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Even these tapes cost something

  Flower Angel / Angel Cloud
 
1985 | Harmony Gold USA Inc. / 1980 Ziv International Inc.
Flower Angel Kids Cartoon Collection

A long overdue dedication to Craig Firsten, Kimberly Leibz, Chad Tyler, Jan Levy, Nathan Dow, Jani Robles and everyone else who has kindly donated.

Sorry it's such a wimpy one...

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Spurred on by the unexpected popularity of the American sitcom Bewitched, Tetsujin 28 creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama conceived the manga Mahotsukai Sally (Sally the Witch) which would develop into the template for a multitude of shows from then on, including Minky Momo, Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailormoon. This new and popular niche became known as the Magical Girl phenomenon or Majokko.

Hana no ko Lun Lun (Lunlun the Flower Child) was adapted from a Manga by Shiro Jinbo and numbers amongst the earliest of the Magical Girl genre and the eighth such show created by Toei.

Set in the alluring and quaint countryside of Europe, Lunlun is a carefree young girl and unsuspecting Flower Fairy descendant who is one day given the quest to find the Seven Coloured Flower and return it to the King of a distant planet. Of course, she has rivals in this search - the jealous Togenishia who wants to recover the legendary flower herself to become the planet's Princess, and her faithful, devious Tanuki servant Yaboki. On her adventures through the picturesque Alpine scenery Lunlun is aided by talking animal chums Kyato, the cat, and Nouveau, the dog, while the mysterious and handsome Serge Flora often appears to lend a hand just when it's needed.

Hana no ko Lunlun was broadcast at 7pm on TV Asahi from 9th February 1979 to 8th February 1980 lasting 50 episodes, each one themed after a different flower. The series proved so popular with young girls that a brief 15 minute movie followed the month after the last episode aired. This theatrical short, released under the banner of Toei Animation Majokko Series, was a sequel to the series detailing the quest handed to Lunlun in the closing moments of episode 50.

As usual the show was accompanied by a mountain of merchandise including the obligatory theme song single and soundtrack LP, fashion dolls, storybooks and stationary.

The Flower child's adventures have since become another in Toei's long history of well loved animated TV shows of the era and was released on DVD in 2005.

Lunlun's first English adaptation was broadcast on HBO in 1980, a straight re-dub of the Japanese original by Mark Mercury's Ziv International titled simply Angel. Is this language Lunlun is now Angel assisted by pet pals Cathy and Wendal and doggedly pursued by Melicia and Ivan. The opening animation remained the same but featured a new theme song although the rest of the soundtrack is unaltered.

The first two episodes of Ziv's series were released on VHS and Betamax a year later by Family Home Entertainment in America under the new title The Flower Angel. No further volumes were released. The same video reached UK shores, where the TV series had never aired, in 1982 from Home Video Productions in identical packaging although it is unclear as to whether this was a licensed release or not.

Lunlun's adventures were broadcast Europe-wide 1981 in numerous localised dubs, where it proved to be immensely popular, nearly rivaling its popularity in Japan. A lot of original merchandise was rebranded for foreign release as well as all new products hitting stores. Of these localisation the Italian Lulu l Angelo de Fiori proved the most successful.

In 1985 a compressed movie version titled Flower Angel was produced by Harmony Gold for TV and video distribution. Licensed from Ziv the 95 minute feature received a completely new dub and soundtrack, condensing the storylines from more than 7 episodes into one arc.

A raft of new character names was required including Wisteria and Ragweed for the bad guys, Serge becomes Stefan and the animal assistants are now Periwinkle and Lily. A new, partially edited opening sequence is added.

Harmony Gold's Flower Angel was released on VHS in the UK 1987 a few months ahead of the oddly named Angel Cloud, a re-release of FHE's two episode anthology. Both videos came from the same distributor under a range of sub labels and sleeve designs including Master vision and Kids Cartoon Collection.

 
Flower Angel Doll Hashire Melos! Single
Lun Lun the doll
 
A vinyl single of the theme song
 
The soundtrack LP
 
 

Hey, what's that in the background? Why, it's background music from Robotech! It possibly also played the role of backing track for one of Minmei's fantastic pop hits. This lazily recycled Harmony Gold classic adds to the rushed appearance of the opening. Without Lynn Minmei's unique singing talents this muzak almost sounds cheap and corny.

And why do you need an image obscuringly huge blue box when your title is that small?

Flower Angel

In a small Swiss town a talking cat is inadvertently scaring the locals. Nearby, a girl and several animated extras, are hill sledging, moving at such speed that tires screech as they pull away, despite being on grass. And not having wheels. The engine sounds are hard to explain too. In fact the gang at Harmony Gold have gone Foley-Crazy with all manner of wacky cartoon clangers filling out the sequence like some Tex Avery cast off.

Young Angel nearly collides with a lazy dog who scares off the extras by talking. For reasons far too mundane to be worth transcribing Angel invites the dog to dinner at her house. The talking cat, Lily, also arrives at the home of Angel, searching for a Flower Spirit.

No surprises, Angel is the one they are looking for. Coincidentally, today is her birthday and she has changed into a the new pink dress her Grandparents picked out for her. She looks so hot that Periwinkle the dog suffers and immediate case of 'heart eyes'. Damn, that dress gives her cross-species appeal!

The intelligent animals explain the background to their quest but, unfortunately the sound mixing is so poor most of it is obscured by elevator music. It has something to do with the planet having been populated by Flower Fairies before the arrival of man and, when humans did show up, they all fluttered off to a distant planet - for some reason. Some fairies stayed behind and married humans. Yeah, I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

As a descendent of the 'Flower People' Angel must find a special, rare flower, growing somewhere on Earth, so that the King of the Flower Fairy Aliens can pass his throne on to his son. Why? Who cares? Let's go Euro-trekking!

The adventure begins the next morning at the train station. The Rainbow Flower Search Team board the train but their journey is delayed by a Sweet hearted young dreamboat/Flower Obsessed Mental Patient who is on the track, relocating a wild shrub. After the initial delay things are made worse when Angel pulls the emergency break after spotting a burning house out the window. The commuters aboard this train really aren't in for a pleasant journey today.

The passengers, including Koji Kabuto's grandfather Juzo, are understandably pissed and refuse to help out, so Angel heads off with only the animals and the flower fancying nut for assistance. Angel uses her special magical Flower Pin to create a fire retardant, Gatchaman-inspired suit and heads into the blaze. Before you can say "Backdraft" the inhabitants are saved and guilty passengers return to lend a hand dousing the flames.

Once the excitement is over and the travelers are back on their way. The unhinged-gardener hands the lucky family a packet of seeds so they can plant a flower garden to help them remember Angel and her kindness. Surprisingly the gift is readily accepted.

With episode 1 finished the two tapes now diverge

Flower Angel continues it's feature length mashup with the excitement of episode seven.

Angel and the gang have a run in with their rivals Princess Wisteria and Ragweed and are forced far off course by a windy assault which also robs the young heroine of her magic pin. The merry band upset a grouchy hermit shepherd who, it is revealed, they will then need to befriend and enlist in their search. They sit outside his shack until the sight of them in the torrential rain and cold night air causes the lone stranger to relent. Battling the driving winds and freezing conditions, with the aid of grumpy old Mr Gerard the team conquer a mountain to continue their journey. Gerard is compensated with a pack of seeds by their horticulturist stalker.

Some unwelcoming villagers are next on Angel's path to victory. Having scuffed her knee falling down a hillside, their mystery pursuer is forced to come out into the open. Treating Angel's wound with a green herb (it was not bad enough to need combining with a red herb) he introduces himself as Stefen and offers to help her find the Rainbow Flower which he believes is growing on the side of a nearby mountain.

The good guys ascend nearly to the summit but find their path once more blocked by Wisteria who, once more, unleashes an act of gusty aggression sending Angel, Stefen and co, once more, way off track. In fact they land in a weak branch growing from a cliff face, dangerously high above a shallow stream.

 
Angel Cloud Master Vision

Ziv's edition opens with the full Japanese credit sequence (text free of course) plus a funky 70's disco theme tune courtesy of an uncredited Bullets. It's fair to say Angel Cloud is already in an unassailable lead.

"There was once a young girl named Angel..."

Go on.

"... who was chosen by the king of a far off planet to search for a magical flower."

Oh.

The narrator continues; "It would restore love and kindness to our world. Let's watch as some very special animals help her on her mission". Yes, let's.

To be honest, we the exception of new voices and less wacky sound effects this first episode plays out exactly as Harmony Gold showed it. The only edit was to a brief segment towards the end where Ragweed (now Ivan) is so frustrated he bites a chunk out of his own tail.

The different cast are ok, they sound far more mellow than the recycled Robotech actors (it was the 70's after all), but Angel's voice is quite screechy and Stefen is so laid back he has the unsettled appearance of a cultist handing out pamphlets when he approaches strangers with: "I have these seeds for you".

So, onward to episode 2.

Angel, Cathy and Wendal disembark at the next stop wondering if the flower will be in this town. They really should have come up with some kind of a plan before rushing off on this adventure. They don't even have so much as a 7 colour flower detecting radar or even a map.

Only a few minutes out of the station and the hapless tourists fall into a trap; a team of muggers snatch the girl's suitcase and run away with it. With all her money stolen and two talking animals to support Angel is forced to make a desperate choice. She uses the Flower Pin to transform herself into... a gypsy girl. Surely you can achieve that look without the need for magic or even money. Especially, not even money.

She puts on an animal acrobatics display in the town square where a young man takes interest in the spectacle and begins to make a sketch of it in his sketchbook. Things are going well for their circus act, people crowd around and applaud, until a brutish man barges through and attempts to assault the young girl for stealing his spot. Cathy scratches the thug's face up good and they make a run for it. The trio are chased all around the market until the artist aids in their escape; giving them a lift in his pickup.

Angel and the others end up in the middle of an aggressive argument in a broken home. The young artist's father has forbidden him from drawing and wants nothing to do with helping his new friends. An awkward and uncomfortable situation to be sitting in, that's for sure.

That night, in his secret attic studio, Joseph tells Angel of his secret dream to study art in Paris but this is something his father would never allow. Our heroine offers to do whatever she can to help him.

The next day she helps out on the farm, accidentally causing destruction when a bull chases her around (the scale goes a little crazy - an ordinary wooden fence appears taller than a human but smaller than the seemingly colossal bull). Melicia is angered by this hold up in the search so she orders Ivan to get back Angel's stolen suitcase to get this thing rolling again. Fortunately the pair of muggers haven't fenced it or its contents yet and the recovery is simple, the thieving duo pass out when they spot the Tanuki's tail.

The suitcase is returned to its owner during a violent argument with Joseph's dad over the issue of his son's love for art. Cathy sees their way out of this future double-murder suicide and convinces Angel to resume her mission right away despite it being night and the middle of a raging storm. Still, what's worse? Being soaked through by freezing rain or suffering a fatal shotgun blast to the chest?

The whole family wanders out into the heavy rain in their pajamas, afraid of what will happen when Angel is no longer around to keep the simmering hatred from boiling over completely. The girl's single mindedness inspires Joseph to quit the family farm and leave for Paris immediately. This is the final straw for his father who poises himself to repeatedly punch his son's face into a gory collage of features and teeth but composes himself enough to whale on the barn door instead.

The next day it seems like Cathy and co's cowardly abandonment of a volatile situation actually helped smooth things out for the family. Dad has calmed down and decides to let Joseph follow his dream. Mother no longer bleeds from the ears from the constant worrying. Everybody's happy. Sinister Stefen appears from nowhere to calmly hand the previously troubled family an unmarked baggy of "flower seeds" before once more disappearing.

Don't worry, the seeds were totally legit and grew into Thistle Flowers. Ugly as hell, spiteful, but not illegal. Thanks, creepy stranger.

 

Finding themselves in a terrible situation, Angel crawls to the end of the bow hoping to signal to the villagers far below however the wobbly offshoot is too weak to support her and snaps sending her plummeting headlong to the water beneath... to her death! That's right, a teenage girl fell to her death. But she's not dead long - resurrected from her watery grave by a brand new, improved, Flower Pin, a voice warns the sinking corpse not to brake this one or she will die too. And it'll be permanent this time, no continues.

Angel's death dive wasn't a complete loss as it did catch the nearby villagers attention and her companions are saved. Reunited with her friends and with a newly replenished life bar Angel resumes the mountain hike for the Rainbow Flower. Reaching the it becomes a race, Ragweed and Wisteria, having not been hampered by a time wasting death and resurrection, have nearly reach its elevated position. It's a scuttle against time between our heroine and the bad girl's henchman. Upon finally reaching their goal the competing pair find their efforts have been in vain - the flower is nothing more that an ordinary plant surrounded by light reflecting crystals. Oh well, no big deal. Nobody died. Permanently.

Now the story takes a slight Grand Theft Auto turn. The Heroic Flower Team arrive at an airfield where they find a blimp sat waiting on the runway. If they had their own airship they could search hundreds of miles everyday, reasons Lily. I don't see how they could spot a single flower on the ground from way up in the sky but I'm not going to argue with a talking cat. Angel decides to sneak past the sleeping boy-guard and steal the airship and neither of her furry companions remind her of the morale issues surrounding blimp-theft. The young girl slips easily aboard only to find Ragweed waiting for her. Their arguing wakes the guard, a tubby boy with the extremely insensitive nickname 'Tubby'. Tubby demands that the trespassers both leave immediately but is himself kicked out by Wisteria's henchman.

The son of the Blimp's owner, a preppy little legacy boy, shows up with his chums and is not happy to find trespassers in Daddy's blimp. Faced with a bunch of mouthy minors Ragweed gets violent and through a series of unsuccessfully thrown punches and a lot of contrivance the airship takes flight with an incapable crew aboard.

Things get predictably worse, storms, collisions, mountain peak near misses. Daddy scrambles a helicopter to rescue his son... and no one else! The joke's on him though - Ragweed stows away leaving Preppy to face the same fiery death his dad was happy to leave the other kids to face. As always, Stefen is not far away, taking candid shots of a saucy bloom when the airship raises up in front of him. Seeing Angel in peril he gets some assistance from an old Army Buddy (I presume) and they chase after the runaway zeplin in an old jeep.

Something drastic must be done. Angel pulls a knife on the crowd, Tubby remarks "I maybe fat but I'm quick on my feet". Of course she isn't going stab crazy on all their asses, her plan is to climb around the outside of the balloon and puncture it with the blade and Tubby is simply offering his assistance. The kids, with the exception of mean old Preppy, all work together and soon the balloon is hemorrhaging helium (or whatever it is these things float on - you look it up), the Airship begins to gently plummet to the hard ground below.

Rescuing her crazy plan and themselves from certain death, Angel uses her new Super Flower Pin on a passing, flower, carried in the beak of a bird, and is transformed into an airship pilot complete with full training. Angel safely lands the blimp in a park inside town. Onlookers stare in surprise at the passing airship, including a guy in a Superman shirt. Now safely on the ground the Flower Angel and her animal chums hurriedly wave good bye to the traumatised kids and stroll quickly away leaving the stolen, vandalised property far behind them.

What to do next? Angel decides to call her Grandparents (in flashback for some reason). Oh no! Grandpa's had a bad turn and he's in hospital! The Flower Planet's only hope abandons her quest and backtracks all the way home. Wisteria and Ragweed follow them aboard the express train and plan to separate the carriages while in motion to prevent Angel from continuing her retreat - they want her to lead them to the Rainbow Flower not a dead relative. Lily gets wise to this skullduggery and leads her friends out the rear and across the roof Mission:Impossible style. None of the trio think to check for tunnels first and nearly wind up as red chunks on the grass verge.

Reaching home the Flower Team find Grandpa in bed and well. While she'd been on her quest the old man had planted a flower garden for her from the seeds they had received from the people she'd helped on her journey. The garden is growing on the side of a nearby hill (making Grandpa an Uphill Gardener?). Outside the window Wisteria and Ragweed grow tired of all this sappy talk and decide to destroy this sentimental flower display with a big yellow bulldozer (where'd they find that in a picturesque, cobbled mountain town?). Angel, Periwinkle and Lily dash over to save the shrubbery but it is leveled faster than you can say "Blastcorps".

However, all this wonderful horticultural destruction actually has a positive outcome - it uncovered the Rainbow Flower which remains the last flower standing. Finally, the search is over and this damn movie can end, right? Wrong, somehow there's still over 15 minutes left! Jeeeez.

With the flower recovered Lily and Periwinkle can return to their true forms - two fairly inconspicuous looking humans - surely they would have caused less fuss in a change of clothes than they would as two domesticated animals with the power of speech. They would have been allowed entry to restaurants too. Or maybe they prefer watching through the window while tied to a lamp post.

To bring a much needed touch of masculinity to the show, a big, pink carriage drawn by a winged horse arrives on a rainbow to carry the super friends to the Fairy Planet. I swear, I need to watch a whole bunch of Super Robots and Fist of the North Star after this is over just to recover. And wrestling. No, actually wrestling will make it worse.

A whole crowd of fairies have assembled to cheer Angel's arrival on their planet. Angel looks out of the carriage window and watches the people waving as the carriage passes by - she then looks out the other window and sees the exact same waving people, this time facing to the left! What a crazy planet!

In order to fast track the royal succession, the carriage stops practically at the old monarch's feet as he stands waiting outside the palace. Angel gets out to hand the fabled flower over and is told by the King that he would like her to be the one to marry his son. And the wedding is happening tomorrow. They sure move fast on this planet and she's not even knocked up! Angel hesitates at the invitation/foregone conclusion even though it's clear from his appearance that the Prince is in fact the mysterious Stefen who had been following her around on her Europe-wide Flower-Hunt.

She turns down the once-in-a-reality-show opportunity of being Queen of the Flower People and attempts to flee home but is stopped by the King who insists, in the nicest way possible, that she must stay for the night. Trapped on another planet and facing a forced inter-mythical-creature marriage, young Angel must be wishing she had stayed home.

That night she can't sleep and thinks only of Stefen and her home. Human form Periwinkle and Lily burst in and insist she wear the dress they've been saving for the barer of the Rainbow Flower. Angel begins to cry, "Please, leave me alone while I put the dress on" she sobs, sinister music plays in the background. But, in the time it takes for her to change, all is forgotten and happy music plays. That's Stockholm Syndrome for you!

Walking down the aisle Angel thinks back to the first time she saw Stefen - holding up the express train by crouching on the tracks to save an everyday weed like some kind of obsessive horticulturist having a dangerous breakdown. What a glorious event which wasn't spoiled by anyone phoning the police.

The Flower King looks into her thoughts (they can do that) and realises the reason Angel wants to leave. And even though he must know that it is clearly his son in disguise, he agrees to free her. The movie then ends with a hurried conclusion showing Angel leaving in the Pegasus drawn carriage down the rainbow while the narrator fills in the plot gaps.

"And so Angel flew back to Earth, to her Grandparents and to Stefen. She knew that she'd find him again someday and perhaps go back to the Star Planet with him..."

Well, of course she'll find him again. He's not lost. The guy was right next to her before the carriage arrived.

But that would be ignoring the fact that he is clearly the prince in a thinner disguise than when the Ninja Turtles put on a rain mac and hat (but crucially no shoes or gloves). Then the final shot of the movie is Angel sitting in the carriage heading to Earth with the Prince. Huh? What's going on here?

Either she is dreaming of the Prince, which she wouldn't be since she left him behind for Stefen (who are obviously one and the same) or she is genuinely traveling with him, which the dialog just stated she is not.

Who would have thought that this one would close on such a mind twister?

The end credits prove to be an even cheaper rush job than the opener. Flowers pulsate rhythmically (a looped clip re-used from Angel's resurrection) behind titles that commence and close with clanging typos;

"Execuieve Producer"
and "
Film Copyright Toie Animation Co."

plus an accompaniment by that same bit of old Robotech Muzak.

Video rating 2

 

Intro Vs. Intro
Harmony Gold's night-before-deadline effort and Ziv's funky Bullets track.

Abducted by the Flower Fairies
Heavy handed rewrites turn an innocent ending sinister & confused.

So, in the battle of the VHS's, ZIV's version comes out on top. But, a straight forward translation was always going to win against a heavily compressed compilation movie although Harmony Gold should be praised for not cramming too many plot arches into one 90 minutes. However, points deducted for that needlessly confused ending, undoubtedly a heavy handed way of ensuring a sequel is possible if the video is surprise hit.

Ziv's dubbing is somewhat restrained and quaint, especially compared to the Harmony Gold cast of Robotech regulars; Reba West, Dan Woren, Ted Layman, Melanie MacQueen etc but I think it is all the better for it. It's more fun when Stefen fades in and out of the crowd like a non-dangerous Michael Myers or a swiss Vampire bearing seeds. And, let's not forget Bullets' theme song. Great, funky 70's vibe like "Somewhere In Between" before they sold out to Kidpix and lost all their integrity.

Finally, big praise to Master Vision for having the cast iron courage to name their release Angel Cloud. Last minute decision at the duplicators, crazy, 80's coke-fueled thinking or "one word from the left hat, one from the right hat" indecision? You be the judge.

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