September 12, 2019

The orphan's saga

Anne of Green Gables has been a perennial bestseller in Japan ever since the publication of the first translation by Hanako Muraoka in 1952.

The character of the spunky orphan (or a girl who becomes a "social orphan" when she sets off alone for the big city) has long been beloved in Japan. NHK built an entire franchise around the concept, with the Asadora morning melodrama now entering its sixth decade.

When it comes to cheerful and resourceful optimism in the face of punishing circumstances, Tohru from Fruits Basket is every bit Anne's equal. She needs to be when she ends up the only "normal" person in a household whose members are the actual animals of the Chinese zodiac.

The orphaned Takashi in Natsume's Book of Names (a guy for a change) has the ability to see the spiritual beings that haunt the Japanese countryside. Like Anne, he was fortunate enough to finally end up with adoptive parents who truly care for him.

The far less fortunate Chise in The Ancient Magus Bride has the same abilities as Takashi (a common trope). She was orphaned when her mother committed suicide and blamed her in the process. Little wonder she's a borderline basketcase when we first meet her.

In a twist on Beauty and the Beast, the Beauty (Chise) is saved by the Beast (the monstrous Elias Ainsworth). Although Elias isn't exactly a rock of stability either. He's not even human, to start with.

Speaking of borderline basketcases, Rei in March Comes in Like a Lion is a shogi prodigy orphaned when the rest of his family is killed in an automobile accident. He turns pro in large part to get away from his screwed up adoptive family.

Rei is saved (psychologically) by an eccentric family of three orphaned sisters (mom died, father ran off) and their grandfather. And by the wealthy Harunobu, another shogi child prodigy who adopts Rei as his best friend. Harunobu is sort of an orphan himself, being raised mostly by his butler.

And then there's Motoko Kusangai from Ghost in the Shell, who can be counted on to be resourceful in the face of punishing circumstances, though not necessarily very cheerful about it. In any case, she can count on her "family" from Section 9 to watch her back.

Related links

Fruits Basket (CR Fun)
Natsume's Book of Friends
The Ancient Magus Bride
March Comes in like a Lion
Ghost in the Shell: Arise

Hanako and Anne
Anne illustrated
The drama of the PCB

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