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Kimba, The White Lion Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Kimba Anime Classics CoverHow could Osamu Tezuka get away with such a blatant Lion King ripoff?

What They Say:
A Classic Returns!

From Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy, comes Kimba, one of the “first-generation anime classics” to reach American TV, and the very first Japanese animation to be broadcast in color, in 1965. Fans have long remembered its catchy theme song, spectacular designs, pioneering animation techniques and gentle stories.

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. Contains all 52 color episodes presented in order according to Osamu Tezuka’s original storyline.

The Review:
The only audio available on this release is the original English dub from 1965, which is only available in a mono track. The audio is as clean as can be expected from such an old “mix,” with clear dialogue and sound effects.

The video is presented in the original 4:3 full-screen aspect ratio. For such an old show, the transfer looks really nice. The colors are bright, lining is clear, and there weren’t any particular technical flaws. The animation is sometimes a bit wonky as you might expect from a cartoon from the 60s, but this is about as nice a transfer as you might ask for.

This set comes in a double-wide amaray case with center inserts to hold all ten discs. The front has a simple picture of Kimba, while the back has a shot of him standing with his father, Caesar. The fact that Caesar is dead before Kimba is born in the series doesn’t matter much, I guess. There is also a series summary and some technical details on the back. It’s a relatively simple package, but fine for what it is.

Each disc has the same menu: a static picture of Kimba to the left with the episode selections to the right. The cursor is yellow, which shows up fine against the red/orange background. There’s little to get lost in here. The only part that was weird to me is that when finished watching a disc, you are brought to a static disc credits screen, and it seems impossible to get back to the main menu. It will just stay on that screen if you leave it, and hitting Menu on the remote took me to the start of the first episode again. Not a huge deal since there’s nothing else to select on the main menu, but it was just a bit weird.

There are no extras on this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Known as Jungle Emperor Leo in Japan, Kimba the White Lion was one of the first (along with Astro Boy) anime to be brought over and broadcast in the US. It’s a cartoon that I grew up with but had not seen since I was a child. So I was excited to see the inspiration for The Lion King (even if Disney won’t admit to it) again to see how well it held up over the years.

The African jungle has become something of a paradise for all that live in it, thanks to the guidance of the King of the Jungle, the White Lion Caesar. Caesar has all the animals living in peace, and he works hard to keep it that way. But when Caesar is killed by human hunters, and his wife, Snowene is then taken to live in a zoo, the peace he has created is threatened. On the ship away from Africa, Snowene gives birth to Kimba, the heir to Caesar’s throne. With Snowene’s help, Kimba escapes the boat and manages to swim back to Africa, finding his way to his ancestral home. But when Kimba gets there, he finds a land beset by enemies on all sides, and while many of the animals accept him as Caesar’s heir, it will take a lot of work to pacify the jungle in the way it was under his father.

The first thing that should be noted about Kimba the White Lion is that it is a very 60s cartoon. That much is obvious as soon as you put it in. The animation is relatively basic, the voice acting and script are somewhat questionable, and that animals will randomly break out into dance for no real reason. From a modern perspective, it just watches kinda weird.

As an extension of this, the storytelling is weirdly non-continuous. It’s not that the lack of long-term storytelling is a problem but more that things that happen in earlier episodes are often ignored in later ones. For example, when Kimba returns to the jungle, Caesar’s throne has been usurped by Claw (a precursor to Scar if there ever was one…), and Kimba has to fight him to free the animals and prove he is the rightful ruler of the jungle. Kimba wins the fight, and Claw flees to lick his wounds. A few episodes later, we come back to Claw scheming to take control of the jungle again (a theme we’ll see numerous times throughout the series), and it’s treated as if he has no idea who Kimba is. In a similar way, Kimba is captured in an early episode by human hunters, but his helped out by one who has a conscience. Kimba freely communicates with this man, but when he meets Roger Ranger for the first time in the very next episode, he laments that he has no way to speak to Roger. These contradictions show up throughout the series, and it makes for something of a confusing watch sometimes.

But despite all of this (and honestly, somewhat because of it), Kimba the White Lion is just plain fun. There are a lot of great characters, both humans and animals, and while each episode pretty much follows a paint-by-numbers plot, the conflicts are pretty entertaining. It is a lot of fun to watch Kimba try to grow up while leading his people to peace, even if logic is often thrown out the window. We get crazy situations like Roger Ranger sticking around the jungle to teach the animals English, Kimba convincing all the predators to give up eating meat in favor of building a farm and living off the land, Kimba having a whirlwind vacation in Paris at the World’s Fair, and even the construction of an amusement park (because animals deserve to ride roller coasters too). It’s goofy, and at the same time charming, and I don’t really know how to describe it other than that.

In Summary:
Kimba the White Lion is a series that is absolutely a product of the age it was written in, and honestly, I’m not really sure how well it has aged. Compared to series that came out even just a few years later, it doesn’t stack up that well. It’s so old school, they tore the school down. That said, if you can accept it for what it is, it is also a lot of fun to watch. It’s a silly series and doesn’t take to close examination particularly well. Nothing really made a whole lot of sense, but I had a blast watching anyway. And frankly, that’s what matters. Recommended.

Spoken Languages: English

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

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: November 1, 2016
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 1145 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 full screen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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