Candy Candy: The Movie

Candy Candy: The Movie is an unusual creature. A short, dramatic retelling of a popular 70s shoujo anime, Candy Candy is able to create a reasonably compelling story within its thirty minutes. That in and of itself isn't surprising, but when you consider that this 1992 feature was based on a series that had ended thirteen years prior, it's startling it was ever made. When you consider that it condenses a good chunk of the 115-episode series in its running time and does so without creating confusion for new viewers, it's quite a feat.

Left at an orphanage shortly after birth, Candace has grown up in the loving care of the nuns. She's helped them take care of the other children, but now at age 12, she worries that she will never ever have parents. When the Ragans offer to take Candy in, she jumps at the chance. Her dreams are shattered, though, when it turns out they have no plans to treat her as a daughter; they are just looking for a friend for their awful Eliza and her wicked brother Neal. They have no interest in Candy except as an object for their ridicule. But Candy is determined to make the best of the situation, befriending the work staff and trying to become a young lady. She meets the wonderful Anthony, a dreamboat who's also quite taken with her...but can a romance blossom between the two worlds they represent?

The animation of Candy Candy: The Movie very much follows in the designs from the original manga and television program, which is to say they look very much like World Masterpiece Theatre. Though the film's date would make one think that it might employ more modern styles, this one's particularly retro, keeping to the original's look seamlessly. Modern fans may gag at the uber-cute motif, where roses surround the hero whenever he appears, but it is incredibly faithful.

The movie has some problems, many of which stem from the original program on which it's based. It's the epitome of melodrama. A modern Cinderella story, Candy Candy seems to revel in keeping its heroine down as much as possible. If one girl can withstand as much trouble and hardship as Candy does in this half-hour, I can only imagine the pathos found over the course of 115 episodes! I'm also curious exactly what audience the film was intended to reach--perhaps mothers taking their daughters to see a taste of what they grew up loving? It's too aesthetically stuck in the 70s to appeal to anyone but young elementary-age children now.

That isn't to say it's bad, though. Despite the overwhelming histrionics, I found myself enjoying this silly-yet-played-straight romp into anime history. Just as Pollyanna before her, you can't help but like Candy because of her kind, trusting spirit. It's nice to see a positive portrait of the Christian church in the orphanage, this day and age of accusations and denouncements, showing characters in the church as loving and faithful is quite welcome. Frankly, I also appreciated that the filmmakers made the picture completely accessible to those who hadn't seen the original show at all. Too many animated motion pictures from Japan rely on viewers to know the manga histories to make sense of their stories. Not so here, and that's a relief. Also, at thirty minutes, there's no's all story.

Shoujo fans who would like to see the origins of shows they love would do well to track down a copy of Candy Candy: The Movie. It's a good intro into old-school girls' entertainment. My rating reflects what I think as the average viewer not particularly enamored with the melodramatics presented. But if you've thoroughly enjoyed the CLAMP canon or Sailor Moon, you can add a letter grade. This show was a hit in many parts of the world 20+ years ago, and the film will be a treat for those who treasured it growing up.

Candy Candy: The Movie -- nothing objectionable -- B