What They Say:
When young Saga offers a waffle to a small hungry creature in a fluffy outfit, she has no idea that the “creature” is Sugar, an apprentice fairy sent to Earth to find a “twinkle” as part of her test to become a full-fledged season fairy! Unfortunately, neither Sugar nor her two companion fairies, Salt and Pepper, have any idea what a “twinkle” is, but that doesn’t stop them from moving in with the unusual girl who can somehow see them! And since none of Saga’s friends can see fairies, they all think that Saga is acting really strange. As more and more season fairies keep arriving, Saga’s bemusement turns into desperation. Can she find out what a twinkle is and help the fairies find one before she’s drowning in fairy dust? The answers will surprise you in the hilariously sweet adventure LITTLE SNOW FAIRY SUGAR!
The audio presentation for this release is wonderful considering it is only available in English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 and encoded at 224 kbps. Due to the music-centric theme for this series, the playback is of utmost importance to ensure that all of the emotional timbre from the select classical ensemble is successfully communicated to the audience as a whole. From Sugar’s delightfully upbeat piccolo, Salt’s confident trumpet and Pepper’s gentle hand harp plus all of the beautiful background melodies, every instrument brings forth each character’s distinct personality, all culminating in the connecting harmony of Saga’s caring and yet personable piano solos.
However, even with all of the warmth brought forth by the individuals’ musical stylings, what really unifies the entirety of the series are the opening and closing themes used to express Saga’s hopes and wishes throughout the show. The very upbeat and rhythmic Japanese version of The Rubettes’ 1974 single Sugar Baby Love sung by Yoko Ishida really gets you in the mood to watch this amiable series. It uses the same opening shoo bop vocal harmonies and repetitive chants to set up the song and even if it a simplistic melody in which Saga reminisces about memories of her mother, you cannot help to feel its heartwarming charm. And to close the show, Maria Yamamoto’s hauntingly beautiful performance of Snow Flower conjures the essence of the pair’s relationship with a very sweet and lilting song, almost like a breeze, being sung from Saga’s view after Sugar leaves, waiting for her friend to come back.
Any viewer will quickly learn that music is an integral part of the series, since it is through her mother’s performances as a concert pianist which evoke Saga’s warmest memories, and in a way, her first glance of the season fairies. As we watch the blooming relationship between the two young girls, we learn that they are both connected to this parent thanks to the tunes which them link to their daughter and as such to each other. The enchanting music itself is another actor in this show, causing an intense emotional response that no normal performance itself could provide to the audience, but with the characters’ interaction, they together open another dimension between child and parent.
The series is broken down into four disks expanding the breadth of twenty six episodes, encoded in the standard DVD media MPEG-1/2 video format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The playback is extremely vivid and has no visible digital artifacts considering the original series was broadcast in 2001. But the most admirable detail for this show is that the animation crew based Saga’s home of Muhlenberg on a real German town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber; as such, the environmental elements such as medieval buildings and cobblestones make the scenery all the more realistic by the addition on nuances which most studios would have missed by using imaginary surroundings. And to give the actors more emphasis against this magnificent setting, the animators decided on another change against the normal trend – change the coloring scheme.
Instead of employing the standard practice of using the same palette for every element in the scene, they opted to give the characters more weight by applying watercolor tones to designate the background terrain and traditional solid colors for the movable details in the foreground. By using this technique, the viewer is treated to scenery which looks like it was gleaned from a Renaissance painting while the animation moves forward via a modern standard. While most may not notice this nuance of old versus the new, if you just stop to admire the atmosphere, you will be projected into an entirely new world: one in which tradition makes way for the future, technology encroaching upon the old fashion but then melding to share the same space. All of these components make for an even more enchanting series by which the scenery is as much as an actor than that you would normally consider, adding to the magic of the fairies by capturing their charm within this memorable world.
Sentai Filmworks option to make this show one of their Sentai Selects, an anime which has withstood the test of time to remain popular and memorable works of their genre, is wonderfully shown off in the packaging of this collection. The buyer is immediately struck by the cuteness of the show with a delightful front portrait of Saga and Sugar on a pastel background decorated with snow; the sweetness of the title is carried onto the back with the ensemble of season fairies greeting us, with sun filled smiles on their faces. This theme of innocence is then carried over to the reversible cover: the front is once again decorated by the friendly pair of Saga, but this time she happily is watching over Sugar as her hyper companion joyously munches away on a waffle. And to finish the alternate back panel, you cannot help but chuckle seeing Sugar trying to blow a kiss to Pepper as he tries to run away in a panic, with Salt calmly amused at her friend’s antics.
But of course, the artwork on the disks are not to be ignored with Sentai carrying over the cover’s decorative theme of a sky blue background dotted by snowflakes, with Saga and Sugar once again gracing the first three disks, the pair being portrayed in various loving ways. And finally, to complete the last disk, the three season fairies are silk screened on the last one, proudly displaying their instruments, ready to begin their magical melodies.
If there is a negative critique for this collection, it would be in the static menus. Since Sentai Filmworks assumed that most viewers would not spend much time in the area, they did not give it as much visual appeal as the rest of the animation. They used a plain white screen decorated by a pastel blue sky accented with snowflakes and a pink ground layer with the same portraits from the disks. This unoriginal scheme is then accented by your selections: Play Episode, Languages and finally the Special Features, all chosen by a dot themed cursor. Since there is no mention of the title on this screen, there is nothing to identify this menu with the show, aside from the main characters off to the side. And finally, the most discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute of Sugar Baby Love echoing in the background; while this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its energetic beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to switch off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in this area.
Aside from the absolute entertainment appeal of this show, this section is by far the best part of the collection. While we are still supplied with the obligatory clean opening and closing animation, music videos for Snow Flower and Japanese promotions and TV spots, the behind the scenes documentaries give us the most understanding of the series. It is not often when viewers are given an opportunity to see how a show is created from the ground up, and the two selections called Location Hunting and Interview with the Creators of Sugar give us the most insight as to the conception of A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and how they designed such glorious scenery. Although they do not show the whole animation process, they do discuss how the idea was developed and the method by which they researched the imagery for the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Eleven year old Saga and has been living with her grandmother for several years after the passing of her mother, but you would not know it from her optimistic attitude. Ever the person which everyone can count on, she keeps to a rigid schedule, racing from school to her part time job in the local coffee shop. Constantly on the go, she does not have time for nonsense, even going to the lengths of writing down play dates with her best friends. If anything does go wrong, it is only then does her frustration come to bear, but it is soon settled by a calm mind and persistence as to being able to settle the problem. The only time she allows herself to truly relax is by stopping at the local music store to play her mother’s beloved piano, the singular memento left of her loving parent. It is then when playing her favorite piece from her mother’s repertoire does she allow herself to remember a life left behind. But, even when it is over, this happy girl knows that those memories will never leave her.
However, of course nothing this pleasant can last forever, and Saga soon finds out that even in her structured life, there are some unavoidable bumps in the road. One afternoon after leaving the coffee shop, a sudden sun shower causes her to seek shelter under a nearby awning; as she tries to dry herself off and juggle her now messed up agenda, she hears a soft moaning nearby. After a few minutes of trying to locate the sound, Saga notices a small figure huddled upon the top of a barrel. At first she thinks that it is a doll that someone dropped, but once it rolls over and begins shiver from the cold those thoughts are soon dismissed. She tries her best to ignore this little thing, but once a loud grumble of hunger escapes from it, her kind heart cannot do it any longer. Taking a small waffle from her school bag, Saga gingerly waves it above the tiny figure and is startled when it greedily snatches it up and quickly starts to munch the entire thing down within a few seconds. Pleased that she was able to help the minuscule creature, she attempts to leave once the sky clears, but is stopped when the chatter of her new friend stops her in her tracks. This petite individual is now buzzing about her head and won’t leave her alone. This one act of charity has now landed Saga in more trouble than she ever knew, and now apprentice snow fairy Sugar will be messing up more than this organized girl’s schedule, it will change her life, for better or worse.
On the surface, A Little Snow Fairy Sugar may appear to be a charmingly saccharine children’s show, but if you dismiss it as such, the viewer will have missed the true basis of the series: the hidden meaning of kindness, love and friendship. Saga is a girl who lost her mother at a young age, and as such, the warmest memories she has of her concert pianist mother is as her parent is practicing or composing new music. Saga is a budding season fairy who yearns to be as talented as her mother who creates the warmest and fluffiest of snow falls with her magical songs. Both have their lives dedicated to learning music and becoming as good their mother, but at the same time, they also wish to surpass her in the tenderness of their harmonies. This connection between music and a parent is magnificently presented in the opening scene of the first episode, each one’s accompanying melody is played in the background as they pass by in their lives. And yet, even in this briefness of the series, the presence and influence each has on their offspring is pronounced and will serve as a springboard for each child to live up to and hopefully overcome.
However, once the tenderest of Saga’s memories are sullied by a simple accident and the loss of a cherished instrument, the story turns from what was once holding onto precious memories into one of letting them go and allowing them to bloom into warmth and new paths which will carry her into the future. Even when Sugar eventually comes to learn what it means to become a full fledged season fairy and eventually has to leave her human friend behind, neither is burdened by the sadness, but they accept it as a one of the consequences of life. In the beginning both were wrapped up within the warmth of their mother, protecting them from the cruel realities of the world and living up to the challenges of surpassing someone they admire. But, as the tale progressed, they both began to realize that cannot they live in the past, suffocating within memories which hold them back to a life or status which they may never be able to reach. They both must step forward if they which to overcome sadness or surpass something which they think they not be able to overcome. It is this maturation of the characters which makes this story more than a simple children’s series and elevates it into something which the whole family can enjoy, no matter how old they think they are or may believe themselves to be.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Snow Flower music video, Japanese Promotions, Location Hunting, Snow Flower Version 2 music video, Japanese TV Spots, Interview with the Creators, Clean Opening & Closing Animation
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 03, 2016
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player