Cult '80s Japanese anime was set in Scotland and shares name with famous Edinburgh folk pub
Culturally speaking, Scottish folk and Japanese anime are as distant to one another as Edinburgh and Tokyo are in miles, but a possible link with a little-known eighties cartoon has left a city bar manager scratching his head.
Capital institution Sandy Bell's bar has a reputation for hosting live folk music that reaches far beyond the crowstepped roof lines of Forrest Road.
However, if you’re from the Far East and unfamiliar with niche Edinburgh pubs and the Dick Gaughans, Rab Noakeses and Bert Jansches of this world, it's unlikely you'll have heard of it.
Imagine the sheer bafflement then, on the face of long-serving pub manager Michael Wiedenhof, when an online search for things related to the bar brought up hundreds of images of an obscure Japanese cartoon from decades ago.
Produced in 1981, Hello! Sandybell was the title of a short-lived but popular Japanese anime which aired in its home country and later enjoyed success across much of Asia, parts of Latin America and a few select countries in Europe.
Intriguingly, the early anime series follows the adventures of a girl, a flaxen-haired cub reporter called Sandybell Christie, who lives in a small town in an imagined version of the Scottish Highlands.
In perhaps the most notable fusion of Scottish and Japanese culture betwixt Rollermania and Aneka's Japanese Boy, the show was a celebration of all things tartan, with bagpipers aplenty and characters wearing kilts throughout.
Hello! Sandybell came from an original idea by Jinbo Shiro, who is said to have been responsible for popularising the ubiquitous V peace sign, which is practically mandatory among Japanese manga fans when posing for photos.
While it is unclear whether Mr Shiro, who passed away in 1994, ever visited Scotland, let alone its most renowned folk bars, the coincidence of the anime's Highland setting and the familiar name of its protagonist, has Sandy Bell's manager Michael wondering if the writer had links to Auld Reekie.
Mr Wiedenhof, 55, told the Evening News: "Although it must be said that life at Sandy Bell's often feels a bit like living in a carton, I recall how infuriating it was having to literally trawl through hundreds of results for this anime.
He added: "While I am not aware of any link with Bells I suppose it couldn’t be completely ruled out.
“Mr Shiro would not have been the first one of a literary persuasion - and hopefully not the last - to have a moment of great inspiration after, or even during, an evening of relaxation and contemplation, shall we say, in Sandy Bells."
Oddly, considering its Scottish setting and Anglicised character names, Hello! Sandybell never aired in the UK.
It was produced by Tokyo-based Toei Animation, which would later put their name to other popular animes, including Sailor Moon, Digimon and Dragon Ball Z.
Keiko Nakano is a Japanese national who has lived in Edinburgh for more than a decade.
The mother-of-two recalls Hello! Sandybell from her youth, and is hopeful that evidence of a link between the show and her adopted home can be found.
She said: "I watched the show as a little girl and even had a Sandybell pillowcase, never imagining at that point I would live in Scotland.
"I like to imagine the author was walking around Edinburgh and heard folk music from the pub that inspired him to write the story. He must have been attracted to Scotland just like I am now."
Is there any substance in the notion that Shiro was a fan of the fiddle who visited Sandy Bell's or is it just a wishful "folk" tale that never really was?
The Evening News has contacted Toei Animation in a bid to shed further light on the unlikely connection.
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