Dania emerged from her room and immediately stared at Eleanor.
“You didn’t tell me…” Dania began, walking further into the room, “that there was a Daddy Long Legs anime, too!”
Eleanor exhaled. “Oh, yeah. There is.”
The ads for the show, Watashi No Ashinaga Ojisan, had run at the conclusion of the last few episodes of Pītā Pan No Bōken. This was in lieu of the show’s traditional, “Next Week On…” ending, for fear of spoiling what would happen next.
“So why did I watch the entire Peter Pan anime – Peter Panime…”
“When there’s a perfectly good anime based on a book I like that’s also entirely on YouTube?”
“I don’t know,” Eleanor shrugged. “Because I didn’t know you liked Daddy Long Legs? Because I wanted to talk about Hook and Peter’s mech suit battle?”
“It’s barely a mech,” Dania said dismissively, as she sat down. “The whole thing is made of wood, he’d get splinters.”
“Everything is made of wood in Neverland,” Eleanor replied. “Except for the random household objects. It’s an agrarian economy.”
“Then where did they get the bedsheets?” Dania asked. “And the cannons? And that pot that Curly wears on his head?”
“Except for the household objects, I said that!” Eleanor repeated. “Look, Neverland doesn’t run on logic, it runs on emotion. Kids want homes in their fantasy worlds. Homes have stuff in them. That’s how this works.”
Dania, rolling her eyes, slumped into the couch. Eleanor sighed, and moved to sit by her friend.
“Did you at least like the show?” she nudged. “I’m getting a weird vibe from you.”
“It’s pretty good,” Dania murmured. “Nothing to really write home about. I mean…”
Midsentence, she sat up, more alert. “Okay,” she added, “there’s some stuff I really liked. Tiger Lily, I like a lot.”
“Even despite the cultural ick around her?”
“There’s always that,” Dania said. “She’s still based in stereotype. But at least she’s a decent character in this version. No-nonsense, but with a limit to when and what she will fight for. And she gets to actually talk with Wendy about her struggles. That’s more interesting than whatever the Disney version did.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Eleanor said. “I wish she was in more of it.”
“She’s in enough of it,” Dania said. “I like that they gave Tinkerbell a voice, too. I’ve never liked the versions where only Peter can understand her.”
“Yeah, that seems like a natural shift.” Eleanor considered the other changes. “It feels like a lot of stuff was changed in order to facilitate a T.V. show format.”
“What, on T.V. Tinkerbell has to talk?”
“I mean the other changes,” Eleanor explained. “Cutting down the Lost Boys to just Slightly, Curly, and Tootles makes it easier to characterize all of them. Making Tiger Lily into a more fleshed out person gives her a place in the narrative. Having Hook and Peter interact regularly means that Hook’s motivation for wanting Peter dead is something we see, not something that happens before the show starts.”
“Although I will say,” Dania jumped in. “They use the crocodile too much. If it’s gonna show up every other episode, it’s not really a threat anymore.”
Eleanor smiled. “I like their croc design, though. With the moss hair?”
“It looks like a Beatle,” Dania quipped.
At that moment, the door opened, and Gwen, sweating from the Chicago heat, entered the apartment.
“Why are you wearing that coat?” Eleanor asked. “It’s sixty degrees out!”
“Because I didn’t think it was going to stay sixty degrees out!” Gwen grumbled.
“Well, anyway,” Eleanor said. “Dania finally finished Pītā Pan No Bōken, so that’s the topic of conversation?”
Elanor hung her coat, before turning to face Dania. “I’m going to guess…” Gwen studied her friend’s face, but Dania let on about nothing.
“…you liked it?”
“I thought it was fine,” shrugged Dania.
“But you don’t love Peter Pan in the first place,” Gwen asked.
“Yeah,” Dania said. “You knew that when you recommended it.”
“Sure,” Gwen admitted. “Although it does things differently than other Peter Pan adaptations.”
“I mean, there are changes,” Dania said. “But in general, it’s still Peter telling Wendy she’s gotta be a mother.”
“This one handles that better, though,” Eleanor added. “It’s very clear here that Wendy already has a tendency towards leadership, so when they ask her to be their mother, she’s into it from the start.”
“Not to mention,” Gwen continued, “they show how hard the work is. It’s clearly a struggle, but she’s always pushing through.”
“Like the episode about Peter and the flower dress,” Eleanor suggested. “When Peter breaks his promise to Wendy, she goes off on him. When he doesn’t bring her ingredients for the food she’s making, she makes him go out and get them. Wendy doesn’t mess around in this Lost Boys treehouse.”
“The kicker for me is – and this is what I like the most about the entire show,” Gwen said. “When the episode ends with Peter learning a lesson about keeping promises, he retains it. I’m pretty sure there’s a moment one or two episodes later where Tinkerbell mentions that Peter would never break a promise ‘anymore.’ It makes for good world-building.”
“Eh, they’re never going to change entirely,” Dania said. “It’s episodic, so it’s hard to change characters when you could essentially replay the episodes in random order, one-adventure-per-day style.”
Eleanor and Gwen exchanged a glance. “Can you, though?” Eleanor asked. “I mean, put in an episode from the second half during the first, and it’s not going to make any sense.”
“Okay, yeah, yes.” Dania sat up, fervent. “Let’s talk about that shift in tone halfway through.”
“I think it works,” Gwen began.
“I think it’s a mess,” Dania said. “What, it’s all happy adventures fighting between Hook and Peter, and then suddenly there’s a shadow realm, and a princess named Luna, and her grandmother darkness-sama. Like, what?”
“Just because it’s different than the book…” Eleanor said.
“I’m fine with it being different from the book!” Dania said. “But this is a different planet to the one Neverland is on!”
“Admittedly – you have to admit,” Gwen said. “The five episodes where that shift happens, I believe it’s episodes 19-23 – those are the best ones in the whole series.”
“That’s the one where Hook battles Peter in a mech suit, right?” Eleanor asked.
“Is it a mech?” asked Gwen. “It’s made of wood, right?”
“That’s what I ––” Dania shouted, before glaring at Eleanor.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yes, that one,” Gwen said. “The battle in the castle where the Lost Boys home gets…”
“Don’t say it!” Eleanor said. “Spoilers!”
“We’ve all seen it!”
“I think those are as good as any of the other episodes,” Dania agreed. “Like I said, I didn’t hate the show. It’s just not anything that really stands out for me.”
“I think the character interactions push it over the top,” Gwen said. “The series has an arc, but it’s entirely confined to shifts in personality, not actions taken by the characters. That’s almost rare to see in a linear T.V. show, especially one that could easily remain in stasis forever. Never growing older is a plot point.”
“But not one they hammer home too much,” Eleanor added. “Once they’re in Neverland and the rules of the place are set, there’s relatively little reference to the outside world. Wendy and Michael and John adapt quickly.”
“There’s some of that in the early episodes, though,” Dania said. “Needing to steal Captain Hook’s pocketwatch because the only other clock in Neverland is inside the crocodile.”
“That’s early on, though.”
“Speaking of which,” Gwen jumped in, “I love how much Captain Hook’s mother is the secret bonus character in this story. Wendy using Hook’s relationship with his mother as emotional ammo against him is brilliant.”
“I’m almost surprised they made darkness-sama into Luna’s grandmother, rather than mother,” Eleanor said. “Considering how much they milk the idea of motherhood in the rest of the show.”
“You know what my favorite episode is?” Gwen asked.
Eleanor and Dania thought long and hard about this. Gwen had already cited the central quintet of episodes, but there might be another.
“I know mine,” Dania said, with a wide grin.
“Is it the episode where they have to teach fairy Pushke to fly?” Eleanor asked. “That’s another string for the motherhood bow.”
“Ooh, I forgot that one, but yes, that’s a good episode,” Gwen said. “Concise, high stakes, and solid character interactions.”
“I just think Pushke is super cute,” Dania said. “A little grating, but she’s only in one episode.”
“No, it’s the episode with Michael and Tinkerbell getting snow,” Gwen said. “First off, such a weird pairing you wouldn’t expect to see. Michael is complaining about being too small and powerless, while Tinkerbell has to be a parent figure to him – while she’s also small and powerless.”
“Motherhood coming back again,” Dania pointed out.
“It’s everything the show does well,” Gwen said. “Great character-driven dialogue and conflicts, really solid animation and camera work ––”
“It’s a little choppy,” Eleanor said. “But I certainly never thought things looked bad. Character designs are certainly distinct from other versions of Peter Pan.”
“I was sort of thrown that Peter wasn’t wearing green,” Dania admitted. “But you get used to it.”
“It’s another person’s vision of Neverland,” Eleanor said. “But it still captures that Peter Pan spirit, you know? It’s the right tone.”
“Except in the second half,” Dania added.
“Well, even then,” Eleanor pressed. “It’s driven by the characters, like Gwen mentioned. So I give it a pass.”
“There are plenty of elements I could criticize,” Gwen admitted. “However, when I consider being a child watching this – probably some of whom had never seen Peter Pan before – it’s a solid children’s show with strong acting and dialogue.”
“Well, sure,” Dania said. “But a child is probably going to like any show you put in front of them, whether or not it makes sense.”
“But isn’t that the spirit of Neverland?” Eleanor asked. “Enjoying it even if it doesn’t totally make sense?”
Dania sighed, but knew Eleanor was right.
As the weeks went on, the trio eventually forgot about the specifics of Pītā Pan No Bōken. The events of each episode drifted from memory like so much fairy dust. What remained, however, was the warm sense of memory – memory not for any specific actions, but for the time they had spent in Neverland, exploring the world with the children who wouldn’t grow up.
Image Credit: YouTube