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Marco Haha wo tazunete sanzenri (1999)

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Marco and his family live in Genoa, Italy, a poor town where many local Italians went to work overseas. Marco's mother, Anna, is among one of them. Initially, Anna keeps writing back home ... See full summary »



(novel), (adaptation)
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Title: Marco Haha wo tazunete sanzenri (1999)

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Cast overview:
Chieko Higuchi ...
Marco (voice)
Rumi Sakakibara ...
Takayuki Sugô ...
Osami Nabe ...
Urara Takano ...


Marco and his family live in Genoa, Italy, a poor town where many local Italians went to work overseas. Marco's mother, Anna, is among one of them. Initially, Anna keeps writing back home while working in Argentina, but one day, the letters stopped. The boy then decides to search for his mother. Despite the journey's difficulties, Marco heads off into Argentina's interior, to meet his mother, who as the boy's bad luck would have to see his mother on her deathbed... Written by L.H. Wong <>

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based on novel | See All (1) »


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Release Date:

3 April 1999 (Japan)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Remake of 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

MARCO – Movie adaptation of popular anime series based on Italian novel
23 January 2008 | by (Bronx, NY) – See all my reviews

MARCO THE MOVIE: 3000 LEAGUES IN SEARCH OF MOTHER (the title by which this film is listed on Anime News Network) is an animated movie remake of a popular Japanese animated TV series from 1976 entitled, "From the Apennines to the Andes," based on an Italian novel by Edmondo De Amicis. It tells the story, in a compact 90 minutes, of Marco, a boy in 19th century Genoa, Italy, who decides to head out to Argentina on his own to find his mother who'd left more than a year earlier in search of work. When no letter is received from her in three months the boy's anguish is so extreme that he tries to stow away on a ship headed for Argentina. The ship's cook finds him and feels such pity for him that he decides to take him on as a helper. Marco's father is persuaded to allow it, despite Marco's young age (I'm guessing about 8-9, although he seems younger at times).

Most of the film chronicles Marco's adventures in Argentina as he tries to track down his mother's sponsor in one small town after another. It's a grueling journey for a young boy, but he's helped along the way by other Italians he knows (encountered in a set of remarkable coincidences). The boy's constant companion is a precocious pet monkey named Amadeo. He faces quite a number of obstacles along the way: his money and train ticket are stolen, he's discovered hiding in a boxcar by railroad guards, and he's stranded in the snow hundreds of miles from the nearest town at one point. But he keeps plunging on ahead with youthful spunk and determination until...well it wouldn't be fair to say anymore. (Language barriers are never addressed--everyone speaks Japanese!)

The boy started to grate on me fairly early on. He's a little too saintly, too cherubic, too quick to impose his "I'm-a-poor-Italian-boy-who-just-wants-to- see-his-mother" routine on others. What kind of spineless father would have allowed such a young boy to leave like that in the first place or would have allowed the mother to just take off to the other side of the world? Were there no jobs any closer, say, in Switzerland just across the border? Granted, these questions were probably addressed in the longer original series (or the book), but it just plays as cheap, heart-tugging children's-book melodrama when so ruthlessly compressed like this.

The character design is rather simple in the 1970s style and I imagine it was done this way to evoke the original series. The settings are very well done and go a long way to keep up viewers' interest as we see Marco cavort along the streets and rooftops of Genoa and then make his way through the harsh Argentinian landscape just as the weather gets cold there. There's a lovely background score by Taro Iwashiro who also did the music for SAMURAI X: THE MOTION PICTURE and the DOG OF FLANDERS Japanese animated movie remake. Sheena Easton sings the beautiful end song, "Catch a Dream," in English.

I watched this movie on a Hong Kong import DVD in Japanese with subtitles. For comparison purposes, I also acquired a VHS tape containing the first four episodes of the original 1976 TV series, in Japanese without subtitles, and watched that. For one thing, the 1970s-style character design works a lot better in an actual 1970s animated series. For another, the series takes its time to build the characters, to explain events and decisions, to allow the viewer to get to know Marco so that some of the plot developments make more sense than in the movie. Marco's maturity and dependability are established long before he's allowed to head out on his own. Besides, the TV series was directed by one of Japan's master animation directors, Isao Takahata, and the movie wasn't. One TV scene in particular, Marco's visit to a beach and his flashback to a day there with his mother, looks forward to a very similar scene in Takahata's later animated movie, the celebrated wartime drama, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (1988).

So it seems unfair to the viewer to compress a story that had been told originally in 52 episodes into 90 minutes and expect all the events to seem plausible when stripped of context and backstory. All the run-ins with people Marco knows in Argentina seem like contrived coincidences when crammed together like that but would not have seemed so when separated by ten or 20 episodes in the TV series. Marco's pluck and determination are apparently well earned in the series, but he comes off as annoying in the movie.

As of this writing, neither the movie nor the original TV series have ever been released in the U.S. (The series was once widely shown in other countries, particularly in Europe and South America.)

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