Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette (2007)

Les Miserables - Shoujo Cosette (2007) is a Japanese World Masterpiece Theater anime based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. The plot is set in nineteenth century France, and the show contains 52 episodes. Unlike the novel, Cosette is the protagonist in the anime. Through her eyes, the adptation has a more vivid, thrilling and heart-warming take on the nature of good, evil, and law around familial and romantic love.

A young Cosette is traveling with her mother, Fantine, through France as she tries to find stable employment. However, few employers would hire a single mother. When Fantine is promised with the prosperity of working the big city, she hires a caretaker, the Thernadiers, to watch over Cosette while she earns some money. Unfortunately, this arrangement was a trick: the Thernadiers were a couple family who turned Cosette into their own indentured servant. Here, Cosette is exposed to the worst kinds of child labor (see Little Princess Sara). Nevertheless, Cosette has close friends who keep her spirit strong so that one day she can reunite with her mother.

Meanwhile, Fantine’s health and her own lodging debts worsen while the Thénardiers’ letters continue to grow and their financial demands become more costly. Her overworking causes her to become sick with a cough and fever (later diagnosed as tuberculosis). She is fired from her job when news spread that she is an unwed mother. The kind and just mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer discovers her body in the streets, and takes her to the hospital. There, she hears her last wish to reunite with her daughter, Cosette.

As a former ex-convict who lives in secrecy from the law, the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer, also known as M. Madeleine, feels determined to find and update her daughter. He also realizes that French social norms failed Fantine. He sees how winds of change are so detrimental for disadvantaged children and families, and decides to do something about it. When he discovers Cosette with the Therandiers, he is surprised how badly they have mistreated her. He decides to adopt and raise Cosette as his own daughter so that Cosette can become the educated and beautiful lady that Fantine always desired.

I really enjoyed this adaptation of Les Miserables. The novel is actually written from Jean Valjean's perspective and his struggles with redemption. As a historical fiction, it takes place during the June Rebellion, an unsuccessful, anti-monarchist insurrection of Parisian Republicans—-largely students—-from June 5 to June 6, 1832. It is also a social protest novel because it focuses on major themes, such as justice, morality, self-sacrifice, social transformation, and even the plight of orphans within French society. Nevertheless, many readers will find this anime delightful and thrilling.

The two-disc OST soundtrack is also excellent. The songs sound jovial, mysterious, and revolutionary. For instance, I could sense the students' courage and spirit as they protest the French government in the songs. Overall, I highly recommend this anime to all audiences. The World Masterpiece Theater did a great job with this adaptation, and will always remain one of the most popular novels of all time.

Opening Theme:
"Kaze no Mukou" by Yuki Saito

Ending Theme:
"Ma maman (Watashi no Okasan)" by Yuki Saito

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