Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)
Licensed: This movie is licensed by AnimeWorks, and distributed by Media Blasters.
Art/Animation: This movie really isn’t that old – it was only made in ’97 – and some of the animation is fantastic. The way the clouds rolled over the plains was breathtaking, and how the animals all fluttered around and played was really lovely to look at. However, there are other parts that really do look more like an American tv show from the 90′s, Some of this has to do with Tezuka’s art style, which was always far more American-looking than what we typically associate with Japanese cartoons. But regardless, it’s definitely still pretty easy on the eyes.
Dub Vs. Sub: I’m shocked to say this, myself, but the dub really isn’t half-bad. It really does well with the different voices, and since it’s really most definitely a kid’s cartoon, I really enjoyed some of the cheesy accents they had.
Summary: At the foot of the mysterious Moon Mountain lives a white lion named Leo, ruler of the jungle. He and his family live peacefully among the other animals in a lush habitat with which they have been blessed. Humans have entered into Leo’s domain, shattering the peace in their relentless search for Moonlight stones, a source of Exquisite wealth. Overwhelmed by greed, they have little regard for the living creatures of the jungle. The animals, disturbed by the occupation of their rightful home, must resist the intruders. (back of dvd cover)
Review: This is definitely a shining adaptation of one of Tezuka’s most beloved works, Kimba the White Lion. This is definitely nowhere near the entire story – it actually only covers a short arc – but it does so brilliantly. Think of The Lion King, but if it had focused on Mufasa instead of Simba, and you’ll have a decently solid idea of how this goes.
This movie has two storylines going on at once. First, there’s the story of Lune, who has an interest in humans and by accident ends up having a little adventure to where they live. At the same time, it’s dealing with the stories of Ham Egg, a somewhat notorious bad guy that is on the quest for riches hidden in the jungles of Africa, and Dr. Mustache, who is disgusted by the poaching and is determined to help the animals while he’s there, and Leo, who’s determined to help Dr. Mustache when he saves the animals from plague.
It’s interesting since we can see the humans from Lune’s eyes. He really had a thing for them after finding a music box, thinking that beings that made a thing that created such music couldn’t be all that bad. Humans are idealized, and his encounter with Dr. Mustache, who saves his life during a fire, furthers his desire to visit and meet with more. A flash flood sweeps him out to sea, where he’s caught and sold to a circus. That’s where his illusions about people are shattered – there are humans that are nice, but there are also ones that don’t hesitate to whip the circus animals. This doesn’t really sugar-coat the abuses that happen. They aren’t as graphic as could be, but the animals aren’t getting the best treatment. Thankfully, Lune is sent back after showing off that he really does have some ability to be king, even if it’s undeveloped at this point.
This is where the storyline between Ham Egg, Mustache, and Leo takes over. Ham Egg (yes, this is a character recycled from some of his other works) happened to find a stone that has powers beyond imagining, able to create power that’s cleaner and more effective than nuclear, and he’s sent on a mission to find more. Driven by greed, he sets out to find the trove of stones at whatever cost, sacrificing men and goes slowly insane as he goes through terrible struggles to reach it. He’s a fairly stereotypical bad guy, but is far more compelling than most Disney villans. His heartlessness is not left offscreen or in hidden innuendo. He openly scoffs at the men who die following him to the treasure and has no problem committing murder himself. Mustache and his assistant Lemonade hate Ham Egg’s methods, angered by poachers, and feel that there is no good from following Ham Egg’s methods. Mustache is separated from his assistant when he discovers some animals that are dying of plague. Thankfully he has the means to save them, and with the reassurance of Leo, who saw Mustache save his son, he is able to cure most who are sick. Mustache was the comedic hero, contrasted with Leo’s noble hero. Mustache was passionate about trying to stop Ham Egg, determined to save the animals, and put his all into doing what he thought was right. He let his emotions show all the time, loudly and clearly.
The rest is the quest for the stones, the sacrifices that are made, and how greed is a terrible, dangerous thing. Honestly, the quest for the stones is one of the best arcs I’ve seen in a while, with real dangers and a feeling that they really could die at any time. Leo and Mufasa have very strong similarities they sacrifice themselves to save others. In a way, Mufasa’s is more personal since it was for his family. Leo’s is more… noble, for lack of a better word. He realized that he probably would not come back from the journey alive, and in return, thanking Mustache for essentially saving his kingdom, gives the ultimate sacrifice. He knows how important those stones are, and deeply wishes for Mustache to make it back. His emotions weren’t always easy to read, but through his actions he was clearly defined as a character, and made a fantastic hero to balance out the comedy that Mustache could have easily overwhelmed the story with.
Watching these characters interact and deal with the problems they have is interesting, compelling, and really got the emotion going. I know I made the comparison of Mufasa to Leo, but there really aren’t many similarities to each other within the story – they are unique characters, and both stories are equally fantastic. I really was moved by the ending to this movie. It was really worth the watch.
Overall, this might be a bit graphic for a kid’s movie, but it still manages to be a beautiful story nonetheless.
Recommended: As young as you thing can deal with non-graphic deaths. A number of them happen, with a character that sinks into a swamp, one that falls off a cliff (implied to be slightly drunk), another that falls into a river, one that is swept away in an avalanche, and yet another that is shot by Ham Egg. Actual death is depicted four times, when Lune’s mother dies from the plage (just breaths her last), when Lemonade is shot in the back (no blood, just he falls over, gives his journal to his uncle and breathes his last), Ham Egg’s death (attacked by Leo, there is some slight blood on his face after but he just falls over dead), and when Leo sacrifices himself (tosses himself onto Mustache’s knife, no blood is shown, but he “asks” Mustache to eat his flesh and wear his fur to survive).
Other titles you might enjoy:
Kimba the White Lion (anime)
The Tibetan Dog (anime)
Arashi no Yoru ni (anime)