Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar
I watched an artificial and formulaic attempt at good natured cute just before I watched this one. I'm still not sure what was missing in that piece, why it made me suspicious rather than interested, but the sheer good natured fun of this show was awe inspiring by comparison, which made it an awful lot of fun to watch.
We greet the morning over the shoulder of a cute young girl (with a slight Sakura from card captor echo) in an idyllic European town. It's sunday and she's full of energy to do things, make the most of the day and chat with her many friends. She's energetic, forthright and fun....although a little too focused on schedules and rules. However neither her schedule, nor her sense of how things are supposed to work, included finding a starving fairy. At first unbelieving she can't help but react to its plight and gives it some of the food she had bought for her grandma. At which point, despite her disbelief (and some degree of irritation) she finds she's got an inescapable companion in the form of an invisible, good natured, snow fairy.
It seems that the seasons are actually run by a sizable number of season fairies (which I note is an equal opportunity profession). They're tiny, extremely cute, and have slight magic powers befitting their season. Sugar is a snow fairy and she, and some friends we meet later, are apprentices. The last task they must perform being to plant their magic seed (which she accidentally does in the leads bedroom) and find the `glitter' to make it grow. Despite the fact that none of them have any idea what the `glitter' might actually be. Indeed each of the fairies seems to have different opinions on what quality would indicate the `glitter' of humanity. It looks like it's going to be a long quest, and along the way both the lead and sugar become not only friends but interested and involved in the life of the other.
Did I use the term `cute' enough in the opening and synopsis? Well you can be sure I haven't used it nearly enough. This is intensely, insanely, amazingly cute and sweet. Everything about it, setting, character, color, music and emotion all combine and enhance the feeling of cute. This almost goes to the top of the chart in how to blow the minds of shounen anime fans, it's just that strong and focused. And, in all honestly, a lot of people aren't going to get much further than that.
Which is a real shame, because the shocking thing is it actually turns out to be a skilled, and eminently successful show. I would have loved to have been at a design meeting, where the prospect was laid out mind you. A show where the lead can see some apprentice fairies? A show where the plot is looking for `glitter'? It sounds corny beyond belief. And the character designs look overly familiar, and over-stylised. It's a mixture of every `cute' under-age girl (and a couple of guys) you've ever seen. While the fairies look like really cute dolls. Although, at times, the anime fixation with `shoujo-eye' gives an almost alien appearance to everyone. There's also a rather suspicious Tomoyo look alike (again from card captor) but that's okay, because she's cute too, despite being the mains rival.
However as you watch it all begins to make sense. There is a depth and richness to the personality of all the characters and you quickly become interested in their world and them. And this holds as much for the main characters as the fairies themselves. And while all the characters are, perhaps a touch excessively, cute it doesn't feel forced or artificial. The lead is cute because of the way she is and the energy she holds, while her new fairy friend is full of innocent curiosity. And this extends to all the characters, not just the leads. Add that the interaction between them absolutely sparkles with life and charm. They discuss, disagree, compromise and interact in such a natural and interesting manner that its surprisingly fun to watch.
Even the story is better than it sounds. It seems to be awfully small in scale, I don't expect the emergence of evil demons or dark forces, but it makes a weird kind of sense. These inexperienced fairies have been given a quest for an ill defined something. The reason being to force them to interact with, and understand, both humans and the world they live in. As such it is quite open ended, creates lots of opportunities for minor events, occurrences and interaction. It's a story that gives the show a sense of cohesion but doesn't `force' the pace or direction. There's also the strong suspicion that the final solution will come from within themselves, making it perhaps one of the few completely character based, but continuous, stories.
And then we come to the animation....guess what? it's cute. Bet you didn't see that one coming. It's done in a soft shoujo style, clean linework and gentle colors in an almost water-color style. However, importantly, it has a lovely sense of character, and comedy in every movement. There are some movement sequences, some comedic expressions and interactions, which are absolutely amazing. Full of cute, character, emotion and comedy simply in the way they move, that's so impressive. It is obvious that a lot of care, and skill, has gone into the production of this anime. This is greatly enhanced with some wonderful vocal performances, even from quite minor characters. Meanwhile the music is awesome, both theme and ambient music is awfully strong. Some `danger' music, cool blues inspired organ sounds, almost convinced me to hunt out the soundtrack by itself. And there's lots of other good sounds in here as well.
I couldn't find a review from my regular sources, although the exact name of this series is somewhat indeterminate which makes searching hard. It will be interesting to see if the most direct translation, "Tiny snow fairy sugar", is not shortened in practice. I'll add an alias should this happen when it is released or widely discussed.