03 July 2009

Anime Alice in Wonderland

There’s a lot of hype in the blogosphere at the moment over Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (see recently leaked images) despite the fact that the film won’t be released until spring 2010. It got me thinking about the prevalence of Alice in Wonderland-type themes in Japanese animation.

The first one that comes to mind is the classic anime series Alice in Wonderland (ふしぎの国のアリス/Fushigi no Kuni no Arisu, 1983-1984) directed by Shigeo Koshi and Taku Sugiyama. The series was a German-Japanese co-production involving Nippon Animation which aired on in Japan on the NHK and in West Germany on ZDF. Nippon Animation (formerly Zuiyo Eizo) has a long history of producing classics from world children’s literature. They were the studio responsible for the World Masterpiece Theatre (世界名作劇場/ Sekai Meisaku Gekijō) anime series, which ran from 1969 to 1997. It’s a beautifully animated little series. I don’t know if it has ever shown on TV in English – I would imagine that there might be copyright problems with Disney - but it’s widely available on DVD here in Germany and repeats were shown on the children’s broadcaster KiKa earlier this year.

The popular series InuYasha (戦国御伽草子 犬夜叉, 1996-2008) has an Alice in Wonderland theme. It follows the adventures of a young girl who is drawn into a fantasy world when she falls down an old well. Viz, the company who translated the series into English, gave nods to the influence of Lewis Carroll in their translations of some of the titles. For example, of the third episode in the first series as "Down the Rabbit Hole and Back Again." (骨喰いの井戸からただいまっ!) The second movie was called The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass (映画犬夜叉 鏡の中の夢幻城, 2002). The use of the archaic term ‘looking glass’ instead of ‘mirror’ as a translation for ‘kagami’ (鏡) makes the Lewis Carroll reference clear.

The Clamp manga Miyuki-chan in Wonderland (不思議の国の美幸ちゃん) puts an erotic, lesbian spin on the Lewis Carroll tale. It was adapted into a 30-minute OVA anime by Kiyoko Sayama in 1995. This anime was not really my cup of tea, but its fansub is pretty popular viewing on youtube. The screenshot above features a female embodiment of the Cheshire cat seducing Miyuki-chan.

Ouran High School Host Club (桜蘭高校ホスト部) takes on Alice in episode 13. Entitled "Haruhi in Wonderland"(不思議の国のハルヒ), the episode features Haruhi having a fantastical Alice in Wonderland dream about the day of her admission into Ouran High School.

Nagisa Miyazaki’s adaptation of the Kaishaku Kagihime Monogatari Eikyū Alice Rondo manga (鍵姫物語 永久アリス輪舞曲, 2006) was also inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story.

My favourite, however, is Atsuko Ishizuka’s contribution to the NHK’s Minna no Uta series: Tsuki no Waltz (Waltz of the Moon, 2004). After making a big splash with her independently produced animation shorts, Madhouse snapped Ishizuka up as an in-house animator. However, the studio was kind enough to let Ishizuka do one short animation for the NHK. Tsuki no Waltz is easily in my top ten Minna no Uta animations of all time because the dream-like animation is just stunning. It fits with the romantic Mio Isayama song perfectly, and each frame of the animation could be printed, framed, and hung on the wall as art. You can check out the video here.  (Update Sept. 2010: More on Tsuki no Waltz)

Can anyone think of one that I've missed?  Leave a message in the comments.

Related Posts:
Tsuki no Waltz

Tsuki no Waltz is available on:

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009