Have you heard of akage no anne? Or perhaps you would have heard of Anne of Green Gables, a best-selling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is a literary classic that has been translated into 20 languages, adapted as films, plays, musicals, and even an anime in Japan. The novel proved itself so popular after the war in Japan, that as of 1952 it was a part of the national curriculum. Today there is even a school named Green Gables in Okayama, as well as a Canadian World in Hokkaido, which has a section made to resemble Prince Edward Island (where the story is set). Many Japanese fans of the book also travel to Canada just to visit the real Prince Edward Island and Green Gables Farm. When visiting, some Japanese girls will even cosplay as Anne.
I was recently contacted by Terry Dawes who is intrigued by the fascination and cultural assimilation of Anne of Green Gables in Japan. He hopes to be able to produce a documentary explaining how it is that Japan came to love this book so much. Firstly, I think the story line itself captured Japanese hearts: a young orphan, Anne Shirley, mistakenly gets sent to the Cuthbert family, even though they requested a boy. However, they learn to love this young imaginative and talkative red head, and she slowly becomes an indispensable part of their family.
But secondly, and mainly, fans fell in love with Anne’s character. On Terry’s website, Anne of Japan, he explains how “at that time, women were expected to behave in a very reserved way, so the character of Anne provided Japanese women with both an outlet and an example of a new way to behave.”
I think it’d be interesting to see how a foreign novel gained such popularity and went as far as becoming an anime Hayao Miyazaki temporarily worked on. But also in what ways did Anne influence Japanese women? This is a wonderful project to be working on and I look forward to seeing Terry Dawes’ findings documented. There’s a lot more information on akage no anne on his website here, and below is a video of his kick-starter.