I approached Earl and Fairy with my expectations firmly in check, looking forward to nothing more than a whimsical but competent series that would remain mildly entertaining at best. While this series is indeed away with the fairies, it still couldn’t meet even my modest expectations; it’s messy in content, immature in tone, and underwhelming in the extreme.
Earl and Fairy’s primary achievement is to bamboozle the audience with as much random Celtic folklore as possible. Some viewers might draw comparisons with Princess Tutu, which borrows from several recognisable fairytales, adds its own original twists in the process, and, most importantly, pulls them together into a focused thematic narrative. No such ingenuity with Earl and Fairy: there’s no recognisable theme, just disconnected legends plucked out of their context and thrown into the plot because they’re convenient. Lydia sees herds of brownies frolicking on every street corner, takes Edgar on a journey to find something called ‘the merrow’, not to mention the banshees, silkies, leprechauns, coblynau, phoukas, and Unseelie Court also name dropped in this tick list of mythology.
Having failed to frame its main theme in any meaningful way, the adventure trudges along with the tiresomeness of a nursery rhyme on repeat, neither going anywhere nor achieving any true climax – just hour after hour of silly expeditions in search of fairies and the occasional battle with nondescript antagonists who get in the way. Since such material can take Earl and Fairy only so far, it tries to bolster the plot using a formulaic love triangle between Lydia, Edgar, and an abrasive kelpie called… Kelpie. Younger fans might enjoy the countless ‘misunderstandings’ and the constant blushing that ensues, but, meaningfully, they only add layers of contrivance to the already flimsy narrative.
At first glance, Earl and Fairy’s fluffy world concept and gentle colour tones look highly appealing, but even an oil painting loses its fascination if you stare at it for long enough. And Earl and Fairy is no oil painting. Within a couple of episodes, the bland backgrounds start to merge into each other and the lack of conceptual detail means one less thing to hold my attention. For example, the fairy world, which should be a hive of sumptuous creativity, just turns out to be a grassy embankment, and, as if to emphasise the series’ characterless nature, everything is washed in bleary soft focus. Then there are the generally awkward movements and flat character designs which wouldn’t look out of place in a thousand other shoujo series. As a whole, Earl and Fairy would stand up well as a series of screenshots, but, as part of a moving narrative, it’s nothing more than functional.
Apart from the up-beat opening theme with its curious use of violins, Earl and Fairy offers a cheap, insipid soundtrack which sounds like something from a 1980s role playing game. Sometimes the music just about complements the mood, but, most of the time, it detracts from it instead.
Lydia, a country bumpkin with a rather unique profession, is certainly likeable on first impression, but is also wholly uninteresting. As her only meaningful contribution is spouting useful tidbits of knowledge when most convenient, her role as fairy doctor remains disappointingly vague. Where her understanding comes from and how it affects her as a person doesn’t seem to be of any interest to the series whatsoever. Moreover, with a passive nature and saccharine personality, she has about as much screen presence as a care bear.
Edgar, on the other hand, has an interesting dark background, but his portrayal as an anguished romantic figure is so repulsively corny that dredging up sympathy for him becomes an ordeal similar to pulling teeth.
In regards to the supporting cast, apart from Edgar’s butler, Raven, who provides many of the ‘action’ scenes, none of them is even worth mentioning.
Earl and Fairy will no doubt amuse young teenagers and hardcore shoujo lovers. With such an aimless plot and a cast of clichés, however, there’s just too much mediocrity packed into these twelve episodes for anyone else to swallow.
Earl and Fairy is an adventure where a doctor and a prince are going on a journey to find an heirloom of fairy origin. But since it is also a shoujo, the doctor is your typical silly girl with a good heart that can see mythological creatures and the prince is your typical mysterious hairless chest bad boy hunk. YEAAAAH here comes the cheese.
Animation is done by Artland, a studio which has produced nothing but mediocrities with the exception being the highly acclaimed Mushishi. Other than that, they never had high budgets and thus this show looks rather run down. Direction is done by a nobody who has produced nothing but passable titles.
So our shoujo heroine TM Lydia is a doctor, something that can fool you to think she cures diseases and treats wounds. That would make her a heck of a dynamic female instead of a clueless dumb broad. But NAAAAH she is actually a FAIRY doctor, akin to a witch doctor or a shaman, able to see and communicate with the unseen world of mythological creatures. And that is all she is doing, so the whole inborn talent she has is just there to flavour the story with sparkles of magic. So instead of having rose petals and stars as nothing more than visual effects in the background, those are literally stuff that happen in real life… but only to her, because she is the only one who can see all that, so everybody else just thinks she is a nutjob. So much for superpowers if you can use them to do jack in your every day life and be sent to an asylum for no real reason.
The problem with her is that she is penniless, since nobody would give a job to a 19th century girl, much less to a girl who claims she can see monsters in an age such things are considered nothing but fairy tales. Here is where the mysterious hunk TM Edgar enters the story and with his royal lineage and hairless chest asks her to help him find a sword to prove he is indeed an earl. Because finding that sword is apparently all it takes to prove to everyone you are who you claim to be; let’s hope some random peasant doesn’t get to it first because he will magically turn to a noble or something.
Each of them has their own mascot pet to boot. Lydia has a talking fluffy cat that acts like a spoiled noble and Edgar has a butler bodyguard who kicks ass and is of course also a hunk. And thus the four of them go on a journey where she constantly is helpless, he is constantly mysterious, and their pets do all the comic relief and action scenes. That pretty much means that the protagonists have less appeal than their lackeys. YAWN!
So here you are waiting to be excited with an adventure full of action and suspense. You get close to nothing because everything remains quite basic and blunt to the most part. The artwork is so weak and the antagonists so dull, you just don’t give a damn even if they accomplish whatever they want. And by the way, they don’t because the story is left incomplete. You also hope for some spicy romance to take place between them but NAAAAH not even that happens as everything remains on first base at best. There are many moments where they could have done much more than just holding hands but she keeps flipping and he just doesn’t try to force himself on her. How nice of him; too bad we don’t get a single interesting scene for the same reason.
And that is pretty much all you get from this anime. Run down visuals, dull music, stereotypical shoujo characters who don’t do anything, piss poor action and adventure and an open ending showing you its middle finger. You might as well not bother watching this unless you so much want to be disappointed or have a heck of a lot free time to waste.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 0/2 (run down)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (Victorian era and fairy tale feeling)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 1/2 (dull)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 0/2 (none)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to bother watching again such a dull and incomplete show)
Memorability 1/4 (nothing much to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 0/2 (sounds dull)
Story 1/3 (generic and heads nowhere)
Characters 0/4 (stereotypes)
I approached Earl and Fairy with the expectation of a fairy tale. I wanted to be swept off my feet by handsome young men, and I was not disappointed. Earl and Fairy didn’t quite live up to its potential, and is certainly not for everyone, but I’m glad I watched it.
Story – 6.5
Meet Edgar, a handsome young earl on a quest for the sword of the merrow (mermaids), which will secure his place as the Blue Knight Earl.
Meet Lydia, a beautiful, naïve fairy doctor from the country side. It’s her job to mediate between fairies and humans. Since she can see and hear fairies when no one else can, most folk consider her to be a bit crazy.
Edgar needs Lydia’s help on this quest, and uses some rather bizarre circumstances to enlist it. I loved Edgar and his equally handsome and fiercely loyal servant, but they weren’t enough to impress me. The short quest for the sword didn’t quite do it either. It all seemed rather cliché and rushed.
Nonetheless, the show hooked me after the fourth episode. Why? The sword arc was over, and the meat of the story began. But I don’t think that was quite it. I believe the simple joy of a fairy tale did the trick.
The rest of the anime brings in more romance and even some humor. Two main conflicts are maintained: Edgar securing his place as Blue Knight Earl, and the relationship between him and Lydia. Because of her past, Lydia struggles to believe that a man would honestly pursue her. Yet she is pursued, by at least one man and a Kelpie (kelpie = mythical being in the same vein as fairies). Isn’t that every girl’s dream?
Accompanying the romance and fairies is a bit of adventure, including interesting fights.
However, no amount of romance or adventure can cover for the fact that the story feels rushed. You can tell that the creators of Earl and Fairy wanted to fit it into a single 12 episode season. As such, the story is not as rich as it could have been. The bit of show after the end credits is not a true preview of the next episode. If you miss that content, you will still know what’s going on, but you will feel there are even more gaps in the story.
So, let’s see…
Fairy tale and satisfying romance… plus!
Cliché and weak first few episodes… minus!
Plot is clear and rather satisfying… plus!
Story is rushed… minus!
More than one main conflict to keep me interested… plus!
The fairy tale romance gives Earl and Fairy a big boost. Unfortunately, for the sake of this review, I still can’t give the story more than a 6.5. That might even be generous.
Animation – 5.5
I love the style of animation in Earl and Fairy. Unfortunately, again, it didn’t live up to its full potential. So here we go…
I immediately noticed the beautiful, painting-like landscape and much of the scenery. This helped set the fairy tale feel.
There were very handsome male leads, but again, they weren’t brought to their full potential. I immediately noticed that all the beautiful and handsome characters had very similar noses. This is a small detail, but very important when you’re trying to draw in the young lady audience members by their hearts.
The animation of almost all the characters (including fairies and the cat, Nico), remind me of what I’d see in a children’s production – pleasant, but not near the quality needed to impress adults. The Undileen Court wolves were particularly underdone. Of course, there are more handsome men than you see in children’s shows.
Movement of characters worked, but it wasn’t great. My dream is to see a show where the movement made by the wind is stimulated by more than a loop of cells. Earl and Fairy did not complete that dream. In the first few episodes, there were multiple scenes with wind, and Lydia’s hair and clothing rippled with movement clearly made by looping a few drawings together.
Earl and Fairy’s animation was beautiful, but not of the quality it could have been. I give it a 5.5.
Sound - 4
Voice acting was good, though the sound of two voices, Nico and a very minor character in the first episode, grated on me.
The music was decent, I suppose, but forgettable when it was used. The opening and ending music wasn’t much. In the fourth episode, Raven (Edgar’s loyal servant) fights one of the mythical wolf creatures… to the light hearted, unimpressive opening theme. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This scene had loads of potential, all ruined by the music. I was tempted to go to the other tabs of my internet browser, like I usually do during opening themes, but I stayed since it was actually a part of the show.
I give sound a 4.
Characters – 5.5
During the first few episodes, a little fairy ran around in my head shouting “Cliché alert! Cliché alert!”
“Yes, yes,” I told the fairy, “But I want to review this anime, so I’m going to watch the whole thing. Besides, it might turn into a fun romance. It has potential, what with the handsome and charming Edgar.”
“Cliché alert!” the fairy repeated, “Edgar’s the case in point. Cliché alert!”
Earl and Fairy did turn into a sweet romance and wonderful fairy tale, but that little fairy was right. We have Lydia, the sweet, naïve, beautiful girl who longs to be accepted even though she talks with fairies. She doesn’t complain, but we know that’s what she wants. Then there’s Edgar, the wonderfully handsome and charming young noble. But he’s not what he seems – he has a dark history, and longs for Lydia’s love. And, of course, we also have Raven. Taken in and accepted by Edgar despite the sprite within him, Raven is dark, handsome, and fiercely loyal to his master.
During the second episode, I wrote, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen it all before.”
And then Lydia and Edgar started making sacrifices for each other – and not the I’m-a-good-person-so-I’d-make-this-sacrifice-for-anyone type of sacrifice, either. It my opinion, this happened too soon, without enough relationship building.
But all was not lost. Edgar and Lydia ended up developing well together. Lydia’s character development worked well, and I sympathized with her fear of loving, fear of insincere love. If the story had not been rushed and were brought to the richness it could have been, I have a feeling romantic character developments would have been even better.
So, the characters were a bit cliché, but not hopeless. I don’t think I can give them more than a 5.5 though. Some people might consider that generous.
Overall - 6
Using my usual averaging methods (where the story is counted twice), Earl and Fairy’s overall score ends up being a 5.6. However, I’m going to cheat at add an extra .4 points for the wonderful fairy tale effect, making it solid 6. Call me a subjective reviewer or whatever you like, but I enjoyed Earl and Fairy too much to give it any less.
Earl and Fairy is a strange being for me, because I really liked it, yet came a bit unstuck during the last four episodes. Oh, it seems fairly linear with the amber, Lydia and Edgar being sent to the fairy realm and the antagonist, Ulysses, making his entrance, but the way it was paced was quite confusing, in my opinion. In fact, this series doesn't really go out with a bang, nor has it ever attempted to.
It trundles along with the same speed as a late Victorian-era automobile, resulting in a safe journey that occasionally has a little surge of power in the engine - its rare good episodes in which Celtic and fairy lore is perfectly explained, and whenever Lydia and Edgar's relationship was actually well-done. For the most part, it was just Edgar being a force of personality, and Lydia biting back but still being soft and mushy on the inside. There were times I thought Lydia would be better off with Cain/Kelpie or Paul, and then I just kept switching until I realised I kind of didn't like either guy and Lydia would really be better off by herself.
I'll also admit that the writing in this show was alright, but whoever decided to make it only 12 episodes long did this series a huge disservice. The anime probably only scratches the surface of a franchise that at current, spans 25 novels, 4 manga volumes, and a Playstation 2 game, and I'm sure there would have been so much more to adapt had the anime staff been given more episodes to work with, which coincidentally, is exactly how I felt after finishing Angel Beats.
I'm quite sure I was giving this series my rapt attention, but I swear nothing ever came of the Scarlet Moon organization, or Paul's reasons for getting close to Lydia, or even more on Lydia's mother and father.
I'd love to know who the Prince is (aside from 'ooh, he's an evil slaver who Edgar is still trying to escape from'), but we're never going to know, it seems. The villainous Ulysses is defeated in episode 12, but like a really bad Hollywood movie you know isn't going to get a sequel (think The Last Airbender by M. Night Shymalan), he utters: 'The prince is coming...' Well, that's jolly good... if there was a sequel, which there isn't. You're going to have to buy the novels and the manga and translate them if you're completely desperate to know what happens next. Have fun mastering a new language! (Or alternatively, you could find a LiveJournal community or some other fansite that hosts the translations, I guess.)
Now, the animation in this series is pretty serviceable. It's nothing spectacular (the opening animation aside), but it's not out to impress. The palette is very pastelly and the character designs are very nicely done, with very expressive eyes and great attention to costume design. I also love the look of the hair in this series, although I have once wondered if Lydia would be an addition to the cast of Shiki - she certainly has the hair for it.
Also, the music in this series is nothing amazing. For the most part, to my ear it sounded like very generic BGM that would be used to score any kind of series set in the Victorian or Georgian era - harpsichords, slow swells of violins, plinky-plonky piano, and dark cello/double bass for the more sombre moments. The opening, 'Feeling' by Acid Flavour is alright, but nothing spectacular. It's a simple rock song with a nasally rock singer struggling to make his voice be heard over the wails of violin and heavy percussion. The ending song by Hikaru Midorikawa, was just as average and immemorable, in my opinion.
Overall, Earl and Fairy is a very good series for those of us interested in girly romances, the Victorian era, mysterious yet gorgeous men, and Celtic and fairy legends. There are plenty of the fae folk featured in this anime, ranging from cú sithe (hounds from the otherworld), goblins, brownies, seelie and unseelie fae,banshee, selkies, merfolk, pixies, and even kelpies, as mentioned previously.
What starts out very interestingly goes very slowly, then has a brief spurt of speed, then crawls to a near-halt and tries to have a satisfactory ending that would have been remedied with a sequel, but ultimately fails at this.
However, I did love its rare moments of romance, I loved how they explained the mythology for both people who know the folklore and those who don't, and the series' art design was gorgeous. I also commend Lydia for being stubborn and actually having a backbone, which is rare to see in shojo anime. Hoorah!
For all these merits, Earl and Fairy could have been so much better, suffering from a clear case of Angel Beats syndrome. If it had been written better, or had more episodes to expand upon (and I do hear the series keeps getting better and better with each novel that's released), it could have been one of my favourites, but unfortunately I'll have to resign it to a middling position on my list of my favourite shojo. Thus, 5.5/10 is the best score I can give.
Hopefully some other studio will pick up where Artland left off, but since it aired in autumn 2008, my hopes aren't too high.
I'd have to say that while I enjoyed the anime I did find myself wishing for greater character development and a second season for some resolution. I couldn't help feeling that despite the backstory we received for (I can't remember their names, which I suppose tells you something) the main characters I still had trouble really identifying with the female lead. Part of this is I found myself wanting to know more about Raven and Kelpie (can you tell I have a type?) and I really wanted more depth for what's-her-name.
A distince lack of growth and arch on her part made her the weak link for me. She never goes anywhere because they started her off as a MarySue there only to make the action of the men possible. For me she could have been dropped entirely and a young man used instead, but I digress.
The plot overall was made clear from the beginning - to take control of a title and two estates (one on Earth and one in the Faery lands) a young man needed a sword from the merrow. Okay. Unfortunately this is resolved before the season is half over and we are then left with what felt like an apology for failure to recognize the full potential of the McGuffin. It felt like lazy writing, as though the author wanted to get to the romance and recreate a lighter version of Emma rather than work with the structure they had created. Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance - heck, I write them! But when I'm promised adventure through the land of the fey in search of a sword and mermaids, I want that to be the focus of the show!
That said, I still enjoyed the show. The artwork was beautifully rendered and gorgeous in motion. The characters were well suited to their appearance (though I did wish Raven had been taller) and never left me feeling they were too generic. The music was acceptable and the voice acting commendable. My one issue was the sheer amount of "kawaii" fairies and pixies thrown in for a laugh. The only one I did like was the little lost borwnie, but more because that created a moment for (Ah!) Edward and Lydia. I've seen the show in its entirety and read the manga. While I found no glaring omissions or additions (okay, there were a couple but I won't get into them here) my problem remains the romance between Edward and Lydia. It feels unneccesary and implausible given her complete lack of depth.