Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today seems like a perfect day to fetch the wagon and set a course for Green Gables, checking in on the continuing misadventures of Anne and her unique family. In the wake of last episode’s brooch fiasco, I expect Anne and her adoptive parents to be closer than ever; having been forced to admit her own error, it appears that Marilla has perhaps embraced just a touch of humility, while also recognizing that her initial suspicions about Anne were entirely unfounded. Anne is not, as claimed, the wickedest girl Marilla has ever met – she is honest and kind and irrepressibly imaginative, and though Marilla may not understand that last virtue, she is just maybe beginning to appreciate it.
As for the production team, this episode will be reuniting us with the storyboards of Seiji Okuda, a regular Takahata/Miyazaki collaborator who also contributed a number of boards to Heidi, Sherlock Hound, and Lupin III, with a script by Anne regular Seijiro Koyama. Koyama traded off scripting duties with Takahata for a number of these early episodes, and with such reliable key staff in attendance, I expect this episode to hew closely to Takahata’s overall vision of the show. Let’s see what awaits us in Anne of Green Gables!
The moment that opening song kicks off, I can feel a knot in my upper back unwinding itself. This show serves as spectacular anti-stress physical therapy
Even after all these times watching this opening, it still finds new ways to impress me. I mentioned last episode how Anne’s dress is able to convey volume without shading, but that’s not entirely true – there’s also the impressive effect of the bottom edge of her dress and petticoats wafting in the breeze, whose delicate animation further emphasizes a sense of volume, while also rising in sequence with the music as if to echo Anne’s excitement at returning home. Both Takahata and Miyazaki appreciate the power of having a character’s physical form echo their emotional shifts, whether it’s something like this or the classic “Ghibli hair rise”
“Anne Goes To School.” Welp, there goes the neighborhood. Anne’s going to turn this whole community into overly inquisitive gremlins
We open on a quiet pre-dawn morning in Green Gables, as Matthew and Jerry share breakfast and prep for the day’s labors
“Nothing should go wrong if she’s with Diana, but her character is too weird.” Oh Marilla
As always, Jerry provides a slight tonal counterpoint of comic relief, making a variety of weird faces and strange noises as he finishes his breakfast
The music fades as we get our first shots of Anne, still in bed. Without a soundtrack to guide the tone, the scene is given an inherent sense of anticipation, as if the orchestra is looking to Anne to provide its inspiration
She wakes up just in time to wave goodbye to Matthew, which I’m sure will keep him smiling beneath that mustache all day
Some nice goofy character animation as Anne does her morning stretches, with the limited frames emphasizing her scrawniness and general lack of athleticism
Marilla tells Anne she could have slept later, to which Anne replies she’d rather help with the morning chores. And crucially, Marilla actually lets her, handing off the gathering of the morning eggs without a second thought. Anne is growing from a dependent into an active member of the household, and Marilla is growing to trust Anne’s abilities
“If only you were like this everyday, I wouldn’t be having such a hard life.” Well, Marilla’s getting there, at least
Leading into Anne excitedly poking at her basket lunch, instead of finishing her breakfast and final chores. I suppose they’ve both still got some growing to do
Anne goes on to extol the virtues of having a place where you can think out loud without people calling you crazy
Nice flourish of posture as Anne leaves the house, her arms spread wide and shoulders high in anticipation of the trials to come. Takahata seems to like that pose, I believe it shows up in a number of his films
And of course, Anne almost trips and falls head over heels the moment Marilla warns her not to
This show can present such a wondrous, all-encompassing atmosphere. With the light gurgle of the stream, Anne’s hummed melody, and these beautifully painted trees encompassing both the foreground and background, you really feel like you’re walking alongside Anne in this lovely forest
I always love when the show embraces and extends these moments of total peace, making the articulation of some particular space and experience its sole objective. Water rumbles in the stream, birds trill in the trees, fish swim beneath the bridge; a moment like this is its own reward, a resounding articulation of how animation can make us appreciate the inherent beauty of everyday life. Much of Takahata’s film career was dedicated to articulating that truth, and it’s wonderful to see it evoked even within the confines of a TV production
Anne’s excitement is conveyed through the incredible speed of her head shake as Diana asks if she’s been waiting long. After that, she breaks into a full sprint as they head towards school
“In the asylum I used to run all day.” Feeling pretty called out by this Anne factoid. I also tended to run everywhere as a kid, because why would you want to be between things, instead of already at the next thing? A total waste of time!
“Isn’t it special just to be alive on a day like today? I pity the people who aren’t alive yet to enjoy it.” Oh my god Anne
Anne concedes that these future people may indeed have their own good days, but are nonetheless impoverished for missing this one
Diana for once tries her hand at renaming a local spot, but sadly can only come up with “Birch Path.” Being a good friend, Diana offers no notes on this choice
The scenery surrounding their schoolhouse is just as beautiful as the rest of this absurdly pretty province. Down by the adjacent lake, Anne and Diana say hello to a girl named Tillie
This episode must have been a tricky one for the production team; we’ve got maybe three dozen kids running around, all demanding their own designs and all bustling with animated energy. It’s not exactly on the tier of those crazy Sherlock Hound sequences, but it’s impressive nonetheless
In spite of her excitement, Anne still clearly feels a flash of nervousness at being introduced to all these new people, and is thus greatly relieved to learn she can still sit next to Diana
Their teacher Phillip has a familiar-looking design, one which the Ghibli catalog would eventually canonize as their go-to look for stuffed-up wealthy men who you shouldn’t take seriously. I recall one of these figures attempted to woo Gina from Porco Rosso
Phillip immediately commences on a classic losing battle: trying to demand the boys of an agricultural society skip the harvest in order to come to school. Sorry Phillip, but the rhythms of their lives don’t really leave much time for you
Phillip then chastises another boy for not paying attention, spelling serious trouble for Anne and her attention-deficient ways
Staring at Anne’s fourth grade math assignments and realizing I’ve forgotten my way down to something like a second grader’s understanding of arithmetic
Phillip rags on Anne for her spelling, and Anne decides that she Does Not Like Phillip
It’s clear that Phillip is one of those awful teachers who mostly just grandstands about their own importance, and would rather mock his students for their failures than help them improve
Fortunately, Anne is greatly cheered by the solidarity of her classmates, who all agree Phillip sucks
And in the end, Anne’s “strange ways” delight the whole gathered class, as she performs a theatrical reenactment of the teacher’s poem. Plenty of fun character acting here; this is the second time we’ve seen Anne dramatically play-act dying, and she’s clearly a pro
Smart use of that “Nelly in the Hazel Dell” song here, transitioning from them actively singing the song to it serving as a binding tool for a montage covering the rest of the first day
Back at home, Anne is eager to share her very first compliment: someone said someone said someone said she had a pretty nose. She asks Marilla for confirmation of this, and Marilla is forced to concede that Anne has a pretty good nose
Another great victory for Anne! Despite her fears, the first day of school turned out to be a rousing success, with the whole class (minus the dreaded Phillip) proving delighted to meet her. Though Marilla can’t quite understand her, Anne’s own peers are driven by that abiding childhood desire for novelty and diversion, meaning her flights of fancy have now found a grand and attentive audience. And all the while, this episode offered consistent, lovingly realized moments of simply living in the moment, enjoying the peace of the chattering brook in the early morning, or the rush of wind as you sprint towards your first day of school. Anne of Green Gables continues to impress at every turn.
This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.