Jun 22, 2022
It's no surprise that one of the most beloved and well known shoujo anime of the early or mid seventies was Candy Candy. I've known of its existence for a while, and I even watched some episodes of the original series, but stopped due to other obligations and lack of time and subs at the time. But if there's one thing Candy Candy's become infamous for, its the fact that both creators, Kyoko Mizuki and Yumiko Igarashi, were engaged in harsh, vicious legal battles over royalties and who had true ownership of the show. It didn't help that the mangaka who illustrated the manga, Yumiko
Igarashi, tried to claim the show was her own, and that Kyoko's was not the original. Her actions, and the vicious lawsuits that ensued, prevented any and all Candy Candy properties to be licensed anywhere, even in its home country Japan, to the point where remastered DVDs for not just the main series, but for any and all animated properties like movies or OVAs, flat-out don't exist. The lawsuits even prohibited the production of new merchandise. This is the reason why the show never got licensed in English, and despite being loved in other countries like Italy, Latin America, etc., licensed products haven't reached there as well. Such is the case for the odd 90s anime pilot that was advertised as a movie...but it isn't anything more than a reanimated recap that retells 1/4th of the whole story.
What is said story about, anyway? Candace White aka Candy is a young girl who was dropped off at an orphanage when she was a baby. She grows up into a cheerful, energetic, tomboyish young girl who is beloved by everyone at Pony's Home, though has a tendency to get into scrapes every now and again. One day, not long after her best friend Annie got adopted, she receives the news that Candy herself is to be adopted by the noble Adley family...and the branch family kids, Eliza and Neil Reagan, make her life miserable. Luckily, she finds solace and friendship with Anthony Brown, and the Cornwall brothers Archie and Alistair and strives to never give up hope in the face of adversity.
If you ever plan on watching this movie in any capacity, just remember that literally the only fansubbed copy of it has very bad encoding quality. Because of the aforementioned lawsuits barring anyone from giving any of Candy Candy's anime remasters of any kind, the nineties movie looks like it was ripped from a VHS tape. That being said, the actual animation itself is a vast improvement from the TV series. The original TV anime came out in 1976, and...the show really shows its age, both from the character designs to the show's Hanna-Barbera-esque limited animation. Granted, I've only seen a few episodes of the series, so for all I know, maybe the show's animation improved over time, but I can't say for sure. I can say that the movie's animation is pretty good, even with the bad encoding quality. The motion is more fluid, the actual character designs are true to the original manga but are better adapted to fit the modern (nineties) era, and the backgrounds are more detailed. I will admit though, it's kinda weird seeing Annie have blonde hair as opposed to the black hair she had in the original TV anime. I've heard Annie's hair was blonde in the manga, but I kinda like her black hair from the series better, though I can respect the movie for wanting to be more faithful to the manga. The soundtrack is also pretty nice, full of mellow harmonicas, violins, and acoustic guitars that never feel overpowering. Plus, the updated theme song is well done, and the other insert songs are well sung as well, and considering they brought Mitsuko Horie back to sing them, this was a good decision on Toei's part.
The characters are where things get tricky. This "movie" is only half an hour long, and was intended to be a pilot for a new series, but as you can tell, that went nowhere. Because of its short length and the fact that it only tells one part of a much larger story, the characters wind up coming across as rather bland and one-note as a result. I haven't read the manga, so I can't comment on whether their characterization is true to the source or not, but they pretty much fulfill stock archetypes that have become prominent in most shoujo manga since Candy Candy's inception. Candy is the cheerful, energetic lead girl, Annie is the demure best friend, Eliza and Neal are your typical bullies, Anthony is the handsome love interest, so on and so forth. The first half of the movie consists of Candy dealing with Eliza and Neal, and the second half consists of the characters going to a fancy ball, so there isn't really much of a plot either. There's also the fact that the movie deliberately leaves out important events and even characters, such as Candy's first love interest, the fabled Prince of the Hill, so leaving those out just makes the Candy Candy movie feel even more half-baked. Also, I hate to say it, but by the time the movie was made, Minori Matsushima's voice had aged significantly, so she sounds a lot more raspy and hoarse here than she did in the show.
So with all this in mind, what exactly does the 1992 Candy Candy film have to offer? Honestly, not much. It's not bad or anything, as the animation and soundtrack are a vast improvement over the seventies series, but you can't sell a product on just those two things alone. But more than that, it's really sad to see such a beloved franchise end not with a bang, but with a whimper, and I'm sure the legal battles between Mizuki and Igarashi didn't help matters either. The only way I can really recommend this is if you want to watch some part of Candy Candy but don't want to watch over a hundred episodes. As it is, the 1992 Candy Candy movie is...just okay. Nothing great, but not bad. Just kinda half-baked, and Candy Candy deserves better. Also, rest in peace, Minori Matsushima.
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