Porfy no Nagai Tabi is the second series of the revival of the famous World Masterpiece Theatre franchise, a long-running collection of series based on popular children’s novels, made accessible for every age. The franchise is typically very slow paced, combined with genuine, true to life and realistic characters, and it’s a formula that’s proven itself over and over again; though it’s definitely not a series for everyone.
Like the title does suspect, this instalment is a travelling series. It consists out of roughly five arcs, each of them being completely different from the others in tone, mood, pacing and execution. It starts out as a gentle and calm slice of life series, then it turns into a dark tear-jerker, then it becomes a slow laid-back travelling-series, then a haunting fast-paced one, and the final arc yet again goes into a completely different path, making sure that the 52 episodes of this series don’t drag on.
One of this series’ strengths is that it’s absolutely masterful at building up. Every single episode is chockfull of cross-references to either past or future events, the amount of foreshadowing is huge, and yet in half of the cases you won’t recognize the foreshadowing until what they wanted to hint at has already happened. When you see something randomly happen, especially in the first quarter of the series, you can be sure that one of the later episodes uses or builds further on this.
The same goes with the characters. The amount of development that goes into Porfy and Mina is immense. The show may not have as huge or complex of a regular cast as Les Miserables, but in order to make up for that it does what it can to make the lead cast as true to life and realistic as possible, and they really succeed at that. Porfy and Mina aren’t exactly immediately likable, but as the series progresses they and the other characters become very easy to relate to, simply due to their different sides and many subtle quirks that shaped their characters.
Another strength of Porfy no Nagai Tabi is the travelling-part of the series. Especially the second half really managed to catch the essence of travelling: meeting many different people, and not knowing beforehand whether they have ill intentions or are cooperative. Everyone that Porfy runs into is different, and the contrast between the loneliness of travelling alone without knowing anybody, and talking to random people you meet on the way really works.
The weakest part of this series is around the middle, where the travel arcs are long and a bit too tedious to get through. Porfy meets the right people a bit too conveniently, and overall there are times when it just feels a bit unrealistic when Porfy gets involved in large dramas, and in the end manages to make people who originally hate each other make up again like nothing happened. Thankfully the later travel arcs fix this wonderfully, and provide a more realistic view to this.
And yes, this definitely isn’t a show for the impatient. Especially since hardly anything happens aside from building up in the first twelve episodes, you need to be able to enjoy slice of life moments if you want to enjoy this series, but that’s the case with nearly every other WMT-series: the characters are amazing, but there’s an amazing amount of time needed to flesh them all out.
Since the character-designs look fairly simple and childish, do not make the mistake to think that the graphics are all very dull and simple. Sure, the character-designs aren’t complex, but to make up for it this series has some of the most beautiful background art in all anime. For 52 episodes, the creators consistently deliver the most gorgeous landscapes full of life and detail, perfectly representing the area that Porfy finds himself in at the time: you can really see the changes as Porfy moves through Europe.
Overall, Porfy no Nagai Tabi isn’t as incredible as Les Miserables, yet it’s a wonderful series nonetheless. I really hope that these guys succeed in fansubbing this series, because it’s definitely been one of the most under-looked series of 2008. You obviously don’t want to watch this, expecting nothing but juicy plot twists, but for those who can appreciate a bit of slice of life here and there, it really is an excellent recommendation.