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Syrius no Densetsu/The Sea Prince and the Fire Child (Sanrio, 1981)

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This anime movie was originally released in 1981 as Syrius no densetsu, (“The legend of Syrius”) by Sanrio, a studio that at the time was reaching for an international audience. Based on an original idea by Sanrio’s founder, Shintaro Tsuji, it was directed by Masami Hata, an important and wide-ranging animator. In 1971, Hata had previously directed the landmark TV series Andersen Monogatari or “The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen,” including an early and largely unknown 3-part adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” He later became internationally recognized for directing Little Nemo in Wonderland, the 1989 feature film that became the first Japanese-produced animated film to be adapted and given wide theatrical release in North America.

The story concerns a mythological feud between the elemental realms of Fire and Water, fomented by Algorac, the trickster god of Wind. As a result, the two kingdoms are forbidden to contact each other, and the troublesome wind god is imprisoned between them. A chance encounter between the Sea Prince Syrius and the Fire Princess Malta leads to a passionate love affair, which their parents discover and try to thwart.

In most references, the story is described as a variation on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which it certainly is in general outlines. More importantly, it prefigures the way in which Disney retooled the backstory of Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” to make it into a feature-length animated movie. The whimsical “under the sea” sequences, displaying the cleverly-designed denizens of Syrius’ kingdom, also may have influenced the later film. Sanrio doubtless made such borrowing easier, as their character development already imitates that of earlier Disney films, with Syrius and Malta visibly patterned after Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in the 1953 animated film.

(It’s a good bet that Miyazaki was also familiar with Syrius, as his Ponyo picks up hints from the film – but that’s another story.)

In 1991 the film was dubbed and released in the U.S. as The Sea Prince and the Fire Child. This movie did not make much impact at the time, and it still is not as widely known as other anime classics. Still, it generated a small but devoted band of admirers, many of whom caught it briefly during cable TV broadcasts during the early 1990s or picked it up by chance in VHS rental stores. Happily, a “30th anniversary” DVD was released in 2011, and this has been attracting more attention.

 Teak/Bibble: Syrius' Sidekick

 Malta Watches Syrius Go Splash

  “Malta the Amazing”

 Malta likes Syrius!

 Malta Greets Syrius

 Malta happy to see Syrius again

 Malta doesn’t like Syrius any more

 Syrius and Malta embrace

 Piale attacks Syrius

 Glaucus orders Syrius to leave Malta

 Malta trapped in a web

 Syrius removes the Eye of Algorac

 Malta on the Hill of Moebius

 King Glaucus elevates the lovers to the sky

Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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