Pile of Shame
Harbor Light Story

by Justin Sevakis,

It's hard to believe now, but in the early- to mid-80s, being a dancer was pretty much the coolest thing on the planet. Movies ranging from Flashdance and Footloose at the high end, to Breakin' and Beat Street at the low end cast dancers as misunderstood working class artists and bastions of hipness and accessible glamour. On television, concert TV shows pitted badly lip-syncing pop stars on stage with dancers, bathing both equally in smoke machines and fancy lighting, while on MTV dancers were often the highlight of the fresh and new art form of music videos.

Dancers seemed to embody something new and sexy, a sort of cool that came from being slightly dangerous: dancers were often cast as thugs or gang members. Young, attractive, unpredictable and rebellious. Anybody who actually was young and rebellious, of course, though the whole thing was pretty stupid, but mainstream audiences ate it up. Especially teen and pre-teen girls.

The fad was especially out of control when it came to women's fashions. Around the world women bought leotards and leg warmers. They bought aerobics videotapes and took jazz dancing classes. Little girls dreamed of being a famous dancer, even though basically no dancers ever became a household name. And in Japan, at a little company called Studio Pierrot, decided to make a one-shot OVA to cater to those little girls. It would have a little bit of everything those girls would like, from Cinderella to Footloose... to Die Hard.

Harbor Light Story ~from Fashion LaLa~

In what appears to be a European harbor town, 11-year-old Miho is living the Cinderella life. By which I mean, she lives at the dance studio/fashion boutique run by her aunt and her older cousins, and they pretty much use her as an errand girl. Despite her dreary friendless life (unless you count her giant dog Mick), Miho has big dreams. The town is abuzz as all the young and fashionable people prepare for the giant all-city Disco Queen contest, being put on by the mayor. Her cousins, of course, are his favorites to win. Miho would love to compete, but there's just no way. You have to be fifteen years old to enter.

Miho is, however, a budding fashion designer, and since the girls are also being judged for fashion, she dreams that maybe one of her designs might make it in. While searching for fabric in the attic one day, she finds an old book with a pair of cute dinosaurs on it. It's apparently a book on fashion, so she takes it to her room. But her mean aunt just doesn't understand, and won't make her designs into real dresses.

One day while in town, Miho is saved from an oncoming truck by a bad boy on a motorcycle. It turns out said bad boy, Kit, is a singer (I think -- this is never really made clear), and he's feuding with his dad -- the mayor -- about pushing back his release date. And he's also mad at his sister too, for some reason I can't really make out. But anyway, Kit is really really mad, and his only recourse, clearly, is to have his motorcycle gang infiltrate the dance contest and BLOW UP THE FREAKING BUILDING IT'S IN.

Miho can't get Kit the Hot Terrorist out of her head. She ambushes him at the (ahem) ABANDONED PIRATE SHIP he's living in, and tries to show him her designs. "Your dream is to design fashion? Then you'd better leave town! Anywhere but here!" Of course, Miho is a little kid and can't leave. But she's not going to the Disco Queen Contest either -- her evil aunt has left her alone in her room while the entire rest of the town gets their groove on.

While Miho pouts in her room, Kit is busy KILLING EVERYONE. At first he just crashes a few speed boats into the stadium, but when that doesn't cancel his dad's beloved dance contest, he actually sets off bombs in the building. There's people running and screaming, bedlam everywhere. Presumably he's just killed thousands.

What happens next is a spoiler. I have to talk about it, because it's just too stupid. If that really bothers you, skip the next paragraph.

Ready? Good. Because the cute dinosaurs on Miho's book transform her into a blonde older teenager, and beam her to the stadium. AND SHE DANCES REAL GOOD! Her clothes magically transform a lot! Forget about the untold hundreds of dead and wounded, Kit the Terrorist is moved! He and his father can stand each other again! It's all okay! BECAUSE SHE DANCES REALLY GOOD!

Sweet mother of god, did anybody making this anime step back and actually realize what happens in this story?! I mean, I know it was a more innocent time and all, but even months after seeing Harbor Light Story for the first time, I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it. HOW does someone think this is a good idea for a little girl's cartoon about dancing? Even the animators seem to be rolling their eyes: while earlier dance scenes are nicely rendered and really get the impressive nature of jazz dancing, the dance contest, and Miho's part in particular, just looks pathetic and ridiculous.

Harbor Light Story is an original concept made by Pierrot, but if this all sounds a little bit familiar, it's probably because you've seen their late 90s TV series Fancy Lala, which re-used the little dinosaur characters Pigu and Mogu. Fancy Lala is, of course, actually good: it tells a decent magical idol story that didn't involve pallin' around with terrorists, and so it really has no other connection with this musty piece of cheese.

Actually, if you dig 80s music, the soundtrack to Harbor Light Story isn't half bad -- the opening song is a power-pop anthem in the tradition of Jim Steinman (and actively rips off parts of his ending theme from Streets of Fire, "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young"). The background dance music is pretty high quality stuff, and really evokes the mood of the era's dance scene. It's just too bad the rest of the show is so ludicrous...

There really is nothing else to say about this, is there? It's 48 minutes long, and it's kind of amazing. Especially with alcohol.

Japanese Name: ハーバーライト物語(ストーリー) ~ファッションララより~ (Harbor Light Monogatari - Fashion Lala yori)

Media Type: One-shot OAV

Length: 48 min.

Vintage: 1988

Genres: Shoujo, magical girl, musical, nonsense

Availability (Japan): A decades-old VHS release is all there ever was.

Availability (English): You're kidding, right? It's a miracle someone fansubbed this.

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