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Folktales From Japan

Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman

As can be guessed from the title, Folktales From Japan is an anime series that tells the classic folktales, both well-known and unknown, from Japanese literature. Each half-hour episode of the series consists of three self-contained stories. Many of the stories that are told in this series originate from Tohoku, the northern region of Japan that was heavily affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In the first episode, the three tales included are: "The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom," "The Man Who Bought Dreams," and "The Rat Sutra."

In "The Old Man Who Made Dead Trees Blossom," an old couple rescues a puppy that they find in a box in the stream. It turns out that the puppy is a magical talking dog who leads them to gold to repay them for their kindness. The coupleís neighbors try to take advantage of the dog for their own selfish gains, but their attempts backfire.

In "The Man Who Bought Dreams," an older merchant and a younger merchant are tired after a long day of not having much success selling their wares. The older merchant falls fast asleep, and the younger merchant sees a horsefly going in and out of the older merchantís nose. The horsefly flies away, but later comes back; when the horsefly comes back, the older merchant wakes up. The older merchant relays a dream he had of flying to an island and discovering a pot of gold buried under a very particular type of dream. The younger merchant buys the dream from the older merchant, and he goes out in search of the tree where the gold is.

In "The Rat Sutra," an old widow wants to read a sutra to help her deceased husband, but has no idea how to read one. A beggar posing as a mendicant monk comes to the house, eats her food, and drinks her sake. When the widow asks him to teach her a sutra, he ends up making one up after seeing a rat in the house. The widow faithfully chants this fake sutra for years; the story ends with the beggar returning as a real monk and teaching the widow a real sutra.

The animation in Folktales From Japan is more on the simplistic side, but it works well enough to convey the messages of the stories to children. Even though this series is aimed at children, it's written and executed in such a way that adults can enjoy watching the stories just as much as the children. The writing doesn't talk down to its audience.

I really enjoyed what I saw in the first episode, but sadly, I don't see any North American licensors being in a hurry to license this series. It just would be too difficult to "localize" the series, which seems to be something that the North American licensors want to do if they're bringing anime over in order to market it to a child audience. While I appreciate being able to see these classic Japanese folktales, I don't think there would be enough adults like me who would be willing to purchase this series on DVD for its educational value.

Personally, I think Folktales From Japan is an acceptable anime series for anyone to watch. However, since it's currently only available with subtitles, viewers need to be able to read and keep up with the subtitles in order to get the full impact of the series.


Title
Episodes
Release Year(s)
Director
Studio
N.A. Licensor
Folktales From Japan462012-ongoingTakuo SuzukiTomasonN/A
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Content copyright © 2014 by Lesley Aeschliman. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lesley Aeschliman. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Brenda Chen for details.

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