"I sing la la la! I hope you can hear too! I am Fancy Lala!"—Theme Song
One genre that never quite caught on in America is comics for little girls. Sure, girls have their Barbie dolls and such, but American comic artists—never mind television and movies—have never quite matched the success with boys (who are always ready for superheroes and extreme sports) catering to the fantasies of girls. This is quite different in Japan, where shoujo, that is, girl's popular culture, fills the comic book racks and daytime television schedules.
Magical Stage Fancy Lala is an example of that strange genre of "magical princess" shows, where a prepubescent girl gets a magic item (usually emblazoned with a big star or heart and some pink ribbon) that gives her superpowers. If you have ever seen Sailor Moon, the most successful import from this genre (mostly because it also works as a sentai, or "soldier" show, with gender crossover potential), then you pretty much know the drill.
The girl in this case is third-grader Miho, and her magic item is a pen. Yes, one of those huge ballpoints on a string that girls grasp in their whole hands to write in their diaries. "Bobby looked at me today when he walked by my locker!! He is so cuuuuute!!!!!!!" Illuminate with lots of hearts and stars (especially to dot the i's) and hide it so your stupid little brother can't find it.
When Miho draws a picture in her sketchbook with her magic pen and says the words "loose and baggy" (is this what she thinks about women after puberty?), then the transformation begins. Miho's magical pen can transform her into…a giant robot? A flying avenger with laser eyes?
Nope, a teenager. A teenager with perfectly normal strength. "Lala," as Miho dubs her mature alter ego, is a plain, old, everyday teen. Okay, so she has a decent singing voice, so Miho can fulfill her dream of becoming one of Japan's many disposable idol singers.
Can Lala juggle her new career while her real self tries to make it through elementary school? Will she learn that boys are kind of neat and don't have cooties? Will anybody older than 10 really care?
The disc under scrutiny here is actually the final volume of the series. In "My Sister's Boyfriend," teen sister Chisa has a terrible, life-altering problem: whether to dump her lame boyfriend for this cute new guy, or just use the new guy like a rawhide chew. Miho's demonic pastel dinosaur familiars teach her the words "two-timing" and "infidelity." In the next episode, "Lala's First Concert," Lala has—oh, you figure it out. The final two episodes detail how Miho must learn—like a certain big-eared elephant—that the magic has always been inside her.
The animation is low budget, and the only extra is a "fashion gallery" (really a few design sketches). As for the story itself, there is nothing surprising here, and everything wraps up in characteristically heartwarming fashion, reinforcing good Disney Channel lessons like "the power of imagination" and "take your time growing up." For little girls, this is probably dreamy stuff. For anybody else, there is not even enough camp here to distinguish it from all the other princess shows, from the seminal Creamy Mami to the parody Magical Girl Pretty Sami. And those with a Lolita fetish will not even get that dose of cheesecake that keeps them lining up at anime cons for Sailor Moon's unexpurgated transformation scenes.
At least Sailor Moon has fight scenes. The closest Fancy Lala gets to conflict is teary-eyed epiphanies. Even little girls may not find that enough to write about in their diaries.
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