Candy Candy OAV
Now, this is a hot and steamy hentai about a young....ah, no its not. Although the name sounds pretty suspicious this is actually cloyingly shoujo stuff that should cause the sex and violence anime fans to flee the room. Which is a pretty positive result in my opinion. Note also this is a short OAV, the real candy candy was a TV series of which I've seen none.
From the moment the flower petals and soft colors hit the screen you know we're in for a shoujo experience. But this story also includes a very `Victorian' sort of tale to under-pin it all. Candy Candy is a beautiful, blonde haired, vivacious young girl. She's an orphan, having been found abandoned on the doorstep of the quite poor orphanage. Despite this she has grown to be strong in character, perceptive and likeable.
Of course, being a `Victorians' type tale there's no shortage of things to test her character. The other children from the orphanage have all been adopted leaving her alone. And when she leaves the orphanage it is only to be a companion to a thoughtlessly cruel spoilt rich girl who thinks nothing of teasing the `hired help'. It's got a reasonable edge of psychological nastiness to the whole thing. Of course a ray of hope, while at the same something that inflames her current situation, comes to exist in a young boy who, while wealthy, is not so proud that he'll overlook a good heart.
Sadly there are some sizable negatives to the whole thing. The main problem being that it is fairly short (35 minutes) which means it all moves fast. This may also be due to the fact that it is re-telling the beginning of a TV series that many viewers would be familiar with. This fast pace combines with the very `familiar' feel to the story, although possibly more to western audiences than the original Japanese one, to make it seem a bit, well, corny.
In essence it's aimed at young children and romantic softies, aiming to give the heart-strings a fair old tug in the shortest time possible. Thus the stories are relatively simple and the events strong, simple and slightly melodramatic. In combination it will bring those who love complexity and mature or adult story-lines to their knees...it's really quite unsubtle both in the scenes and the larger story. Even many shoujo fans might find this one a little difficult to really like.
Now, I'd strongly suspect that the TV series (which I assume exists) is a simplification of the manga volumes. And given a quick survey of the fan pages on the Internet it looks like it is the manga that the serious fans champion. The single OAV is thus a simplification of a simplification, so what I say here should not be taken as representing anything but the OAV. Oh, by the way, the reason I suspect there's a TV series is because the tape included some candy candy karaoke tracks, which included animation that looked like it was chopped out of a much earlier series.
So in summary it is relatively simple, fast and overly romantic. Full of cute scenes, cute character shots, flying flower petals and some of the most seriously shoujo eyes I've ever seen. This being balanced out by the scenes of cruelty where candy candy's low social status makes her an easy target for bullying. The saving grace is that even with the weaknesses, and the fact it all feels staged and artificial, the story still works as well as it ever did. You can't help but be on candies side, delighted when something goes well or there is a moment of pleasure or feeling either sad or angry when something goes badly. The whole setting provides some surprisingly intense moments that drag you in despite the rational side of your brain screaming out against being manipulated so easily. And candy is a good character, when you expect her to be shattered she proves to be resilient, when you expect her to be hurt she turns strong, while at the same time having foibles and weaknesses to keep her human.
As for production values...well, they're a mixed bag. It's fairly modern animation and far superior to the animation seen in the karaoke section. On the other hand it is aggressively shoujo in style (perhaps more than anything I've ever seen). And whether because it is part of the style, or the style allows it, the actual animation is relatively simple. Lots of open and bright scenes, simple character designs and very little in the way of action. It's enough to tell the story and give character, but the animation is nothing special and the style used feels very traditional to the point of being old fashioned. The voices were good even though the characters don't really get enough time to develop. The music was pleasant light vocal stuff, including a couple of song interludes in the show, but not particularly remarkable.
None of my regular sources have a review of this title, and I don't really expect this to be on the top of their to do lists. There's a fair few web pages by fans, but most of them have little in the way of information on anything other than the manga.