Oct 12, 2022
Show of hands, who here has even heard of Mrs. Pepperpot before Discotek Media announced that they licensed it in February 2022? No? Yeah, me neither. But out of nowhere, Discotek got the license for it and put it out on Blu-Ray this past April. I thought it looked cute, and since it's based on a series of Norwegian children's books and looked similar to stuff like the World Masterpiece Theater, I decided to blind-buy it and see if it's any good. The story centers on an elderly lady named Mrs. Pepperpot, or Auntie Spoon in the Japanese version (The show's called Auntie Spoon in
Japanese as well), who lives a quiet life with her painter husband. But one day, she suddenly gains the ability to shrink to the size of a teaspoon, and often winds up doing so at inconvenient times. Not only that, when she shrinks, she finds herself able to communicate with animals. Her newfound ability gets her in all sorts of shenanigans, but also comes in handy, whether it be helping the woodland creatures with their problems or dealing with the trio of children who like to pull pranks and cause trouble. Every day brings all manner of new adventures for Mrs. Pepperpot.
The series runs for a whopping 130 episodes, but if you're worried about the length, don't worry—Mrs. Pepperpot's episodes are all ten minutes long, including the opening and ending, so they're a breeze to get through. Mrs. Pepperpot was made in 1983 by Studio Pierrot, and the work they did here...has me conflicted. The actual motion is fine, the character designs are charming and distinct, looking more like something you'd find in a Western cartoon than a Japanese production, and there are some parts that are very well done, like the animation in the opening sequence. But the watercolor backgrounds are rather simplistic, looking more like something painted by elementary school students as backdrops for their school play. Plus, I found plenty of blatant animation mistakes throughout the show. In several episodes, some characters' hair randomly changes color for one scene before turning back to their usual color, and I don't mean when the characters are in the background. I mean when they're the main focus of the scene in question. In one early episode, Mrs. Pepperpot is babysitting a neighbor's baby and has to change his diaper. At one point the diaper is taken off, but in one scene, the diaper is somehow back on the baby even though it had been removed previously, and in the scene after that, the baby doesn't have the diaper anymore. How the hell do you miss such an obvious continuity error?! I don't have as much to say on the soundtrack either, other than it's pretty stock standard children's fare. The opening and ending themes are very nicely sung though, and you can thank Mari Iijima for that.
If you're looking for a series with an overarching plot that's constantly changing, you'll need to look elsewhere, as Mrs. Pepperpot is pretty episodic and formulaic. Every episode consists of Mrs. Pepperpot shrinking and finding herself in some sort of situation where she has to either help someone or find a way to deal with whatever's happening around her while making use of her shrunken state. That's not to say the anime doesn't have some sense of progression or continuity. In one episode, Mrs. Pepperpot has to learn how to swim, managing to do so with the help of a frog, and this skill is repeatedly brought back and put to use in later episodes. Plus, the series does have some two-part episodes, though not much. Basically, the series just focuses on Mrs. Pepperpot's day-to-day adventures and that's it. From what I've heard, the anime expanded on the books a lot, creating tons of original stories from the ground up, which I can only assume are anime original filler episodes. I've never read the books, so I can't comment on their accuracy.
With the series' episodic, formulaic nature, you're not going to find much in the way of character development, either. The characters largely stay the same throughout the series' run. Mrs. Pepperpot's husband Pot is the grouchy old man, the three prankster boys remain rambunctious and energetic, the three pets never change beyond self-centered cat, lazy dog, and angry chicken, and so on. Even the original character the producers created just for the anime, the orange haired girl named Lilje (Referred to as Lily in the English dub, but I'm going to call her by the name used in Discotek's subtitles on their BR release), doesn't have much to her beyond being a nice girl who lives in the forest, communicates with animals, and behaves far older than her age (She says she's seven years old in the show). Now, there isn't anything inherently wrong with this, but with a series that's as long as Mrs. Pepperpot is, the situations the characters get in, along with character development taking a back seat, start to get stale after a while, especially during the mid-point of the series.
Which leads me to what I feel is the show's biggest flaw: Since Mrs. Pepperpot starts to lose its inspiration halfway through the series, some episodes had the writers make some characters act really out of character, to the point of having them act really mean-spirited, in order to force conflict. Even Mrs. Pepperpot herself gets subjected to this, as she's normally portrayed as a nice but tenacious and spirited old lady, but there are some episodes that have her act really mean for seemingly no reason. In one episode, a pilot (Who almost looks like an older version of Lilje) makes an emergency landing when her plane malfunctions, and Mrs. Pepperpot winds up getting on the plane and losing control of it. At the end of the episode, Mrs. Pepperpot suddenly just goes on this diatribe on how the pilot should behave in a more ladylike manner...which makes absolutely no sense because, 1. The pilot hadn't done anything to warrant such a lecture, and 2. Mrs. Pepperpot was the one piloting the plane and having trouble controling it, yet she acted like she did it better than the more experienced, younger pilot. I know Japan is really rigid when it comes to enforcing gender roles, more so than countries like America and Canada do, but that whole lecture just felt really out of character for Mrs. Pepperpot, as she hadn't done anything similar in previous episodes. In another episode, she tries to teach Chip, who is literally a two-year-old toddler, how to ski, and gets mad at him for not wanting to ski and being understandably scared of skiing. For one, I'm pretty sure its extremely dangerous to force a toddler at that age to partake in a dangerous sport like skiing. Second, most skiing schools state that the minimum age in which a child can be legally taught to ski is three years old, and Chip is canonically stated to be two years old in the show! Do you see what I'm getting at here? Oh, and in case you're wondering: The show never provides an answer for why Mrs. Pepperpot shrinks and how. I had initially thought the spoon around her neck caused it, but one episode showed that that wasn't the case.
So yeah, Mrs. Pepperpot as an anime is a pretty average children's show that relies heavily on maintaining a status quo and starts to dip in quality after the midway point. But I honestly don't regret watching it. Yeah, the show can be annoying at times, but I still found most of it to be a pretty fun time. The Blu-Ray release even has some detailed liner notes on not just the show's production and reception during its run in Japan, but the history behind the books and how their author, Alf Proyson, created them. I don't know if I'm going to read the books or not, and I wouldn't consider Mrs. Pepperpot one of the better kids anime that came out during the 1980s, but it's still fairly cute and wholesome in its own way. From what I've heard, the English dub isn't very good, so I'd recommend watching the Japanese version if you can. Just be warned that the show isn't legally streaming anywhere and the Blu-Ray is literally the only way you can watch it in any capacity.
What did you think of this review?