in the series to tell, the impression is given that before it's over with Sugar will teach Saga a thing or two about how to enjoy being a kid. Supporting characters are also well-established, especially Sugar's fairy friends Salt and Pepper, and Saga's schoolyard rival Greta, a sort of B-ko junior who is obsessed with showing off her latest piece of jewelry.
The only problem is that “Sugar” is too sweet. With episode titles like “Twinkle Twinkle Comfy Warm Puffy Fluffy” (no exaggeration!), this reviewer couldn't help but think the show should be named “Little Snow Fairy Saccharine” instead. This series practically oozes cute, and the relentlessly cheery atmosphere hardly ever lets up. For devotees of the kawaii culture, this is heaven. For everyone else, it's a little too much to stomach at times.
It looks good, though. The main character may be covered in pastel pinks, but the series is not the neon nightmare it could have been. “Sugar's” world is brightly realized without being an eyesore, and the mostly natural colors compliment the kawaii character designs which - except for Sugar herself - are cute without being over-the-top adorable. One might think the animators would be tempted to cut corners on a show aimed at kids, but J.C. Staff gives “Sugar” the same attention it does to all its series, and the animation is way more accomplished than in any episode of Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! The title sequence in particular has a lot of energy in it, and features some great character animation that really establishes the personalities of the main cast.
The shoo-be-doo-wop opening theme that accompanies the titles gives the false impression that “Sugar's” incidental score will be similarly bouncy. Most of the music is actually pretty low-key, and the gentle piano and violin themes that punctuate the action capture the essence of Saga's dreamlike, fairy-tale world. The peaceful classical score also helps to dilute some of Sugar's incessant exuberance, and makes things a little more bearable for kawaii-challenged viewers.
Female Japanese voice artists are the masters of “cute” acting, and “Sugar” showcases them in their element. The original performers are both adorable and convincing, and to their credit they make a cast full of cute little girls sound distinct from one another. Young viewers will probably want to watch the dubbed version, which is capable enough but sounds more like what it really is: Grown women pretending to be small children. The lone exception is Sugar, who sounds just as unbelievably “puffy fluffy” in English as she does in Japanese.
Pioneer's inaugural release of the series contains the first four episodes on a DVD decked out to look just like one of Sugar's beloved waffles. With more and more digital transfers available for newer shows, “Sugar” looks and sounds absolutely pristine. Extras include clean opening sequences as well as character profile galleries for Saga, Sugar, Salt and Pepper. It's a simple release, but one fans of the series should be pleased with.
“Little Snow Fairy Sugar” is the perfect show for grown-up anime fans to watch with their kids….if it doesn't send them into a diabetic coma first. And if you're a fan of the cute stuff, prepare to be blown away.
Just one thing…..who names their kid “Saga?” Remind me to name my daughter “Epic.”
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ well-written show for children that adults can enjoy just as much
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