Something a bit different now, the anime Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette (2007), based of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables. This anime is an adaptation of the novel from the point of view of Cosette and is 52 episodes long.
What’s it about?
Set in nineteenth-century France, the anime follows the story of Cosette as she grows into a woman. The story begins when Cosette’s mother, Fantine, leaves her with an innkeeper and his family to go and work, as she is continuously refused work for being an unmarried mother. Unknown to Fantine, the innkeeper treats Cosette as a slave, until she is saved by Jean Valjean, a kind man and ex-convict, who raises her as his daughter after Fantine’s death. However, trouble seems just around the corner with Jean Valjean’s dark past coming back to haunt them and the growing unhappiness with France’s inequality.
As this is an adaptation of a novel (one of my favourite novels, no less), I’m going to do a lot of comparing to the original source. One of the strong positives is that the middle of the anime; that is, Cosette’s life once she’s left the convent, her romance with Marius, and the lead-up to the revolution, are all pretty faithful to the novel. These episodes are all done really well. There are non-cannon characters that appear in the anime, but there aren’t very many. Of the few that do exist in the anime, they mesh well with the original plot and serve a purpose. The characters from the original novel are all bought to life really well and I loved the attention to detail in the costume and setting designs. Finally, it’s interesting to see the story told through Cosette’s point-of-view, and I think the writers did a good job at expanding her childhood with the innkeeper at the beginning and with her life in the convent. Hence, the majority of the changes that they made from the original novel, with the exception of the ending, are forgivable. Les Misérables is, after all, a massive story, and all adaptations of it, from the musical, to the 1998 film, to the 2012 film, have taken liberties with the plot.
The art in this anime is quite decent, but nothing spectacular. There are a number of pretty background scenes, but it’s clear that there was a tight budget.
Finally, the music is very grand and fits well with the setting of the anime. The opening and ending songs are sweet, and I really liked the insert song “Lullaby” that Fantine and Cosette sing.
I think the main negative of this anime is that it is obviously aimed at children. Les Misérables is not a children’s book. Not even remotely. In fact, you pretty much read about the death of every character that is introduced in the book. So, it seems like it is a bit of a bizarre choice to adapt to a children’s anime. Having said that, only a little bit of the tragedy is re-written to be kid-friendly, especially the ending, where a number of characters survive and get a better future. But, there is a bit of strange juxtaposition between the tragedy of the anime and the sweet, growing-up tale of Cosette that jars quite a bit throughout the anime, giving it a weird mix that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at children, but also doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at anyone older.
This anime is also really slowly paced. The story drags right from the start with the focus on Cosette’s childhood, and continues to drag right up to the beginning of the revolution. Which I guess does make it pretty faithful the novel. At least we are spared the history of Paris’ sewerage system.
Art: 7/10: Quite cute but not top-notch. However, character designs and attention to detail are really nice.
Story: 6/10: The story is fairly faithful, but does commit some terrible, terrible sins against the novel.
Characters: 7/10: The characters are generally done really well, but suffer with the transition to a more kid-friendly adaptation.
This is a bit of a hard anime to judge. The decision to aim the anime towards children is bizarre, and fans of the original novel will find the kid-friendly changes sinful. The mix of tragedy, Cosette’s sweetness, and the length makes me wonder if many children would actually enjoy this anime. I suggest giving it a watch only if you’re a hard-core fan of the novels or musical, otherwise it won’t interest many others. Overall I give it a 6/10.