A Little Snow Fairy Sugar Anime Review
Chitchana Yuki Tsukai Shugaa
Itsy-Bitsy Snow-bearer Sugar
US Release By
Cute Faerie Story
24 25-minute episodes
2001-10-02 - 2002-03-26
What's In It
- Violence: 0 (none)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 0 (none)
- Language: 0 (none)
Saga is an eleven-year-old girl who lives in an unnamed Midwestern European-style town (this basically means Germany, Switzerland, or Austria, for those geographically-challenged individuals). Saga organizes every detail of her life, stringently planning out every day's activities down to the exact time. Aside from this, she's also a very helpful person and likes to play the piano in the town's music shop (which the assistant lets her do after the owner has left). One day, while walking home from a piano playing session in a mysteriously sudden rainstorm, Saga finds a little creature on top of a crate: the title character, a little snow faerie Sugar, who is apparently starving. Saga gives her a little of a waffle and brings her home to show to dear old Granny. The trouble is, it doesn't seem like Grandma can see this small creature. Saga convinces herself it's only a dream or hallucination, until Sugar proves her existence by creating a snow flake with a few notes on her magic piccolo. Sugar explains that all the seasons are created by faeries called Season Faeries; Sun Faeries, Wind Faeries, Rain Faeries, etc. Sugar herself (as the title indicates) is a Snow Faerie, come to visit the human world from the Faerie School so she can plant her magic seed and find her home. Saga tries her best to get rid of the chaos-wreaking Sugar, who screws up her schedule, but in the end, Saga is forced to accept her itsy-bitsy roommate because the magic seed that marks Sugar's earthly home fell out of her pocket and planted itself in Saga's room. After Sugar's friends Salt the Sun Faerie and Pepper the Wind Faerie show up, the three of them engage in a search for the mysterious Twinkles, which will allow them to become full-fledged season faeries. Oh yeah, and they eat a lot of 'waffo' while doing it.
There are two things to get out of the way right away. First off, the original title could be inaccurate because it was translated by me from the original Japanese logo and from listening to the name of the show in next episode previews. [Note: As with all titles at AAW, it's an accurate translation.] Not only did the logo contain kanji, which I can't read, but the dictionary says there's no such word as 'chitchana' or 'tsukai.' (of course, the dictionary says there's no such word as 'arigatoo' too; it's a stupid dictionary). The second is the spelling of the word 'faerie.' I know these days it's usually spelled 'fairy,' but the decision to spell it 'faerie' is a matter of personal preference (it's not spelled that way in the translations of the show, by the way).
With that out of the way, let's talk about the anime. Sugar: A Little Snow Faerie is one of the cutest, dreamiest, most romantic anime on the US market (romantic like romanticism, not like romance. What's the difference? One's an art movement). If that will drive you off (ninety-eight percent of you just left), then you have no business here. If you're willing to give that a chance, let's move along, shall we?
Everything about this show from the names of the characters to the storyline reeks of sugary cuteness. The storyline is rather slow-moving, but in these first few episodes, the main point is for Sugar, Salt, and Pepper to find the Twinkles. Since they have no idea what the Twinkles are, and can't even reach a consensus on theories about it, that's a bit difficult. Their search also usually involves Saga somehow, even if for nothing more than to buy them another waffo (Sugar's term for the Belgian-style waffles that are her favorite food, in case you couldn't figure that out). Most of the time, though, the search causes some sort of trouble for Saga at school (since no one else can see the faeries, it looks weird for her to be talking to them, and Sugar's insatiable curiosity can put her in situations Saga has to drag her out of). However, the oddly melancholy prologue of the first episode and some of the hints dropped by the creators in the included interviews hint at a bit more than marshmallow puff in the later episodes.
The main characters are all very likable, even if some are just a bit shallow (it also looks like those later episodes have got a lot of beefing up for them). However, unlike Hamtaro, it's evident that these characters were planned out in preproduction instead of being thrown into the second episode for possible use at a later time. Saga is not a normal girl (actually, she essentially is, but most normal girls aren't quite that organized). She also has a very good reason for wanting Sugar gone; not just because it's something weird and slightly bothersome to have her around, but because it's wreaking havoc on the planning and organization. But despite herself, Saga just can't bear to throw Sugar out, and after the magic seed is planted she accepts that Sugar is going to be around for a while. It's also implied that Saga's mother, who isn't around anymore, played the piano, and that Saga wants to follow in her footsteps. Sugar is hungry, sleepy, and almost obnoxiously curious, and she can be a bit loud and inconsiderate. She's not completely stupid, though; there aren't any incidents where Sugar commits acts of normal anime ditz-level stupidity. She wants to become a snow faerie because her mother was one as well (most of the faeries seem to be motivated by their families). The downplay between Sugar and Saga can be very fun to watch, because it's a lot like two actual human beings rather than the classic anime Mihoshi/Kiyone pair. Saga dislikes the fact that Sugar interrupts her schedule, but doesn't declare eternal hatred on Sugar or scream her brains out. She either puts up with it or explains in a calm, yet displeasured, tone that she isn't happy with Sugar's behavior. Sugar, on her end, isn't so blindly idiotic that she wouldn't notice if Saga was furious with her. She does things like falling asleep right in the middle of Saga's workbook during class, or making a mess of Saga's room in the search for the magic seed. Sugar is an extremely believable blunderer because of the seeming triviality of her mistakes.
The other characters aren't as fleshed-out as Saga and Sugar, but they're well-done and entertaining as well (and probably will be fleshed out). Salt, one of the only male members of the cast, is practical in speech and hotheaded in practice. Pepper is a Mio Kisaragi-type gentle book loving girl (she wears glasses and bears a striking resemblance to a nine-inch-tall version of Hamtaro's Kana in a green nightdress). She can also talk to animals, which brings up a few funny scenes. There are two more faerie characters that haven't played too big of a part yet: Ginger, a fully-trained Rain Faerie played by Noir's, Excel Saga's, Eva's, etc. Kotono Mitsuishi, and the Elder, who won't show up until episode five. Ginger is a bit annoyed with being interrupted during her work by the three faeries-in-training, and there's no telling what part she'll play in later episodes. Of course, the faeries aren't the only characters. Saga knows a lot of people too, such as Greta, an arrogant rich girl who has declared Saga her rival. She also usually walks with her left hand raised to show off her new jewelry bought for her by her rich traveling father. Greta is amusing because instead of being arrogant and rich and being treated like it by life, life treats her like everyone else. For example, while going on a mad bid to make Saga notice her new golden watch, Greta follows Saga through an extremely tight space between two buildings that Saga uses as a shortcut. Saga makes it through a little dirty, but Greta gets stuck in the crack and flounders around screaming (and gets dirty, too). There are also Saga's friends, Norma and Anne. I couldn't quite figure out which was which, but there was a wild one and a calm one. These two don't do much and probably aren't going to. Saga's teacher, Miss Hanna, and the boy who sits behind her, Phil, round off the cast. Miss Hanna is just your average young, attractive teacher (and she looks a lot like how Kana would look grown up). Phil is a science nerd who seems to have some kind of bizarre attraction to Saga; he's always asking her to help him and his friends with their current science project (and is shot down). Greta, Miss Hanna, and Phil are three characters who may or may not play some kind of part later.
Sugar: A Little Snow Fairy not only excels in characterization, it's technical aspects are nothing short of magnificent. The animation is beautiful. The colors are all bright, cheerful, and vibrant, and there's not a trace of slowdown. It may be digital; I'm not sure about it. There were some scenes where it appeared that the background was actually done in watercolors, and the characters were superimposed on top by computers (this was extremely subtle, and added well to the feeling of the animation). Unlike Hamtaro, no punches were pulled with this animation. The design is excellent as well. When I say design, I don't just mean character design, but setting design as well. The entire town looked so incredibly rural European that the designers may well have been Europeans themselves (well, they weren't, but they did consult one). The streets were paved with brick instead of concrete, the buildings were made out of wood or stone instead of concrete; there were no cars, and no roadsigns. The school looked a little too Japanese on the inside, but the outside was obviously European architecture. The human characters also had European-sounding names--not even American, European from top to bottom. The word 'saga' came into the English language from Old Norse, and there aren't many American girls anymore named Greta or Norma. There was also a shopkeeper in the first episode that Saga helped with the Italian-sounding name of Luchino. The character designs were first-rate themselves, though. Despite the turn-of-the-century style architecture, the characters all dressed like modern people of their age range and profession. The real standouts in the character design category are the faeries; Sugar and Ginger, especially, sport extremely original and creative outfits. All three of the main faerie characters are extremely cute and miniature, and as for Ginger, she just looked like a very short normal anime woman.
The sound is the cherry on top of a delicious whipped cream-topped waffo. In fact, the rest of the show is already so impressive that the sound could have been worthless and it still would have been great. It's nothing of the sort, however. The creators seemed to take it upon themselves to make music that would match up to the animation and characterization in feeling, effort, and overall quality. First, let's deal with the opening and ending. You've heard of J-Pop, J-Rock, and so on, haven't you? Well, it's time to add two more to the list: J-Opera and J-Faerie Tale Ballad. These would be the genres of the opening and ending, respectively. The opening is a lot like a piece of classical music with Japanese song lyrics, and you could imagine someone playing the ending on a harp to a group of peasant children, even if both of these were synthesized. The BGMs are many, extremely varied, and almost all orchestral. They adapt themselves perfectly to whatever's on-screen. There's also the song played by the faeries to use their magic, which actually sounds like some guy sitting in front of a microphone and playing (in Ginger's case) a violin, or (for Salt) a trumpet. Most of the BGMs fit the J-Faerie Tale Ballad category. The subtitles are accurate and all the Japanese voices are well-cast, but the only real standout of the cast was Sugar. Her voice had a bizarre screechy quality to it that the other faeries lacked, and it fit a faerie perfectly to sound like this (especially one who tends to talk a bit too much and too fast).
I know most American fans will dislike it, but Sugar: A Little Snow Faerie is one of the best anime I've ever seen. It's also an amazing example of an anime with something for almost everyone, much like a Miyazaki movie (A lot of people will think that's a blasphemous thing to say. Well, screw you! Spirited Away wasn't that good!). It's charming, adorable, unpretentious, and totally innocuous. If you have kids, I can't recommend a better anime to watch with them, especially if you're sick of the Rugrats-type brain cell assassins with idiotic bathroom humor in spades. They might not learn anything from it, but at least it's not working as a polar opposite of learning. Kids need to have fun too.
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Notes and Trivia
The series features art direction by Shichiro Kobayashi, who has been involved in a wide variety of series, including Bezerk, Utena, Kimagure Orange Road, and Panda! Go Panda!.
US DVD Review
The anamorphic widescreen DVD (it was broadcast in HDTV) has very nice animated menus with a bright pink background, contrasting with the white cover art. There are full subtitled and dubbed versions and chapter stops at the prologue, opening, beginning of episode, middle, ending, preview, etc. One thing I just have to mention is that the cursor looks like the waffle number sign used in the title screens of the episodes. The extras include a clean and original Japanese version of the episode one prologue, character profiles, previews, and DVD credits. Basically a standard DVD, comes packaged with a collector's box for the rest of the series, when you get around to buying it, for an extra five bucks. Inside the case are a collectible postcard, an advertisement for Sugar merchandise, and some short interviews with the crew.
Almost completely harmless, although Pioneer apparently (and incorrectly) considers it 13-up.
Violence: 0 - Not a single punch thrown, sword swung, or gun shot.
Nudity: 1 - An innocent bath scene at the end of most episodes.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Not even an inkling.
Language: 0 - Even the Japanese dialogue didn't have any swearing.
Staff & Cast
Sugar: Tomoko Kawakami
Saga: Masumi Asano
Salt: Tomo Saeki
Pepper: Kaori Mitsuhashi
Ginger: Kotono Mitsuishi
The Elder: Fumihiko Tachiki
Greta: Chinami Nishimura
Grandma Regina: Chikaku Akimoto
Miss Hanna: Akiko Hiramatsu
Phil: Asami Sanada
Norma: Sawa Ishige
Anne: Akiko Nakagawa
Original Story: Haruka Aoi