Schoolgirl Yumi Hanazono (voiced by Mariko Shiga) is an aspiring manga artist who loves to draw and loves all living things, especially flowers. Which is fortuitous given her parents run a flower shop in the so-called Town of Flowers which holds a flower festival each year. That is a whole lot of flowers. On the day of the festival Yumi saves a little dandelion from being squashed and is visited by Kakimaru (Miina Tominaga) and Keshimaru (Shigeru Chiba), a couple of talking, flying kitty cats that are actually magical elves from - where else? - Flower Land. These two give Yumi a magic wand and locket made from flower blossoms. When Yumi draws something in mid-air while reciting the magic words: “Pastel Popporu Poppin-pa!” - her drawings come to life!
Back in the boom-time Eighties, Studio Pierrot spun a seemingly endless line of candy-coloured fantasies catering to the dreams of starry-eyed little girls across Japan. Starting with the iconic Creamy Mami (1983), the likes of Magical Fairy Persia (1984) and Magical Star Emi (1985) found fans across other Asian countries and in Europe too, specifically Italy where they sparked a love of anime that endures to this day. As the fourth magical girl anime from the famed studio, Magical Idol Pastel Yumi boasts a premise so sugary it could send most grownup viewers into a diabetic coma, but appearances can be deceptive.
Whilst the anime shares the same basic premise as its sister shows, along with a familiar pastel shaded production design, sugary sentiment and bubblegum pop soundtrack, it actually marks a mature step away from carefree fantasy towards the emotional complexities later embraced fully by more subversive “maho shojo” serials such as the recent Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011). For one thing, the storylines are more earthbound, even prosaic as Yumi uses her fabulous powers to solve domestic dilemmas and the problems of everyday folk around town. Like Harry Potter, away from magic, Yumi has an unhappy home life. Though not quite as miserable as life with the Dursleys, she has a belligerent bully in Fukurukoji - the wealthy, fat lady in the mansion next door who lords it over everyone in town. Yumi’s parents are always fighting. At one point they separate. Her mother is an alcoholic.
Unlike other magical girls, Yumi does not transform into a sexy grownup alter-ego. Nor does she pursue pop stardom. Instead, Yumi dreams of becoming a manga artist. In Japan some manga artists like Ryoko Ikeda, creator of The Rose of Versailles (1972), or Naoko Takeuchi, creator of Sailor Moon (1992), lead lives as glamorous as any pop princess but in this instance, young Yumi’s aspirations move beyond the shallow pursuit of fame and prove more altruistic. She uses her magical drawings to interact with people and help them overcome daily obstacles, which adds an engaging subtextual layer about art helping to tackle social ills. However, while solving these problems, Yumi must work within a specific time limit. Her magic only lasts a little while, meaning a permanent solution can only come from quick thinking and creative reasoning, which makes her a worthy role model for young children. The stories are bright and appealing, if admittedly not for those who can’t stomach a big dose of flower power. Charming chara designs by Yumiko Hirosawa. Pastel Yumi returned to the big screen co-starring opposite her fellow Studio Pierrot magical girls in the crossover sci-fi romp, Magical Girls Club Foursome: Alien X from Space A (1987).