The Adventures of the Little Prince
Far, far into space, on a small planet called B-612 lives the Little Prince. He's the ruler of his little world, and as such, has a lot of responsibilities. There are three dormant volcanoes that needs to be cleaned every day, Baobab trees to be uprooted and butterflies to chase around so they will get excercise.
But the Prince also looks towards the stars and dreams about going far into space to visit strange worlds and make new friends. So, in passing, Swiftee the space bird gives him a crash course in how to catch rides on passing comets.
My first encounter with this show took place quite a few years ago, back when I served my country's millitary duty. Back then, FUN factory had a weekend cartoon special running every morning, where I could relax to various shows not of Japanese origin. On a side note, that was when I took my first hesistant steps into anime fandom through various UK VHS imports, and anime on TV was almost virtually unheard of.
I say almost, because at the time, I had no idea that The Little Prince was actually a bona-fide anime, what with the way it was shoehorned between other Saturday morning favorites like Jayce, MASK or even Peanuts. I didn't really manage to catch more than a few token episodes either, but the memory nevertheless sat with me for years after, and rediscovering it was a whole lot easier since I had an actual title to go on. So, when I caught wind of a box set with this show, I took a chance on it.
By my own experience, I can't really say how accurate this show follows the book, seeing as I've never read it. However, I've had plenty of opportunities to discuss the anime with our retired harvesting maiden Melkorka, who swears on the book as one of her favorites. Judging by what she told me, the show does keep all key elements, but there's still a few distinct differences that needs to be pointed out, especially considering the fact that I find it far more likely for this review to be read by people wanting to watch the anime based on an old book favorite rather than parents that are just looking for something to entertain their children with.
Because, yes, The Little Prince is a children's show. Very much so, in fact. The Prince himself is an almost unnaturally naive and innocent little boy, who approaches everything with an openmindedness and friendly disposition that would make Barney proud, and the whole way the show is directed is pretty much angled by child logic, with adult sensibilities and quirks often exhaggerated to comedic effect. Mel reassures me that the Prince in the book is nothing like that, leaning more towards a somber melancholy, and hearing this was less than satisfactory for her, to put it lightly.
In fact, the entire show itself goes by child logic and fancy. B-612, a planet so small you could walk around its surface and return to the point of origin would take less than a minute still has a gravity field equal to Earth, not to mention an atmosphere to boot. Never mind that there's birds flying around in space, sometimes accompanied by a little boy holding on to his butterfly net for dear life because it's got a comet inside of it, and yes, he does survive the trip into any atmosphere and the impending surface impact none the worse for wear.
Not that I really have a problem with that; it's a children's show, after all, and said flights of fancy is one of the nice elements of the show. The only problem is that The Little Prince will turn serious on occasion. In fact, each episode usually has a lesson or two to impart, and that's where the double-edged sword comes into play, often to the shows own peril. See, a lot of the cast are adults, and they're more often than not important to the lesson of the episode. Sometimes that work, mostly when it comes to the relationship between parents and their children, or even relatives. Episodes like Shipwreck, the Wolf Pack, a light in the storm or even the quasi-self-insertion episode A Small Alien are among the best, mostly because the characters stay somewhat in character as befits their personalities and age, thus their lessions are definitely taken to heart. Again, this is a children's show, so we're not really supposed to find it strange when a little boy introduces himself as "The Little Prince from the planet B-612".
Another nice thing is that, watching this show, you really get around too. The Prince visits a large variety of countries on our planet Earth -- amongst many others; Australia, the US, the UK, Belgium, Ukraine and, yes, even Norway and Sweden -- and while it can't claim accuracy in the same way Aria portrays Venice, I'm guessing at least some research has been done to present each country with at least some semblance of identity. The Little Prince even shows the courtesy of not throwing around negative racial stereotypes. Some of the accents are pretty bad, though. Especially the Norwegian and Swedish ones. (Yes, we have accents. No, they don't sound like that.)
Sadly, some of the other episodes just don't work. Quite a few of them basically have adults acting like no adults I've ever seen, and for no other reason than to make the Prince's well-meant advice come across as enlightening, although it's worth noting that while the original book tended to be very critical towards "foolish" adult behavior, the anime is probably less so. In another noteworthy episode, "The Star Gazer", things get changed around enough for the original lesson to lose its steam, which is particularly notable due to it being one of the stories from the book. The original story happened to be about an astronomer whose research wasn't taken seriously because he didn't dress up for his presentations. In the anime, however, he wasn't laughed at or booed out of the auditorium because of his clothes, but because he comically fumbled his own presentation up to the point where his clothes tore themselves apart for no reason at all. So the Prince and the astronomer's granddaughter cooked up a plan with the local policeman to have the astronomer arrested for not upholding a dress code of sorts. I could also go into the episode about Lapland and the Prince's attempts to stop a Laplander from shooting a deer in some sort of oddball adulthood rite of passage, because killing animals is bad, mmm'kay? Yes, even despite the village leader's arguments that the Laplanders live by what the reindeer provide in the harsh elements. An ending that's quite frankly a bit of a copout is then offered, and things are settled.
It's not that I regret buying and watching this show, but I will probably not watch it again. I need to stress the fact that this show was primarily made for children. It did win an award, after all -- the "Film Advisory Board Award of Excellence" if that means anything to you -- and it's also been "recommended by the National Education Association". Well, at least when it was aired on TV. Despite being rather old, it's also got some pretty good background art and animation to its name, which is certainly a boon considering the places this show takes you. There's some wildly inconsistent color schemes going around and the occasional fuzzy line quality, though, which is probably caused by the age of the source material. That goes for the sound too.
I wish I could reassure you that being a fan of the book would guarantee you liking this show, but judging by Mel's reactions to some of my descriptions of various episodes, it might also backfire spectacularly. Personally, I thought it was an alright show. It could probably have been handled a little bit better, but on an average scale, it's ok.
If you're not keen on children's flights of fancy, remove a star. Being a fan of the book would mean either adding a star or removing one, depending on how you feel about the changes in characters, especially regarding the Prince himself. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The box seems to be unrated, but aside from the occasional elements about the seriousness of life, there's nothing here that's unsuitable for children; the show's intended audience.
Version(s) Viewed: DVD release, bilingual (English and Spanish.)
Review Status: Partial (26/39)
The Adventures of the Little Prince © 1979 Knack Production / TV Asahi
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