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Kimba the White Lion Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Kimba The White LionA Classic.

What They Say:
From Osamu Tezuka the creator of Astro Boy, comes Kimba, one of the “first-generation anime classics” to reach American TV—the very first Japanese animation to be broadcast in color, in 1965.

Join Kimba along with his pals Pauly the Parrot, Daniel Baboon, and a charming assortment of other loveable characters, as he follows in the footsteps of his late father, the great lion king, making the jungle a safer, better place for everyone to live.

The Review:
Audio:
No technical information is given on the audio other than the only language track is in English. The sound quality is good with no dropout or other issues. Considering that this is a forty-eight year old show, the quality is outstanding.

Video:
Each episode is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio and the quality of the video, like the audio, is very good. The colors are a bit saturated, but given the show’s age that’s hardly surprising. Again, outstanding quality.

Packaging:
The fifty-two episodes are spread out over six DVDs housed in two standard DVD cases which are, in turn, housed in a slipcase. The front of the slipcase shows Kimba standing on a rocky outcropping with his father, Caesar. The jungle sprawls in the background terminating in a series of purple mountain peaks clothed in white mist. Flying above the white lions is a flock of flamingos. The title “Kimba The White Lion” rests at the top over an orange-red sky. This image is also printed on the page that is tacked to the front. This page also features the series description and a scanner code for the trailer.

The spine continues the red-yellow-orange color scheme. We see the orange silhouette of a tree reaching up from the bottom. Over this we see Kimba’s face next to the series’ title. The Nozomi logo rests at the top in white font, and other logos rest at the bottom. The back cover of the slipcase shows Kimba running with his friends Kitty the lion, Daniel Baboon, Pauly Parrot, Bucky the gazelle, and two other birds through the jungle.

The first DVD shows Kimba on the front with the series’ title and the number of discs. The series’ title and disc numbers are printed in white font at the top. The spine shows Kimba’s face, the title, the number of discs, and various studio logos, and the back contains an episode list in white font over an orange, red, and yellow jungle. The second DVD shows Kimba looking over his shoulder into the sky where we see a cloud silhouette of Caesar. The series’ title and disc numbers are printed in white font at the top. The spine shows Kimba’s face, the title, the number of discs, and various studio logos, and the back contains an episode list in white font over an orange, red, and yellow jungle. The discs overlap each other, which is a bit of a hassle, but I understand that if they hadn’t done that this set would be twice as wide. Each disk shows Kimba with his various friends in different settings.

My issues with the overlapping discs aside, this is a very nice package. I love the art and it doesn’t take up too much room on the shelf.

Menu:
The menu is the same for each disc: It’s the same image that is printed on the cover to the first DVD case. Kimba stands in the foreground with the orange and yellow jungle to his back. The show’s title and the disc number take up the top right portion of the screen and the episode listings occupy the bottom right. The episode titles are written in white font, so they stand out well over the background and a ghostly pawprint hovers over the episode being selected. Light background music plays on a five second loop in the background. It’s a very Sixties-sounding song, which I rather like, and thankfully it’s soft enough that it doesn’t become too repetitive if left on too long.

It’s a nice simple design. There is no “play all” option, but whichever episode you select begins the chain, so it automatically goes to the next episode. There are no options for audio, video, or subtitles.

Extras:
There are no extras on this series, which is a bit odd considering that this is such an important work in animation. I’m typically not a fan of extras, but I would have liked to have seen something about the production of this show and its influence on anime.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kimba’s early life was a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. His father, Caesar, was the king of the jungle: a just, strong ruler that looked after all the animals. His pregnant wife, Snowene, was captured by human hunters and used as bait to trap him because white hide made him a prize trophy. The hunters kill Caesar and take away Snowene. Kimba’s born in a cage on a steam ship, taken care of by his mother and the various mice onboard. A tropical storm hits the ship, and even though he’s only two months old, Snowene forces Kimba to escape and make his way back to Africa. He makes it after much hardship and takes his father’s place as King of the Jungle. With the help of Daniel Baboon, Pauly Parrot, and Bucky Gazelle, Kimba tries to live up to the memory of his father and improve the lives of all the animals under his rule.

One of the aspects that makes Kimba such a great protagonist is that he doesn’t let the tragedies of his life turn him dark or cruel. He misses his parents and wishes he knew his father, but he approaches his life with a positive attitude and a fierce devotion to his friends and loved ones, showing a deep level of courage and moral fortitude. It’s hard not to love the little white lion and root for him during his adventures.

I never saw the series before, but I knew of its place in animation history, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see just how well this show holds up after forty-eight years. The quality of the animation is certainly dated (although perhaps not as much as you might think), but the storytelling and characterization are excellent. One does have to keep in mind that this was created for children, but even so the adventures that Kimba and his friends experience and the moral quandaries they face are rather sophisticated even if the characters often speak in expositive declarations or enemies turn to friends in a relatively short span of time. Those issues are simply part of the genre and really don’t take that much away from the overall quality of the show.

In many ways I wish I had seen this as a child because I would have loved it then. Kimba absolutely would have been my hero and I would pretend I was in his jungle, playing with him and the rest of the animals. In fact, if I ever do have kids, this is definitely a show that I would make sure that they would watch because of its high quality and the lessons in friendship, empathy, and social awareness.

That said, coming to this as an adult has its advantages as well. I enjoyed this show in an un-ironic way, but there are certain aspects that I picked up on because of my age that would have completely passed me by when I was a child, and there are some things that amuse me now that wouldn’t have registered then, either. For example, I love that Daniel Baboon sounds like Walter Brennan, and that there’s a giraffe named Geraldine. I couldn’t tell you why, but the knowledge that a giraffe is named Geraldine makes me smile every time. I also find it greatly amusing that each episode would only be five minutes long if the other animals weren’t so rock stupid. I’m surprised that Kimba doesn’t sew nametags in their underwear or pin mittens to their jackets, because they obviously can’t do anything without the lion cub. I honestly don’t know how they survived in the months between Caesar’s death and Kimba’s return.

There are also little touches that make this show so endearing, such as the animals learning human language from Roger Ranger (another great name), or building an amusement park in the middle of the jungle. The charm of these moments defies description and really need to be experienced to truly be understood. They also speak to the central theme of the show, which I would in no way have picked up as a kid: the conflict between wildness and civilization. Among his many qualities, Kimba is a futurist. He desires to improve the lives of the animals in the jungle, and the best way he sees to do that is through education, agriculture, and industrialization. Together with Roger Ranger he teaches the other animals human language. He then forms a school for him and the other animals, and when food becomes scarce, Kimba and the rest of his kingdom pull together to create a farm. The majority of the conflict in the series arises because many of the older animals don’t want to part with tradition and are afraid of change. Kimba represents communal spirit and the power of social action, whereas those opposed to him stand for greed and self-fulfillment. Some of the meat-eating animals don’t want to eat vegetables, while other animals don’t want to give up their land or work the fields for the benefit of everyone. It’s a fascinating, layered conflict and it’s one of the reasons why I could enjoy this show as a child or as an adult.

That said, there are a couple of places where being an adult does color my reaction to some of the show’s aspects. For instance, in one episode Kimba feels unsure of himself and his position as leader, so Pauly Parrot, Daniel Baboon, and Bucky Gazelle steal Caesar’s hide from the human hunters and use it to speak to Kimba, pretending to be the ghost of his father. It’s a rather ghoulish scene that at times is pretty hilarious. Kimba sees through the ruse and all ends well with the episode, but he keeps his father’s hide. I suppose it’s not that much different from keeping the ashes of a loved one on the mantelpiece, but at least the ashes don’t have a face.

Another minor plot thread that is a bit awkward is Claw’s love for Kitty. Claw is the evil lion that constantly challenges Kimba’s rule and one of his goals is to win Kitty’s affection. What makes this creepy is that Claw is a full-grown adult and Kitty is still a cub. I suppose the lion world doesn’t contain pedophiles, and I realize that I might be thinking too much about it, but it’s another instance where I couldn’t shut off my adult mind. However, those are minor issues in an otherwise excellent series.

In Summary:
Kimba the White Lion is a seminal work of Japanese animation. It was one of the first-generation anime classics that was shown on American television and the very first Japanese animated show to be broadcast in color. It was obviously the inspiration for Disney’s The Lion King, and it holds a dear place in the hearts of many. Forty-eight years haven’t done anything to take away from the show’s charm, as the characters and stories are just as multi-faceted and compelling as they were back in 1965. Even as an adult watching this for the first time, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this series. Kimba’s a wonderful protagonist and the subtext of many of his adventures—the tension between progress and tradition: between wildness and society—makes for a surprisingly deep children’s show that can be enjoyed by adults as well. Fans may be disappointed that there are no extra features, but the quality of the show alone make it worth buying. Highly, highly recommended.

Features:
There are no extra features.

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 1145 minutes.
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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