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Anne of Green Gables – Episode 14

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am delighted to return to Anne of Green Gables, after far too long away from our precocious young heroine and her fanciful adventures. In the time since our last visit I’ve continued to enjoy as much Takahata as possible, screening both later Ghibli films and Toei Doga classics like Horus, but there’s nothing quite like his beautiful, meditative television work. The World Masterpiece Theater productions remain a singular high point in anime history, and Takahata will likely always be one of my very favorite directors.

Anyway, it is delightful to be back, and it looks like we’re in for another sturdy episode production-wise. World Masterpiece Theater and Miyazaki/Takahata mainstay Seiji Okuda is back on storyboarding duty, with the lack of a distinct assigned director again leading me to assume this’ll be an episode hewing closely to Takahata’s vision of the story. And though scriptwriter Kaizo Kamiyama is relatively untested, I’m not particularly concerned; Anne’s dialogue sings because so much of it was taken directly from L.M. Montgomery’s novel, a trend I expect to continue with fantastic results. Who knew that closely adapting classic novels would result in superior anime dramas? But let’s not get snippy about The General State Of Things, for we’ve got a show to watch. Onward to Green Gables!

Episode 14

Given it’s been a year and a half since our last viewing, this charming opening feels all the more like a greeting from an old friend. Anne is a sanctuary like few other productions, a high water mark in terms of the medium’s aspirations and aesthetics, and yet for all that it’s such a gentle, inviting experience. I enjoy many slice of life anime, but their modern incarnations are often awkwardly saddled with expectations born of modern anime’s insular assumed audience. Anne of Green Gables is a story for everyone, and its characters and dramatic priorities are stronger for it

Such a strong, specific atmosphere in this opening’s passage of seasons, as well. As a child of New England, much of this imagery feels inherently nostalgic to me, evoking the sort of turn-of-century pastoral and wintry paintings that often adorn New England homes and establishments. It’s two time capsules in one, the proud era of its production and aesthetic touchstones of its internal world each warming in their own way

“A Tempest in the School Teapot.” Of course it only takes one episode for Anne to start stirring up scholastic mischief

After the early embarrassment from Mr. Phillips, Anne works hard to catch up in her studies, and we now check in with her three weeks later

“She was like the parched ground, absorbing the rain water greedily and quickly.” Isn’t it nice when shows have voice and lyricism to their dialogue? It’s perhaps one of the greatest limitations of modern anime, which is so frequently mired in the “blind leading the blind” confines of light novel writing. To become a great writer inherently demands reading broadly, reading outside of your favorite genre, reading the classics even if they feel like homework – especially if they feel like homework, because that indicates you haven’t yet read enough to fully appreciate the beauty of language for its own sake, not simply as a vector for the plot events you want to convey. Anime is brimming with great animators and directors, but it has a sobering paucity of great writers, and that in large part comes down to the insular feedback loop of what are essentially amateur writers with limited life experience just writing for each other

Obviously there is an audience for such writing, but such craft limitations also limit the scope of both a story’s potential audience and also its emotional or thematic ambitions. Being able to write well isn’t just a tool for more precisely conveying your thoughts – reading and writing are actually the essence of thought itself, the tools for expanding your mind and coming to a greater understanding of yourself and the world around you

Diana informs Anne that the absent Gilbert Blythe will be appearing in class today

Apparently this Gilbert is quite the handsome fellow

Diana excitedly expands on how Gilbert teases and torments all the girls

“I should just like to see anyone dare to write my name up with a boy’s.” Anne calling out her enemies on the spot

Uh oh, apparently Charlie Sloane is into Anne

“She told her mother you were the smartest girl in school! That’s better than being pretty.” “No it isn’t! I’d rather be pretty than clever.” Oh my god Anne. A fair portion of her charm comes down to her total obliviousness to her own talents; unsurprisingly, everything that is exceptional about her is actually mundane from her perspective, since she’s the one living in her own head. This perspective is of course further validated by Marilla, who lacks the language to praise Anne’s curiosity and imagination even if she were inclined to do so

Gilbert is being set up as a near parallel to Anne – similarly quite intelligent, and similarly barred from schooling due to family circumstances, forcing him to catch up when he can

Unsurprisingly, Anne welcomes the challenge

Gosh, such fluid character animation as we introduce our presumed Gilbert. So much of modern animation relies heavily on post-production to create a sense of impact that the fundamental movement of characters cannot provide, but here we’ve just got the absolute basics of a character moving atop a flat cel, his confidence and personality conveyed in the loose sway of his legs, the energetic hop aboard this wooden fence

Interestingly, the reveal of his face is accompanied by an ornate frame, like the vines and leaves surrounding Anne at the end of each episode’s opening. I’m curious as to when this trend began – it feels like a precursor to the similar framing conceits Ikuhara would use in Revolutionary Girl Utena. I wonder if Dezaki employed similar tricks

Gilbert delights in his agility and youth, confidently picking an apple from the tree, casually rolling it down his arm, and then chucking it forward only to race ahead and catch it. A character-rich introduction conveying his easy, borderline arrogant confidence

Love Anne’s hollow stare as the hated Charlie walks up beside them

At school, the boys engage in the traditional pastime of Cricket Racing

Gilbert does not make a flattering initial show of himself: he pins the girl in front of him’s ponytail to her desk, making it so her head yanks back when she attempts to bring up her test

More great character acting as Gilbert and Anne conduct their silent introductions, Gilbert offering Anne a conspiratorial wink, Anne responding with a huff of shocked judgment

“It isn’t good manners to wink at a strange girl!” Getting lots of life lessons from Anne this episode

There are so many nice, distinctive details adding some color to the lives and interests of these children. As a composition peering through the window leads us back to the schoolroom, we see a boy observing a snail in the foreground, a small addition emphasizing the everyday doldrums of school and the diverse ways these children wile that time away

This episode’s wealth of incidental character animation is impressive in general. These classroom scenes feel Miyazaki-esque, bursting with small flourishes of background animation in ambitious crowd scenes

Very much relate to Anne’s approach to this boredom: zoning out while staring out the window, imagining what fantastical things might be happening on the lake, a cozy song playing in her head. Like me, I imagine Anne runs into a fair number of people who tell her to “stop staring,” not realizing she’s actually staring through wherever her eyes fall, her brain in truth focused on the dreams of her mind’s eye

Cherubs float up from the lake and towards a castle in the clouds. Flights of fancy like this are a wonderful way to integrate Takahata’s love of magical realism, one of my own favorite subgenres. I tend to prefer magic that mysteriously inhabits the margins of our world over magic that is cold and quantified, essentially just a math equation

Gilbert does not enjoy being ignored. He eventually pulls her pigtail and calls her a carrot, to which she responds with “You mean, hateful boy!” Anne insults always go for the throat

Oh my god, she actually smashes her slate over his head! More wonderful expressions for this act of righteous retribution

Anne has no interest in explaining herself, so Gilbert actually steps up to admit fault. A defining aspect of Anne’s personality here – she is always sure of her own righteousness, to the point where she feels it is unnecessary and indeed a waste of time to explain herself

As such, instead of justifying her actions, she simply bites her lip and accepts the punishment. Her way of “maintaining her honor”

Mr. Phillips writes “Anne Shirley has a bad temper” on the board, which is frankly hard to argue

Gilbert resurfaces to apologize after class, but Anne is hearing none of it. Treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen, Anne!

“I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe!” Love her drama. She combines the general childish assumption of finality in all things with a vocabulary rich enough to actually lend gravitas to such statements, resulting in statements like “to the end of my days, spinach shall be my most hated of foes”

“There’s a great deal of difference between being called a crow and being called carrots.” Anne knows such things

“Gilbert Blythe has hurt my feelings EXCRUCIATINGLY, Diana!” She is so much fun

Even the narrator can’t help but smile, saying “things might have blown over if not for more excruciation”

“But when things begin to happen they are apt to keep on.” Very true

The next day, the kids head to Mr. Bell’s grove to gather spruce gum

For wearing a flower crown to school, Mr. Phillips condemns Anne to sit next to Gilbert. Love Diana immediately reaching for Anne’s hands, as if to stop her from decking Mr. Phillips

Anne will accept no apology! Gilbert even offers her a “You Are Sweet”-imprinted lollipop, which she crushes under her heel

Anne feels everything very deeply, which can be a blessing and a curse. She appreciates the marvels of the world around her more than anyone, but she also feels utterly defeated by any perceived slight or injustice

As such, her response to this injustice is to declare she will NEVER go to school again

“I’d let myself be torn limb from limb if it did you any good. But I can’t do this.” A good summation of Anne’s mental process

Love this cut from Diana in despair at Anne’s choice to Marilla simply saying “nonsense.” There’s never been more need for Marilla to set her melodramatic daughter straight

“I’ll be as good as I can and hold my tongue if at all possible!” Anne’s vague awareness of her own extraordinarily difficult nature is always a good source of comedy. When your characters are consistently realized and rich enough in their personalities, you don’t really need overt gags to create comedy, you can find it in the natural interplay of contrasting personalities wielded by people lacking in self-awareness

“Mr. Phillips has been carrying matters with a rather high hand.” Marilla objects initially, but it’s abundantly clear how fully she is in Anne’s corner at this point

Marilla consults with Rachel Lynde, who agrees that Mr. Phillips is at this point simply picking on Anne

Rachel offers more great advice, suggesting Marilla actually allow Anne to stay home. It’s beyond question that Anne will soon cool off, and that she’ll furthermore find herself missing spending time with all her schoolmates

Anne is overwhelmed by gratitude, and embraces the uncomfortable Marilla. Always one of Anne’s best bits

And Done

Thus Anne begins her defiant rejection of Mr. Phillips and his so-called school, suffering all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and yet standing firm, unwilling to compromise with either Phillips himself or the hated Gilbert. This episode saw Anne at her most charmingly self-defeating, embracing the strong sense of personal righteousness and oversized emotions that so frequently make her a delight, here aimed in a variety of amusingly destructive directions. Anne is in part a great character because her strengths and weaknesses are the same; she is willful and passionate to a fault, as easily seduced by her lofty tales as any of her accomplices. I’m eager to see how her rebellion plays out!

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