Say what? Yet another version of Les Miserables, and it's actually the second time it's been done as an anime? This series caught my eye anyway, seeing that I'm always fascinated by Japanese takes on familiar western stories (like Akira Kurosawa's Shakespeare adaptations–not to mention the upcoming Romeo and Juliet anime). This one just started, so it's too early to tell, but so far, it's interesting enough for me to continue watching when more episodes are out. It's also been a while since I read an abridged version of the Victor Hugo novel and saw the musical in London, so I needed a refresher of the plot–and this seems good as any. With 52 episodes, they should be able to cover the bulk of the story.
This adaptation is subtitled Shoujo Cosette and it shows–starting from the shoujoish character designs and the immediate focus on Cosette and Fantine, rather than Jean Valjean. (He does show up in this episode, though, and his well-known backstory is seen in bits in the OP and will get covered fully in episode 2.) We definitely also see shots in the OP of Inspector Javert, Valjean's nemesis, so hopefully we'll see the rest of the cast in due time and have exciting confrontations between Valjean and Javert.
It looks like this show is definitely aimed at a younger audience, in the tradition of a number of early 80s anime that adapted western classics into anime (Anne of Green Gables most prominently). You've got the subtitles in the OP (usually a giveaway to a children's show), and the episode preview explains plot points in the episode that may be confusing for younger viewers. It's not grating the way most kids' shows can be, though, and this little snippet so far seems faithful to the original story.
I wonder how they're going to handle some of the darker elements of the book, though…the story is quite upfront about difficult subjects like prostitution, abuse, and tragic death. A lot of those elements are what give the story emotional punch, too. So I hope they don't mess with it too much, because Les Mis is as powerful a parable about grace and redemption as anything in modern literature and it'd be a shame to rob children of Victor Hugo's beautiful story. Anyways, this is promising and I'm definitely keeping an eye on it from now on.
Summary (SPOILERS FOR THE STORY)
This episode, as the series' subtitle implies, starts with Les Miserables' other main character, Cosette. Cosette and her mother, Fantine, are wandering through various towns as Fantine looks for jobs in the wake of her husband's death. Employers refuse to hire her as a single mother, and in desperation, she leaves Cosette behind with the Thernadiers, a cruel innkeeping couple who immediately begin to abuse Cosette. Meanwhile, Fantine travels to the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, where she hears that there are factory jobs open. The mayor, a Monsieur Madeleine, is also the factory owner, and we see his kindness when he stops a boy, Alain, who has stolen a loaf of bread. Instead of punishing him, he gives him a basket full of bread for his starving family, as he had only stolen the bread to feed his younger siblings. M. Madeleine, of course, is Jean Valjean, who has changed his name and remembers how he was imprisoned for 19 years for stealing bread like Alain.