The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ie Naki Ko

Title: Ie Naki Ko aka Nobody’s Boy: Remi
Genre: Drama
Company: Tokyo Movie Shinsha and Madhouse
Format: 51 episodes
Dates: 02 Oct 1977 – 01 Oct 1978

Synopsis: Remi, a young boy, lives quietly with his mother in a small French village. One day his supposed father returns home and reveals that Remi was abandoned as a baby on the streets of Paris. Now short on cash, his foster father sells him to a travelling entertainer named Vitalis for 40 francs, starting Remi on a journey that will take him to places he never imagined.

The Highlights
Animation: Very little. The director relies heavily on panning stills and sparkles to create movement.
Emotion: Deep and genuine.
Remi and Vitalis: A relationship not soon forgotten.
London arc: Weakest in an otherwise very strong story.

‘Like a general on a stone bridge, stick out your chest and walk!’ This first line from the upbeat and silly ending theme song fits the series perfectly. Ie Naki Ko is a story of growing up and persevering no matter what happens. But despite the bubbly, Totoro-like song, this series tackles a wealth of darker topics and deeper themes, drawing from the French novel Sans Famille by Hector Malot.

After a slow start, the anime keeps the story moving briskly over its 51 episodes, but even by the standards of the 1970s, it’s clear the animation budget for this series was tiny. Director Dezaki Osamu, most famous for his work on Rose of Versailles, employs several trademark techniques, conveying motion by panning foregrounds and backgrounds past still images, often with unusual colour combinations or clusters of sparkles. The animation itself is simple and important scenes are often repeated. To enhance the impact of key scenes, Dezaki transitions to sketchy still frames he called “postcard memories”.

But even though the animation is lacking, Ie Naki Ko manages to convey a surprising depth of emotion, largely due to its wonderful cast of characters. Remi as the protagonist avoids the common pitfalls of child characters, never becoming irritating. I felt his pain when he was taken from his mother, and I shared his joy when he learned something new. His tremendous heart and courage carry the show and inspire those around him. While on his journey, Remi meets many different people, from the elegant and rich Mrs. Milligan to the scrappy street-boy Mattia. All these characters are well realized. Even the dogs and monkey that travel with the entertainers have distinct personalities. Standing above the rest, however, is Vitalis. He becomes a father figure to Remi and is determined to teach him how to survive in the world and grow up to be a good man. It is Vitalis who pushes Remi to keep moving forward and shows him that experience, both good and bad, is a valuable teacher. Their relationship is one that leaves a lasting impression on Remi and on the viewer.

This series surprised me in its willingness to show the suffering and hardships of life. Aside from one weaker story arc set in London, the tale does not feel stale or recycled. It feels, as it should, like a story for the ages. Ie Naki Ko may tell the tale of an abandoned French boy, but its message is relevant for everyone. It shows that sometimes our struggles and challenges are actually the richest part of life and that we all need to stick out our chest and walk forward.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

Top of page