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Yesterday I paid a visit to this Japanese site put up by some anonymous samaritan offering a whole bunch of episodes of the old TV series まんが世界昔ばなし (Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi, Classic Tales from Around the World, 1976-79) for download, and discovered that the site has been much filled out since I last visited a year ago. The files now have sound, and there are about 50 episodes available in total. A great find. This is a very rare series. Nobody has heard of it, but here we have a long series with episode after episode done by famous figures like Osamu Dezaki, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Masami Hata, and Manabu Ohashi. Many of the names are Mushi Pro figures, so it seems likely that Madhouse was the animation studio actually behind the production of the episodes, although the umbrella company Dax International is the only name that usually gets mentioned in the credits. This series was obviously patterned on Group Tac's まんが日本昔ばなし (Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi, Classic Tales from Old Japan), the more famous of the two and the one that originated the idea for an animated omnibus of literary classics & folktales with a rotating crew every episode. The latter's unique production style left behind innumerable absolutely wonderful little gems, including a number of episodes animated by Gisaburo Sugii.
The capstone in the Madhouse version is the Shipwreck episode created by Madhouse's ambassadors, the unbeatable triumvirate of Osamu Dezaki, Akio Sugino and Shichiro Kobayashi. Despite its brevity - actually, because of its brevity - this is probably my favorite film by the team. Forced by this brevity to do away with any extraneous detail, every shot and every image feels dramatically convincing and essential, without any of the interminable melodramatic languors that usually so turn me off from Dezaki, resulting in what is for me the most succinct and convincing embodiment of their time-tested approach. The episode can be downloaded from this page. (it's the first one at the top; the Red Shoes episode, sixth from the top, also by the same team, is also very much worth a look)
Among the episodes added since my last visit was one by Masami Hata, for which the webmaster has my eternal gratitude! Specifically, it was animated and directed by Masami Hata. Takeshi Shudo wrote it and Shichiro Kobayashi did the art. It's a Norwegian fairy tale about a poor boy who extorts a bunch of magical objects from the north wind for having spilled his wheat. It's a great episode - serene, warm, unostentatious, perfectly honed, with nothing unnecessary, peppered with the sort of refined, understated, irresistible humor that makes Hata the one and only true Zen master of gags in the wide world of anime. Hata's animation is very simple, and the designs are round and fluffy, yet for some reason it feels like nothing else out there. There's real magic in there, in the timing, something honest and heartfelt and without anime fakery or posing or showing off, which makes it a pure joy to watch. It's a mystery to me where this disctinctive approach comes from - it's something fundamentally alien to anime. It's Masami Hata's unique contribution to anime. And it's a real treasure. The episode can be downloaded from this page. (it's the second from the top)
Thanks for posting the link to this site; the north wind story was really great . I also really liked the fifth episode from the bottom about the Golden Deer. I’ve been searching around trying to find the orignal story, and while there is a buddhist story about o a Golden Deer who could talk with the voice of a human, the details in this seem too different from the story in the cartoon to be it.
Thanks for the comment, Alan. I’d totally forgotten about the Golden Deer episode. I just rewatched it, and I have to agree, it’s truly wonderful, maybe even my favorite overall episode in the series. I wish I knew who did it.
You’ve got me wondering about the original too now. There appear to be not one but several different Golden Deer stories including one in the Ramayana and the Banyan Deer story, so I’m thinking either there might still be more out there, or the animators just took the basic idea of a golden deer and ran with it, ie, excersised major creative license.
I still remember that series. Was the narrator Etsuko Ichihara (Kaseifu ha Mita!), wasn’t she?
Thanks for dropping by! Actually, it’s MIYAGI Mariko (with NAGOYA Akira later on in the series). You’re thinking of Manga NIHON Mukashibanashi. You remember how I had all those tapes of Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi way back when? Loved that show.
This was very interesting to read! I believe I saw this series as DVDs for sale on a japanese site. Is there an episode guide somewhere of this series? I’d really like to find out the names of each episode so I can label downloads correctly.
Hello again Ben, I just bought a 2nd vhs tape today called “Little Red Riding Hood and Other Fabulous Fables” which features 3 episodes of this anime. “Little Red Riding Hood", “The Rainbow Bird", and “The Three Wishes".
More research turned up more english vhs tapes of the series released back in the early 90’s. I couldn’t find the “rainbow bird” on the japanese site to download but the other 2 I did find and am glad I did.
I remember saying something once about having watched some episodes of this show back in the day, and finally got around to finding it in English to share! This was how they dubbed these episodes some 30 years or so ago. The kid they got for this story isn’t particularly great, but I guess it was the best they could do.
I first saw this back on a program Nickelodeon had in the 80’s called “Pinwheel", which some would see as a Seasme Street-wannabe with it’s puppet and human cast of characters, but featured a rather unique, eclectic mix of foreign-produced animated films from all over. Stuff I can’t see or find anymore domestically, but thanks to the net, I’ve been able to reacquaint myself with that lost childhood I had watching these, especially the Eastern European stuff.
English-dubbed episodes from “Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi” often found their way to a variety of VHS and DVD releases over the years through small-time budget distributors. Often labeled “Fairy Tale Classics” or any other generic title to get by, they usually never credit the Japanese studio or producers involved in making these impressive gems, so I never really quite knew who did these until I checked out Ettinger’s site long ago. Such a deserving and forgotten classic I only wish was out on DVD here.
Thank u for the article. I was looking for the episodes that dezaki directed and found this article ( i haven’t found his episodes yet :D)
I was surprised when u mentioned that it is a rare series. The arabic dubbed version is popular and we still have some channels air it, but it is all over youtube.
Just to double check we are talking about the same one; is this the one u r talking about?