Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974, 52 Episodes, English Subtitles)

Whenever I am asked what is Isao Takahata's greatest works, I always say, simply, "Heidi Marco Anne." Those three television series are his crowning masterpieces, and the epic novels to Studio Ghibli's short stories. This series became a blockbuster smash success in Japan, and was soon exported to nearly every nation on the globe. Everywhere except the USA, that is. D'oh!

This week, in many parts of the world, Isao Takahata will be remembered as the director of Heidi, that beloved animated series that became the soundtrack to so many childhoods. Meanwhile, many of us who have never seen this program can discover it and be amazed, dazzled and overwhelmed.

This is a fantastic series. Of the "Heidi Marco Anne" trilogy, my personal favorite is Marco, but there's no denying the brilliance and boundless charms of Heidi. This masterwork, more than any other, is the defining paradigm of the Studio Ghibli movies. This is where Miyazaki found his best inspirations. And I think there's at least one "Ghibli Riff" in all 52 episodes.

This series is really a team effort between Takahata (director), Miyazaki (layout and design) and Yoichi Kotabe (animation director, character design), and they should all share credit. But it's Paku-san's genius and vision that made this work a reality. It was he who wanted to create a cartoon melodrama that celebrated daily life in almost documentary detail. It was he who wanted to push the emotional boundaries of the medium. It was he who wanted to shatter the "kiddie cartoon" archetype and create true literature. Heidi may not be as dark or moody as Horus, Prince of the Sun, Takahata's revolutionary 1968 feature film, but it's just as important a milestone in the evolution of anime.

This is a fantastic series. I wish GKIDS would just pay the ransom money and release the series in the US. These fan translations are terrific, but I'm really hungry for a proper Blu-Ray box set.

Here is the entire Heidi series, all 52 episodes, with English subtitles. Enjoy!

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