The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion
VHS Vol. 1
Everyone knows the story of Kimba, whether they associate it with that name or not (thanks to The Walt Disney Company's total lack of creativity when creating "The Lion King"... Yeah, they deny it). Osamu Tezuka's story (original name: "Jungle Taitei Leo") was first serialized on American television in the late 60's in the black and white series known as "Kimba the White Lion." In 1992, the story was remade on Japanese television with updated character design and voices (among which was the omnipresent Megumi Hayashibara). Kodocha Anime fansubbed the first four episodes to a lukewarm response before Pioneer acquired the rights.
In the start of the series, Panja, the current king of the jungle, is shot by a notorious poacher, and his pregnant wife is captured. While being shipped overseas, she gives birth to Kimba (original name: Leo) and sends him on a trek to reclaim his father's jungle from a diabolical uncle. Once there, Kimba finds he needs to prove himself a nice guy to get the respect of his fellow jungle inhabitance, which includes some brave acts during a time when most would panic.
Americans have a horrible history of taking great stories and hacking them to death with their unique brand of "creativity." In the past, Fritz Lang's 1927 film "Metropolis" met with a similar fate, as did Hayao Miyazaki's "Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind" (renamed "Warriors of the Wind"). In both of these cases, the story was severely altered to the point of making little sense, but only about 20-30 minutes of the films were actually removed. Both of those hack jobs pale in comparison to what Pioneer has done to Kimba: they have taken SIX half-hour TV episodes and hacked them down to a running time of ONE HOUR, effectively removing HALF of the footage!
As you can imagine, there is almost no cohesion left to the story at all. The editing looks like a bad promo for an AVID editing system, since all the cuts are obvious and mis-timed. Gone is the leisurely pace at which the story was originally told, and also gone is any look of professionalism at all. It was as if someone put a 15-year-old kid in the room, showed him how to edit, left the room to grab a beer, and slapped the result on tape without looking at it.
At one point, after a pep-talk from his mother, Kimba jumps out into the ocean in an attempt to swim back to his homeland. In the original version, he is saved by a passing ship and becomes the pet of a young boy (who happens to have no common sense at all). After some misadventures in the city, he takes Kimba back to the jungle. Plausible, right? Well, Pioneer Family Entertainment (I want to stress that Pioneer's normal staff did NOT work on this) decided that this entire story arc is unnecessary.
...So, instead of a plot that makes sense, we have Kimba floating out in the middle of the ocean, a title that says, "A few months later," and then we find Kimba back in Africa, a bit bigger, and with an adult voice. Riiiiight. So, what happened? Did he discover some powers a la Samantha Stevens from Bewitched, zap himself to shore, and party in Cairo for a few months? Did he actually SWIM to shore from WAY THE HELL OUT in the middle of the ocean?!
But by far the worst feature is the dialogue itself. The English script is pathetic at best, incorporating bad cliches into the speech whenever possible. Worse yet is the condescending way in which characters talk at choice moments. When Kimba is swimming in the middle of the ocean in the middle of a storm, he can be heard saying, "I think I can, I think I can," and then breaks into a sanitized "coconut" version of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I am not kidding.
Wait, that's not the worst feature. The worst feature is the lame attempt at marketing. A majority of the first episode is badly recut into a horribly narrated opening (with an announcer that can only spout cliches that were old before Osamu Tezuka was born), which concludes with a sampling of some idiot screaming "Kimba!" ...Oh, wait. That might have been Fred Flintstone screaming, "Wilma!" I couldn't tell.
The casting for most of the characters is adequate, but the evil buzzard and Coco the Parrot were annoying to the point of making me long for the comparatively pleasant sound of nails on a chalkboard. Since nobody EVER exercises any acting abilities (this was dubbed in Vancouver, although not by The Ocean Group but by some studio wishing to remain anonymous for obvious reasons), the whole thing comes off as yet another bad Disney rip-off direct-to-video release in the check-out line at K-Mart, except this one's missed the bandwagon by about five years.
Congratulations, Pioneer. You have actually managed to transform one of the 20th century's best storytellers' classics into pure crap. It's too badly "adapted" for fans to enjoy in any capacity, and with a storyline on the verge of toppling over on itself like so many games of Jenga, no kid in the world will sit through it. So what we have here is a video release without an audience.
Seriously, e-mail Pioneer and tell them that this is unacceptable. Someone needs to fry for this one.
Overall : F
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