First of all, I’m sorry that April passed by without any updates, but there have been a lot of stressful things going on, and I haven’t been inspired to write. Such is life. I do want to try to post more in the coming months, but I’m not making any promises yet!

So, as you may or may not know, I like anime. I watch new series all the time, and poke around on a few forums and whatnot, looking for obscure old shows.

Well, a few days ago, I made some big discoveries. Not just one, but TWO movies I’ve been wanting to see for years. They’re both made by Toei, which animated a lot of American shows in the 80s (including Muppet Babies, I think). They’re both adaptations of fairy tales. And, last but not least, they’re both old.

In the last couple of years, every time I went somewhere that had huge stacks of VHS tapes, I looked for both of these movies, to no avail. I found people selling them on Amazon, but they wanted too much money, plus I heard that the English dubs were less than spectacular. I’m not a fan of dubs in the first place, so that was a big turnoff too.

Then, finally, I said “screw it” and started Googling to see if someone, by some remote chance, had uploaded one of them somewhere. And the other day, I found both of them. With the original Japanese audio. On the same blog, no less!

The first is Sekai Meisaku Douwa: Hakuchou no Mizuumi, aka World Masterpiece Fairy Tale: Swan Lake, from 1981. This film and I go way back, and it’s been shrouded in mystery for years. I saw part of it once on cable sometime in the early 90s (I swear it was on AMC, but I could be wrong) and I thought it was fascinating. I wanted to see the whole thing SO badly, but they never aired it again. But that problem has, at last, been solved!

As an aside, all screencaps in this post were captured by yours truly. If I hadn’t gotten that wild hair up my bum, this post would have been up last night! But I digress.

Now, on to Swan Lake! Luckily, the person who uploaded it also saw fit to subtitle it in English, which is fantastic because my Japanese isn’t THAT good.

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Obviously, the story centers on lonely, delicate Odette, who is cursed by the wizard Rothbart to be a swan by day and only changes back to a human after the sun sets, and even then, must return to her gilded cage at Rothbart’s castle. Prince Siegfried sees the lovely crowned swan when he is riding by the lake one morning and is enraptured by her, then follows her home one evening and discovers the truth. Pretty classic fairy tale stuff.

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One sort of silly thing about this adaptation is that in some scenes it’s told from the point-of-view of two little squirrels named Hans and Margarita. I suppose this was to make it more relatable for very young children. It doesn’t bother me all that much, though, because I’m a big kid at heart and I’m used to silly or campy things in anime (I also watch old super robot shows, for crying out loud). Jaded adults need not apply.

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Most of the music, except for a couple of original songs, is Tchaikovsky’s music from the ballet. It’s nice to listen to, but some scenes drag a bit, as if they’re trying to accommodate the music more. Not really anything wrong with that, but today’s sugar-and-caffeine fueled kids would likely wander off within the first five minutes. There are plenty of flashes of color though.

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The animation itself is pretty decent, but not the eye candy that modern viewers are used to. As a result, it does show its age a little, but not nearly as bad as some other animation does. The character design is a tiny bit bland– well, except for maybe Rothbart and his daughter Odile:

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Another unusual thing about this film is that Rothbart isn’t really scary at all. In fact, he’s actually kind of funny. The “funny villain” thing isn’t all that common in anime (at least, not that I’ve seen), so I was a little caught off-guard. Still, it was interesting to see a villain with a light-hearted side who could still turn nasty and selfish when he put his mind to it.

I’m not going to give any more details about the story because I hate spoiling things for people, even old fairy tales like this. However, I will say that the ending was not what I was expecting at all and it deviates from the more traditional tellings quite a bit.

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Was it worth the wait? I’m going to say yes. The climax was actually quite thrilling and does leave you in a little bit of suspense, which was nice, and the story is a classic for a reason. If you would like to watch the film for yourself, wander over this way.

Originally, I was also going to include my write-up of the other film I found, but I’m going to postpone it for two reasons. The version I found is raw, meaning there are no English subtitles, and watching it without was kind of difficult, and I didn’t get the full experience that way. However, my husband has graciously offered to translate it for me, so after that I’ll be watching it again, and THEN I’ll write about it. The other reason is that this post is long enough as it is! Look for the continuation in a few days! And have a teaser screencap. Can you guess what movie it is?

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