The Old Lady’s Coat

Merry Christmas! And behold! I’m not empty-handed this year *pats herself on the back* What about a lovely tale in which you’ll see that one should think twice before targeting and old lady?

How interesting would it be if our girl was to be an old lady? Thing is, she hasn’t a story to bring as source material. The boy can’t help her there, but mentions that he’d like a japanese tale taking place in the 19th century so that they can use Hokusai’s woodblock prints.

Searching for some samples, he can feel the inspiration flowing. We would be, to say the least. Soon, they get their settings and even the heroine: widow Ôiko. The girls objects that she wants to play an old lady so the boy cleverly offers to give her a good share of wrinkles. Let’s see how long you’ll both keep thinking this way.

On to the plot. They have a premise when the girl imagines that one night, a thief tried to take her coat. Now, the clothes! The wondertastic machine gives her a simple kimono and adds some fat to her figure. Ha. Once she bends a bit to complete her role, she’s the perfect granny.

The old technician: Are you ready? (Vous êtes prêts?)

Boy and Girl: Yes! (Oui!)

The old technician: The Old Lady’s Coat (Le manteau de la vieille dame)

Leaving a friend to whom she showed her sumptuous coat, memento of a more flamboyant life, an old lady agrees that it’s foolish for someone her age to own such an expensive piece of clothing. It doesn’t fall on deaf ears, as a man happens to hear this precious information.

It’s nighttime, so the old lady hopes not to catch too much attention and doesn’t realize that she’s trailed by the man. He swiftly manages to face her, and plays the kind soul, wondering where she’s going. She innocently replies, making him feign concern over the distance:

It will not be said that I let such a sweet granny tire herself out when I’m as strong as a bull! Get on my back, I’m taking you home!

Complying, the old lady praises his kindness, and admits that it’s indeed much faster. The old lady notices that they’re not taking the right path, and once in a deserted and abandoned place, he finally drops the good samaritan act to return to his usual hoodlum speech:

Bandit: Okay old broad, so now you get off, you give me your coat, and you walk back home.

The old lady: What ?

Bandit: Don’t play dumb! Now, you get a move on and you get off!

With a curt NO, she kicks him and tightens her grip. Gaping and suffocating, he doesn’t understand until the old lady mischievously explains that she has been endowed with unusual strength. She sure could break his ribs in a wink, though it would be out of pure inattention, of course! Swiftly, she grabs his throat, joking that she could also strangle him on a whim. Dayum, that’s one scary lady we got here!

He turns to head back home but she has other plans: this lovely detour was a good idea after all, and she prefers going to Eno Matsubara to admire the view. The bandit can only repeats her words, not believing that he’ll really have to make the trip piggybacking her, but a painful squeeze quickly convinces him.

The old lady sure has fun, seeing how she spurs him like a horse. On their way, she exhorts him to enjoy the fresh air but climbing steep mountains isn’t exactly the best way to do that. Though the view at the top sure is breathtaking. Har, har.

Panting, the bandit suggests she gets off but she politely declines: “I’m just fine on your back!” Yeah, we guessed as much. The poor guy slightly bends down to sit but she won’t have it since that would mean a less pleasing view. A throat grab later, the bandit promises he won’t try again. Is it weird that I feel sorry for him?

Such an amazing view gives the old lady inspiration, and she composes a haiku. The bandit isn’t really sensitive to her stanzas but doesn’t outwardly express it, leading the poetess to recite an other one. Can’t blame him, we know what she has in store in case he voices his complaints… And indeed, when he tries to head home, she pulls the bridle to direct his steps towards Ukon no Baba, which is even further from their original place. “You won’t regret this little detour”, she says. I think he already does.

On their way, he laments that if he tried to steal her, it was only because of the extreme poverty he lives in, and also because he was cold. That certainly doesn’t have the expected impact, as the old lady impishly boots him to make him run: “That will warm you up!”

Atop a craggy hill, she chirps about the beautiful moonrise before declaring that they’re now going to Kirifuri Falls, so he’d better hurry and trot. He certainly doesn’t have time to admire its charms given the old lady’s whims. After yet an other batch of haikus, she gleefully asks:

The old Lady: Now, guess where we’re going!

Bandit (out of breath): Ho-Home!

The old Lady: ♪Not at aaaall♪! To see Mr Fuji!

HAHAHA, dunno if the wordplay with Fuji-san (Mount Fuji, or Mr Fuji) was intended, but that’s clever. Only now, the bandit seriously looks like he’s going to breakdown as he sobs: “But that’s too far! I’d never do it!” Better than a shrink, the old lady cheers him up and promises she’ll help him with her encouragement. This pep talk is soon followed by a kick, giving an idea of her vision of support.

Facing the mount Fuji covered in mist, the bandit painfully manages to say (between two gasps) that they can’t see a thing but the wind settles this matter quickly. What it also unveils is the faint pink color announcing a new day. Wailing, the bandit laments that the old lady made him run all night long, but she happily replies that time sure flies when one’s is having fun. Being also the one who had fun, I can only agree.

She also notes that she should have been sleeping by now, and so she orders him to head back home. Running, is the only option, of course. Bowing under the weight of the old lady and his own exhaustion, the bandit collapses at her door.

Getting off, she offers a last piece of advise: “I hope you will not forget this meeting with an old lady.” I can vouch for that. Climbing the stairs, her coat is showing and beautifully shining as she finally thanks him for letting her spend a delightful night. Gently removing her coat, she lets it slide and fall to her feet.

My coat is yours.

Impressions:

How gratifying. I particularly loved this tale, both because of its settings and its moral. You don’t get to feel pity towards a villain everyday, especially in Fairytale Land!

The old lday was such a badass character, you can only root for her. And yet, you can’t help but feel sorry for such a simple and naive bandit. I loved that this little night trip served as a life lesson for him: you just can’t get away with stealing and threatening (seamingly) defenseless old women. If you want something, you have to work, and that’s precisely what the old lady got him to do.

She reminded me a bit of the Old Man of the Sea, as seen in the Fifth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, but in a less vicious way. Her rough (and slightly sadistic) method may have traumatized him, but I like to think that her lesson had several layers. Beside the obvious “Work to obtain your reward” message, she also taught him to enjoy some less wordly goods, like poetry. That leads to the inner pleasure given by the breathtaking view of Nature’s gifts: mountains, falls, moon…Well, well, maybe that was asking too much too soon, from him.

With its wittiness and charming settings, no wonder this short film won the Annecy International Animated Film Festival award for best TV series episode in 1991! Now, let’s all find a human horse!

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3 thoughts on “The Old Lady’s Coat

    • uh oh, I already had a email bug some months ago, I hope it’s not striking again…
      Yeah, I love this story to bits…Certainly in my top 3, aftere watching the whole movie.

      • I wonder. It’s not like I swamped with emails these days (Christmas days seem to be quieter than other days), but maybe it was just a one-off fluke?

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