The anime artists who gave us another look at famous witch Kiki turn their talents to bringing Heidi into the 21st century.
Back in the early summer, Nissin blew us away with a jaw-dropping short anime ad that showed little witch Kiki, star of novel series and Studio Ghibli anime Kiki’s Delivery Service, as a high school student. Now Nissin is back with another treat for fans of classic children’s literature and anime with a new entry in its Hungry Days series of Cup Noodle ads, this time featuring Heidi and her friends from the Swiss Alps attending school in Japan.
While the character made her debut in a 19th century book from Swiss author Johanna Spyri, Heidi is arguably better known in Japan through the Heidi, Girl of the Alps anime TV series, which was directed by Isao Takahata (who would go on to direct Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya) and originally aired in 1974 before becoming a regular rerun fixture. Hungry Days’ contributing character designer Eisaku Kubonouchi gives Heidi a modern update, and the new piece of animation eschews the flat shades of the ‘70s TV anime and fills the frame with soft yet luscious color instead.
▼ The music, once again, is Bump of Chicken’s “Kinen Satsuei.”
As the video opens, tomboyish Heidi is having her finger bandaged by her regally feminine friend Clara. “Heidi, what would you think about dressing up a bit more?” Clara asks. “You’re really cute, after all.”
While there’s originally quite an age gap between the two, the Hungry Days short makes them students in the same high school, and Heidi is suffering from a bit of an inferiority complex as Clara embarks on a burgeoning modeling career. As Clara earns the admiration of fashion fans across Japan, we see Heidi get literally pushed aside by a group of classmates flocking to bask in Clara’s elegant atmosphere.
▼ In the original version of the story, Clara’s is unable to walk due to a vaguely defined ailment, but she seems to have healed completely here.
Heidi continues to brood as she leafs through a magazine running a feature about Clara while sitting in a cafe run by the grandfatherly Uncle Alp (famous for his home-made cheese in the anime, that same dairy product looks to be the house specialty). Also working in the cafe, as a waiter, is fellow Heidi cast member Peter, who notices that Heidi is feeling down in the dumps, much to her embarrassment.
If some of the voices sound familiar, it might be because Peter is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya, who was also the scene-stealing Levi in Attack on Titan, and Clara’s voice actress is Sora Amamiya, who played female leads Toka and Elizabeth in Tokyo Ghoul and The Seven Deadly Sins. Heidi’s role is handled by idol singer Anna Ishii, who had parts in the live-action film adaptations of anime Anthem of the Heart and Your Lie in April.
As the seasons turn, Heidi’s can’t stop comparing herself, unfavorably, to Clara. She decides to confide her uneasiness in Peter as the two relax on a swing set in a park.
▼ “Hey, Peter. Clara looked so cute again today, but I’m just plain old me.”
But even though it seems like the whole world can’t take their eyes off Clara, Peter only has eyes for Heidi. “Heidi,” he says as he grabs the swing chain to put an end to her unsteady back-and-forth, “I love you like you just like you are.”
And so once again Nissin’s marketing team shows that it can handle both drama and comedy with equal aplomb, and leaves us all waiting to see what classic anime will be next to get the Hungry Days treatment.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he could listen to “Kinen Satsuei” all day.