Next-up in the category of underrated gems: Fancy Lala, a charming mahou shoujo from the late nineties. It’s understandable why not many people are interested in it: the premise advertises a girl who coincidentally meets up with two miniature dinosaurs, who give her the power to grow up and become an idol so that she can meet up with the guy she admires. It’s not exactly a premise that screams “Watch me!!”, and you really need to watch this series in order to understand its strengths. Fancy Lala is a definite recommendation for those who like slice-of-life dramas; it feels like a cross between Kamichu and Full Moon wo Sagashite, grabbing the best from both.
And really, this isn’t necessarily a series about idols; the premise would also have worked with construction-workers (although the end-result would probably end up a lot more GAR that way). In contrast to a series like Full Moon wo Sagashite, where the growing up was just a tool to get to the idol-part of the premise, Fancy Lala uses being an idol just as a tool to get to the growing up-part. The essence of this series is that it’s a look at adult problems through the eyes of a child, and there is so much potential for such a premise.
Basically, all of the good things in this series can be traced back to one thing: the awesome character of Miho. I gave the characters a rating of 10 for a good reason: she is an incredibly strong lead character for a girl of only ten years old. She’s able to carry both the weight of being an idol and the weight of the series and yet she remains an innocent child. We get to know her through and through, and it’s because of her that the major theme of adult problems works out so well.
The creators also make use of a lot of subtle drama, where nothing important is said, but you can see from the characters’ expressions that a lot is going on inside their mind. It’s because of this that this series never vetures into the world of cheese and melodrama, an oh so common pitfall of shoujo-series (and any other genre for that matter, I guess). This is such a genuine series, and you can feel that the characters are feeling down because of the problems they face, instead of acting down because of the creators’ wishes. Miho’s voice-actress also does a very admirable job: children in this series really do sound like children, rather than squeaky 30-year old voice-actresses.
And also let me say this specifically: Fancy Lala has the downright best ending of any mahou shoujo I’ve ever seen, and perhaps it’s also got my favourite ending of any shoujo-series for that matter. It’s a true example where realism works so much better than cheesy Deus ex Machina because creators are too afraid to kill off characters in the fear to upset said characters’ fans. Fancy Lala’s final two episodes are something that should happen in nearly every single mahou shoujo-series, and yet none I’ve seen so far even dared to address its topics.
But yeah, this really is a series about Miho. Apart from that, it doesn’t have much else to sell, as shown by the premise: the reason why Miho got her magical powers is just pure coincidence, we never get any concrete explanation of where those dinosaurs came from. In addition to growing up, Miho also somehow becomes incredibly proficient in singing, posing and acting, without any practice whatsoever. These things are going to make it a bit difficult to care about the characters in the beginning, though at least the series makes up for it with quite an accurate portrayal of the local idol-scene once it gets going.
Obviously, if you’re not into slice of life, you’re not going to like this series, but nonetheless it’s an incredibly genuine shoujo series with some adult themes. It’s got a wonderful lead character. And sure, the animation looks a bit outdated for those of you who are only used to series from the last four years, but nonetheless the character-art is very expressive, and tries to convey even the smallest of emotions, and it looks great in my opinion. Simply said: Miho Rocks.