#189 : The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love

We all need something to be glad about… to find the simple things that bring joy in either the moments of happiness, or difficulty. Can one individual have the power to spread this love to others? Of course it is possible and in many ways a child is the one who can often share this superpower. Eleanor H. Porter created such a character, Pollyanna Whittier, with the classic novels Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up. Both novels would be adapted into an anime that was featured in the lineup of the Nippon Animation’s hallmark series World Masterpiece Theater. Let us return to a tale known as The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love.

Pollyanna_1The more I watch any of the World Masterpiece Theater series, the more of a fan I become of these shows. Truly a treasure trove of well crafted stories that offer an alternative to the busier familiarity of mecha, magical girls and high school comedies. For this entry, Pollyanna and I had to wrap up some unfinished business. I watched approximately the first half of this 51 episode series back in 2015/2016 for a panel I was doing on 1986. This was my second World Masterpiece Theater show after Little Princess Sara. I enjoyed what I saw and had enough to work with for my panel, but that final half was nagging at me for years. Just recently I made a point to finish Pollyanna to the end. 1986 was a great year for anime on TV, ever here of Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Maison Ikkoku? What about Hikaru no Densetsu, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? All these shows I enjoyed or loved, but when I finished Pollyanna I never realized that I missed out on something special.

Pollyanna_2The first half of the series retells the Pollyanna novel with the second half adapting Pollyanna Grows Up. Beginning from humble origins to live with an aunt in need of a consciousness shift, Pollyanna would soon spread her kindness to the entire town of Beldingsville. Even with setbacks, some life threatening, Pollyanna preservers. She even brings her magic to Boston in the second half of the series to basically start the whole process over again. Along the way she meets othet children who become loyal allies and also saviors of her special touch of connecting good people together. I also cannot forget her most loyal companion, a furry friend because every show needs one, a chipmunk named… Chipmunk (Chipamunku!). Perhaps one of the most heart warming and surprising shows I have ever seen where in the second half a mystery unravels itself until the very end.

Pollyanna_3And I guess I just spoiled the plot? Not completely folks, I have only provided a skeleton to work off of. So many nuances are in Pollyanna that kept me going, but perhaps the one element that flavored my need to continue was a knock on wood usual contender… relationship dynamics. The way Pollyanna brings life back to everyone, inspires hope and delivers love in times of need lives up to the reputation of someone being a ‘Pollyanna’. The simple joy of being glad, or happy about the little things that we have in the present moment is something we often forget… so don’t forget it! 😉 The fact that your ‘family’ can come in any shape, size, or circumstance is shown that it does not matter who you are, or what has happened to you in life, when you allow love to permeate the hard ice exterior of isolation, or depression, you will be healed!

Pollyanna_4The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love… I can only say that my life now can be categorized as pre-Pollyanna and post-Pollyanna. The beauty of this show is that it can change lives, or continue to further influence those who are on the path to give some sort of love into a situation that is difficult. I don’t have children myself, but I deeply respect all of them for what those who I have met have influenced me as an adult to become a better human being. I do have a niece that I love dearly who reminds me of Miss Whittier as she has always been my staunch cheerleader all through out her life. I dedicate this entry to you Sophia… without you my life would not be the same.

Special : Lady Oscar

How often do we see live action adaptations of the anime we love? Of more recent there have been many a handful from the studios of Hollywood and depending on your fandom, you see these movies in whatever light you hold to the original. Some like to see anime turned into “real” people and some don’t… again depending on your fandom. Yet how interesting would it be to see a live action re-interpretation of a beloved classic during that anime’s original run when it was current in the zeitgeist. Enter 1979… the year Riyoko Ikeda’s manga of Rose of Versailles would become a full blown animated television series and… and, a live action motion picture by the name of Lady Oscar.

LO_1Twice I have talked about The Rose of Versailles here at CAM (original entry, updated entry), so I will not delve very deep into the story. Without question one of the landmark anime of the 1970s, The Rose of Versailles is for me and many others a personal favorite. A story of passion, duty, humanity, freedom, love and gender identity all wrapped up under the guise of late 18th century France, the time of the French Revolution. A radical time and a dangerous one at that, a powder keg of the clash between old and new. I love The Rose of Versailles and respect Oscar François de Jarjayes as one of my favorite characters of all time. When I learned there was a live action film adaptation, I was keenly interested.

LO_2Financed by Japan and directed by famed French director Jacques Demy, ironically the film’s native dub would be in English. Interesting and convenient for those of us who speak English as our native tongue, but perhaps French may have been more appropriate? English of course allows for more international distribution as I am sure this film was made more for an overseas audience than just Japan alone, my hypothesis. And how does it fair as a film? It’s good, slightly above average, but nothing like the tv series. Accept no substitute when comparing 40 half hours of content to only two hours. Anime is often more colorful and The Rose of Versailles does show itself with many grand colors, but it is never off the wall. Lady Oscar is more muted, which makes sense as this is not animation. Props for the costume designs though!

LO_3Besides the original TV series of The Rose of Versailles, I also think of another contemporary film to Lady Oscar, which told a story in a similar time frame of the late 18th century, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Honestly I kept thinking why couldn’t Lady Oscar look and feel more like Barry Lyndon? I am sure Lady Oscar’s budget was nothing close to Barry Lyndon’s. Stanley Kubrick’s style for lighting, intensity and photography are also his own, a true auteur, and I am sure Jacques Demy had to play the part of following the boss’ orders to the best of what he was given. My ideal vision for a filmed version of The Rose of Versailles would be more Barry Lyndon than Lady Oscar, but I have to accept what is. Instead of a grand cinematic experience, Lady Oscar feels more like a TV special, but it does a good job with what it had to do. I can’t be judgmental, or hard on the things in life I cannot control.

LO_4Lady Oscar is not a bad film, or a great film, it is just a good movie to enjoy and try out at your own leisure. While live action adaptations are often tempting, they never seem to hold a candle to the original TV series, or even the manga if that is your preference. Lady Oscar is a good supplementary entry on your watch list, but should never be a full blown substitute to the grandeur of the original The Rose of Versailles TV series. Yet it is a treat that this film was even made, but when it comes to live action adaptations, I prefer to keep them as their original form. Let cartoons, be cartoons and anime, anime (which to me is saying the same thing twice,) because it is perhaps one of the best story telling mediums ever created.

#174 : Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

Don’t judge an old dirty lamp by it’s appearance alone. A quick rub on the metal, ceramic, or whatever material you choose (I vote for lapis luzali) can bestow to it’s owner quite the unexpected surprise of abundant wishes. What do you wish for? All I want is an anime adaptation of Aladdin. After all Japan has animated everything it seems and there must be an alternative to the Disney version. Nothing against the Disney version, I just want to include an adaptation of this classic tale from the classic One Thousand and One Nights here at CAM. I may not have a lamp, but I did get my wish granted via a 1982 Toei production, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.

Aladdin_1Our story is a familiar one… a street punk who wants to do more with his life gets the chance of a lifetime to go search for a hidden treasure aided by a mysterious and perhaps villainous character who bestows a ring to the young man in case he comes into danger. Our hero finds this lost treasure, a lamp, but is soon trapped. Talk about being double crossed! With the magic of the ring and eventually the lamp our young man finds his way home and bestows a great luxurious meal once returned. Soon our young man meets a young lady, a princess in fact, who has run away from the palace to avoid selecting a suitor for an arranged marriage. Our young man has an idea and uses the lamp to grant his wish to become a prince himself so he could marry the princess. All is well… until the lamp and the princess are taken like a thief in the night. Our hero must now recapture both his prized lamp and his true love.

Aladdin_2Sounds like Aladdin, but this also reminded me of the previously mentioned The Wonderful World of Puss n’ Boots due to the fact that a common young man tries to pass himself off as royalty to impress a princess. A common story theme, but now my question to propose is did Disney see this version? The evil wizards, Grand Wazir and Jafar are similar looking. The genie is green instead of blue in the Toei version. Also no Robin Williams. The name of princess is Boudour and not Jasmine, much closer to the original Badroulbadour. Aladdin does get a ring in the original story, another point for the Toei version. Much like The Little Mermaid, Toei created a more faithful interpretation to the original source material. And even without the mega budget and musical numbers that the Disney version is noted for, the Toei version was released a solid decade before Disney’s version. Was the 1982 Toei version watched as source material? Your guess is as good as mine.

Aladdin_3For many years, Toei adapted fairy tales, or folk tale classics into full length animated features. Many of which would find release during the VHS era in the west with appropriate dubs. Aladdin was one I was not aware of, yet Swan Lake and The Little Mermaid I had known since childhood. Plus, there was The Wonderful World of Puss n’ Boots and The Wild Swans as well. Now I can include Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp amongst all these other stories as official anime! The Disney version is great as well, but now we have an alternate to bring into the fold. Funny how Teoi as a company wanted to be the Japanese equivalent to Disney way back in the company’s inception.

Aladdin_4This debate is almost like the SNES vs Genesis Aladdin games as both are different, but fun and entertaining as well. Take your pick! The same story told from a very different perspective. For me I will side with the Toei version because I always cheer for team anime, but I do like Disney’s version as well. Fun and adventure in a far off time and place that seems almost surreal, yet very familiar. And to add another feather into the team anime hat, Toei’s Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp is only an hour long, shorter yet I prefer compact and just the right size, but with no added filler. A nice simple tidy package. The perfect gift, or should I say film…  or better yet… the perfect wish.