Plot: Marco Rossi is a young boy from Italy who is happy, hard-working and deeply loves his mother. One day, Marco is shocked by the news that his father is in debt due to his experimental medical procedures and constantly working with poor people who can afford little to no health care. To make matters worse, in order to repay the debts and keep their heads above water, Marco’s mother must move to Argentina to work for extra money. Despite Marco’s frantic pleas, she is forced to go.
Two years go by, and Marco’s been trying to find work in Genoa to work off his father’s debts to bring his mother back sooner, but has no luck. Marco’s mother has been sending him, his father and his brother letters over time, but her letters eventually hint that she’s become slightly ill. Despite her claim that’s she’s perfectly fine, the letters suddenly stop arriving. Marco is so worried that something’s happened to his mother that he tries desperately to build up money from odd jobs to buy a ticket on a ship to Argentina to check up on her. When he eventually makes it to Argentina, he discovers that finding his mother will be the most harrowing journey of his life.
Breakdown: Despite not having a terribly long episode run (52) it actually took me quite a bit of time to finish watching this series. One of the reasons that it took me so long to finish this show is that it tends to drag, especially towards the end. I swear I was starting to get angry with so many instances of:
“I have to go here to find Mama!”
“Sorry, never heard of your mama, but here’s a vague clue to where she might be.”
“Okay, then. I must go there!”
“Anna Rossi? She moved 213721347 miles away 67 years ago. You’ll never find her now! But here’s the address anyway!”
Okay, I embellished a bit on that last one, but you get my drift.
It became a constant cycle of going one place and being led to another then another then another. The storylines were good enough to get you through it, but it was still partially annoying to sit through.
It’s especially irritating and somewhat heartbreaking in the middle of the series when Marco’s all excited because he knows his mother’s somewhere and you’re like “Well, it’s 30 episodes from the end, so I kinda doubt that she’s at the place you’re heading to.”
Though the series was trying my patience fairly hard in last stretch of episodes, the pay-off was more than worth it.
I dunno if this is a sad fact about my life or maybe my personality, but I’ve never cried because I was happy. The ending of this show got me dangerously close. I could feel the tears in my eyes forming.
This show has wonderful ups and heartbreaking downs. This is the epitome of an emotional roller coaster anime.
Marco is a great kid. He does everything and anything to get to his mother. He works his hands to the bone, he travels through snow, rain, wind and even injury to get to his mama all while doing his best to help the people that he meets along the way. That kid is going to make an amazing adult.
In terms of other characters, all of them were very believable and enjoyable to watch.
One more thing I want to address. This is slightly spoilery, so skip to the specific technical information if you want to remain unspoiled.
Look at the poster. That poster is a very common scene in the opening credits. The opening credits always showed him with that poncho and the donkey. The end credits even show a donkey. Well, we were getting close to the end and I was wondering where the donkey was when we’re introduced to Old Lady. That name alone should give a tip-off as to where this is going.
Long story short, Marco needs to travel through the countryside on his own, so some people in a wagon caravan give him an old donkey of theirs named Old Lady to travel faster. This thing appears in maybe three episodes tops. Guess what happens to her…..Yeah, she dies. And you know what, despite this seeming like a big rip-off for a character that’s in the opening and ending credits, I still had my emotions ripped to shreds.
They had a whole episode where you know that she’s slowly dying. She keeps getting tired. She’s too hungry. She’s older than most donkeys. BUT we’re given a glimmer of hope when a farm worker looks at her and says she’s in great health and should be plenty to get him to his destination.
Not but five minutes later she collapses, won’t eat, won’t drink, nothing. The next morning, she dies, Marco starts crying and he buries her with what sand he can muster in the road. COME ON. Leave me some emotions for the finale, will ya!? This donkey was a three episode character that didn’t even really do anything, but my inner animal lover wanted an extra tissue box for that.
Art and Animation: As you can probably guess, the art and animation are fairly dated. You can spot all sorts of animation errors throughout this show, but that never really mattered to me. It looked rough at times, but it never looked bad, and despite being dated I think the overall art and animation still stand up fairly well. The art is very similar to Studio Ghibli work, which is very understandable given the director. It has a unique and immersive style to it.
Music: The music is great. The opening is wonderful for the tone of this show and the ending is one of my favorite endings ever.
Voice acting: Japanese – The voice acting is wonderful. The VA for Marco can really emote and act very well. During the emotional scenes, this is very key.
Bottomline: If you have the means, I sincerely hope you’ll watch this series. It’s a bit old, yeah, and the show drags a bit around the end almost to point of annoyance, but I promise you that the ending is well worth the dragging.
Additional Information and Notes: 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother was directed by Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli and long-time collaborator with the almighty Hiyao Miyazaki. And it was produced by Nippon Animation.
Recommended Audience: This show is very kid-friendly, but there are some hard to watch scenes like a boy gets beaten badly for trying to sneak aboard a train, an animal gets whipped cruelly for entertainment and some other things, but nothing too bad. 7+ with parental guidance, probably.
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