Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Nov 1st 2013
Magical Idol Pastel Yumi
Episodes 1 - 6 Streaming
Yumi Hanazono is an elementary school girl living in beautiful Flower Town with her parents, who run a flower shop. Much as she loves flowers, however, what she really wants to be when she grows up is a manga artist. When she saves a dandelion from her nasty neighbor Mrs. Fukurokoji (who was upset that Yumi was using her wall for artistic purposes), it thanks her by summoning two cat-like fairies, Kakimaru and Keshimaru. The kitties give Yumi a magic wand that can bring anything she draws to life for a short time. Thus Yumi's magical adventures begin!
The fourth magical girl show produced by Studio Pierrot, Magical Idol Pastel Yumi hails from 1986 and features an early magical heroine substantially different from those we are used to. Where other girls with magic powers use them to become successful idols, like Creamy Mami or Fancy Lala, or to fight the good fight, like the well-known Sailor Moon or the earlier Magical Fairy Persia, Yumi just wants to use her skills to have fun or to explore possibilities. She does on occasion draw something that will prove helpful to others, such as when she helps save a lost puppy, but for the most part there's a more carefree attitude to Yumi's adventures in these first six episodes that lends itself to gentle and enjoyable watching.
The setting of Pastel Yumi is Flower Town, one of those idyllic, fictitious Japanese towns that spawns magical children. Yumi's parents run a successful florist business out of their pink and yellow home, the design of which simply screams to be made into a plastic dollhouse. Yumi is the only child, so her parents hire neighborhood high school heartthrob Kyohei to help them out. There's something that feels off about Yumi's family life, although it is hard to put a finger on what that is at this point. Her mother in particular seems to have something going on, although once again there is nothing definite that we can point to and say, “Yes! That is the issue!” It does add a strange tension to family scenes, however, as well as an edge to an otherwise very sweet show. Yumi, for her part, seems to spend very little time at home, and though her parents get upset when she's out too long or too late, they for the most part want her to be out playing, rather than working the family business. This is a nice change, and it certainly enables Yumi to live out her magical adventures with more ease than some of her counterparts. Yumi's father seems to be the more involved parent, and she clearly has inherited her puffy brown mullet from him.
The 1980s are very present in the character designs, in some ways dating this more than other shows of the period simply because they are so much of the period. Yumi's short ruffled dress is of the sort that those of us who were little girls in 1986 can remember wearing (or coveting), and the background characters are all very firmly placed in the year the show aired. While this does make it very obvious that this is not a modern production, it doesn't distract or detract from the overall show, and in fact can serve to make the fluidity of the animation and the variation of the faces and figures more impressive when we can so clearly place the show in time. (Although people with an aversion to old men in short shorts may want to go in prepared for Yumi's adventurer grandpa…)
There are a couple of other things which set Pastel Yumi apart from her brethren, and thus are worth mentioning. The first is the complicated nature of her magical “transformation.” (While Yumi does at times dress herself with magic, she never actually transforms in these episodes.) When Yumi waves her wand and speaks the alliterative magic words, a special song plays – complete with lyrics. This is more reminiscent of Wedding Peach's two transformations than the typical background music and body outline transformation, and gives Yumi something more interesting than an otherwise unremarkable use of magic would offer. The other thing worth remarking upon is the number of times Yumi gets naked in the first few episodes. This is a totally nonsexual form of nudity – she's dressed herself using her magic, which the fairies have explained has a pretty quick expiration – and perhaps only stands out because of the modern fixation on lolicon and other potential forms of exploitation. This goes away as Yumi figures out that she needs to pay attention to the flashing of her magic pendant which signals when the spell is about to expire, which shows growth on her part, as she learns to use her magic more responsibly and intelligently. Pastel Yumi is also remarkable for its inclusion of two larger characters, the grumpy Mrs. Fukurokoji (who may not be as bad as she seems) and Yumi's friend and Kyohei's younger brother Kenta. In neither case is their size played off as a joke, although it very easily could have been in the case of Mrs. Fukurokoji; in fact, manservant-of-all-work Kunimitsu's appearance is more of the joke with his perfectly curled 18th century hair and expressive moustache.
Pastel Yumi's first six episodes introduce us to a soft world that may have a hidden edge or two. Kenta and Kyohei's parents are suspiciously absent, something tragic has most likely happened in Mrs. Fukurokoji's past, and there's just something odd about Yumi's parents, but the air of fun and adventure that saturates the show is hard to resist. There's a definite Saturday morning cartoon vibe to the show, but it still makes for fun watching and there's enough that's different about Yumi's story to make her interesting in the catalog of magical girls. If nothing else, the stream of this show is a chance to learn a little bit more about the genre's history, and that alone makes it a fun watch. Plus it has cat fairies. Really, what more could you want?
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Different enough from other magical girls to give it an edge, definite feeling that there's something else going on. Fun and for the most part easy-going.
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