Dog of Flanders, The
While I don't know the heritage of this piece I sort of have to respect its strength...considering it was enough to make me have to take `breaks' while watching it. This is because the story is one of those classic European tragic types. As soon as I saw the young, honest and artistically talented hero of the story get snubbed for being `lower class' I knew no good would come of it. And indeed while there are moments of youthful pleasure, there is no shortage of sadness in this fairly moving story.
The setting seems like a fairly solid representation of historical Europe (late 1800?) set in Flanders (a region of holland). The dog in question being the boys faithful companion and, while being obviously limited in dialog, is suprisingly expressive. There are a range of other characters, all of whom feel both archetypal (to this type of story) and strange because this type of historical tale is not something I commonly see. I suspect the anime is based on a novel but it would be fun to go back and see if and how this has been modified to Japanese tastes. It's tempting to wonder if it was a co-production, but the credits seem to indicate a purely Japanese heritage.
The animation is one of the things that encourages this suspicion. The style is fairly non-standard, having a rich palette but relatively simple line and color work. It almost looks as if it is done in the style of (early?) European animation, although some quite impressive computer graphics and digital composition gives away that it is a modern production. For those familiar with Japanese animation it looks sort of, strange, but it is quite capable and sufficient to tell the story. The story itself is strong, although the dialog is fairly direct, perhaps not helped by the American voice actors. Although like the animation the dub is sufficiently good to support the story. An interesting piece, and those who like a touching story should feel free to give it a try. For me it represents the kind of story I developed an interest in anime to avoid :)