River-rafting urchin Huckleberry Finn (voiced by Barbara Goodson) becomes fast friends with equally mischievous Tom Sawyer (Mona Marshall) after their game of one-upmanship ends in a draw. Most folks around town see Huck as a troublemaker. Yet his good heart earns the affection of kindly widow Mrs. Douglas (also Mona Marshall) who offers him a home. Alas the boy’s good fortune draws the attention of his no-good reprobate of a father who tries to extort as much money as he can from Mrs. Douglas, prompting Huck to enact a cunning plan.
Mark Twain's evergreen nineteenth century children's novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were actually adapted multiple times by Japanese animators. Originally in the Seventies and Eighties as part of Nippon Animation's World Masterpiece Theatre: a renowned, long-running series of adaptations of classic children's literature. Both of these were later re-edited into feature films dubbed into English for an international release. A decade and a half later another studio, Enoki Films, delivered an all-new twenty-six episode anime serial titled Huckleberry Finn Monogatori. This version was also dubbed and re-edited to feature length for the international market thus confusing generations of anime fans trying to figure out which exact version they saw growing up.
Opening with a corny theme song, performed with undeniable gusto by credited artist "Bullets", the English dub is far from subtle but captures some of the folksy wit and charm of Twain's writing. The animation does an especially good job breathing life into Twain's appealingly rambunctious child heroes. Huck and Tom bounce, spin, grimace and guffaw with infectious energy. Screenwriters Koichi Mizuide, Ryo Motohira and Saburo Ebinuma compress and rewrite multiple story strands from Twain’s novel. Fans will recognize such memorable episodes as Tom and Becky being trapped in a cave with Injun' Joe, Huck’s "funeral" and his later adventures river-rafting along the Mississippi with Jim. However instead of a murder the plot hinges on the search for lost gold while the script refashions Injun' Joe from Twain's childhood nightmare antagonist into a goofy cartoon villain who is scared of mice. Perhaps most egregiously the anime alters Twain’s adult runaway slave Jim into a kid sidekick for Huck Finn, thus arguably removing Twain’s main motive for writing the novel in the first place. At least there is a stab at complexity with the characterization of Huck’s greedy yet tragic, self-pitying bully of a father.
The last act more or less ditches Twain's source material entirely for sappy feel-good melodrama as Tom and Huck haul and injured Jim to the hospital in time to visit his ailing mama. The emphasis on stoicism and fortitude in the face of hardship and adversity is very Japanese and while less than faithful the anime remains an amiable affair.