~Mr. Panda's VCR of Doom: #6~
English-speaking members of MAL might recall this feature movie as "Journey Through Fairyland." The movie feature by Sanrio (the makers of Unico and Ringing Bell) was their last animated movie until just a few years ago. It tells the story of a faltering music student (Michael) who spends more time with the flowers in the greenhouse than with the orchestra. After being kicked-out, a fairy named Florence comes out of one of the flowers and takes him to visit fairyland. There he finds both love and his muse.
The story is a bit simplistic, and is utterly predictable to anyone that has seen Fern Gully (and upon critical examination, I now realize where they got their inspiration. bonus points for inspiring an American movie). Being a children's movie--if a bit sophisticated for the very young--this is not very surprising. I would actually have scored the movie higher in this regard if it wasn't painfully anti-climactic. Apparently children weren't meant to notice this needless drawing-out of the film; and in retrospect I in fact did not notice as a child.
The way I see it, the art in most portions of the movie is excellent. Obviously they ripped several pages right out of Disney's Fantasia, but there are enough added visuals of their own to overcome the similarities. For once I have to actually bemoan the fact that the VHS version is the only version around for America--thus much of the visuals are muted by the degraded quality of the tape over time. The art is amazingly trippy by the time they get to Fairyland, and we are even greeted by an all-too-familiar face as a cameo (which I will save as a bonus for those of you that watch it). The viewer is bombarded with music-related visuals and swarsm of fairies--to say nothing of the gigantic monster near the end.
Yet again we must come to grips with the Fantasia playbook. With one exception; the movie soundtrack consists of classical music. This is quite likely by design, as the feel of the movie is that of getting kids to like the genre. The songs are well-chosen, at least. They settle quite nicely with the animation and even the corny introduction song (the only piece of discernibly original music in the movie) is not too difficult to sit through.
The English dub is the only viable copy around, so there's not much I can compare it to. The script isn't very elaborate, and the voice actors perform their lines on about par with other VHS-release animated movies of the time.
There are a grand total of five characters with lines/purpose of any note. All of them seem to be standard stock characters, from the tragic heroine Florence to the troublemaker Treble. Shallow characters are a notorious occurrence in children's movies, and this one is no exception. The movie was not designed with character development in mind, and there's really no other way to put it.
My recent rewatching of Florence reminded me that (quite often) childhood movies are better in our memory than in actuality. Florence is actually a rather charming piece, and despite its flaws I enjoyed the viewing. It really is a kid's movie though, and thus I cannot easily recommend it to the average MAL user unless you are a connoisseur, looking for a classical music anime, or have a younger (12 or under) associate to watch with you.
On the bright side, I would consider Flroence to be a very nice alternative to Disney's Fantasia. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie. However, Florence provides both a single plot and a continual stream of actual animation. Really, happen to know from experience that the introductions by Deems Taylor were not enthrawling for younger audiences. To put it another way, Florence is the very young's Fantasia.
I don't expect anyone to seek this movie out; espeacily given that the VHS-only release continues to see price-gouging on ebay. However, if you do happen to get the oppertunity to view or own Yousei Florence, I encourage you to keep it as an animated treasure. At the very least, you can pass it off on your kids who will, I think, enjoy it more than we adult otaku ever could.
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