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  Magical Fairy Persia From jungle to J-pop
Year: 1984
Director: Takashi Anno
Stars: Miina Tominaga, Yu Mizushima, Keiichi Nanba, Daisuke Gori, Yuko Mita, Sukekiyo Kameyama, Shigeru Chiba, Saeko Shimazu, Yuzuru Fujimoto Akio Nojima, Gara Takashima, Hideyuki Tanaka, Masako Sugaya, Yoko Asagami, Maiko Okamoto, Yuriko Yamamoto
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Fantasy, TV Series, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Persia (voiced by Miina Tominaga) is a lively, leopardskin-clad little girl living happily with her animal friends on the Serengeti plains in Africa when handsome twins Riki (Yu Mizushima) and Gaku Moroi (Keiichi Nanba) and their explorer grandfather (Yuzuru Fujimoto) decide to bring her back to civilisation. This involves a sexy pastel makeover and a short skirt that even impresses Persia's pet lion Simba (Daisuke Gori). En route to Japan, their flight is caught in a weird transdimensional warp (like you do). Persia awakens to find herself in "Lovely Dream", the magical realm where dreams are born and grow. The Fairy Queen (Yoko Asagami) informs Persia that "Lovely Dream" is in terrible danger. Unless Persia can gather the requisite "love energy" back on planet Earth, the realm will remain forever frozen. To that end the Fairy Queen entrusts Persia with a magical baton that allows her to transform into a gorgeous grownup super-heroine with all kinds of amazing powers. Accompanied by three cute little kappas ("turtle sprites") named Puri Puri (Yuko Mita), Meso Meso (Sukekiyo Kameyama) and Gera Gera (Shigeru Chiba), Persia goes to live with her eager foster parents, Kumi (Gara Takashima) and Hideki Hayami (Akio Nojima), who run a grocery store in the little town of Minato-machi. Her world-saving mission results in a series of mischief-making misadventures plus a chance for romance.

There remains some debate as to whether our magical heroine is actually "Pelsha" (as the other characters call her), "Perusha" (the onscreen Japanese title), or "Persia", which is the most widely used English translation these days. Regardless, Magical Fairy Persia is a much beloved classic from the golden age of anime, tapping the same wish-fulfilment, "lets play grownup" fantasies as its sister shows: Magical Princess Minky Momo (1982) and Creamy Mami (1983), whose own magic incantation ("Pamporu, pimporu, pimpoppun!") gets an in-joke reference here. For the record, Fairy Persia's magic word is: "pappuriko!" Maho shoujo or "magical girl" anime were Japan's bubble economy equivalent of those Disney fantasies from yesteryear. They charmed a generation of little girls with sunny, candy-coloured daydreams set to a bouncy J-pop soundtrack.

Just as the plethora of giant robot anime play to the power fantasies of little boys, magical girl anime do much the same, only their power is inextricably linked with sexuality. It is fluffy, chaste, pre-adolescent view of sex appeal as something that enables Pelsha to influence the wider world and also, flirt with handsome boys like Riki and Gaku. How she chooses to use this newfound sensuality becomes the ongoing subtext of the show, which serves as an extended metaphor for adolescence, albeit not quite as adroitly as the groundbreaking Marvellous Melmo (1971). Unlike other magical heroines, Persia has a uniquely hyper-manic, almost goofy personality. She is a naive country bumpkin, constantly mispronouncing Japanese words or doing something clumsy, a facet that likely endeared her to similarly awkward-feeling young girls and protective big brothers, although like her predecessors she inspired her fair share of unsavoury, Lolita obsessed admirers too.

Character designer Akemi Takeda was a dab hand at crafting these kind of fantasies. Her pastel-shaded production design is consistently eye-catching and inventive while the stories are laden with neat pop culture in-jokes. Note the parody of Michael Jackson's Thriller video in episode two. While less cosmically ambitious than Mami or Minky Momo, the comical storylines are genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny: e.g. proud lion Simba, whom Persia magically transforms into a cuddly little cat, is humiliated as his roars are ignored and his spring attacks casually swatted aside, or when Riki's hot girlfriend Sayo (Saeko Shimazu) throws a left hook when she mistakes Persia for his lover, although she eventually becomes a big sister figure. There is an endearing Tex Avery-like lunacy to episodes like the one where Persia unknowingly harbours an escaped convict, because her grasp of Japanese is so poor she thinks his name is "Escaped Convict", until her zany antics drive the burly murderer insane. He ends up sobbing in the police chief's arms ("You're nice. I want to be with you"). Persia was among four magical heroines teamed together in the crossover movie, Magical Girls Club Foursome: Alien X from Space A (1987).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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