A Cinderella story of sorts, Fashion Lala stars a little girl named Miho who doesn't get along with her family. Miho loves to design clothing, but her aunt and three cousins don't believe that such a young girl is capable and mock her designs. Meanwhile, a contest for the new "Disco Queen" is coming up, and Miho wants nothing more than to be able to design a dress for someone to wear to the competition, since she's too young to enter herself. With determination and a little bit of magic, Miho's dreams just might come true!
I would like to write to you about how Harbor Light is a touching Cinderella-like story where a young girls dreams come true due to her determination and hard work. I would like to say that Harbor Light is a nostalgic piece that will remind you of the glorious decade of the 80s, where leotards, legwarmers, disco, and the moonwalk reigned supreme. I can’t say any of those things because this anime sucks.
Whatever you read on MAL regarding this anime plot summery is not accurate. Yes it’s about a young girl named Miho, you won’t ever forget her name because it’s written
on her shirt. Miho dreams of being a fashion designer but doesn’t get along with her designer Aunt or cousins, well because they are bitches. Apparently they are resentful because her father left her in their care while he was deployed in the Navy. I thought it was a great reason too. The big event in town is a disco dance in which all the lovely ladies will dance the night away in fabulous dresses. Miho has one cousin who isn’t a complete scumbag and wants her to design a dress for her. Sounds like a mildly interesting starting point for a story right? Nope because this is where the story takes a turn for the nonsensical. The town mayor’s son has returned to town.. from prison I suppose we are lead to believe. Apparently everything his father does pisses him off but not more than the Disco Queen competition. He gathers his gang and proceeds to terrorize the town. Never are we ever given any real explanation for his actions or any resolution to that part of the storyline.
To say that Harbor Lights characters are dull and lethargic would be an understatement. Miho is boring and uninteresting as a character. In a lot of ways the way she lives and is treated reminded me of the movie "The Little Princess". She lives in a drab room and his constantly talked down to by her aunt and cousins and forced to do menial tasks and chores. Her family does some very cruel things to her that seemingly is completely forgotten by the time the anime ends. She even finds herself treated nicely and living in a beautiful room just in time for her father to return. It just made me disgusted but seems to be a theme in some anime from this era. A character will be treated horribly but another and end up being friends with them. Now while this isn’t a terrible thing, often the things done to them were so horrible that no one with any self respect or esteem would forgive it. The rest of the cast is what truly earns this show the pathetic rating I gave it. They are all so unlikeable and dull as a group. None of them stand out at all besides the fact that I hated them.
About the only thing you can say remotely positive (I guess) is if you really want to feel some old nostalgia from the 80s. I cringed when I looked at the fashions and heard the music. It brought back memories and stirred old feelings, mostly.. what the hell were we thinking? If you’re a child of the 80s too and remember any of it then you will probably get some laughs out of it as well. The art style is as one would expect from this era. I don’t care for it but this is how anime was drawn so I can’t say it’s really bad.
If you’re thinking about seeing this... don’t. There is nothing to recommend at all. I warned you.
Harbor Light Monogatari - Fashion Lala Yori is a slap in the face to pretty much all common sense in story telling. From the opening you can tell this anime is having a serious identity crises. The opening consists of assorted jumble of scenes from 1980’s jazzercise to some really fairly odd science fiction space shots. This mishmash pretty much sums up a lot of this anime as it tries to mesh together a whole lot of things that just don’t work. It also features more conflicting moods then a temperamental two year old.
On one hand you have a pseudo Cinderella
story about the main character Miho who is living with her ill-tempered Aunt and her three snide cousins while her father is away. This part of the story seems the most fairly tale like, and with Miho wondering around a seaside town with her dog delivering packages for her Aunt’s business and hoping to make a dress for her one cousin to wear in the upcoming Disco Queen contest. This part of the anime has an almost dreamy like quality to it and has the most potential to be something cute to bad it's all lost in a giant flushing toilet of bewilderment.
Then there is other plot of the town Mayor’s son coming back into town. At first he seems the typical bad boy who is just a little rough around the edges and with a soft spot in his heart but then he transforms in to heartless terrorist. Seriously, I am not kidding! They bring him in to a place in the story where you think it a might creepy but not insanely out of place (for an anime) love interest for our little Miho, but it just turns out he is a cold hearted bastard and gang leader. Who was so scared by his father and sister, he now must blow up the town’s Disco Queen Contest. Really, still not kidding! His character is never really fleshed out more then that, and what starts out fitting in the dream like quality of the anime ends up being so over the top and out of place it’s just amusing.
There are several other mash ups fitted into this short OVA that never seem to get there fill of screen time. Several places early on in the story seem like it’s going to take it some where else then it ends up going to, they would have been far nicer places really. It almost seems like the creators wanted to do a longer story but got stuck with forty-five minutes and decided to fit all the bits and pieces they liked best into it.
The art used in this story is also a jumble of 1980's anime style. Most of the characters are pretty normal looking with natural hair colors except for Miho's which is purple, uh ok, sure she has the rare purple hair gene. Style wise though up to a point everyone looks like a normal person from a small town, from the 80's, but still they still conform. It isn't until the mayor's son picks up his fellow town misfits/terrorists who look like bad rejects from a discarded Streets of Rage game. Sure they still look 80's but they look more like Fist of the North Star or Mad Max then fitting in a cute story about a young girl who wants to do fashion. I also have to mention something I really did like was the background art, it was very charming and pleasant feel to it, with lots of nice detail showing the town off. Sadly it wasn't used in a better anime.
All that being said, I still really enjoyed this anime. Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrible, it really is, but I couldn’t look away and while I was watching it. It starts out with a kind of cute 1980’s charm but then turns into a insane schizophrenic mess at the end it’s hard to look away. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but for anyone who likes something that is so bad it’s good, I think they will get great enjoyment out of this.
I recently heard a friend describe this anime as conflicting with it’s internal parts, but I disagreed. I felt everything worked together well to produce a single narrative. The point of the OVA is all in the end, which I still find playing in my mind from time to time. When the magic happens, it gives a huge payoff for everyone involved, and it does so without words, which I thought was magnificent.
The entire town was consumed by the father’s greed, which caused backlash. Meanwhile, a cute loli being abused can still have beautiful thoughts, and saves everyone by becoming a magical idol. It’s as
if the inner decay of the community all fell on top of her, and yet she still could dream. When everything she worked for fell apart at the end, she still wanted her dream to come true, and it did come true. She didn’t even want to go there to dance and show off. She accepted that she was too young. She just wanted to show off the dresses she made that no one in the world believed in but her one sister. However, when the world conspired against this simple dream, and no one else was left to fulfill it, she was forced to become that goddess of dreams and fulfilled it herself.
And it doesn’t even hand hold you to show you this. This is the best thing about the OVA, that everything is subtle and you have to pay attention to see what’s happening. After all, it’s mostly in the perspective of a little girl who doesn’t understand much of her community’s decay or anything.
When everything fell apart, Miho went back into her room and worked on the one thing that gave her solace in her life, her drawings of the dresses she wanted to see dance. The fairies felt so strongly for this cute, innocent little girl who only wanted to dream and let the world see the innocence of everything she wished for. Miho’s dream came true when she became Lala and wore the outfits she made on stage – all of them.
This final sequence is breathtaking. No one expected an actual goddess of disco to appear. The father took advantage of the women, and the women became vain and harsh for it. Everyone is too self-important to believe in childlike dreams anymore. However, Miho’s dream was so pure that it shattered the father’s intentions, melted the terrorists’ doubt, and purified the hearts of everyone watching. I was just as awestruck as everyone else. The point of the OVA is that everyone was selfish, doing what they felt was right and it caused problems. What everyone actually needed to see, was the beauty and innocence of a child’s dream. She was the only one who could dream pure enough to save her community, even if she didn’t know it was in peril. It’s reminiscent of the Zentradi being saved by Minmay in Macross.
It’s so much I love in animu all together, well compiled and well executed. I watched the OVA twice over when I first found it, and I find myself rewatching the ending from time to time.
The animation isn’t that great, but the direction makes up for it. I recommend this for those who feel the passion in the creator’s efforts, likes subtle themes over production value, and enjoys the atmosphere and character of a beautiful city, which, while it may be morally decaying on the inside, it’s in the perspective of a child who’s too innocent to see it.
Except, well, no, not really. Knowing very little about this OVA from 1988, I suppose it was to kick-start a new 'magical girl' franchise. But if that was the case, it really didn't take off -- at least not for a FULL decade later, when a short-lived not-really-the-same anime series and manga series came and went without much of a splash in 1998.
Maybe it was because this OVA was pretty bad. A mayor and his rebellious son clash over a fashion show. Young little Cinderella...er,
I mean Miho...gets caught up in the middle. Scorned by her older sisters and dreaming of being a fashion designer and model, can this clumsy but strong-headed nine year old suddenly transform into a magical girl, win over the town and save the fashion idol contest? I think we all know the answer.
Formulaic plot, but the actual story that fills out that plot is nothing to write home about. The artwork is kinda meh, the dancing scenes are laughably poorly done, the music I don't even remember. This is a totally forgettable, throwaway OVA. I mean, if you want magical girls, there's plenty of other better shows to choose from.