Jungle Emperor (anime)

James Whittle
James Whittle |

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While Astro Boy rockets onto the big screen across the world, another Osamu Tezuka creation roars its way onto the small screen in a new adaptation of one of his most famous works.

Jungle Emperor was originally a manga created in 1950 by the prolific Tezuka and serialised in Manga Shonen magazine for four years. It was made into a 52-episode anime in 1965 and was the first colour animated television show in Japan.

A new TV special was shown in Japan on September 5 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tezuka's birth. In the new version, the world's jungles have all died and the remaining animals have been relocated to an artificial island called Neo-Jungle.

The island is the creation of Ooyama Kenzou, an ambitious man who sees himself as the saviour of nature. Visiting the island is Kenzou's son Kenichi, a boy with the power to talk to animals, but of course nobody believes him.

Leo and Kenichi become friends, but all the while, Kenzou has something sinister planned for the lion cub.

This is an well written and engaging anime. Leo the white lion cub has a huge kawaii, or cuteness, factor. The serious environmental message and dark plotline is counter-balanced by light humour and simple portrayal of animals.

Tezuka fans should keep an eye out for the show's DVD release.

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