3000 Leagues in Search of Mother: Episode 1 (1976)

3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (aka Marco) is the 1976 television series created by the trio of Isao Takahata (director and writer), Hayao Miyazaki (layout and design) and Yoichi Kotabe (character design, animation director). This was their follow-up to the wildly successful Heidi, Girl of the Alps, which was instrumental in the anime boom of the 1970s and spread around the world. The series was followed by Anne of Green Gables in 1979, with Yoshifumi Kondo replacing Kotabe.

Of the three World Masterpiece Theater series, 3000 Leagues/Marco is my favorite. It has the richest, most epic story, the most varied and interesting characters, and the most emotionally challenging moments. It pushes serious melodrama to its limits, and it does lose some of the cheerful, bouncy energy of Heidi, but it's far more satisfying for me.

Is this Paku-san's greatest masterpiece? Maybe. It remains lesser known than either Heidi or Anne, perhaps owing to its source material, a little-known short story that was greatly expanded and adapted into a 52-episode series.

Here's the first episode of Marco. There are no subtitles, so you'll just have to follow along as best you can, but you should be able to understand the thrust of it. The story is about a boy named Marco, whose mother must leave their home in Italy for Argentina in search of work that will sustain their family. Marco does not want his mother to go, and his inner conflict will engulf his older brother and father in later episodes. Eventually, Marco travels across the ocean to search for his mother and bring her back home.

In addition to this pilot episode, the next ten episodes are on YouTube as well, from the same channel. Be sure to watch these before they get taken down by the copyright police. Whatever. Paku-san's art belongs to the world now. He belongs to us and we're never letting go.

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