Of all the great works in the Hayao Miyazaki-Isao Takahata canon, it is Heidi that stands tallest. At least where the riffs stand. Nearly every one of the 52 episodes from the groundbreaking anime series has been quoted in the directors’ later works. For those of you playing the “Ghibli Riff Game”, you will never truly become a champion until you’ve spotted all those Heidi moments.
Here is but one terrific example. This shot from Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) of children running down the aisle of a train passenger car is directly quoting a shot from a later episode of Heidi, one in which the title character, her “Alm-Uncle” and her friends spend a vacation at the ruins of a great castle. Notice how characters wink back at the camera as they skirt on by. That’s a very sly shot.
One extra riff tidbit: the Heidi episodes set at the castle (a completely original plot line that was never in the original Johanna Spyri novel) were later riffed in Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro, when Lupin and Jigen encounter the ruins of the Cagliostro family castle. And the elderly groundskeeper who speaks to them? He is voiced by the same Japanese actor who voiced the Grandfather in Heidi.
Better learn your Ghibli Riffs, kids.
P.S. I’ve been holding onto that Heidi screenshot on my computers since 2005, when I bought a Taiwan DVD Heidi box set and watched the whole series. No, there were no English subtitles, which was unfortunate, but I was able to follow pretty easily in my crummy toddler-level Japanese grammar skills. I’m still not any better.