Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to Anne of Green Gables, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve actually been looking forward to this return for most of a week now; the show has already captured my imagination, offering a window into a sedate yet beautiful world, where the peaceful mastery of Montgomery and Takahata intertwine.
Many of anime’s finest attractions advertise themselves with great fanfare, promising dazzling animation highlights and stories like nothing you’ve seen. Anne of Green Gables is more my speed: a work of extraordinary craft that still sees the mundane as worthy of attention, helping to reacquaint us with the beauty of the living world, and the profundity of small acts of kindness. I feel at home in its lovingly painted hills, and comforted by the presence of its humbly human characters. Productions this generous are an odd quirk of history, borne of production conditions that ebb and subside, never to return. I am thus thankful it exists at all, and doubly thankful to be exploring it with you readers. Let’s return to the rolling fields of Green Gables!
This OP is such a phenomenal mood-setter, literally carrying us away from our everyday concerns. Anne scanning the horizon during this snow drift embodies this production’s efficient approach to character acting, as she confidently, patiently drinks in all the sights of the countryside. Anne’s enthusiasm for the world around her is quite infectious – and when the world is this beautiful, who wouldn’t want to explore it?
Dawn comes as a cool light on the horizon, casting the bay’s idle boats in a deep blue sheen. I greatly appreciate this show’s diversity of color palettes. On a fundamental aesthetic level, it’s simply nice to see a production building such beautiful backgrounds out of unusual colors, and finding palettes that evoke something true and compelling about the natural world outside of the usual spectrum of bright, rich colors. Additionally, this panoply of palettes and backgrounds draws us that much closer to Anne’s perspective, sharing with us the magic she sees in the mundane world
We tend to mentally compartmentalize the environment around us into simplified, standardized base colors – grass is just green, rocks are just grey, etcetera. And animation, with its natural tendency towards simplified symbolism as representation of real-world phenomena (it’s easier to draw Bugs Bunny than a photorealistic rabbit, but both scan as “bunny”), frequently encourages this tendency. But as any painter will tell you, the colors that actually make up any vista are as numerous as they are surprising, with something like a still pond frequently containing shades of purple, green, and even orange. Through appreciating fine landscape art, we can come to better appreciate the unexpected pigments that contribute to the beauty of the natural world; in their own way, Anne’s backgrounds emphasize the magic in the mundane, echoing Anne’s flights of outright magical realism
In the predawn light, the usually pink blossoms actually adopt a pale blue hue
The arrival of dawn is portrayed in glorious detail, the colors of the world becoming warmer as the animals of the farm arise
They have a fat mom cat with a bunch of kittens. This show is now an 11/10
Anne waking is also full of well-observed details. For a moment she stays tucked in bed, just watching the shadow of a tree outside dance in the light of the window. Tiny, relatable moments like this do a wonderful job of emotionally aligning us with her perspective, like a secret shared between character and audience
The view outside her window is unfairly beautiful, and also full of inviting details like a small bridge in the distance, or a house on a further hill, all promising their own adventures
Perspective shots aiming down from her window further tether us to Anne’s point of view
We are just completely overwhelmed with beautiful shots of the surrounding countryside, the morning light drawing out an incredible array of colors in Anne’s new world
Anne of Green Gables exemplifies one of the things I love about anime, and about Japanese art more generally: a willingness to simply establish or rest in a moment, rather than be driven by perpetual narrative momentum. Scott McCloud points this out in his essential text Understanding Comics, remarking that American media tends to value the movement of plot over all else, whereas alternate media traditions are more willing to include moments that simply create texture and atmosphere. As someone who doesn’t tend to have much interest in the overt plot beats of narratives, it’s nice to find art that values the same things I do
Gazing out at the scenery, Anne imagines herself in a forest sanctuary, staring out at a sacred grove
Anne’s “isn’t it wonderful” is met by Marilla with a pragmatic assessment of their backyard tree’s yield. There is no magic in the world for Marilla, just the hard facts
“I can hear the brook laughing all the way up here.” What a wonderful way to describe a brook’s sound
“I shall always like to remember that there is a brook here even if I never see it again.” Marilla, how can you say no to this girl
“I’m not in the depths of despair this morning.” Happy to hear it, Anne
“The worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop.” Love Anne’s series of expressions here. Nice subtle details as she rests her head in her hands, pushing up her left cheek
Marilla finds herself sympathizing with Anne for a moment, then shakes herself out of it
“The world doesn’t seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night.” Anne is the queen of one-liners
“It’s easier to be cheerful and bear up under affliction on a sunshiny day.” Very true
Marilla informs her that she “talks entirely too much for a little girl.” One more in a procession of adults in her life who have no time for a precocious, opinionated child. Anne’s intelligence and inquisitiveness have been forced to grow in a barren field, unattended by parents who might value such brilliant talents
Anne gets so quiet in response that it actually makes Marilla nervous. Once again, the literary omniscient perspective keeps our understanding of the drama clear when character acting cannot suffice – Takahata is deftly employing the skills of his own medium, but also happily embracing the unique strengths of literature
“What’s to be done with you I don’t know.” Marilla states this in an exasperated tone, but she’s already shifted from “you’re definitely heading back” to “I don’t know what to do with you.” Keep it up, Anne!
As Matthew sows seeds, the fullness of the day at last reveals the scenery’s colors as we know them: fully saturated by sunlight, in their purest hues. Through Anne’s careful depiction of the light’s shifting relationship with the colors of the scenery, we see the world as Anne sees it, brimming with new sights and possibilities
“Your bed sheets are badly done compared to the dishes.” “That’s because I’ve never slept on such a comfortable bed.” What do you say to that, Marilla?
“After that, you can go play until noon.” Hard for me to imagine an era when unstructured outdoor play was the default for children
Anne rushes to the door, and stands on the mantle for a long moment, before retreating to the table. What point is there to falling further in love with this world, if it’s all about to be taken away from her?
“I am resigned to my fate now.” Already, Anne’s exceptional character acting is revealing consistent tics in how these characters express themselves. Anne always does this performative deep breath when she’s accepting a hard truth
Anne names the geranium in the window Bonny. Retreating to the cellar, Marilla reflects that Anne’s spell is starting to work on her, too
A song accompanies Anne staring longingly out the window, the bars and shadows emphasizing how she is being kept from the world outside
You can almost feel the volume of the paint on these beautiful background cels, as well as how the different paints meld into each other. I’m not sure this show could evoke quite the same feeling as a modern, digital production
“A girl wakes up, then declines to play outside.” Once again, I am delighted by the concepts this show is able to adapt into twenty minutes of captivating television
Matthew puts on his most powerful moping face when he returns from farmwork
Watching Anne disappear into the distance, he at last gains the courage to face his sister – but it’s too late
This episode is effectively employing these long held shots, as Anne or Matthew are caught in the grip of a grief that strikes them silent and still
“I’m not going to think about going back to the asylum while I’m on this drive.” Marilla thought she’d won, but Anne has her just where she wants her: trapped on a carriage, a captive audience for Anne’s charms
Oh, what a positively sorrowful thing it is to visit a place so lovely as Green Gables, only to be told you must return to the asylum. This episode certainly captured the beauty of Anne’s temporary home, with the sunrise over Green Gables standing as one of the show’s most enthralling sequences so far. The use of color and light in this show is beyond exceptional; every hour provides a fresh new canvas, as the sun draws wondrous subtleties out of the surrounding countryside. It’s a privilege to share in this world, and a delight to be sharing it with such exceptional company as the ever-interesting Anne. Marilla has little hope of maintaining her position through the ride ahead, and I’m eager to see her won over by Anne’s charms!
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