Remembering a Classic: Jack to Mame no Ki

When Japan’s animation industry didn’t have its very own Studio Ghibli, animators took cue from Western classics. They tried to get ideas from pre-existing tales and create their own twists in it in order for the stories to appeal to the Japanese audience. One such classic that Japanese animators tried to port to Japan is Jack to Mame no Ki (Jack and the Beanstalk), which was first published in 1734.

Japan’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk is interesting take on the Benjamin Tabart story. After Jack was conned into swapping his family’s only cow for a handful of beans, he plants them and realizes the next day that they yielded a tall, magical vine that rises through the sky. Climbing the beanstalk, Jack discovers an enchanted world ruled by the kind and beautiful Princess Margaret. Margaret has an unusual love interest in the form of Prince Tulip – an unattractive and brash fellow. As the story unfolds it is apparent that the Princess is in fact under a spell cast by an evil witch called Madam Noir. This spell has left the Princess in awe of the vulgar Prince Tulip who she is set to marry. The Prince, as the story reveals, is the witch’s very own son. Upon uncovering the plot, Jack leaps to the defense of the Princess.

In truth, Japan’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk sounds nicer in comparison to the original. In the Western version, when Jack reaches the top of the beanstalk, he discovers a castle ruled by a rich giant. Blinded by his own interests, Jack sneaks inside the castle and steals bags of gold. After his initial heist, Jack climbs up the beanstalk once more and steals other treasures such as a magic harp that plays by itself, and a goose that lays golden eggs. When the giant wakes up and discovers that Jack has stolen from him, he chases the boy down the beanstalk. The giant, unfortunately, meets his demise when he falls halfway down the Beanstalk.

Why did the giant fall down? It was because Jack wacked the beanstalk with an axe.

Check out a segment of the movie below:

As an adult, it seems like Jack was the villain of the story. After all, he did steal from the giant who was quietly living up in the sky. Jack also had the gall to kill the giant, who was only after what was rightfully his.

The original story has such an adult plot that other storytellers have given it a more mature spin. You only have to look back to the 2013 film Jack the Giant Slayer. The movie starring British actor Nicholas Hoult as far from being your archetypal fairy tale.

This led to the obvious spin-offs which again were targeted as the mature demographic including the Jack and the Beanstalk slot game on Slingo. The recent character development has led to many wondering whether Jack and the Beanstalk was originally intended for a more mature audience. However, one thing that is certain is that it’s a good thing that Japanese animators adapted the story for their respective market. This in turn, helped them succeed in the competitive Japanese market.

For more information about Jack to Mame no Ki, you can visit TV Tropes.