Perrine travels across Europe with her mother, a photographer, in a cabin drawn by a donkey. They are heading to a small village in northern France, the home of Perrine's dead father.
Perrine doesn't know that they are unwanted in the village; Perrine's father left the village after having quarrelled with his father (Perrine's grandfather) and married in India against his father's will. After her mother falls ill, Perrine has to sell everything, including her beloved donkey Palikare, to pay for medicine.
Mother dies in Paris and before dying tells the girl that she has to make her grandfather love her before he knows who she really is. After a journey full of hardships, Perrine finally arrives in the village where she learns that her grandfather is the rich owner of the factory that feeds all the villagers.
Presenting herself under a false name, Perrine gets a job on the factory, searching for a way to the heart of her grandfather.
I love Japan's kids shows. Why? Because they have BALLS. What do I mean? To put it simply, the majority of their children's shows aren't just silly entertainment for kids or gigantic marketing commercials to sell toys. Just like with the majority of their adult and teenager aimed anime, their children's shows are refined and mature. They explore and discuss issues that most American children's shows don't even acknowledge! Not all of them are overly happy pieces of fluff meant to tell kids that all their dreams will come true. When things get serious in their kids shows, BY GOD DO THEY GET SERIOUS! Japan's
kids shows take their audience seriously, don't treat them like morons, have much more refined and lavish animation than other kids shows from other countries, they're not afraid to show the dark sides of life like death or hardships, and they're not afraid to test their audience's patience. Ever since I realized what anime was, I always wondered: are fantasy shows and super hero shows full of action and fighting all American children really need to enjoy something? Who says children can't enjoy drama or slice of life shows where not much happens? Unfortunately, we Americans are under the stupid concept that the only shows American children will watch MUST have action, fighting, monsters, and overly preachy morals about friendship and making dreams come true. The people who make or advise the production of most American kids shows are afraid that if their show has death, hardships, and other dark themes, parents will go mad and say "we need to protect our children!!!" Personally, I think Japan has the right idea about saying, "Screw it!" to what kids shows SHOULD be and just do their own thing no matter how many kids they traumatize! So what if they're darker and more compelling than usual? I think shows like these are what American kids need! Kids will undergo some kind of hardship in their life anyway, so why bother trying to hide it from them? Perrine Monogatari is just one of Japan's many children's shows that I really like for its willingness to push boundaries and not fall to common children's show cliches.
Perrine and her mother start off on a journey, leaving India to go to a city in France called Maraucourt, which is actually the place where her father grew up. Unfortunately, Perrine's father, Edmond, died on the journey due to pneumonia, leaving his daughter and her mother alone to travel together. But things get worse, as Perrine's mother gets sick as soon as they arrive in France, and later dies herself. But not before telling Perrine about Edmond's family: his father, Vulfran, is vehemently opposed to their marriage and as a result, Edmond ran away, furthering his father's rage against them. She tells her to continue on her way to Maraucourt, but her grandfather may not welcome her, so she has to make him love her before he realizes who she is. Perrine manages to get there and get a job in her grandfather's factory. But Vulfran is blind, old, and known to be a cold and solemn man who may still be angry at his son for what he did, so she isn't sure if she can do it.
The show's animation is very dated, but it's still very impressive for a 53 episoded anime of its time. It looks significantly better than shows like Heidi or Dog of Flanders, probably because they managed to get the budget they needed. Not only that, the producers really went all out in making this show incredibly detailed and realistic. Everything, from uplifting events to tragic ones, come off as really realistic, in both the dialogue, the scenario, and the way the characters are animated, and the show itself is ridiculously and meticulously detailed. Even simple things like working and buying food are given plenty of time to signify their importance. None of the drama comes across as artificial, like most anime do nowadays. Plus, there's a butt-ton of effort into building up into the actual story. From what I've heard, everything up to episode 20 is anime original, yet, like Popolocrois Monogatari, all of these episodes are entirely character focused, detailing their journey from Bosnia to France and probably giving more background to Perrine and her family before the main events, and even when they get to the main story, the producers still take their time to further build upon the events leading up to them and make the journey as realistic and believable as possible during the time period the show takes place in. Kudos to you, Perrine! I especially liked the part of one episode where a character hurts herself when working in a factory and the managers say, "Oh, you brought it on yourself! It's your own fault for not paying attention! It's not that bad!" I learned a lot about factory workers in the 1880s back when I was young, and one thing I always remembered was that if someone was injured, the injury wasn't taken too seriously and they were told to just go back to work. If something like this happened in modern times, people would sue the factory like crazy! That really proved that these animators really did their research.
However, much like many anime of the seventies, the music is unfortunately very dated and has seventies written all over it. However, it is significantly better than other soundtracks I've heard, like the 1975 Dog of Flanders anime and the 1977 Nobody's Boy Remi anime. The pieces do try to set the mood and create an atmosphere well and at times they really hit hard, while other times they tend to miss and come across as a little overdramatic, though not as bad as Dog of Flanders or Remi, mind you. It still hasn't aged very well, though.
The characters are where this anime really shines. Instead of being portrayed as cardboard cut outs, they're portrayed as actual people with quirks, charms, and flaws alike, and it's not limited to the main characters either. Not only that, the character development here helps with exploring its themes about the importance of hard work, honesty, and how being good to others will influence them to be good to you. I honestly felt Perrine was a great main character with her strong will, her wits, the way she copes with the hardships she faces, and her being able to do what she needs to survive by any means possible in a very believable way, and this was before anime began to be swamped with idiot heroes, spineless harem kings, bumbling perverts, tsunderes, and ditzy females. More anime characters need to follow her example! However, I can see some people accusing her of being a Mary Sue, mostly because of how mature she acts for her age and a lot of talents like sewing and cooking, though this was the 19th century, so they probably don't know that a lot of kids were expected to act differently then than they do now, and girls at that time were expected to learn how to cook and do needlework in any situation, so I don't see any problem with it unless it involved forcing her to be submissive to a husband and squash her own dreams forever, which thankfully doesn't happen here. The only other flaws I can find are that some coincidences are a bit too convenient for the sake of moving the plot forward, and the language barrier gets ignored in the first half, only because the rest of the series is so down to earth in its presentation.
If you're looking for a great, down to earth, moving slice of life anime about traveling, then Perrine is definitely the anime for you! But you'll need patience though, as it's very slow paced and tranquil. It's not an anime for those looking for action and mecha battles.