What Is It?
Fancy Lala is a 26-episode magical girl series from Studio Pierrot. The show was directed by Takahiro Omori (Baccano!, Samurai Flamenco), and features character designs by Akemi Takada (Kimagure Orange Road, Patlabor). The series is actually loosely based on Harbor Light Story Fashion Lala yori, a 1988 OVA written by Final Fantasy scenario writer Kenji Terada. The series began airing in April 1998, roughly one month before the manga started its run in Ribon magazine.
The series revolves around Miho, an average elementary school student with dreams of becoming Japan’s next top idol… or a cartoon artist. Her life is forever changed one day, when she comes across an unusual pair of dragon plushies at a local shop. Somehow, the two toys find themselves attached to Miho’s bag, which leads to an awkward confrontation on the way out of the store. Seriously, how can anyone, let alone a little girl, explain that the toys magically fastened themselves to a backpack without sounding pathetic? Anyway, the situation’s quickly defused by a mysterious benefactor, who pays the shopkeeper and informs Miho that it’s best for her to keep the dolls.
When Miho returns home, the two plushies spring to life. They introduce themselves as Pigu and Mogu, fairies from “The World of Memory of Time.” In exchange for not outing them, the fairies grant Miho magical powers, in the form of a special sketch pad and pen. With it, Miho is able to create objects from what she draws. More important, though, is that the pen allows Miho to transform into Fancy Lala – a spunky 15-year-old with brash blue locks and killer fashion sense.
As Fancy Lala, the winds of good fortune begin to blow in Miho’s direction. She’s quickly scouted by Yumi Haneishi, president of ultra talent agency Lyrical Production, and begins her journey toward super-stardom. As her career picks up, so does the stress, though. Suddenly, she has to find ways to work around her pop-star lifestyle as Fancy Lala, while dealing with the rigors of elementary school. With each day, Miho’s life becomes more complicated, and the pressures continue to build. Will she be able to find the middle ground that lets her be herself, while also living out her idol fantasies?
Why Was It Passed Up?
If I can be glib, Fancy Lala is a magical girl show that’s not Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura. That alone should be seen as the kiss of death for the series.
Seriously, though, the show’s first volume was released on July 9, 2002. For smaller releases, this was a terrible month. Over the course of July, the following titles hit retailers:
- Berserk, Volume 2
- Cardcaptor Sakura, DVD 10
- Escaflowne The Movie
- Evangelion Death & Rebirth
- Hellsing (TV), Volume 1
- His & Her Circumstances, Volume 1
- Ranma 1/2 Season 3: Hard Battle
- Record of Lodoss War (Enhanced DVD)
- Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 20
- Sailor Moon (Dub), Volumes 5 & 6
- Slayers Next (VHS, Dub) Volume 1
This is on top of the other, smaller releases, like the Toonami edits of Yu Yu Hakusho volumes 3 & 4, Gundam Stardust Memory Volume 4, or Real Bout High School. This was a series that launched against the two top-shelf magical girl shows for the time, as we as nearly a dozen other heavy hitters, that were bound to steal the spotlight.
Print runs were low, most places didn’t even stock the show, even though this was a period of hyper-growth for anime in the west. And, because few copies were sold, and countless other, attention-grabbing titles were vying for customer dollars, Fancy Lala was doomed to sell as well as ice in a tundra. In short, this was a series that marched out to die at retail.
Why This Show?
Fancy Lala is a magical girl show that doesn’t fall into many of the genre tropes. There are no monsters, there are no evil forces or crazy super-powered attacks. Instead, the idea is used to tell a charming “what-if” story, that explores the world of adulthood through the eyes of a child. The stresses of a career, and the various trappings that come from it, from appointments to meetings and deadlines, are looked at with a naevite that makes the world seem just a bit more friendly. At the same time, though, the distinct contrasts between the world of children and that of adults are lain bare for all to see.
Fancy Lala is basically the anime version of Big… minus the creepy sex stuff. It captures that same whimsy of a kid being in an alien world, even though nothing changed outside of their age. The rites of passage, the doors that open and the opportunities that fade away are all handled with a light-hearted tone and a cheerful demeanor. It’s a truly special experience that, while a little rough around the edges at points, is worth watching.
Note: the trailer is unavailable. We’ve included the opening sequence instead.