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Japanese Cartoons

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Among my fondest memories of my childhood in Florence are the cartoons that I used to enjoy watching. The majority of these, if not all, were made in Japan and dubbed into Italian. Every day, around 4pm, the kid’s TV programme Zap-Zap would begin on a (now-defunct, I think) TV channel called TMC. The two presenters were called Marta and Guido, and they would take us through an hour or so of kids entertainment. I loved it, and remember being really disappointed when our TV broke down and I wasn’t able to see it for almost a month. It felt like forever.

I still have no real idea why Japanese cartoons (and comics) are so popular in Italy. I guess I’m looking for a socio-cultural explanation of some sort, perhaps involving some cultural similarity between the two peoples (whose stereotypes couldn’t be more different!).

Cultural analysis aside, my top four favourite cartoons were Ranma, Bia, Conan, and Dolce Candy. Most of these were originally made in the late 70s and early 80s, and were still in transmission during the mid to late 90s.

‘Ranma’ (“la stella del oriente…” in the Italian theme tune) was about the eponymous teenager who is a martial arts fighter in an arranged engagement with the lovely Akaneh. Of course, they hate each other (or so it seems on the surface…). As a result of falling into a magical lake, Ranma always changes into a beautiful red-headed girl (“la ragazza coi capelli rossi…”) whenever he enters water. His arch-rival, both in martial arts and for the love of Akaneh, is Riyoga. Ranma and Riyoga would have great showdowns from time to time, which Ranma would inevitably win. Being a fan of the underdog, I remember always supporting Riyoga and hoping that he would teach the cocky Ranma a lesson or two. 🙂

One of my all-time favourite cartoons is Bia (“la sfida della magia” – the challenge of magic). This is about a good witch called Bia–again, with red hair–this is becoming a theme here 😉 –who comes down from the magical world to live amongst humans, and prepare, in time, to become queen of the witches. She also had a rival, whose name I forget, who had a much darker personality and generally disliked humans.

Another great cartoon was Conan (“il ragazzo del future” – the boy of the future). This was set in a post-apocalyptic world in which people are fending for themselves in small pre-industrial communities. The remnants of a more technological world are still around and trying to rebuild a new world order. The lead character was Conan and his lovely best friend/girlfriend (could never quite figure out which!) Lena. My favourite character was the lovely red-head (yes, again!) Monsley, who was a sort of commander in the ‘bad guys’ organisation.

Last but not least, we have Dolce Candy. Now, the thing is, I never really figured out what this cartoon was about and only really watched it sporadically over the last month or two I was in Florence. However, I loved the inspiring theme tune and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, still know it off by heart all these years later. It is sung by Cristina D’Avena, who is incidentally the singer of many other Italian cartoon theme tunes.

Have a listen and see what you make of it. 🙂

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