MIZUKI Kyoko (story), IGARASHI Yumiko (art)
Shoujo – Slice-of-life, historical, drama, romance
9 Volumes (complete, original), 5 Volumes (special edition), 6 Volumes (bunko)
The U.S., early 1900s. Orphans Candy and Annie promise to remain close when Annie is adopted. But when Annie stops writing letters, Candy goes to a nearby hill to cry. She then meets a boy who cheers her up. Candy keeps this memory of her “prince” close to her as she grows up.
Candy Candy is wonderful coming-of-age story that showcases why classic shoujo should not be ignored by modern manga fans.
First, a little history: Candy Candy was originally published as a novel, but the author was eventually paired with artist Igarashi to create the manga. An anime was later produced. The two have squabbled over the rights of Candy Candy, and there was a lot of lawsuits between the two as well as Toei (who made the anime) and merchandise companies. Essentially, author Mizuki won, and she was offered both an anime and manga remake at one point. Many years later Mizuki redid the three novels into two under the name Candy Candy Final Story and claimed this was the original intended version of the story. A bit of new merchandise has been produced, but the rights over Candy Candy is a complicated situation.
It really is too bad. Candy Candy follows the life of a girl Candice, nicknamed Candy. The manga starts with Candy living at an orphanage, having been there her whole life. By the end of the story, Candy is well into young adulthood, having lived in several locations and in both good and bad homes. We see her grow up from a little girl clinging to a simple memory to a strong woman who can make tough decisions. She faces much adversity in her life, from family strife to romance to a world war. Old-school shoujo often features tragedy after disappointment after tragedy, and Candy Candy is no exception. But there’s a lot of happy moments in-between. Life is full of both ups and downs, and time marches on regardless.
While she has female friends, Candy’s life is ultimately shaped by her interactions with various men. Like most women, Candy ends up falling in love several times over the course of her life, and they each hold a special place in her heart. But while romance is an important part of her life, it isn’t her whole life. That’s what makes Candy Candy so special: the protagonist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up by being in love. She finds her dream job, and she forms a variety of relationships — both platonic and romantic — over the years. In fact, it is arguable over whether Candy finds the one she loves in the manga; the novel, however, goes a step further and provides clues but leaves her husband’s identity mostly ambiguous.
It’s hard to dive into the other characters without going into spoiler territory. I can say the most important characters are either part of the Ardray family, a rich family with a home near Pony’s Hill, the Leagon family, the family who first takes Candy in, or her schoolmates from her boarding school. Most of these relationships are long-term, but due to various circumstances, Candy is often separated from those she cares for (and, happily, separated from those who mistreat her). Side characters pair up, and readers are bound to smile at the boys who steal Candy’s heart. Candy’s friends do get plenty of attention and some development, but they do spend a lot of time wondering why fate is always toying with Candy. This is very much Candy’s story, and I do think it’s best the plot always revolves around the protagonist.
The art is beautiful classic shoujo. If you’ve ever seen the old-school shoujo style of The Rose of Versailles or parodied in countless modern manga, you’ll know exactly what to expect: big eyes, lots of dramatically shocked blank expressions, long male faces, and plenty of sparkles. Modern readers may initially feel a bit lost from the fast-paced chapters, but that was the style back then. Lots of whitespace makes it easy to follow the art and keep the panels from becoming too busy. The bright art also reflects Candy’s positive attitude towards life. Key scenes are presented with powerful two-page spreads. Igarashi showcases the fashion and technology of pre-World War I America and Britain with puffy dresses and early vehicles. The 70s shoujo style is no longer in use (partially for good reason), but it definitely makes an impact.
Chance of License:
As it is a Nakayoshi title, Kodansha Comics USA would have first choice. Other companies — most notably Yen Press — have licensed Kodansha manga. Udon Entertainment has picked up Nakayoshi title Sugar Sugar Rune and classic Margaret (Shueisha) manga The Rose of Versailles. Unfortunately, the author and the artist (as well as Toei, the company behind the anime) have had legal disagreements over the rights of Candy Candy. While foreign versions of the manga have been released (including full-color hardcover versions), I’m sure the creators’ disputes would affect any licensing negotiations. I know Italy has just published the Candy Candy Final Story novels, but those books would have nothing to do with Igarashi. I would also buy the novels, but the manga and anime also have their good points. I’d buy anything Candy Candy in English.
Candy Candy may be old, but the protagonist is ironically stronger than many modern shoujo heroines.
The full-color hardcover versions are available in Korean and Thai. The manga is compiled like the Japanese bunko versions. If you cannot read Japanese anyway, you might want to consider the full-color foreign versions instead. Of course, you could argue this isn’t the “true” experience, just as some people don’t like the colored versions of old black-and-white movies.
There’s a lot of debate over the spelling of the アードレー family name. The Japanese CandyCandy Wiki says “Ardray” was used on the author’s site, so I went with that. Other spellings include “Ardley”, “Ardlay”, “Audley”, and even “Eardley”. The Italian novels use “Ardlay”.
The company ZiV International started dubbing the anime of Candy Candy. The first two episodes were released on VHS, but it is unknown how many episodes out of 115 they dubbed.
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