Porfy, his younger sister Mina, and their parents live a humble but happy life in the Grecian countryside. They've just started running a gas station, much to Porphy's joy, and it seems like only good things are in store for their future. However, a huge earthquake changes all that, leaving Porfy without a home or a family -- sans Mina, who seems to have disappeared in the commotion. Now, Porfy is determined to find his sister and be able to live together happily again.
'Porufi no Nagai Tabi' (Porphyrus' Long Journey), is an anime that follows the traditions of the World Masterpiece Theatre series (a tradition of family-aimed anime that adapt 'Western' masterpieces). It's an adaptation of Paul-Jaques Bonzon's book 'Les Orphelins de Simitra' (The Orphans of Simitra). The actual story follows a boy, Porphyrus, separated from his sister after an earthquake desolates his town and kills his parents in the process. Porphyrus then travels across Europe on a quest to find his sister, forging acquaintances and friendships, and funding his travels by both the charity of others and by working. His sister, Mina, in turn travels with migrant
workers and eventually achieves her childhood ambition career-wise. Thirteen episodes are however dedicated to the events before the earthquake- Porufi no Nagai Tabi is definitely a slow-moving anime that focuses on landscapes and the relationships of characters. Little tension or action is provoked in Porufi compared to emotional impact.
First, it's probably notable to say that Bonzon is likely a name you've not heard of before if you are an English speaker. Bonzon's work has received more attention in continental Europe, India, Thailand and Japan, than in English speaking countries. Few of Bonzon's novels are translated into English, and are often hard to find. Kozo Sakakibara's translations of Bonzon's work in Japan helped popularise him, and subsequently in 2007, when the studio Nippon Animation decided to reinstitute the World Masterpiece Theatre series after they had stopped in 1997 (they restarted partly because of MEXT initiative funding, partly because of the failure of their recent series which had been failures such as 'Fantastic Children' and 'Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge'), it was decided Porufi would be the second series, following an adaptation of Les Miserables.
Nearing the end of the year, Tomomi Mochizuki was contracted to direct the series nearing the completion of his project on 'Touka Getten'. Mochizuki is more commonly known as the director of The House of Five Leaves, Zettai Shounen, Kimagure Orange Road, and Ranma 1/2. He has over time become quite respected, even expanding his role recently to incorporate sound direction as found in Porufi, 'Shinigami no Ballad', and 'The House of Five Leaves'. His wife, Gotou Masako, has been responsible for much of his early success- contributing character design and animation direction in many of his projects- however, Masako's touch does not appear in Porufi.
Regarding the plot, and the adaptation, Porufi is somewhat interesting in what it does not present as well as what it does. The World Masterpiece Theatre series have always depicted positive stories, uplifting and heart warming. However, much of 'The Orphans of Simitra' is quite dark, and particular moments occur in Porufi that shockingly have not been made less ghastly- such as a haunting scene where a man tries to rape the twelve-year-old Mina. Simitra is a (fictional) small village in mid-west Greece. Set in post-war Greece, the true impact of the Second World War is rarely shown. Greece lost 1 in 14 people in the war, and much of its infrastructure was destroyed. Arguably, the only worse affected countries were Poland, Yugoslavia, and Russia. This period in Greece was not only a time of much economical hardship though, it also was a time of vicious civil war. The American presence depicted in Porufi belies much of this conflict, as does much of the commentary on Porphyrus' mother, who gave up her life in the upper class to elope with Porphyrus' poor (orphan) father Christiphore. Rarely if at all is this collective hardship and grief squarely shown or concentrated on in Porufi. Instead, The focus is of Mina and Porphyrus childhood and rites of passage, their friends and people they meet. The inclusion of a few more questionable scenes is doubtlessly part of Mochizuki's influence, as well as the newbie scriptwriter Kei Kunii- just as the preceding World Masterpiece Theatre series Les Miserables was coloured more comedic and romantic than perhaps expected by a Japanese family audience because of the directors experience with mainly comedy and lightweight romance, Sakurai Hiroki (such as 'Kaichou wa Maid Sama', 'Daa! Daa! Daa!' , and 'Cromartie High School').
Most of Porufi is thus presented by Porphyrus' viewpoint- highly naive, ignorant, innocent, and including the foibles of his mannerisms. Which there are quite a few of, as Porphyrus manages to be at times annoying, malevolent, and belligerent. The majority of development focuses on Porphyrus too, at the cost of the character development of Mina. And as per the long list of side characters, very few characters are focused on in Porufi adequately. Many of the decisions of these side characters stay limited to their character type. This is a point actually expanded upon in the anime, as this formula of character cameos is thought to fit well to a long running episodic construction (Porufi is a long 52 episodes).
However, I'd like not to cast too many aspersions upon Porufi no Nagai Tabi. At many points Porufi manages to be deeply touching- it really generates an authentic emotional response. Certainly this is what a kids/family anime is aiming for. The episode when the earthquake occurred and caused such problems for Porphyrus and Mina was so effective it made me cry even though I knew it was going to happen.
Regarding Porufi no Nagai Tabi's technical merits- there's quite a bit to say. The background artwork of Porufi is probably the most memorable property of the series. It's utterly comprehensive, providing detailed environments for each of the settings featured, and in a vibrant style that stays memorable. The vivid and cheerful palette is defined by Keiji Oohira (think Hungry Heart: Wild Striker) who did much of the colouring, and the actual construction of these backgrounds facilitated by Kenji Takahara collecting primary and secondary photography (he also did the photographic work for 'Kids on the Slope' for instance) with which the incredibly experienced Nobuto Sakamoto directed the process of animating the photos and sourcing any additional original artwork required.
Perhaps more interestingly however, is the character design and main animation. Shigeo Akihori is the main we have to thank for this. Enshrined as an absolute master of character animation, working freelance as key animation for many important films such as Arrietty, 'The Cat Returns', 'Metropolis', 'Memories', and more- Akihori is amazingly skilled. However, he has done the character design on only 3 anime; 'Mermenoid' in 1997, 'Texhnolyze' in 2003, and Porufi in 2007. Akihori's designs are fairly non-conventional. Many of his critics say that his best work was in the 90's. However, Akihori still facilitates an effective kinaesthetic sense of movement and a flowing set of expressions with his characters in Porufi.
There's also the music which again is of note. Here Mochizuki creates the demands upon the musicians. The result is an interesting mix of new and old, European and J-pop influenced. All of the songs have a similar kind of rhythm, and often the same beats-per-minute. This results in a soundtrack, that as per the 52 episodes, is repeated and thus feels homogeneous and can be somewhat annoying. Each of the pieces of music are used very obliquely too. It's often the music that tells you what is going to happen, the tone of interaction, rather than the content of Porufi itself. Though, over time, these pieces of music do kind of mesh to create a cohesive whole- something that very much instantaneously puts you in the mood for watching Porufi, and gives a kind of nostalgia when hearing the music later. So there is some success in this approach.
Overall, Porufi no Nagai Tabi is a well executed family anime. It does slavishly work to fulfil the World Masterpiece Theatre series conventions, which has both positive and negative effects; the divergences in these conventions primarily causing the negative effects. Porufi can feel repetitive, and it can be somewhat slow, but the payback is large. You really do barrack for Porphyrus and Mina, and feel their pain. Porufi is also very impressive technically. You will be very impressed by the backgrounds, the organic character movement. Over the 52 episodes you'll form a bond with Porufi, and I doubt you'll come out of it disliking this anime.
I feel bad for the people who watched Porfy no Nagai Tabi while it was airing. Because so few people were watching it to begin with, there was no one interested in subbing it; in fact, the entire show (52 episodes) had already aired before a fansub group finally began to work on it. This led to the show being largely ignored during its runtime, which is unfortunate because it's a good series despite its unpopularity.
Released in 2008, Porfy no Nagai Tabi is one of the most recent World Masterpiece Theater releases. It's directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who has recently garnered infamy for having directed
the anime adaptation of Pupa. Don't let this discourage you though; most directors have a blunder or two, some worse than others. Mochizuki deserves to be better known for series such as Saraiya Goyou, Zettai Shounen, and, of course, Porfy no Nagai Tabi.
This show has an interesting arc-based structure. The first 10 or so episodes detail the simple life of Porfy, Mina, and their parents in a small village in Greece. It's all very mundane, but there's this charm to the main characters that makes you want to keep watching. Porfy is a good-natured but sometimes rash 14 year-old boy with an almost obsessive interest in automobiles. Mina, his younger sister, balances this out with her sweetness and innocence. Together, they go to school and play with friends while the family works toward building a service station at their home. It's a happy time for them, but not for long.
After a certain event occurs, the series is then divided into several distinct arcs. A few episodes are devoted to the aftermath of the event; then, when Mina eventually goes missing, the main storyline of the show begins. The bulk of the story involves Porfy traveling to different locations across Europe to search for his sister, experiencing new things and meeting people with good intentions as well as those with more questionable motives. This traveling arc comprises two halves: the first half is a series of mini-arcs that are each about three to four episodes in length. Each mini-arc is about Porfy's interactions with the people he meets and how he lends a helping hand to solve their problems.
The second half changes this up a bit; it's composed of episodic stories that are more "standalone" in nature. For example, one episode is about Porfy staying in a town with very strange customs. Another episode simply shows Porfy walking through the countryside with nothing significant occurring aside from a couple of brief interactions with passersby. I guess that's realism for you!
The show isn't all about Porfy though. We also get glimpses of Mina's new life after she's taken in by a traveling gypsy woman and her family. In fact, the last ten or so episodes are primarily focused on Mina as she experiences an unexpected but fortunate turn of events in Paris. The purpose of this last arc is to build everything up to a finale — a satisfying one for sure, but unfortunately the show ends right at the climactic scene (it even plays in slow motion through the credits), which leaves the viewer craving for an epilogue of sorts to tie up all the loose ends.
A series about traveling isn't complete without pretty scenery, and Porfy no Nagai Tabi doesn't disappoint. The background art in this show is gorgeous; both landscapes and cities are drawn with stunning detail, and what's more impressive is that the show maintains the quality of the art through all 52 episodes. On the other hand, the character designs are somewhat simple with no shading, so the contrast between the two may be a little jarring at first.
The soundtrack is appropriately mood-enhancing; that's all I really have to say about it. Something interesting I noticed was that the overall sound of the music changed to suit each new city or location that Porfy visited. For example, the tracks that play during the slice of life arc in Greece consist mainly of soft piano and violin; however, in Paris, the accordion and synthesizers are introduced, which I thought was a nice touch.
In short, Porfy no Nagai Tabi is a story about friendship, new experiences, loneliness, loss, and, most of all, growing up. Many viewers will probably dismiss it as boring, especially since it's 52 episodes long, but if you like these types of stories then you'll definitely want to experience this journey with Porfy and Mina.
Porphy no Nagai Tabi is really not an anime to watch if your looking for something intense, fast paced or addicting (it's a slice of life ^^").
The anime is light and soft despite it being about two wandering orphans without a home because it's being shown through a child's eyes. The anime continuously hints at darker things going on behind the scenes yet these are only subtle hints that have no importance in the story whatsoever and as we watch Porphy and Mina start to shift and change as they grow, we see a little more of these come to light. More complex emotions
are shown (although they're still not that complex) as Porphy begins to mature and come into contact with more people who are reluctant to take pity on him.
Story 6/10 - The story is very slow paced and is definitely not for everyone. I found the story intriguing and it definitely keeps you watching since there is no way predicting what's going to happen next but if you're watching for the story alone, you'll quickly grow impatient. It's the characters, their journeys and appreciating the art and sound that will make you love this anime.
Art 7/10 - If you only look at the landscapes and pretend you can't see the characters (LOL) you'll be left thinking the anime was pretty beautiful but then you see the characters and they look like they've been drawn on classic paint. No, all jokes aside, I really did enjoy the art, the landscapes were beautiful and the contrast between the characters and the background (such a big contrast) was actually quite refreshing.
Sound 7/10 - The sound really, really grew on me. Again, it's really not for everyone. Super slow (I found it calming) with piano. The music is actually hard to describe but it's well picked and really does suit the feel of the anime.
Character 8/10 - If you don't get emotionally attached to characters easily then you probably won't care much for the characters in Porphy no Nagai Tabi. I enjoyed watching them slowly grow. Going through their journey with them and coming across different people who all treated them differently was really, really enjoyable. There was much more to each character than was actually shown and this was done pretty well since the more Porphy matured, the more insight he had and thus the more you were able to see about each character.
(skipping enjoyment because i cba)
Overall 7/10 - Even though, I got pretty impatient towards the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I've said this a thousand times but it's definitely NOT for everyone. If you like to take your time with anime, appreciate the thought and effort that went into it and get ridiculously attached to characters as soon as they appear then you will really enjoy this anime. It's really cute.. if you're into watching things grow and seeing things from an innocent point of view then you should give it a go :) especially if you wanted something light to pass the time.