1 Matthew Cuthbert is Surprised
The setup is that Marilla and Matthew are siblings who never married anyone and live together at Green Gables. They decide to adopt a young boy to help around the place. But when Matthew goes to pick up the child, it’s a precocious girl named Anne. Not sure what to do, Matthew takes her to go back to Green Gables. She chats for quite some times on a great manner of things such as sleeping in a cherry blossom tree and the fact she can’t be truly happy because she has red hair.
The art here is superb. The backgrounds are surprisingly detailed, with nuance put into shots that don’t last that long. The subject is often the beautiful vistas of the countryside or close-ups of various plants or trees. And yet, this isn’t a realistic depiction of nature, it’s a fantastical, hyper-realized look at nature that is much a part of Anne’s imagination as it is an actual place.
It might not be surprising, then, to learn that the director is Isao Takahata and scene settings and layouts were done by none other than Hayao Miyazaki. The duo would go on to found Studio Ghibli and become the two leading forces behind the famous studio. Here, they work together to make something that captures that sense of the fantastical which Studio Ghibli would certainly become known for featuring in their films.
2 Marilla Cuthbert is Surprised
While Matthew finds he enjoys her company, Marilla is less than pleased when she discovers the orphan is a girl. Anne bursts into tears, and feels like she’s been rejected. Anne asks to be called Cordelia, a really odd romantic notion she has. Anne’s dramatic and wordy nature plays well against Marilla’s more sensible sensibilities. Matthew proposes he hires a boy and they keep Anne, but Marilla isn’t sold on the idea of keeping Anne.
On the way to Green Gables, Anne makes Matthew stop to take in the view. She lingers on the pastoral landscape and the glimmering of light on the lake turns into small fairies. This further solidifies the notion that the depiction of nature is a fantasy. It’s also worth mentioning that people are abstracted and not nearly as detailed as the background. It’s a bit of a shortcoming, but not that big of one as none of the characters look bad.
3 Morning at Green Gables
The opening on this episode focuses on the animals on the farm milling about in the morning. Anne wakes up and is enraptured by the vista she sees. She comments to Marilla about how much she appreciates the blossoms on the tree while Marilla comments that it doesn’t bear much fruit. These two characters have such a wonderful dynamic together, a great contrast of youth and romanticism against age and pragmatism.
A lot of the animation here is built first and foremost to soak in nature. There are lots of shots that do not further the plot, but add a lot to the aesthetic pleasure and do a great job of giving the show a sense of place and an upbeat mood. The animation is as much a character in the show as any of the major players. At times, it is the protagonist of this story.
One gnawing qualm I have about the show so far is its use of a narrator. The show uses it quite sparingly, mostly in the gaps between character interactions to give a little insight into what characters are thinking. However, the same moment played without narration would probably allow the viewer to infer a lot of what the narration provides.
4 Anne’s History
Marilla asks for Anne’s history on their journey to find out what went wrong. Anne talks about the unfortunate events that led up to her life with plenty of tangents along the way. As expository episodes go, this is a decent one as Anne’s musings along the way keep things entertaining.
The flashbacks are also interesting aesthetically as they use a earthy color palate that conjures up similarities to old-time photography. The one stark contrast is Anne’s fiery red hair popping out from the dower backgrounds.
5 Marilla Makes Up Her Mind
Marilla and Anne arrive at Mrs. Spencer and tell her the situation. The seriousness of the situation is juxtaposed with children playing in the yard. Turns out another lady wants a girl, a hideous, cruel woman that makes Marilla look inviting by comparison. Marilla says she’s not quite sure about whether or not they want to keep Anne and says she’ll decide soon and she and Ann go back to Green Gables. Unknown to Anne, Marilla and Matthew decide to keep her.
Anne’s imagination is one of the most delightful parts of the show. While this makes for a lot of entertaining dialogue-heavy tangents, it also results in these wonderful moments where Anne imagines nature in fantastic and grandiose visions. Also, there’s a wonderful moment in this episode where Marilla is taken back at how wicket Anne must be because she’s never said her prayers, to which Anne replies that it’s easy to be bad when your hair is red.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing