The most brilliant director in anime is back with a new production for children, the 52 episodes long Porphy no Nagai Tabi (ポルフィの長い旅), airing Sundays at 19:30 JST on BS Fuji.
As the 25th part of Nippon Animation‘s World Masterpiece Theatre collection, they’ve picked French author Paul-Jacques Bonzon’s novel Les Orphelins de Simitra from 1955. This may not excite you too much, considering Bonzon can’t even be found on Wikipedia, unless you dig into the French edition, but the really important part is the director they chose: Mochizuki Tomomi! Not only did he direct two of my favourite shows – the sad but wonderful Twin Spica and the delightful Fancy Lala – but he also wrote the script for 2007’s best anime Touka Gettan. He’s also been involved in classic anime like Kimagure Orange Road and Ranma ½. For Porphy no Nagai Tabi, the script is handled by Kunii Kei, who only seems to have been doing dramas and live-action movies, most recently Yuunagi no Machi, Sakura no Kuni.
The story follows a Greek boy named Porphy and his little sister Mina from the village Simitra, and is set right after the end of World War II. The first episode establishes that their childhood has been rather happy, with caring parents, and the siblings spend most of their days either at school or taking care of the family’s goats. Their father has moved to Athens temporarily to find the means to start a service garage, and following in his father’s footsteps, Porphy is crazy about cars, rushing after them like a yapping dog. Unfortunately for the children, and luckily for the viewers, this idyll won’t last. The novel’s summary informs us that a massive earthquake will leave Porphy and Mina orphaned, and they’re sent to a foster home in a different part of Europe. One day Mina goes missing, and Porphy embarks on a journey through various countries in search of his sister.
This anime has a peculiar look, setting it apart from what we’re used to thinking of as “modern anime”. It uses a simple character design, completely without any type of shading, making people look flat and, I must admit, quite dull. Instead they’ve painted very vivid backgrounds of beautiful Greek scenery, and they’ve been kind enough to broadcast in crisp HD. The visual style is unlikely to draw anyone’s attention, but perhaps it will work to let viewers focus on the plot. Music’s composed by Elfen Lied‘s MOKA, and provides a pleasant aural stage without really being noticed. Likewise, the voice work is functional without being dazzling, as Porphy is played by Kaida Yuki (Fuji in Prince of Tennis) and Mina by Fujimura Ayumi (Nene in Touka Gettan) in a fittingly irritating little sister voice.
Despite jizzing all over myself reading that Mochizuki would be directing Porphy no Nagai Tabi, I can’t really say it’s got me frothing at the mouth for another episode. This is aimed at a young audience, and I’m sadly not very young anymore. There’s a chance he’ll make something magical out of it in the end, but the prospect of following flatly animated orphans doesn’t appeal to me, no matter how beautiful the landscape. At 52 episodes it’s also quite a commitment.