In the late eighties, the World Masterpiece Theater was starting to fall into a bind that it couldn't get itself out of. Apparently for some unknown reason, they were at war with Fuji TV regarding broadcasting their shows. Soon, their budgets fell and the episodes their series had shrunk more and more. They started trying new things to try and get an audience, like adapting a fantasy novel (Peter Pan), sequels to earlier installments (Little Women), an anime set in Africa (Bush Baby), a rehash of Dog of Flanders (Famous Dog Lassie), and something action packed (Romeo's Blue Skies). This adaptation, Homeless Girl Remy (I know it's commonly known as Nobody's Girl Remy but I'm referring to it as the former because that's how Takara Fansubs translated it to differentiate it from the boy version). With this final installment, however, WMT really started going crazy with trying to get their audience back. Their adaptations are usually very faithful to the source material. Trust me, I've seen plenty of WMT to know that they sure do adapt everything faithfully, even down to the dialogue. This one, however...is anything but faithful. Because of only being given 26 episodes, the producers knew that they couldn't fit a 50 episode plot into it unlike Dezaki's version, so to differentiate it and at least try to make it into its own entity...they changed Remi into a girl (and spelled her name as Remy), deleted a bunch of stuff from the book, and took one small part of the book (Remi staying with Garofoli, who in this version is named Gaspard) and completely made it into the central focus, as all the other stuff wouldn't be able to fit into a 26 episode anime. Unfortunately, Japan didn't take this too well. Ratings were low, the show got bad reviews, and the final episodes didn't get broadcast, and because of all that, WMT went on an official hiatus for 10 whole years until they tried to get back on their feet with Les Miserables, Porphy's Long Journey, and Konnichiwa Anne, but after that, they went back into hiding and it's unlikely they'll ever come back. Thankfully, I have not seen a lot of backlash against this show, and I think I'm better off for it. Now, we Americans tend to hate any adaptation of any of someone's original product, especially if it doesn't have anything that we like about said source material. The Last Airbender got scathing reviews simply because it was nothing like the original show. But these are mostly just movies. What about TV shows? Now, I ask this: just because something isn't entirely faithful to the original source material, does it really mean that it's absolutely horrible? Does that automatically mean that something has absolutely no redeeming qualities and is nothing but trash meant to be erased into oblivion? For this show: that answer is an absolute big fat NO.
Okay, yes, the 1977 version made by Dezaki is universally considered by fans to be better than this version, the 1997 version. However! That certainly doesn't mean that the 1997 version doesn't have anything that's good about it or that it isn't a good show in its own right. In fact, I happen to like them both on the same level, but for very different reasons. I really love Homeless Girl Remy for what it is as its own entity, and I think other people should too, if they just look past the source material and the back story behind this production. Everybody knows the story by now, so I'll talk about the other stuff. For one thing, the animation for this version may be considered low budget compared to the 1977 version, and yeah, low budget is right as some of the later episodes start to look just a BIT funny-looking. But the rest of the show, while it does have the whole nineties look about it, still looks great. The characters look a bit plain and simple, but everything else is great. The backgrounds are rich and detailed, little things are animated nicely, there are some still frames present but they don't hurt the final product, and the characters' movements are down to earth and fluid. Plus, because the colors are a bit muted and soft, it's very easy on the eyes. I seem to like old school cel drawn animation better than digital animation, as it's easier on my eyes, though a lot of my favorite shows are colored digitally, so I could probably be biased here. I'm not a discriminatory animation lover, though! Check my top 3 to see how varied my animation preferences are! Taking all of this into account, when compared to other shows of its time, the animation is still relatively nice and well done, so I wouldn't consider it bad or entirely low budget. The creators needed to make do with what they got, and they definitely did, in my opinion.
Now, time to talk about what I feel is the BEST part of the show: the soundtrack. Now, if you've read my review of the 1977 version, you'll have read that I considered that version's music to be very passe and outdated. Yes, I still hold this opinion to be true, especially now that I've finally gotten to finish this version. And wow, the soundtrack for this version is about a thousand times better than the first one! For one thing, the opening and ending themes are absolutely wonderful! They're both very soft, melodic tunes sung by soft voiced singers, with great lyrics pertaining to love and being yourself and enduring hardship, and they both fit the show to a T. While I did like the opening of the 1977 version, I felt the song was a bit too upbeat, and the ending was even more so, but to a worse and extremely jarring degree. Homeless Girl Remy's themes are great, soft, warm, fitting, and they match the tone of the show while striking a good balance between dark and upbeat. I love soft songs with singers that have soft voices, so I could be biased here. The background music is another thing that needs to be praised, because unlike other shows where they tend to put the wrong kinds of music in the wrong places, killing tension or ruining poignant scenes (Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, anyone?), Remy's soundtrack also fits the entire show to a T. I remember the soundtrack for the 1977 version being VERY seventies and I don't remember liking some of the music that much. However, the 1997 version is full of nice, classical pieces that know when to be subtle and when to be full of suspense and tension, really bringing out the atmosphere and emotions of their assigned scenes. It's meant to tug at your heart strings, and it definitely tugged at mine when those moments came, making what I feel are great moments in not just this show, but in anime in general. If a soundtrack isn't used to its full potential and in context, then it could very well feel cheesy and out of place, ruining the show. Thankfully, Remy's soundtrack didn't fall into this pitfall.
The characters are the subject to quite a bit of debate in the WMT fandom, as they were subjected to the most drastic changes. Whether it's for better or worse varies with each character and with someone's opinion, and WMT anime are known for having very strong, nuanced, three-dimensional, and well developed characters in every single one of their anime, even during times when kids anime were expected to have simple characters who only have one trait and don't do much other than to entertain kids and preach a bunch of morals, especially in America, which is happily changing in this day and age (especially moreso with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), albeit slowly. However, while I do adore the characters in this version, I do feel that compared to all the other WMT adaptations, these characters are a little bit weak and underdeveloped. One of the worst offenders is Gaspard, the villain in the second half of the show. He's really not much more than a walking villain cliche. He's gruff, he's mean, he's pathetic, he's cruel to everyone he meets, especially the kids he enslaves, all he wants is money money money, and he'll go to whatever means necessary to get it and use it for his own purposes. If kids don't do anything for him or do anything he hates, which is basically everything, he whips them and takes great pleasure in doing so. Heck, a lot of the villains in this show are card board cut outs meant to make the good characters look good. I can understand why this is so, however, and while I don't fault the creators for the circumstances that led to the WMT's downfall, that's still no excuse to make a bunch of walking cliche villains who are basically just like every one villainous anime character out there, just not with superpowers or intent to destroy the world, even with a very rushed plot that they had to deal with. The good characters are also subjected to lack of development (Vitalis is the biggest victim of this), but it's not bad in any way. Remy may have been changed into a girl, but she's still a very strong and good character who can carry the weight of the show very well, though she isn't the only one, even though her being compassionate from the beginning has very limited her development, and instead, other characters develop because of her, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but if it gets used a bit much, then characters won't be able to feel like individuals who can stand on their two feet. Though, with this in mind, try being those slaves under Gaspard's grubby hand. At least this is justified.
While I do praise the creators for at least trying to make do with what they were given considering the inevitable circumstances, there are still some jarring flaws. One of them appears at the end of the show, but it's not too spoiler filled so I'll go with it: one minute Gaspard loses sight of Remy, then when it looks like she escaped and outran him, he somehow manages to catch up to her with absolutely no explanation whatsoever! How was that even possible?! Plus, it does seem to want drama a little TOO badly, because you'll know right away when something bad happens to Remy in any form, and you'll be able to predict more from a mile away, and even with 26 episodes, there's still a tiny bit of filler, and considering the circumstances, the show came out very rushed as a result, leaving a bit of a cheesy and rushed ending, but I liked it for what it was, and I've seen worse endings so I'll let it slide. Plus, there's a good lesson in that no matter how hard things are, you have to keep moving forward and everything you've gone through will bring about a positive outcome in the end, and that's an anvil that really really REALLY and SERIOUSLY needs to be dropped more often in this day and age where kids are being bullied to the point of drugs, alcohol, murder, and even suicide because they feel there's no way out and no hope for them. Not only that, it also provides some very heartwarming and refreshing romance in a sea of cliche shoujo anime/manga. What I especially liked about this was that in terms of some things happening, characters actually talk about their feelings and problems instead of bottling them in, which is an oh so common pitfall for most anime and manga nowadays. Wanna know the best thing? NO NARRATOR! I don't remember being annoyed by the narrator in the 1977 version, but he talks and reveals important secrets in EVERY SINGLE episode, so I can see that being very annoying for many people, as some of what he says is really unnecessary. The 1997 version doesn't have a narrator, thank God. Plus, even with the show's warm and idealistic nature, the dark, cold fist of reality crashes down on the characters, and nobody is spared. I think children's shows need more dark and scary moments instead of trying to hide them out of fear of parents complaining. I don't see the point of hiding the fact that bad things can and will happen to anyone. This is why I like Japan's shows, because they don't conform to political correctness like we oh so sadly have and they take their animation very seriously, their kids shows included (most of the time). I think scary and sad moments in children's shows/movies are good once in a while because those will actually teach them to be good and kind, and...really, bad things can, will, and do happen to people in real life anyway, so why not show them in advance so they'll learn how to deal with it that doesn't involve drugs, alcohol, or anything of the sort?
People, don't revile this show simply because it's not the source material or because it's not perfect. That's not a good attitude to have. I love the 1977 version, but I love the 1997 version just as much for what it is as its own entity. If one can just look past all the flaws and acknowledge what it DOES do well and right, then you'll be treated to a great, heart-tugging, heartwarming, nice little shoujo anime. Sure, it's not the best anime in the world, and not the most polished adaptation, but so what? It did its best and knew what it wanted to be. I know this show will have a place in my heart, and if it ever gets dubbed in English (which is likely never unless some brave and bold person steps up to the challenge), I'd absolutely LOVE to show this to my family, friends, and even my future kids one day! So cut the crap and watch this, and acknowledge it for what it is, not for what it should have been!