Monday, June 4, 2012

Classic Anime Fairy Tales

Today is my 27th birthday, if I may divulge my age.  I therefore think it appropriate to indulge a little nostalgia.

Like most little girls, my early childhood was dominated by Disney fairy tales, but they weren't the only ones.

A few non-mainstream movies sidled in there beside the squatting Disney giant, and the ones that gave me the most lasting impressions were the Japanese animations.

It's undoubtedly a matter of taste, but I find the Japanese's graceful animation style much more suitable to fairy tales than Disney's more exaggeratedly cartoonish rendering (not so bad at first with Snow White and Pinocchio but growing more over-the-top in the 80's, so that after The Little Mermaid, we now have highly stylized pinched waists and hulking shoulders in Hercules and Tangled).

I also find (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Japanese are less loath to present troublesome subjects to children, so that their fairy tales remain closer to the originals.

Like Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid:
While there is a talking dolphin (it's not out of the question to assume that in Anderson's vision, mermaids regularly conversed with the ocean locals), his cuteness is considerably blunted by the fact that he is carrying a knife with which to murder the prince.

In the conceptual drawings for this movie, they show the mermaids bare-breasted and went forward to animate them accordingly.  In the English dub, however, all the "revealing" scenes are deleted.
images courtesy of The redanimation blog
Swan Lake was another one that imprinted in my mind, so that many years later, after the introduction of YouTube, I would go in search of it to sate my nostalgia.

In contrast to this version, The Swan Princess is not Disney-made, but it follows the well-forged path by grafting on musical numbers, humorous animal helpers, and an uncompromising, happy ending.

The Japanese animated Swan Lake differs drastically in plot and mood.  Though squirrels narrate and follow the tale, this is not entirely outside of fairy tale fashion, as in Anderson's The Swamp King's Daughter.

And who could forget the enchanting animation for Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, an example of the rare (though growing more common) American anime?

This foaming, rolling wave, curling into a host of galloping unicorns emerging from their black sea-prison is one of the most memorable scenes.  Talk about moments of perilous beauty encountered in Faerie!
This next one was a later discovery for me, but there are some real elements of whimsey, such as the fire children plucking and lighting flowers.

I like the inversion of the characters' elemental colors.
Apparently, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child is based on a Japanese myth and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

I'll deal with Disney and why I'm not overly fond of their re-tellings in the next couple of posts.

Hey, and if you want to gift me a free birthday present, it's as easy as leaving a comment!


  1. Happy belated Birthday!
    "The Last Unicorn" was my first favorite anime. I have quite a few issues with Disney myself... thankfully there are others who create and re-create fairie tales and animate them beautifully.
    Thank you for sharing some of them with us!

  2. Thank you~ please come again. c:


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