Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette
Like nearly everyone in 19th century revolutionary France, single mother Fantine and her daughter Cosette have fallen upon hard times. They travel town to town, attempting to find work in order to feed themselves. Finally Fantine happens across a charitable innkeeper and his family, who offer to care for Cosette while Fantine works in a factory to pay for her care.
It turns out the family is not as honest as Fantine would believe--while she toils away with the masses of other hard-working women, her darling, blameless Cosette is acting as hired help--undergoing verbal and physical abuse. But Cosette carries on, in the hopes of being reunited with her mother very, very soon.
Warning: Spoilers for the original book--I can't say if they will hold true for the series.
Now any of you well-read viewers out there should be able to spot the problem with that summary right off the bat. There is absolutely no mention of any of the main characters. Never fear, this isn't because they are absent--not by any means. But in an attempt to shift the target audience to children and their families, NHK has taken the story of reformed ex-convict Jean Valjean and, instead of telling a story of redemption and forgiveness, tells us of Cosette's steadfast determination and endurance under the heavy, cruel hand of the Thenardiers.
I am actually torn when writing this review, because this spinning of Les Miserables is a lovely one--but those expecting an adaptation of the brilliant, moving, outright stellar novel (okay, lemme get it out on the table--this is my favorite novel of all time) are in for a severe disappointment. What do you expect from a World Masterpiece Theatre adaptation? This program is best known for Akage no Anne and Romeo's Blue Sky, which were both books for children. Les Miserables ("The Miserable" in French) is anything but children's reading.
Things like Fantine selling herself to a brothel are obviously re-written to be more family-friendly and less traumatic for kiddies. Javert (my favorite character of all time! I weep.) doesn't get nearly the air time he deserves, and his cruelty (beating women, for example) is toned down to simply make him grouchy. The Thenardiers, who were always more charlatans than intimidatingly cruel, remain true-to-form, but the biggest tragedy of this series is the blatant neglect of one of literature's finest heroes, Jean Valjean.
Instead we get more of Cosette's merry misadventures with the Thenardier's youngest boy, Gavroche, who is the only member of the family who isn't cruel to her. (And curiouser still--how will they handle his tragic death at the barricades when he gets blasted down by a rain of bullets in ten years or so?) They play with the animals, frolic in the field, and do their best to never be caught by Gavroche's parents. Of course we get a cute doggy companion--all for that feel-good family feeling.
...I am failing to see where all the "miserables" comes in?
I am still watching this series though. Why? Because even if it isn't exactly Les Miserables, it is still really darned good stuff...it's more like...like a spin-off series, or even doujinshi extra stuff. Regardless, they are the characters I have grown to love over nearly two decades, and they are still very well interpreted, albeit watered-down. The animation is beautiful, colorful, and romantic. The music is as expected of a World Masterpiece Theatre work--lush and rich. The theme songs, sung by past idol Yuki Saito ("Kanashimi wo Konnichiwa" from Maison Ikkoku) make your chest swell and your eyes water--and ultimately they are what hooked me into this series (outside of the "Les Mis" name).
The stories are still entertaining and beautiful--and while they aren't exactly original, the main plot is still one of the most famous there is, and this series is an excellent introduction to the most moving, emotional, mind-blowing novel of all time--okay, okay, that I have ever read--but could never hold a candle to the original.
Final verdict? This series is certainly worth your time--if you are not familiar with the novel. More anime should contain substance like this--but to be honest? If you really have the time to watch an anime, do yourself a favor and read the book. This is a mere shadow of what Les Miserables really is. Still a fantastic series in its own right--but as a rabid fan of the novel and the musical, I feel I am being generous with a fourth star. This isn't Les Miserables. This is really well-done Les Miserables "fanfiction." Don't mess with a classic.
Four stars for those whose knowledge is limited to the musical and/or the movies, or if you are like me and will take ANYTHING Les Mis. Subtract a star if you are a loyal fan of the novel--this will be ultimately disappointing. Read the book. Read the book. READ THE BOOK. (Though this is still better than ANY of the movie adaptations.) — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: Appropriate for all ages. (Though it SO shouldn't be. GRAH!)
Version(s) Viewed: Television broadcast.
Review Status: Partial (10/52)
Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette © 2007 Nippon Animation
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