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My title is not intended as a derogatory name. I grew up in Mexico in the 80s where soap operas (telenovelas) intended for adults (mainly housewives) were seen by everyone since little satellite TV was available. While my mom saw her soaps, we the children were kept entertained with cartoons on afternoon weekdays. Remi, as we know it in Mexico, is deeply ingrained in me as the first story I truly enjoyed. For a 5-year-old middle class, I didn't know much about poverty or suffering in the world, but learned it through the eyes of Remi. Even remembering some episodes bring back some tears in my eyes. It is a great piece of art and I never questioned it at all. it helped me imagine other worlds, other times. Only until recently I found out this cartoon is based on a french novel widely known. I wish more classics were shown in this way for these and future generations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very faithful version of Hector Malot's novel "Sans Famille" adapted
for animation 99 years after the book's publication, in Japan no less.
It tells the unbearably sad tale of Remi, an eight year old French farm
boy who finds out he's an orphan when his disgruntles stepfather
arrives home and is promptly sold by the man to traveling musician
Vitalis, in order to join his band of performers (three dogs and a
monkey). For poor little Remi, tragedy seems to be permanently
shadowing him, striking each and every time a tiny sparkle of hope or
happiness arrives in the boy's life. I must admit, my young mind was
not quite prepared to watch a cartoon series like this. First of all,
it was a serial, whereas I had grown used to watching children's
programs with self contained episodes. Secondly, the animation was
quite different from American and European tradition (my parents
explained to me the names on the credits were Japanese, which was
puzzling seeing as it was a French story). Thirdly, and most
importantly, it was simply too depressing. More than half the traveling
performers die before the series is half way through, poor Remi has to
content with illnesses, poverty, prejudice, cruel work-masters, a flood
in a coal mine, a family of thieves, a young girl who can't speak, a
boy who can't walk and every character, good or bad, is thrown in jail
at some point or another, I'm sorry to say I never did manage to watch
all 51 episodes in a row.
The animation was gorgeous and the fact that a special technique had been used to give it a three-dimensional effect was widely publicized at the time of it's first showing on Dutch Television (Avro) between October 1979 and August 1980. Remi looked like your typical Anime boy with the enormous wide eyes and the occasional jerky leg movement, while his mentor Vitalis was portrayed as an enormous, sturdy man, despite the gray beard. Everybody had fashionably long seventies hairdo's. One way in which this adaptation did differ from the original was in giving a larger part to the monkey, Jolli-Coeur (animal sidekicks being necessary in cartoons, no matter where they were produced). The Dutch voice cast was compiled of a great selection of stage and television actors (who can still be heard on the 3 long playing records that were released amongst a slew of merchandising), yet strangely enough, for the video release, the series was reedited to play 80 or 90 minutes, and completely re-dubbed. The only reason I can come up with is that they had to cut out a whole bunch of subplots, making the original voice recording hard to follow. However, when the entire series was repeated by EO television between September 1996 and July 1997, the soundtrack was completely redone once more, including a new, hipper theme tune and a title change from "Remi" to "Alleen op de Wereld". Meanwhile it seems yet another Manga version of Sans Famille was made during the nineties, in which Remi was given a gender swap (but still kept her old 'masculine' name. Poor child. It seems Remi will never get an even break.
8 out of 10
I used to watch this anime television show when I was little in the
eighties and I loved it then. Recently I got the Dutch-dubbed DVD as a
gift, I watched it again just recently and I still loved it.
The story is based on a book by Hector Malot. It is set in France and is about an abandoned boy, Remi, who is raised in a poor family by sweet mother Barbarin and not-so-sweet father Jerome Barbarin, who luckily isn't home very often and works elsewhere. Despite their poverty, Remi is happy in the loving care of his mother. The story takes off when the Barbarins get so poor that Jerome decides to sell Remi to a traveling artist group led by the stern Vitalis, and we follow Remi's adventures, which are like a roller-coaster of happiness and sadness.
Remi is a warm-hearted gentle boy with a positive outlook on life despite everything that happens to him. I cried my eyes out at times, both when I was young and now that I saw it again. Somebody here called it a children's telenovela, and it really is like that.
This show made a deep impression on me as a child. It is well-paced, taking the time for each character to develop. It is animated beautifully. Just watching the landscapes is fantastic and they have such a great way of animating Remi's dreams and thoughts.
I would definitely recommend this anime, both for children and adults. It teaches life lessons, but without the lessons getting tiresome or being too obvious.
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