Posted by psgels on 7 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



For those who were confused: the Jungle Emperor Leo remake is not a full fledged TV-series of 80 episodes. It’s a TV-special celebrating the 80th birthday of Osamu Tezuka. It’s about one hour and 45 minutes long, and directed by the director of Code Geass of all people. Still, while this show has its flaws it still serves as a very nice family movie that perfectly captures the childish side of Osamu Tezuka, and yet isn’t afraid to become dark and serious.

Jungle Emperor Leo is an environmentalist anime, and with these kinds of stories there always are plenty of obvious pitfalls. A lot of environmentalist stories lack any sort of subtlety, and often contain entire monologues on the creators’ morals. Yes, we get that the earth is in danger. We get that man is evil. Now stop shoving it down our throats!

Typical of Osamu Tezuka, the basic premise of this special is overly idealistic: humans are evil and make animals suffer. However, it brings a lot of twists to the table, and I mean a lot. This isn’t just a matter in which some character you thought to be evil turn out to be good and vice versa, but there’s a very imaginative back-story behind everything that really makes you think about where humanity is going with the pollution of the earth. It criticizes modern technology, but at the same time it also pays homage to it. The main villain, while he’s obviously got a very sick and twisted mind, isn’t pure evil either: if it wasn’t for his actions, the animals would have been even worse off, and his feelings for his son give a surprising human touch to him.

In the lead are two young children: a young lion and a young boy. These two form the back-bone of this special, and while they’re not the most interesting characters, they do their job of keeping the series going without getting boring because the creators put a lot of time in fleshing the two of them out. They’re both charming, yet flawed characters that are nice to watch if you can accept the fact that they’re a couple of little kids and that the boy can talk to animals for no apparent reason. The majority of the rest of the cast also has well backed-up reasons for their actions, which is always a nice thing.

Unfortunately though, the ending is pretty cheesy, and nullifies a lot of development that went into the setting. It’s too idealistic and solves things way too easily. Plus, it’s got this thing in which small animals are able to win fights with fully grown animals… which is pretty lame no matter how you look at it. This special really tries, but in the end it can’t fully shake its stereotypical nature.

This anime reminds me a lot of Miyori no Mori: both involve kids who somehow can talk to beings they’re not supposed to see, and protect them from evil humans. In the end, I like Miyori no Mori better because even though it too was idealistic, it feels more complete and heart-warming, plus it showed a more realistic portrayal of its lead character. Nevertheless, Jungle Emperor Leo really served its job as a homage to Osamu Tezuka, and the creators stuffed a lot of nice elements in it.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10

15 Responses

  1. Avatar Snowolf says:

    I just watched this special, and for some reason, it really fit. I don’t know why. It had a lot of subtle themes, and the characters were really fleshed out in my opinion. Yeah, the dialogue did get a bit stale, but I’m glad I watched it. It was in my opinion, much more interesting than the Lion King.

  2. Avatar KamikazeSim says:

    I think Code Geass is better watched when you can watch all episodes in a row or at your own pace.

    I can understand how it could be annoying one week at a time but I liked Code Geass alot. Everyone has there own opinion.

    Can’t wait to check out Jungle Emperor Leo. It needs to be subbed now. Love me new anime.

  3. Avatar Scamp says:

    @Snowolf

    Much more interesting than Lion King? Blasphemy I say!

    (yeah I watched Lion King a lot when I was a kid. I can quote most of the scenes exactly)

  4. Avatar Snowolf says:

    Hahha me too. I’m just saying that if I watched Lion King today with a new, unbiased feel and then this, I’d like this much better.

    *But I

  5. Avatar Camario says:

    Goro Taniguchi was also the director of Infinite Ryvius and Planetes, which are quite different in tone and subject matter from Code Geass to the point I’d say those are probably his two best works overall. It would be interesting to see you review Planetes, at the very least, in the future.

    Besides, I would add that while it is important to know who is directing, in the end who writes the script or screenplay can be equally important. If the script is bad even good direction can only do so much, while a great script will still shine a lot regardless of who is directing. Everything matters.

    As for the Jungle Emperor Leo TV special, I haven’t seen it yet but this review makes it sound fairly interesting. I’ll check it out.

    I do remember that Osamu Tezuka himself wasn’t afraid of resorting to cheesy idealism in many of his works though, even if his stories could also be very cynical and bittersweet at the same time, so this shouldn’t really bother me.

  6. Avatar Curly says:

    You know what? I seen every Leo or(kimba, the white lion.) and seen the movie that I think that this new creation of jungle emperor would be best. However i would like to see this new anime show in the US like in 2010. I would really love it. I think it’s better than “The Lion King” or “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

  7. Avatar Reltair says:

    Same director for Code Geass and Planetes? That’s interesting enough for me to consider watching this already.

    The screencaps remind me of Lion King.

  8. Avatar Ebod says:

    For everyone who thinks that Jungle Emperor Leo looks like The Lion King, that’s because the Lion King is BASED OFF Jungle Emperor Leo.

    Not kidding. Even a quick Google will tell you that.

  9. Avatar Solaris says:

    @scamp. Maybe you were too much kid then to remember that Disney’s Lion King entirely Copied Kimba the white lion.

  10. Avatar shiranaix says:

    this brings back memories, i saw this when i was a kid like 14+ years ago or more i would love to watch it again subbed.

  11. Avatar Firechick says:

    WHOA! This is out already!? I wanna find it! Where can I watch it???

  12. Avatar Crayshen says:

    You do realise that the original Jungle Emperor in both it’s manga and movie forms had an incredibly cynical and depressing ending right? Maybe the idealism is a response to the pure hatred that most fans seem to throw at the original’s.

    (Even the enviromentalist message got a little bumped down in the manga. It’s aesop is essentailly ‘FEAR nature’ rather than ‘Save it’)

  13. psgels psgels says:

    Crayshen: actually, I haven’t read the manga, but I know Osamu Tezuka enough to not find it strange that it ended with such a depressing ending. I guess that that’s why the ending of this TV-special felt so idealistic: it’s completely against his style to have such a convenient happy ending.

  14. Avatar Camario says:

    I won’t claim to know more about Osamu Tezuka than either of you, but while you’re talking about manga and movies, which I have not seen either…remember that Jungle Emperor Leo was also adapted into a 52 episode TV series too, which aired from 1965-1966 according to Wikipedia. This might be worth keeping in mind.

    My hypothesis is that perhaps the tone of this TV special was meant to reflect that of the TV series, which may have been more optimistic than that of the original manga, since that version of the story might be more popular in Japan and, more importantly, worldwide.

    If that is indeed the case, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that.

    I haven’t read much of Tezuka’s original work, to be honest, but I did watch and enjoy the Phoenix TV series, for example, so I am certainly not against bittersweet and cynical endings. But it’s not like every single Osamu Tezuka story or, more to the point, all of their animated adaptations have had depressive ending. I’ve heard that the 2004 Blackjack TV series, curiously enough directed by Tezuka’s own son, is also more family friendly than the manga version.

  15. Avatar grooven says:

    I was highly disappointed as an anime fan and huge Jungle Taitei fan. The large majority of the beginning was too drawn out and did not fit with the latter half.

    The feeling and edge of any of the previous incarnations was lost. This I can say, was poorly directed.

    Not to mention the animation was not up to par. I would say the 1997 movie was much more beautiful in the cel work.

    I was just let down by having extreme hopes for this. But seeing it with the needless changes and plot flaws, made me cringe.

    Perhaps first time viewers will like this, but those familiar with Tezuka’s works will notice something missing.

    Instead watch the 1997 movie ^-^

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