Overnight Thread ("3000 Leagues in Search of Mother")

Okay, somebody out there has to upload some Marco clips to YouTube. I could barely find anything at all. I was lucky enough to find this clip video.

3000 Leagues in Search of Mother was the 1976 follow-up to the enormously successful Heidi, Girl of the Alps. As before, the trio of Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe were the creators, although Takahata was clearly the dominant player, whereas Heidi was very much a team effort. This dominance, however, strained relations with Kotabe and Miyazaki, who both left after the series conclusion. The old band, together since the Toei Doga days, had broken up.

Miyazaki broke out fully on his own, creating one of his iconic masterworks, Future Boy Conan. It's quintessential Miyazaki, perfectly fusing his love of cliffhanger adventure serials with the sense of social conscience learned from Paku-san. And his obsessive work ethic on Heidi and Marco resulted in absolute creative dominance on Conan. Everything was his vision, his direction, and one often gets the sense that if Miyazaki could have animated and painted every single drawing himself, he would have.

Fortunately, relations with Takahata remained on good terms, even asking him to guest-direct two episodes of Conan. Miyazaki would return one final time for Anne of Green Gables in 1979, before departing the series after episode 13 for the Telecom studio and Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro.

For Kotabe, his career proved more difficult in the late 1970s, working freelance animation jobs. His greatest achievement during this period was as the animation director of Toei's 1979 animated feature, Taro the Dragon Boy (it's a very good movie, btw). In 1981, he joined with Takahata once again, serving as co-animation director with friend and fellow Toei alum Yasuo Otsuka. He contributed key animation to Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind in 1984, before retiring from animation completely to work at, of all places, Nintendo. All those Mario drawings over the years? Pikachu? Yeah, that's Kotabe-san.

Of those three World Masterpiece Theater series of the 1970s - Heidi, Marco, Anne - Marco/3000 Leagues has always been my favorite. I can understand why it doesn't hold the same universal appeal of Heidi, which exploded with such energy and vitality. Marco is pure emotional melodrama pushed to its absolute limits. Heidi might remind you of Studio Ghibli movies such as My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service. Marco is Grave of the Fireflies. It's 52 episodes of that. It's also the best-written of the three series, with the best cast of characters, most interesting locations (spanning two continents and an ocean), and the most emotionally involving.

Imagine The Book of Job, starring James Dean, directed by John Ford, Frederico Fellini or Sergio Leone. That's 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. I'm sorry I couldn't find any complete episodes on YouTube, but this short clip video is a nice glimpse. We really ought to upload some episodes. Fortunately, a fansub translation has been available for some time, so it's easy to track down and download.

Discotek once asked me what new anime titles they should pursue. My answers? Heidi, Marco, Anne. These are the best animated films Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki or Yoichi Kotabe ever created. Ever.


echoBlaster said...

Marco is indeed amazing. I'm actually currently watching it for the third time, I'm at episode 44. So many great moments I can think of.

I hope it gets released on blu-ray soon, there's a listing on Amazon JP, but no release date yet. I feel like the picture quality on the DVD/fansub release is pretty washed out, everything seems just a little too bright to me. I wonder if this was intentional or just the quality of the dvd.

The audio quality is also not that great, but I guess that's just because of its age. I noticed that the audio quality on the Heidi BD is very similar to Marco's, but the audio on Conan and Anne is much better. We'll see how the Marco BD turns out, whenever it gets released.

A Western release of all three, plus Conan, would also be nice :).

Panino Manino said...

"Marco is Grave of the Fireflies. It's 52 episodes of that."

I can't fancy it, simply can't.
Well, guess that's my next watch them.

francois said...

What is the situation with English fansubs? I've been watching Marco every evening with my 8yo daughter, who is absolutely riveted. But we're up to episode 18, and Live-evil are still only up to 20 as far as I can tell:

Is that our only option? Or are these watchable?

Unknown said...

francois, I have watched the entire series from this torrent, but the subtitles are kind of crude, since the guy who made them probably didn't have complete knowledge of Japanese. And English isn't his main language, as there are some grammar errors. But it's still watchable, these issues didn't stop me of enjoying the series and, like your daughter, be absolutely riveted and emotionally thrilled.

Here's the link:

francois said...

@Vinicius: thanks! I'm still downloading it, and will give it a go. If the translation is a real problem, then I may pause this series, and move on to Anne of Green Gables and Conan (both of which I've already watched, but my daughter hasn't). Hopefully after that Live-evil will have some more episodes completed. Their translation is excellent.

Potli Baba said...

The first 7 episodes of Marco constitute what Kurosawa perhaps meant by "pure cinema". This is supreme filmmaking at its noblest and at the same time most accesible and humane. There is no "beautiful accident" as Welles sought or the invisble play of God as Bazin wrote about that would in anyway aid the storytelling. The medium of its realistic animation itself makes Marco the result of controlled creative intentions of a very, very talented team under Paku-san.

I would forgo the whole of Ghibli's filmography up till 'The Wind Rises' for Marco.

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