Classic novel turned anime film.
A rich man, a poor girl, and love.
As I was reading up on Masumi, my anime crush from Glass Mask, I noticed that he was referred to as a Daddy Long Legs-esque character. I’ve never read the novel Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster, or even seen the musical starring Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire. However, I did vaguely recall watching a cartoon of the same name when I was quite young. Lo and behold, with a few searches on YouTube, I discovered that what I had seen as a child was a 1979 anime version of the novel with a 1987 English dub. I also found out that there was a forty-episode anime series as well from 1990, but since I haven’t seen that one, today’s review concerns the anime movie from Tatsunoko Productions that I had the pleasure of rewatching after more than two decades.
Since I’ve never read the novel I can’t be sure how much the anime movie deviates from the original story, but here’s the skinny on the film’s plot: Judy Abbott has just come of age in the orphanage where she was raised. She confesses to the headmistress that she would like to attend college. The headmistress says that she has to clear it with the board of trustees. After the meeting, the headmistress tells Judy that the richest member of the board has agreed to pay for Judy to attend college. All that she has to do in return is agree to write him a letter once a month, updating him on college life, and she must never know his real name or expect any letters in return. Judy is thrilled, and runs downstairs just in time to see the shadow of her benefactor on his way out. A car’s headlights elongate his shadow, making him appear to be extremely tall. Because of this, Judy nicknames him “Daddy Long Legs,” and addresses her letters as such (which are sent to his lawyer’s office).
Judy attends college, makes friends, and begins meeting (gasp!) men. The fellas and her roommates seem to like Judy because she’s sweet and pretty, but though she loves her friends and her classes, Judy never forgets to write her letters. In return, she is completely provided for, including non-necessities such as books and dresses. As she matures, there are a couple of different suitors vying for Judy’s attention, but one in particular knows a secret about Daddy Long Legs. Annnd that’s all I can say without ruining the end! This story is pretty much your classic young-girl-coming-of-age tale, with the twist of a ridiculously rich benefactor looming in the shadows, silently pulling the strings and gently navigating the course of Judy’s destiny. If it weren’t told in such a charming and sweet way, this story has the potential to be downright creepy.
I recall watching and enjoying this anime when I was quite young. I remember thinking at the time that one of Judy’s suitors, the uncle of her roommate, was way too old for her (thirty-three to Judy’s eighteen). While I’ll still admit that it is a noticeable age difference, it makes me laugh to remember a time when I thought that thirty-three was old. (I’m not quite there yet, but getting close!) The art is basic and not overly detailed, but considering that this was done in the Seventies, it’s not bad. The English dub holds up pretty well, too. The songs played throughout are a little creepy and/or sad, in my opinion, but overall, rewatching this movie was a good experience. Even if I still had the VHS copy of it somewhere, I probably wouldn’t watch it over and over again. However, it has awakened a latent desire to seek out the musical of the same name, and possibly even the book and (if possible) the anime series from the Nineties. Daddy Long Legs makes a pretty good anime, because at its heart it’s shoujo storytelling with all the proper ingredients: a spunky heroine, a few rich and handsome guys, and the trials of growing up and falling in love.
Rating: ★★★✰ A weird but oddly enjoyable trip down memory lane.