The List
6 Strange Reinterpretations of Classic Literature

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Classic literature is a resource regularly mined for new visual adaptations, whether it's a Jane Austen romance or another mystery starring the unflappable Sherlock Holmes. These stories and their characters are immediately familiar to audiences around the world, so every decade or so, the great works are polished up and reinterpreted. Nippon Animation made a whole series of works based on this concept called World Masterpiece Theater. The difference between those works and what we're looking at this week is that World Masterpiece Theater plays it straight, which is all well and good, but what makes anime unique is its ability to take the stories we know and run them right into left field.

Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry A Little Princess and The Secret Garden are children's classics starring plucky, kind girls holed up in giant estates. Strain recasts the characters of Frances Hodgson Burnett as pilots in an space war. Sara (A Little Princess) goes through a similar disgrace as her literary counterpart, except this time her dad doesn't lose all the money in the diamond mines, it's her brother who turns out to be an intergalactic Benedict Arnold.

Ulysses 31 Odysseus spent a decade lost at sea for having the audacity to blind a cyclops and incur the wrath of Poseidon. During his cursed travels, he encounters fearsome monsters and witches before finally returning to his wife in Ithaca and laying waste to all the guys trying to move in on her. Ulysses 31 is a Japanese-French co-production that takes the Greek tale but sets it in space, with space cyclops-androids and mysterious space gods that prevent Ulysses from returning home. He's accompanied by decidedly less expendable crew members including Telemachus, who was originally Odysseus's son stuck back in Ithaca.

Romeo x Juliet William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is so ingrained in storytelling that finding a way to make it fresh becomes increasingly harder as time goes on. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 modernization cemented DiCaprio as a hearthrob, John Madden's Shakespeare in Love would attempt the same story but cast Shakespeare as the "Romeo," and West Side Story takes the star-crossed lovers and puts them in opposing street gangs of New York. Gonzo's own foray into the tale puts fair Verona in the sky. The Montague family rules over it with an iron fist, creating a greater gap between the classes. In their way is Juliet, now an orphan and a masked crusader who, despite her mission, will still inevitably fall for Romeo, the son of her parents' murderer.

Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water Verne's original novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea tells of shipwrecked Frenchmen brought aboard a futuristic submarine piloted by the enigmatic and increasingly agitated Captain Nemo. While aboard the ship, they explore real-life locations, the fictional Atlantis, and famously clash with giant squid. Nadia jumps on the bit about Atlantis while still including Nemo and the submarine. Nadia herself is a young girl with mysterious origins, while Jean embodies the original story's French element, although he isn't comparable to any of Verne's original characters. Only the giant cephalopod, true to form, returns mostly unchanged.

Blast of Tempest BONES's take on Shakespeare could more accurately be described as anime's take on The Poet's style than a true adaptation, although many of the elements from his play The Tempest and Hamlet make an appearance. The protagonists are best friends Yoshino and Mahiro, both obsessed with Aika, Mahiro's sister. The male characters are comparable to other Shakespearean leads (Hamlet and Romeo) while The Tempest part of the story comes in with magic-user Hakaze, who is trapped on an island like Shakespeare's Prospero. The main character's roots in opposing plays (tragedy versus comedy) creates the main conflict in the series: whether the plot will end with destruction or hope.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas' daunting tome chronicles the well-laid revenge of one "Count," set-up to take the fall by powerful families of France. The original story has a large cast of conspirators that most adaptations trim down to a manageable level. GONZO's version of the story retains The Count and the major players, but changes the setting from 1800s France and Italy to a futuristic Europe where space travel is a regular occurrence. The Count's charisma remains intact, accented by his sense of foreign exoticism, in this case alien-blue skin amongst a cast of Anglo nobles. The show adds some sci-fi flavor to the classic, even throwing in a few mecha when a duel needs to take place. Its dream-like imagery and excellent plotting places Gankutsuou as one of the few standout productions made during GONZO's later years before it ran into financial issues.

The new poll: Who is your current favorite manga creator?

The old poll: Who would you cast as the main character in a live-action Naruto film? Well, you guys really had fun with this one, eh? The top answer is a "dead mouse" followed by "anyone as long as Jaden Smith is Sasuke." The first SERIOUS answer seems to be Kōdai Matsuoka who played Naruto in the musical followed by Peter Dinklage, Zac Efron, and Scarlett Johansson so let's call this one a wash.

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

discuss this in the forum (73 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

The List homepage / archives