OK, let's address the elephant in the room: Yes, the title of the show is...questionable. I didn't choose it. You may think "Well, it's French, maybe they didn't know any better", but this show is so full of anime tropes that I have no doubt that its creators were big enough weebs to know exactly what they were doing here. Personally, I find it kind of funny, but if it bothers you, well...I guess I don't blame you.
Anyways, LoliRock, first aired in 2014, is a French take on the magical girl genre. It's about three teenage girls who are secretly magical princesses from faraway planets, but whose secret identities on Earth are a pop rock group. That was about all I knew of it going in, and it sounded just Central Avenesque enough to catch my interest, so here goes nothing.
Episode 1: To Find A Princess
We open on our protagonist, the pretty blonde teenager Iris, babysitting a toddler. The little girl asks Iris for a lullaby, so Iris begins singing...somehow magically causing all the items around the room to begin levitating. Iris's singing is interrupted, however, by the arrival of the girl's mother, and everything comes crashing down, leaving the room a complete mess. Predictably, she's fired.
At a coffee shop the next day, Iris laments to a boy—I have no idea what the boy's name is—about losing her job. As a survivor of the 2000s, teenage drama in a show like this just gives me late-night CanCon flashbacks. Did I ever tell you about the time I watched Braceface at 3 AM because I was stuck in Cleveland and no other cartoons were on? Anyways, Iris mentions that every time she tries to sing, "something weird happens." We're treated to a montage of things magically going wrong every time Iris...hums quietly? That's not quite "singing", cartoon, but whatever.
Barista Boy (Boyrista?) persuades Iris to go audition for a girl band called LoliRock. At this point I had to stop and look up the voice cast, since Iris sounded quite familiar to me...and for good reason! Iris is voiced by Kazumi Evans, who I knew as the singing voice for Rarity and Princess Luna on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She's not the only pony on board here, as we'll see shortly.
At the audition venue, we see Talia and Auriana, who make up LoliRock, discussing their plan. Evidently their idea to find the long-lost third member of their magical girl squad was to go from city to city holding American Idol-style open auditions until one of their contestants happened to have singing-related magical powers. I'd ask how they know that Iris would have such powers, but really I just want to see what happened before the events of this episode. How many cities did they hold these auditions in? How many brilliant singers did they have to pass on along the way simply because they weren't the magical princess they were looking for? But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Talia and Auriana are just about to give up when Iris shows up to audition. Iris sings the song they've prepared for her, and her magic powers blow up the theater. Really. This somehow awakens the bad guys, seen in a cutaway to a magical castle, but here in the...real world?...Iris is embarrassed as heck and runs away from the destruction she's caused.
Iris quickly finds, however, that she's being pursued by...evil...magical...people...who are trying very hard to kill her. Just in the nick of time, though, Talia and Auriana show up, in full magical girl garb, with Talia calling out "Sing if you want to live!" That's admittedly a pretty cool line. And it works! Singing just one note allows Iris to deflect the bad guys' magic long enough to escape with Talia and Auriana.
Talia, by the way, is voiced by Ashleigh Ball, and unsurprisingly sounds a lot like Rainbow Dash. Auriana is voiced by Tabitha St. Germain, who you may know as the speaking voice of Rarity and Princess Luna. That's right, both Rarities are main characters in this!
Talia, from atop her winged horse, beckons for Iris to join her. "Iris, come!"
She's gonna say it, isn't she? Of course she is. It would be weird if she didn't say it after that.
"How do you know my name?" Right on cue, Iris, right on cue.
Anyways, they fly away to some remote island the the winged horse turns back into...what I think is supposed to be a cat? And we finally get some backstory. Iris is not, in fact, from Earth. She was born long ago on the planet Ephedia, the daughter of the king and queen. However, when an evil wizard named Gramorr (yes, I had to look up the spelling) took over Ephedia, Iris's parents sent her to Earth to protect her. Rainbow Dash—I mean, Talia—lays out the basic quest for the series: the three princesses are to collect the Oracle Gems, which have been scattered throughout Earth, and use them to overthrow Gramorr and restore balance to Ephedia. Is it weird that I don't actually care that much about this part?
Talia and Auriana emphasize to Iris that she must keep her magic powers and true identity a secret, which I mention mainly because I know @Anonus hates secret identities in magical girl stuff. We also get to watch Gramorr admonish Evil Boy and Evil Girl for failing to capture Iris, and yes I'm going to just continue referring to them as Evil Boy and Evil Girl because I'm tired of Googling names the actors can't be bothered to enunciate clearly.
Back at home, Iris effortlessly convinces her mother that Talia and Auriana are exchange students and should be allowed to live with them. In private, the other two girls try to teach Iris to activate her magical girl transformation, but she can't. Also, Iris can't pronounce Ephedia on her first try either, so I'm glad to know it's not just me.
Evil Boy and Evil Girl have caught up with our protagonists now, so Talia and Auriana respond with transformation sequences that are rather...shall we say, "inspired" by Sailor Moon. It's about as blatant as you can possibly get. See for yourself.
What happens from here is fairly predictable. The two trained magical girls get themselves cornered, at which point Iris's emotions become intense enough to finally activate her magic and have her own transformation sequence. For all the predictability, however, they do manage a couple funny jokes: Evil Boy taunts Iris about not knowing any magical attacks, so she just straight-up kicks him in the butt. Well played, imo.
Iris's intervention allows just enough time for Talia and Auriana to free themselves, and the three of them team up to take down the bad guys. If this was Sailor Moon, the bad guys would get straight-up disintegrated, but instead the LoliRock girls just shoot them off into space, as if they were Team Rocket. I guess I was expecting too much out of this French cartoon when it came to blatant violence.
The episode ends with a rather abrupt segue. In a voiceover, Iris says "After some practice, it was time for our first concert!"...and then we immediately cut to said concert. The girls are all autotuned, by the way, because nobody who worked on the music for this show got the memo that 2009 is over. But never mind that, I'm just here for the absurdity that they actually went through with forming a girl band despite everything up to this point indicating that LoliRock was just a front for finding Iris. That's the kind of silliness I can get behind.
My final verdict? Well, you can tell I liked it, or I wouldn't have taken the time to write all this, let alone plan to write about more of these. It's a bit silly in places, and not the most original thing in the world, but it's pretty fun for what it is. I'm gonna stick with it for a while, at least.
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