When this version of Treasure Island first hit the small screen around my parts the comparisons with "Rittai anime Ie Naki Ko Remi" were obvious: here was another Japanese serial based on a famous novel, starring a small brown haired boy wearing red and blue clothes. On closer inspection however, this time the character design was perhaps a bit less detailed and the animation somewhat more of a trip (one flashback sequence repeats a scene after converting all the colours to negative). Young lead Jim Hawkins was less realistically drawn than Remi, with an enormous mouth and hardly any nose, as well as long hair covering eyes more often than not. But they still had the tendency to show a lot of close-ups of feet walking.
This version also boast the most heroic, hunky looking Long John Silver ever put on film in the hundreds of Treasure Island before or since, sporting long flowing hair (almost everybody wore it down in this cartoon) with one lock always falling across his piercing blue eyes. No wonder Jim couldn't help himself but idolize this man. And even though you knew it was coming, his betrayal hit the viewers almost as hard as Jimboy. As this was my first introduction to the story, imagine my surprise at seeing classic versions later in life, featuring Long Johns looking untrustworthy from the get go.
Of course there had to be a little fluffy animal, too, in this case Jim's pet jaguar cub Benbow, who was quickly explained away during narration in the very first episode as being a gift from a guest to his mother's inn (The Admiral Benbow, of course). But despite Benbow being very cute, he was never clumsy or irritating like so many comedic cartoon sidekicks that would follow in the Eighties. The series was remarkably faithful to the Robert Louis Stevenson's source material, even though over the course of 26 episodes, they did add a few diversions not in the book, including a Ghost ship, several encounters with man eating sharks and a much more elaborately hidden treasure. In this version, Ben Gunn had been marooned ten years prior instead of three, and in all that time still had not been able to find a hint of Flint's booty.
Silver meanwhile, did not only look like a dashing hero, he managed to perform superhuman feats with just that one leg and a crutch. In this animated version, he was able to leap over three men without even breaking a sweat. The only character who could give him a run for his money was the equally über-cool sailor known only as 'Gray' (another fan favorite). And to enhance their status of super-coolness even more, all of the stand out moments would be presented in some kind of dramatic 'freeze frame' fashion where the action would basically grind to a halt and be seen as monotone still lives (usually with crazy speed lines all over the place). Add to this some great character designs and cinematic photography and it makes for a series that bares repeat viewing even today on Youtube.
But let me complete my personal trip back to 1981 first. Shown on Avro Television in the Netherlands (specifically as part of the 'Kinderbios' show, it was almost inevitable that the weekly TV guide Televisier/Avrobode ran the story of Treasure Island as a serial. These pictures with text then had to be cut out and saved for a special collectors album (sold separately) in which the entire story could be pasted. Mind you, since these were magazines cuttings, not stickers, it could get pretty nasty depending on the kind of glue you used. I misplaced my "Schateiland" over the years and unfortunately don't have a complicated pirate map to find it. Nowadays, one occasionally pops up at a jumble sale. Which cannot be said of the cartoon series, which has never been seen in the Netherlands since. Thankfully, thanks to the Internet, Takarajima can now be seen again for a whole new generation to fall in awe of Silver (and Gray).
8 out of 10
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