Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jungle Emperor Leo (1989) TV Series Review: Final Part

The Confusing Conclusion (Final Thoughts)

Is this show's idea of 'the circle of life' too hardcore?

There is a lot death and self-sacrifice in this version of Kimba. In a sense, it explores the concept of 'the circle of life' in more depth than most versions. But it eventually becomes bogged down by being overly serious and depressing. So who is to blame about the series's inconsistent quality? Osamu Tezuka possibly did contribute to a few of the problems (The original manga is somewhat sporadic and had a few bizarre plot twists), but he can't really be blamed considering that he died after the sixth episode aired. It is possible that he had some say on the direction of the later episodes, but chances are we will never know.

Rintaro was in charge of directing the remaining episodes. It's just strange that the quality of Jungle Emperor suddenly declines half way through, when Rintaro's earlier episodes seem consistent with Tezuka's vision. In fact, Rintaro had worked for years with Tezuka before directing the show and was personal friends with Tezuka. Perhaps Rintaro attempted to make the show distinctive or else 'update it' for modern audiences. (But, apparently he forgot that this the show is supposed to be Kimba the White Lion not Ginga Nagareboshi Gin!)

So is this a series that should be recommended to Kimba/Tezuka fans or even anime fans as a whole? Simply put, the show runs for too long and eventually loses steam. It tries to keep its audience emotionally engaged by raising the stakes of danger. But, over time, it just becomes taxing to watch so many animals get shot, poisoned or electrocuted. It's frustrating because Jungle Emperor 1989 has such a prestige behind it and the early episodes (especially the first six) are great. The series is not the most terrible remake ever created, but it does become terribly misguided over time. If you want to watch a modern recreation of Jungle Emperor Leo, I would recommend watching the theatrical 1997 film instead of watching this show all the way through.

"Remember Leo, a leader is neither a boss or a king."

Final Rating: 3/5

About the Dub:
Part of the reason why this show remains so obscure outside of Japan is due to its dubber's infamous hack job. Unlike the dub of the original show (which is a bit hokey but decent by '60s standards), the 1989 series's dub by Pioneer completely changes its narrative flow. Episodes two and three were completely omitted, and only episodes one through fifteen were released on tape. Pioneer apparently tired to edit 'The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion' into something more upbeat, and just gave up after they realized the show would continue to get darker. In the process they rid the show of its charm, only to replace with it bad jokes or annoying dialogue. (In other words, the characters never shut up.) And the voice acting itself is just as awful, if not worse than the edits.

Thankfully, these terrible VHSs are long out print. Avoid them like the plague.