Maeterlinck's Blue Bird
On a snowy Christmas Eve, Tyltyl and Mytyl sit in their home. Normally, they would be caught up in the Christmas spirit, but their mother has taken ill. So that evening, they lie awake, unable to sleep, when through the window crashes a strange, mercurial magical spirit named Berylune, who reveals that the world we live in isn't the only one there is. And so Tyltyl and Mytyl, accompanied by various spirits, as well as their now-humanoid pets, are led on a journey to find the blue bird of happiness and save their mother, and along the way they visit some strange and wondrous places, and finally, must face the spirit of darkness to attain their elusive goal.
Odds are that you've never heard of this title in your life. That wouldn't be a surprise, as neither the original source material nor the anime have been translated into the English language. Still, it should be interesting to know that the play this anime is based off is where our culture gets the concept of the "bluebird of happiness".
Somewhere between the play and this anime lay about eighty or so years of history, so things have been changed somewhat to accommodate that. When Tyltyl is given a magic pendant to transport everyone to the alternate world of magic, he goes through a television! (Something not exactly extant in 1908.) However, that doesn't detract too much from the fairy-tale charm of this series, which is reminiscent of Nippon Animation's World Masterpiece Theater titles, or American and European cartoons of the late 70s and early 80s.
The animation and character design are dated, but the tape we saw apparently wasn't very old (or terribly used), as the colors hadn't faded at all. The art style is typical for the time, somewhere between Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999, but the storyline is totally unlike either of those titles. Again, the Western source material certainly may be a reminder of our childhoods, rather than our anime experiences. Interestingly enough, this ran just slightly after Angel (Hana no Ko Lunlun) which, while an original story, also has a Western setting and style.
Of interest to anime fans is the voice cast. Tyltyl is voiced by Furuya Tohru, later known as Kimagure Orange Road's Kasuga Kyousuke, and, of course, Chiba Mamoru in Sailor Moon, and Mytyl is voiced by Koyama Mami, who would later voice Minky Momo's first incarnation, among others.
Perhaps the reason that Blue Bird wasn't translated for an American audience, unlike some of its contemporaries, is the surreal nature of the storyline. Characters walk through Escher-like landscapes, or, reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel, encounter a castle full of treats, which is revealed to be run by devils. Also, the spirits of the various elements might put off some American audiences, like the milk spirit. Even edited, Blue Bird runs a bit on the slow side, action-wise, and today's Pokemon-spoiled children especially probably wouldn't sit through this, even if it were dubbed over, especially considering the unfamiliarity with the original play. Which is too bad, because this is actually a fun, gentle, if maybe mostly nostalgic watch.
Dated and sometimes bizarre visuals detract from an otherwise enjoyable walk through memory lane. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Though some of the spirits aren't clothed, there's nothing objectionable here, apart from a couple of inconsequential (read: non-fan-service) panty shots. At times the atmosphere gets fairly dark, and there is some mild violence at the end, with the showdown with the spirit of the evening, but it's quite stylized and bloodless. Safe for children, though the language barrier (there is no dub or subtitle!) probably wouldn't help things any.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, raw Japanese
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Maeterlinck's Blue Bird © 1980 West Cape Corporation / Office Academy / Fuji TV
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