The Anne of Green Gables Connection

Yoshifumi Kondo was Takahata's right-hand man during the Ghibli years, and was absolutely essential to the naturalist styles of Grave of the Fireflies and Omohide Poro Poro. He had honed his own natural, realist drawing style over the years, drawing inspriation, and inspiring, the likes of Otsuka, Kotabe, and Miyazaki. That style reached something of a peak in 1979 with Anne of Green Gables, where Kondo served as character designer.

For Poro Poro, Kondo reached back to Anne for a number of the film's characters as something of a tribute. Miyazaki isn't the only one to pull out riffs from his past. As a reference, we'll use this screenshot from the pineapple scene in Poro Poro. It's a great little scene that happens to have the whole family together in the same shot.

If you're familiar with Anne (and at least a few of you should be by now), you'll immediately spot Taeko-chan's two older sisters, and recognize them as Ruby and Jane, Anne Shirley's pair of inseperable friends. Throughout the series, they're nearly always joined at the hip, to the point that you may just start thinking of them as "Ruby Jane." At least, that's my experience.

Thankfully, Ruby Jane aren't as mean or distant as Taeko's sisters, but I have to remind myself that we're seeing things squarely from Taeko's point of view, and memories are not objective history. Then again, history is just an agreed-upon lie, right? And how can truth be really known when men cannot be honest with themselves? Great. Now I'm getting into a Rashomon mindset. Best to move on.

Next up, we see that Taeko's mother bears a striking resemblance to another mother-figure from Green Gables, the minister's wife, Mrs. Allen. As with the sisters, we're not merely seeing characters with similar hairstyles, but characters serving similar roles in both stories.

At this point, it becomes more of a gentleman's guessing game. This boy from Taeko's school room, really only appears in one scene, the class parliament. He's appears on camera a couple times, reciting some punch-line he heard on television - this scene is loaded with references to '60s pop. Now, it may be just me and my lying eyes (and who are you gonna believe?), but this boy seems to be the spitting image of one Moody MacPherson. Something of a cameo, I would suspect. Moody has a larger role in Anne of Green Gables, but we only see him in or around the schoolhouse.

Also. it really needs to be said. Moody MacPherson looks just like Ralph Wiggum. You almost expect him to blurt out, "Hi Lisa! Hi Super Nintendo Chalmers! I'm Idaho! I bent my Wookie! Go banana!"

Finally, the wild card. At this point, the temptation is to pour through every character in Omohide Poro Poro and pin them to anyone from Anne who looks vaguely similar. With that in mind, I've wondered to myself, once or twice, if Charlie Sloan shared more than a passing resemblance to Abe, the troubled boy from Taeko's childhood. They do share the haircut, but anything else? Probably not. As we have seen, these characters follow a parallel path, and Charlie Sloan is a somewhat likeable kid; not the brightest, but, hey, he managed to get into Queen's College and graduate. See if your average American teenager can pull off that stunt.

That reminds me, I really have to get back and finish college.


Nakashima Masakazu said...

Konbanwa This is Kanta.
I'm much influenced by your monomaniacal love for Takahata and the other day, watched PoroPoro again after 15 years interval. I found that every detail is lovable and beautiful. The opening credit roll remind me old Japanese movie and I quickly got caught. At the scene Taeko-chan meets Hirota-kun on her way home, I was much surprised that just anime-characters can perform such delicate emotion. In the background, bird's twittering breaks the silence and suggests the movement of their emotion and winter is coming. I remembered the scene Shizuku and Sugimura meets in a shrine.( Whisper) In the background, cicadas’ buzzing shows it’s at midsummer.
There are no explosions, no big robots, no naked girls (your fav phrase?), no big event, no special effects in this film, but it’s enough appealing. I rediscovered it thanks to you.

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