3000 Leagues In Search Of Mother (Nippon Animation, Fuji Television: 1976, 52 episodes)
3000 Leagues in Search of Mother was broadcast in 1976 on The World Masterpiece Theater. Its production team featured an all-star cast of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, of Studio Ghibli fame. The World Masterpiece Theater was a staple of the anime scene up until the mid 1990s when it was cancelled. Each year the theatre would showcase an animated version of a different classical book or story, usually from Europe. This show was adapted from a chapter in a book called Curoe, written by an Italian author named Edmondo De Amicis. The chapter was entitled “From the Apennines to the Andes”, and is widely expanded upon in this 52 episode epic. A summarization movie was released in the early 1980’s using edited footage from the TV run, and most recently in 1999 a digital remake of the movie was released in Japan. Though without either Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) Miyaazaki’s (Princess Mononoke) influence, it leaves much to be desired.
3000 Leagues is a powerful and well-executed drama with a simple story line. At the time of the story Italy is in poverty and a dark secret is being hidden from our young protagonist, Marco. Unbeknown to him his family is heavily in debt and his mother is going to Argentina to find work. Marco is distraught and when he finds out his family have money problems he vows to work like a real man to save up the money so his mother can return home. However, as Marco soon realises, it is hard to find a job and even harder to balance it with school. Soon the poor and hard working Marco begins to realise just how hard it is to be an adult. The direction in this series is very well handled and full of subtle touches for those highly emotional scenes. Silence is used as a particularly powerful way to show the tensions between Marco and his Father. Even Marco’s pet monkey, a ploy often used to humorous effect in lesser series is used to underpin the great sadness and loss that fills 3000 Leagues, the small tricks and normally amusing ploys used by his pit become hollow and empty gestures.
3000 Leagues is an excellent series that is easy to watch and is rewarding from the very start. It has fantastic characters that are easy to empathise with and it is so easy to get caught up in the emotional plot. The animation style is simple and effective with a well-detailed and realistic landscape that effectively captures the time of the series. The small Italian port town of Genova is richly detailed with shops, businesses and interesting characters that make up its landscape. In all there is not much more to say, if you want one of the best anime drama series of all time then look no further than 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother.
*Spymon & Tofusensei
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