Have you ever heard of season fairies? Theyre tiny flying beings who control the weather. Whenever it rains or it snows or theres a loud thunderstorm outside its the work of a season fairy. They create the clouds the breeze the sunshine... You cant see them of course or at least most people cant. But Saga Bergmen is not most people. Living with her grandmother ever since her mother passed away Saga desires nothing more than to have perfect control over her life... She schedules everything out in advance prepares for every setback and occasionally lectures her friends for not having as much discipline as she does. One night she finds a tiny fairy shivering alone in the rain. Feeding her a few bites of her waffle and taking her home the little fairy reveals herself to be a snow fairy named Sugar... Shes hyperactive shes curious shes more heart than brain and since a flower shes destined to grow has attached itself to a tiny piano Sagas mother gave her the two are stuck together Will Sagas new fey roommate drive her insane or will losing control of her life force her to finally confront the shadows of her past? There was a certain subgenre of anime around the turn of the millennium that was inescapable for a couple years and I dont know if theres an official term for it but Im going to go with Childrens moe. Most likely a distillation of a couple of other moe trends magical waifu anime and magical girl anime childrens moe took the concept of fantasy construct characters in a more casual and family friendly direction. Rather than having some lonely loser surrounded by a desperate harem who stand nary a chance against the perfect domestic goddess who literally fell from the sky or a special girl next door being chosen to transform into a superhero persona to fight evil childrens moe creates a very distinct separation between its fantasy cast and its human cast... Fantasy beings usually in the form of tiny fairies so theres no chance of them becoming the humans love interest will attach themselves to some bland yet morally sound protagonist in a slice of life setting. I havent actually seen very many of these myself... Ive never really felt the urge to check out Bottle Fairy Digi Charat Shugo Chara or Risky Safety but if theyre anything like A Little Snow Fairy Sugar from a visual standpoint I might be tempted. An original creation by JC Staff running alongside a manga adaptation that would begin its release a couple of months later its kind of a miracle this show looks as good as it does. Sugar was one of the earliest solo productions by JC Staff and at the time of its release their best looking projects were either coproductions with bigger studios or they were heavily stylized to the point where you legitimately couldnt tell how much money went into them like Utena and Excel Saga. Sugar is a lot more down to earth visually and its pretty easy to tell they had budget restrictions right from the beginning. What little movement there is can be incredibly stiff especially when its being used as a transition between two static key frames. On the bright side this kind of motion is used sparingly and the focus is usually elsewhere. Shinichiro Kimura is by no means a legendary director. He directed around 20 projects from 1998 to 2012 and while I havent seen everything hes done Sugar is by far his best looking work to the point that comparing it to other titles on his filmography... Karin Venus Versus Virus fucking Popotan... Is honestly kind of an out of body experience because for what it is Sugar is extremely well directed. Again thats not to say the budget issues arent obvious as Sugar just doesnt move the way an expensive show moves but there are a lot of lingering key framesnone of which ever wear out their welcome Piano playing scenes where the characters hands are out of frame and you just see their arms slightly moving and segments where the flying fairy characters look like theyre being dragged across the screen shrinking into the background or expanding into the foreground Which they can get away with as they dont need to move anything to go from place to place. Unless Im forgetting something they barely ever have to flap their wings which had to save a ton of money. Still shots are well framed often communicating very subtle details about the characters and what theyre going through and the rest of the time the focus is mainly on the soundtrack and the immersive backgrounds. Its never specified where the series takes place but the design of the town seems to be a combination of Germany and Japan with the occasional touch of Italy adding a layer both to the mysterious nature of the story and the timelessness of the setting. The anatomy of human characters leans heavily towards realism with the exception of their slightly more cartoony faces and while I dont think the director knew quite how to express deeper and more complex emotions on facial designs like these he knew his way around it. He used thoughtful angles slight changes in color saturation to draw more attention to what you couldnt see keeping their faces either out of frame or in shadow leaving everything up to your imagination until its time for the tearful reveal. He doesnt do that so much with Sugar whose emotions are kind of on a hair trigger but he does it a few times for Saga which is good because she has an incredibly emotionally complex character arc that Ill be going into further in a little bit. Its a really good looking show in spite of the limited animation but the music also does a lot of heavy lifting. The opening is your typical loveitorhateit bubblegum fare its not terrible but I found myself skipping it more often than not. The ending theme is a lot more pleasant with its music box aesthetic. For the rest of the soundtrack both in and out of universe its mostly piano and orchestral music and it has a classy beautiful feel to it. An original track called Mothers Melody serves as a motif throughout the story and its very distinct and memorable but also simple enough that Sagas mother could very believably have taught it to her before her death. Its a nice touch to an already lovely score. As for the english dub its kind of a mixed bag. I was never a huge fan of Pioneer/Geneon as a dubbing company not just because of the outrageously expensive DVD releases they used to be famous forwhich seem quaint compared to what NIS does today but also because they had a trend of replicating moe voices with highpitched screechy performances that sound earsplittingly artificial. Best case scenario youve heard performances like this so many times that youve just gotten used to it and its not a big deal for you. Worst case you cant stand it and Rebecca Forstadts performance as Sugar is the bane of your existence. If that is the case then the original sub is what you would probably prefer and hell it sounds perfectly fine. Having said that the dub DOES have two significant advantages Saga is played in English by one of my all time favorite voice actors Michelle Ruff who is absolutely fantastic in the role. Ive gushed over her ability to layer her performances with subtle emotional dissonance that can add hidden meaning to even the simplest of deliveries and Saga is no different. Theres also Stephanie Sheh who is having a ball playing the desperately haughty Greta Sagas one sided rival and its a joy hearing her ham it up. There are other solid performances that also make a strong case for the dub but again if you cant stand Sugar herself I get it. Its fair to say an anime like A Little Snow Fairy Sugar does not leave a good first impression particularly on an adult. If you can get past its sickeningly sweet damn near memeworthy title it looks like your standard empty vacuous little childrens show thats there to fill up air time and keep the littlest of children glued to the TV for twenty minutes. My first impression of it was that it had one prominent appearance in three of the first four AMV Hell installments before never showing up again which suggested that it was some innocent childrens show that had been coopted by internet edgelords... You know something like the rise of Bronies only about ten years earlier. I dont remember why I eventually watched it... It got picked up by Sentai about a decade after Geneon went under and they were selling it for like three dollars a pop for their Christmas sale one year and Im pretty sure I decided to check it out solely based on its previous reputation and cringey title. To me it was the show from AMV Hell that taught me Sailor Chibimoons voice actor used to work for a radio station and sang an Eminem parody. I cant hold onto that kind of trivia and NOT watch the anime attached to it right? https://www..com/watch?v=YF10fhzozOI I dont remember exactly when I got around to watching it... Im pretty sure it was a year before I killed my blog... But I remember being surprised by how good it was and I like it even more now that Ive seen it a second time. Yes I know its an anime for little kids but theres no rule stating shows aimed at toddlers cant be high quality. If that were the case gen 4 My Little Pony wouldnt have become a cultural phenomenon. Hell Ive come across incidental Sesame Street segments that featured smart writing and sharp humor. For its first five episodes Sugar is your typical flowery slice of life full of magic and silly hijinks. The story is simple the odd couple dynamic between Saga and Sugar is perfectly effective and while there is a hint or two at Sagas analretentiveness being the result of having to grow up really fast to compensate for the loss of her mother the overall tone is pleasant and lighthearted as the cast solves problems and learns more about each other with some dumb logical fallacies that are pretty easy to ignore. Saga interacting with the fairies in front of people with minimal issue makes about as much sense as Ash not seeing through Team Rockets disguises in Pokemon you just sort of get used to it. But in episode 6 something changes. In episode 6 Saga and Sugars friendship becomes strained but it isnt your typical throwaway Now youve gone too far breakup that lasts all of one episode and gets resolved. Episode 6 goes a little more serious and a little more dark. Im not going to spoil what happens in that episode but it very openly reveals the emotional core of the series and its a strong fucking core. Im not exaggerating when I say Saga has one of my favorite character arcs in anime history one that I would put right up there with some of the best material from Battle Athletes Victory. Underneath all of the magical slice of life fairy antics this is a show about a girl on the cusp of adolescence dealing with some very old unresolved trauma that she never properly worked through as a child and while shes clearly put a lot of work into cultivating an ultraresponsible welladjusted persona there were multiple moments in this series where I found myself audibly exclaiming Oh shit because I knew the main character so well at that point I knew she was about to have her foundation rocked by something that was about to be revealed to her. If youre familiar with the term Mask Countermask The Dark Room its a character writing principle where you flesh out a characters psyche... The version of themselves they show the world the version they keep hidden from others and the version they hide from themselves. Saga exemplifies this principle and her arc gives the series an intense emotional complexity that you probably wouldnt notice at first glance... Probably because at first glance all you see is Sugar and shes nowhere near as interesting. Thats not to say shes a bad character by any means screechy dub performance aside shes as cute and precious as youd want a moe fairy character to be theres just not a lot of depth to her. I guess thats fine though since she has chemistry with Saga and her other fairy friends and she fits her role well enough. Its pretty obvious to any adult watching the series what a twinkle is and why shes been sent to look for one but it never quite becomes insutingly stupid it feels like it would genuinely be an engaging mystery for younger viewers and it does tie Saga and Sugar together from a narrative perspective. When the show does get dumb... Like really dumb... Its usually doing something unique and creative like the fairies are teaching a turtle how to fly which yeah actually happens. Or were getting snippets of lore about the fairy community which dont make a whole lot of sense but then again we are supposed to believe fairies create the fucking sunlight so Im not expecting anyone in the cast to pull out a book called Da Rules or anything like that. There are sequences that openly defy logic and the laws of physics but theres usually something going on in the middle of it thats just emotionally resonant enough to justify it. The show is completely wholesomewhich is a feat for a show with at least one bath scene per episode with the only exception being Sagas interactions with an adult piano player that ALMOST feel flirtatious and ALMOST feel creepy but never quite tiptoe past the edge of being objectively problematic. Although on that note I love puns a little too much to constantly hear the phrase The Bear Pianist without making a thing out of it. Im only human after all. I cant say Id recommend this show to everyone as it might be too childish or girly for some viewers but hey if any demographic is capable of looking past stuff like that its otakus. A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is currently out of print but it can be streamed on Hidive and Amazon. The manga was released stateside by ADV but is also out of print. If you enjoyed the series itself then Id also highly recommend the two episode OVA that was released to conclude it theyre available wherever you can find the series proper. Ive addressed this a few times before but there are always going to be cultural stigmas over the intended audience of a piece of media with regard to whether or not you should be watching it. I obviously agree with this ideology in terms of content as kids probably shouldnt be watching media meant for adults but you also see a lot of people turning their noses up at media that was made for a female audience or worse when its made specifically for children. A piece of media is too girly or too childish therefore it triggers a knee jerk reaction and in some cases even a sense of revulsion. Personally I dont subscribe to that. Regardless of the genre or intended demographic any piece of media has an equal chance of either engaging you or alienating you and frankly the best way to find unexpected treasures is to search in unexpected places. A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is one such treasure. It has a sickeningly sweet exterior that I can totally understand puts some people off but beneath all that this series is very strongly written and has more than enough emotional complexity to bring a twinkle to the hearts of the most cynical viewers. I give A Little Snow Fairy Sugar an 8/10.
80 /100
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