Heidi is definitely the anime community's poster girl for making the Swiss Alps feel magical.
By: Nicole S. Castro on July 28, 2022 at 13:08 PHT
How long ago can you go? Time for a very, very nostalgic throwback! As far back as 1974!
Sometimes, we forget that anime existed that early on. But when you realize we're talking about Heidi, Girl of the Alps which aired from Jan. 6, 1974 to Dec. 29, 1974, you realize anime shows from that time period are still in our memories today.
Heidi, Girl of the Alps (Japanese: アルプスの少女ハイジ, Romaji: Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji) is a 52-episode anime television series produced by Zuiyo Eizo (now known as Nippon Animation). It is based on the novel Heidi's Years of Wandering and Learning by Johanna Spyri (1880).
The novel narrates the life of a 5-year-old girl in her paternal grandfather's care in the Swiss Alps.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
The series stars five-year-old protagonist Heidi (CV: Kazuko Sugiyama). Her parents passed away when she was one year old so she has been in the care of various relatives since. At the start of the series, she and her Aunt Dete (CV: Taeko Nakanishi) are on their way to the Swiss Alps. Dete has found a promising job as a maid in Frankfurt but cannot take Heidi with her. Dete decides to leave Heidi in the care of her grandfather, Alm-Ohi (CV: Kohei Miyauchi).
Alm-Ohi is feared by the villagers of Dörfli because of his stern disposition. He lives a solitary life with his dog Josef in a cabin halfway up the mountains. But Heidi quickly wins her way into his heart with her enthusiasm and intelligence. Heidi also makes friends with Peter (CV: Noriko Ohara) who goes up the mountains to feed the villagers' goats.
The conflict arrives three years later, when Heidi is eight and her Aunt Dete returns to the Alps. Dete has found an opportunity for Heidi through the affluent Sesemann family. If she accepts, Heidi will be the playmate and companion of the paralyzed 12-year-old Clara Sesemann (CV: Rihoko Yoshida), the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant.
Alm-Ohi reluctantly lets Heidi go to live with the Sesemann family. While Heidi gets her education and befriends Clara, she misses the Alps terribly to the point that she develops somnambulism (sleepwalking). Clara understands and agrees to let Heidi return to the Alps. They stay in touch via letters. Heidi continues her education in the village of Dörfli after Alm-Ohi restores a ruined house down in the village so they could live nearby.
How did the anime end?
In Frankfurt, Clara misses Heidi and decides to follow her to the Alps after pleading with her father and the doctor.
At first, Clara goes to the Alps with the governess Miss Rottenmeier (CV: Miyoko Asou), but the latter struggles to adjust to countryside life. Miss Rottenmeier eventually returns to Frankfurt and is replaced by Clara's Grandmother (CV: Terue Nunami). The physical therapy proves to be beneficial to Clara who regains the ability to walk.
Clara, now able to walk without assistance, returns home to Frankfurt in the winter, but promises to return to the Alps the following spring to be with Heidi and friends again.
As the saying goes, "You can't go wrong with the classics," and this holds true for Heidi, Girl of the Alps. There are plenty of newer children's anime to go around these days, but Heidi and her story have an especially poignant way of showing us both the harsh realities of being orphaned and the beauty of finding family in the people you choose to go home to.
If Heidi ever inspired you to visit the Alps to see life from a different perspective, then we think this anime has done its job well.
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NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.