Puss 'n Boots (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006



What They Say
Pero, a sword-wielding musketeer cat, is on the run! He's guilty of the ultimate crime: rescuing mice from certain doom. In hot pursuit are three bumbling police cats, trying their best to bring Pero to justice. While evading capture, Pero stumble upon an unfortunate boy named Pierre, who is mistreated by his two greedy and selfish brothers. Pero soon convinces Pierre that he is better off leaving this deprived life behind him.

The two set off together to find their fortune, and hear of an announcement from the castle: the king is looking for a husband for his beautiful daughter, Princess Rose. With the urging of Pero, Pierre unwillingly poses as a prince to woo the princess. However, the dastardly Lucifer arrives and spoils the plan when he manages to kidnap the princess! It's up to Pero and Pierre to journey into Lucifer's castle and rescue the lovely Rose.

Originally released in 1969 in Japan, and later released as "The Wonderful World of Puss 'n' Boots" in the US, the film was directed by Kimio Yabuki (Swan Lake) and features key animation by Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Castle of Cagliostro, among others). Loosely based on Charles Perrault's original book "Le Maitre Chat Ou Le Chat Botte," the film is beautifully scored by Seiichiro Uno (Jack and the Witch).

This DVD releases features the original Japanese language version available for the first time ever in the US. It also includes the very rare Fred Ladd English-dubbed version.

The Review!
The Japanese take on the children's classic has plenty of appeal to young and old as well as those who grew up watching these and have never been able to find it since.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in its original language of Japanese. Not having the nostalgia for it that others might, I was curious to see how the original faired. Both language tracks are presented in their original mono format (which in Dolby Digital is done as a two channel mono) and it is pretty good for the most part with plenty of detail to it if you listen close and no sense of distortions or dropouts. There's a scene early on where the rain is falling after Pierre gets kicked out and the rain is very subtle but it's more accurate than I expected and sounds great. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese track or notice any issues in spot-checking the English language track.

Video:
Originally released to theaters back in 1969, the transfer for this film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Similar to other early releases from Discotek, this one is the first time that the film has been presented this way in the US as well as bilingual. And like their other anime titles from this time, this release that comes from Toei looks spectacular in general but not without it's flaws, mostly from age and how it was animated. The colors in this are fantastic and mostly maintain a solid feel and the animation shows plenty of detail throughout that was likely impossible to see years ago on VHS releases. In most ways, this is really a great looking transfer because it's in such good shape overall so anything else really feels like nitpicking. There's a fair bit of scratches and dirt visible during the early part of the film and it tapers off over time but is still there. There is also some jitter along the way during scene transitions which is another norm for something of this age. Backgrounds and large areas of color have a good feel to them but there is some mosquito noise visible in some of them. All of this feels secondary to the way this looks overall though as the release really looks great when taken in context.

Packaging:
If there's an area of Discotek's releases that always make me feel like they're underselling their releases it comes in the packaging, but I also figure they're very limited in what's available for a number of reasons. The cover art for this release does scream that it's an older show but for kids it's a non-issue (as evidenced by my own kids seeing the cover and demanding to watch it right away). It's filled with bright and colorful artwork of the various characters from the show mostly against a white background and the logo is haphazardly written along the right side going down. It's not one that appeals to me and is the kind that you can imagine you'd pass right over if you were looking through the shelves at a retailer. The back cover has a few shots from the show and a really length summary and bit of information on the release. The discs features are clean and clear though and aimed at the older fan with the way it's worded. Also a plus is the excellent technical grid which covers a lot of information in a very clear and readable form. The reverse side of the cover is a full length image of Pero riding a horse out of the kingdom with chapter listings on one side.

Menu:
The menu layout for this is cute but it suffers from not having the best elements from which to be built, as the foreground is a set of still character images that lack a bit of detail and are generally soft while the background plays some animation from the show set to the opening song. One thing I really didn't like is that it dives right into the show after like fifteen seconds of being in the menu. In just trying to look at the menu long enough to write about it, I had to go back several times because it kept starting the show on me. Access times overall are nice and fast though and the layout straightforward enough that it's easy enough to navigate without a problem. The disc also properly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras on this will definitely please truly old school fans, from the art gallery with lots of rare black and white pieces to the text interviews with the films director and with one of the key animators in Yoichi Kotabe. There's a lot of history about the show and the efforts made into it that are very interesting to read all these years later.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its origins in the Charles Perrault novel, Puss 'n Boots takes some creative leeway in the story as its told in animated form. Influenced by the then recent release of 101 Dalmations by Walt Disney, the films director brought some new styles to the animation and insisted that the lead character of young Pierre not be treated as a character that doesn't grow during the course of the film.

Depending on your own upbringing and familiarity with the property, you may find a lot of this doesn't feel right. But with the character being so malleable and a pop culture icon again due to Shrek 2, Pero is the kind of character that is easily reinvented while still leaving the original works as a classic. We're introduced to Pero in this film as he's being judged for committing the worst crime a cat can commit, saving some mice from certain doom. His skills allow him to escape from the death sentence that the judge gives him, but he's not entirely free as three police cats are sent off to hunt him down and stop him with their own lives at risk if they don't succeed. This leads to an amusing chase that carries through the credits and it puts Pero into a small village where he meets young Pierre.

Pierre's something of your average country bumpkin who is being taken advantage of by his brothers. With their parents recently dead and their money left to the older brothers, he's in a bad position as they keep him eating just bread and water while he cooks them big meals that they tell him they don't like, just to keep him down a bit more. But every journey has to start somewhere and it's little surprise that Pierre finds himself being kicked out of the house and taking up with Pero, who convinces him that the two of them would be great traveling companions. It's during this time that they come across an announcement from the King that he's looking to find a suitable husband for his daughter, Princess Rose.

While Pierre doesn't find anything interesting about this, Pero decides that he can do some good for Pierre and convinces him to take on the role of a prince and to try to get her hand in marriage. He's actually got a fairly good shot at it as he's able to bluff his way fairly well but it's the arrival of Lucifer on the scene that throws it all into a mess as he kidnaps the princess and Pierre finds himself now having to face off against him in a journey and battle to bring the princess back to her kingdom. With the help of Pero and some of the mice who have now befriended him as well as the police cats who get caught up in all of it, it's a fairly fun little adventure that definitely has a number of Disney influences. There are a few songs that come into play and the liveliness of the animals as they interact with the people and each other.

When I get to check out these far older movies than most of what comes out today, it's interesting to see what some of those involved in it have done. The films director, Kimio Yabuki, has a career that makes me want to see more of his works. Prior to this film he spent a good deal of time on a series that ran for a lot of episodes and then in the seventies and eighties he worked in other similarly themed series. He was also one of three directors for Ikkyu the Little Monk which ran for just under three hundred episodes from 1975 to 1982. He was also one of the primary scriptwriters for The Jungle Book: The Adventures of Mowgli which ran through 1989 to 1990. From the text interview included, he indicates he got plenty of offers to work on giant robot related shows over the years but he continually turned them down to work with more humanistic characters and relations that weren't overshadowed by technology. It's unlikely we'll see much of anything else of his works over here but Puss 'n Boots certainly seems like a great representation of what he wants to make.

In Summary:
Watching these children's films are something of a mixed bag for me since I've never been terribly enamored of them after I got past my early years but I adore them for the way they fascinate and engage my own children. Puss 'n Boots is another good example of that as they just lapped it up and enjoyed every moment of it and already want to watch it again, and they're definitely part of the Pokemon generation of viewers. The age of a show doesn't mean anything to these kids and though I know it'll change some day it lets me expose them to a lot of things now. Puss 'n Boots is an interesting take on the premise with some great older animation to it and some fantastic voice acting on both sides of the language mix. Just like other Discotek releases, I can't help but to enthusiastically recommend this title as both an important piece in a historical context but also something that's genuinely fun and interesting to watch.

Features
Japanese 1.0 Language,English 2.0 Language, Music and Effects Soundtrack, Theatrical Trailer, Photo Gallery of Rare Black and White Stills, Text Interviews with Creators

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Discotek
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 80
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Puss 'N Boots