Tag Archives: Kodomo

Children as the target audience.

Future Boy Conan – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mirai Shounen Conan

 

Related: Future Boy Conan 2: River Adventure (sequel)

Similar: Castle in the Sky

Now and Then, Here and There

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Adventure Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Art holds up.
  • High-energy adventure.

Negatives:

  • Beyond suspension of disbelief.
  • Several bad performances.

(Request an anime for review here.)

So as it turns out, Future Boy Conan isn’t related to Detective Conan. When the dear reader that requested this informed me this was Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut, my first thought was, “Huh, I didn’t know he worked on Detective Conan. Then again, it’s such a long series – nearing 1000 episodes and over two-dozen movies – that everyone probably worked on it at some point.” The mistake isn’t isolated to me apparently, as some wikis will mention, “Not to be confused with Detective Conan.” So…my bad?

Future Boy Conan is near as un-detective-like a story as you can imagine. It takes place in the post-apocalypse of WW3 after a mega-weapon wiped half the planet, sunk several continents, and shifted Earth’s axis. Attempts at fleeing into space failed. One such rocket crash-landed on an island, which the survivors called home as they waited for inevitable extinction. However, a baby boy was born that would soon discover they weren’t as alone as originally thought.

A chance encounter with the girl Lana fleeing from Industria, the last evil corporation, leads the boy Conan off his island and onto a grand adventure, sailing from island to island with a colourful cast of characters to meet along the way.

This is anime firmly made for kids as dictated by Miyazaki when he changed the tone of the source material. In the original novel, The Incredible Tide by Alexander Key, the world is one of pessimism with little hope for the characters. Miyazaki didn’t want to inflict this on children, so flipped it to optimism, dropped Conan’s age by a demographic and gave him ten times the energy and enthusiasm. With Miyazaki’s goal in mind, it was the correct choice. I can’t imagine many kids would have enjoyed the original grimness aimed at teenagers.

However, I do feel he went a little too far. Conan is so energetic that he borderlines on annoying – made worse by the acting performance – and goes far beyond the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. Conan is freakishly strong. He has the strength of 20 men, able to throw boulders, haul great white sharks, leap 50 metres to an aircraft taking off, and hold onto the wings at speed. All fiction requires some measure of lenience if you wish to enjoy anything ever created, but this too much without some plausible explanation. Lana’s psychic ability to communicate with seagulls and see through their eyes is more believable.

I don’t imagine kids would have a problem with this. Looking back on some of the shows I loved as a kid but wouldn’t watch anymore, it’s shocking how much I bought into the action they sold us.

I would be able to look past this, with effort, if the story and other characters appealed to me. But much like the two leads, everything here is tailored for kids. The environmental message is black and white, Industria is a Big Bad with little nuance, and the story prioritises adventure over characters and plotting. It’s for kids, so of course! It’s natural.

I’m not suggesting that any who enjoy this anime are children. Rather, I’m saying it’s unlikely to have adult appeal unless you watched it as a child, already bonded to the series, or you are in it for the intellectual curiosity of seeing Miyazaki’s directorial debut.

That latter angle does have appeal to me. You can see the roots of his future films growing here, not least of which is the environmentalism, a theme he has since overused through several stories that feel like iterations of each other. The captain of an enemy ship, and my favourite character, feels the most Ghibli-like of the cast. Your ability to love him despite being a villain is a studio trademark. And of course, you will find many “kid moments” that make the younger cast feel more like real kids. It’s not as perfected as later seen in the likes of My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, but that charm is there.

The least Miyazaki element comes in the form of the caveman child Jimsy, who has a tobacco addiction and gets drunk. After Miyazaki’s objection to pessimism for children, he is a surprising addition. Not a bad character, though unexpected from a director so squeaky clean.

Future Boy Conan was alright for me in the end. I am glad to have marked it off my list, but I have no inclination to watch the sequel.

Art – High

For its year of 1978, Future Boy Conan’s art was an achievement. It isn’t anything special compared to today or to anime movies, but to have plenty of animation, detailed environments, and consistency throughout is impressive for an old series. The only major flaw is the lack of lighting and shadows on characters (it multiplies cel painting times to accomplish), which makes them standout more from the background than they should.

Sound – Medium

The acting is a mixed bag. Some are great, like the captain and Lana, while others aren’t easy on the ears. Conan himself has the worst performance – more screeching than acting.

Story – Medium

A boy’s encounter with a girl propels him into a conflict against the last corporation of evil in this post-apocalyptic world. An adventure story through and through, Future Boy Conan’s appeal towards children likely won’t attract older viewers beyond the director’s pedigree.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Miyazaki fans only. I can only recommend this to those looking to see Miyazaki is his first directorial role (and to kids, but I don’t think they read these reviews). If you want a shorter version, see Castle in the Sky.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

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Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Agatha Christie no Meitantei Poirot to Marple

 

Similar: Detective Conan

Gosick

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Historical Mystery

Length: 39 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Introduction to the greatest detective writer.

Negatives:

  • The girl is shoehorned in.
  • Low production.
  • Poirot doesn’t feel like Poirot.
  • Better time spent with the books or TV series.
  • Title singer can’t sing?

(Request an anime for review here.)

It’s always interesting to see how foreign cultures adapt English works, just as we adapt foreign works. With Agatha Christie being one of my favourite authors and her Poirot as the best detective series, I am especially curious about this anime adaptation.

As the title suggests, Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple takes the legendary mystery author’s two biggest detectives and combines them into a series for children. Twenty cases feature from the extensive library of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple novels, each spanning one to four episodes.

The greatest change from the source material is the addition of a young girl called Mabel West, daughter of mystery writer Raymond West, who works her way into the position of Poirot’s assistant through means that aren’t quite clear. It makes no sense that Poirot would need her, which he tells her, by the way. Poirot barely tolerates having to work with professionals. It is clear that the girl’s inclusion is to give the target audience a stand in character. I would have no problem with this had she been written in with more skill, not this shoehorned result we have here. She doesn’t contribute to cases. All she does is point out evidence done by other characters in the books or ask obvious questions to make sure the kids notice this information. No one needs her.

The first incident is The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan with the theft of a rich woman’s pearls from her hotel room, introducing us to the general style of the cases. A crime happens, Poirot and the police investigate, they lay out the evidence, deception and herrings abound, and it ends with Poirot (or Marple, in her cases) unmasking everyone. These simplified cases have less subtlety compared to the sources to give kids a chance to spot extra clues or figure it out ahead of time. After a few single-episode cases, we get the four-part ABC Murders for the audience to sink their teeth into.

My biggest disappointment with Great Detectives is how Poirot doesn’t feel like Poirot. He is meant to be an eccentric man, who both irritates and charms. Apart from his prodigious moustache (still tame by comparison) and occasional mention of “the little grey cells”, he isn’t like the great detective. Furthermore, Poirot was revolutionary at release for solving cases through psychology over clue hunting. Here they focus on clues. I suspect a psychological angle may be too much for little kids.

And that’s the ultimate point: this is an anime for kids. I’m sure they would enjoy this a lot than me and it does make for a good introduction to Agatha Christie. As for adults, watch Poirot starring David Suchet, which adapted every case into an exceptional series over 24 years (start with the ABC Murders in season 4 for a great sample).

Art – Low                           

Obviously on a budget with not much in the way of animation. Great Detectives uses the painterly environment art style reserved for seemingly every anime set in England.

Sound – Low

I’m not sure the vocalist for the OP and ED can sing – maybe it’s the style. The acting is okay, though no one feels like their original character.

Story – Low

A young girl joins the great detectives Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple as they solve classic cases in 1930s England. The simplification process for children gives no reason for adults to watch this over other adaptations.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For kids only. Adults, I cannot recommend enough watching Poirot instead. David Suchet is the perfect Poirot.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: disapp

Dissapointing