Last month, Japan was handed the coolest Christmas present in the History of Ever - Heidi, Girl of the Alps on Blu-Ray disc. This massive box set is horrifyingly expensive (the Amazon.jp page literally shows an arm and a leg), but the package is extremely impressive. The 52-episode series is remastered from a newly-struck 35mm film print (converted from 16mm), pressed onto nine discs. Also included are three booklets containing interviews with all the major players of the series - director Isao Takahata, layout maestro Hayao Miyazaki, character designer Yoichi Kotabe, and others.
The picture quality is fantastic. I can confidently say that Heidi has never looked better, even on television in 1974. The DVD version is embarrassing by comparison; faded colors, scratches and smudges everywhere, an over-reliance on heavy contrast and edge enhancement. I suspect this is a key reason why anime fans are so reluctant to touch the classic series from the 1970s. Everything looks so terrible! Thank God for Bandai Visual for their BD release.
Sadly, tragically, and all-too predictably, there are no English subtitles. Heidi remains the sole anime in the Takahata-Miyazaki canon to not be translated into English. And it just happens to be their most important work in their career. D'oh! Let's hope the fan-translators can deliver the goods this year.
I cannot overstate the importance of Heidi to Japanese anime. Is there a greater anime milestone than Heidi? Maybe Horus, maybe Lupin III, maybe Akira. My two great wishes for this year: the Heidi Fansub finally emerges, and the Heidi Blu-Ray box set is brought to the West.
More photos of the Heidi Blu-Ray box set are just after the jump, including photos of the Takahata/Miyazaki interviews: