Kimba the White Lion Ultra DVD Box Set Limited Edition - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 129.99
  • Running time: 1345
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kimba The White Lion

Kimba the White Lion Ultra DVD Box Set Limited Edition

By Brett Barkley     June 21, 2006
Release Date: November 29, 2005


Kimba the White Lion Ultra DVD Box Set Limited Edition
© Nozomi Entertainment


What They Say
From Osamu Tezuka, one of the great pioneers of Japanese animation (ASTRO BOY, BLACK JACK, HI NO TORI), comes one of the "first-generation anime classics" to reach American TV! Fans have long remembered its catchy theme song, spectacular designs, pioneering animation techniques and gentle stories.

Kimba's enchanting adventures of friendship, jungle survival and harmony return once again in this beautifully restored complete DVD collection, ready to be introduced to a whole new generation of fans. 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.

First aired in 1965, Kimba is known worldwide as one of Osamu Tezuka's greatest masterpieces (along with Tezuka's crowning achievement, ASTRO BOY). And now, in this 11-disc Limited Ultra Edition release, Kimba: The White Lion looks better than ever! With completely restored video, interviews with Fred Ladd, deleted scenes, the original Japanese pilot episode and more, animation fans young and old will fall in love with the adventures of the original lion king!

The Review!
Right Stuf International has produced the finest Kimba the White Lion collection you're likely to ever see.

Audio:

The Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set features only an English language track. This track is presented in the monaural format standard with its original presentation date of 1965. Understandably, the audio therefore comes across a bit flat and aged. There are some instances of crackling and minor hisses, but these aren't vastly overpowering of the presentation. One major disappointment, however, was the lack of any subtitles. At certain points this can be a problem, due to the flatness of the audio, in which certain things are not immediately clear and recognizable.

Video:

Originally airing in the United States in 1965, and created well before the widescreen era we now enjoy, the episodes featured in the box set are framed in their original 4:3 aspect ration. When compared to the un-retouched first episode included with the bonus disc, it is very easy to see the difference, as virtually no scratches or dust remains. However, blacks are certainly not true, and have a very pixilated appearance. I also noticed a few instances in which the Japanese titles appear, for a split second just before the English titles, which feels a little sloppily edited. However, when considering the vintage of these episodes, and particularly when comparing the vast majority of them to the untouched version of the first episode, this series is likely the best it will ever look.

Packaging:

Utilizing a telescoping box, similar to the Tylor sets also produced by Right Stuf, this time however, the Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set is full-sized. The box itself is hefty and sturdy, having some weight to it. Primarily dressed in brilliant oranges and yellows, the box has a very warm feel, with Kimba's blue and white coloring (echoed in the title, which is tastefully sized to allow for the best contrast) standing out beautifully. The art featured on the covers and spine loving recreates the feel of that found in the series. The front cover features a large image of Kimba smiling at the viewer, set against a jungle silhouette in which depth is established through terrific juxtaposition of muted and brilliant oranges. The cover title is cleverly found on the bottom of the box, its color almost, but not quite, lost in Kimba's own, as Kimba's shape and design guides the eye directly to it. The reverse cover (my favorite), again utilizes the beautiful orange and yellow coloration, setting a small image of Kimba against an exotic African sky and a giant cloud formation of his father. It's a very striking image, perfectly conveying the heart of Kimba's character. The box spines feature a much larger title and a bold icon of Kimba's head.

Inside the box are found six individual disc cases, and a 34 page booklet on Kimba's history. Upon opening the box, I was struck by the veritable rainbow of colors used on the disc spines, a brilliant and eye-catching shift from the oranges and yellows of the box. The episode discs one through five are packaged in doubled slim cases, two discs to a case, with the Extras Disc occupying a single slim case. Each of the five main episodes discs features a bright and colorful, reversible cover.

The booklet included with the box set is a nice addition, exploring the story of Kimba's background and US production. It explores, at length, the genius behind Osamu Tezuka's work on the series, going so far as to include an exact facsimile of the original seven page proposal Mr. Tezuka wrote to pitch the series for NBC. This included a breakdown of Mr. Tezuka's original story, detailing how it would be adapted to fit the 30 minute animated programming format, an exploration of the cast, and Kimba's life. The booklet also examines the changes NBC demanded to Mr. Tezuka's original work, offering a look in to what might have been. Without a doubt, this booklet is required reading, and offers invaluable insight in to the world of Kimba.


Menu:

The menus found in the Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set are the epitome of simplicity, featuring the cover artwork as the background, the title in the upper right corner of the screen (with disc number), and episode listings in descending order in the lower half of the screen. A brief and totally infectious audio clip plays throughout. There are no options available.


Extras:

The Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set is fairly strong in terms of extras. While there are no extras featured on the core series discs, there is an Extras Disc featuring the Original first Japanese extra (complete with the original opening animation and score "definitely check this out), a value-added Interview with Fred Ladd, Deleted Scenes, Original Character Production Art, a Merchandise Gallery, and Character Profiles.

While there are a number of more common extras found on the disc, such as the Textless Opening, and Original English Closing, there are a number of standouts as well. As stated above, the original first episode is a must-see for the beautiful original score and opening animation alone. I particularly enjoyed the very interesting 20+ minute interview with Fred Ladd, as it delves further in to the series background (to points not explored in the booklet included with the set), exploring the logistical issues Mr. Tezuka faced in creating 52 episodes of a color series for American and Japanese television. If you're a fan of Kimba, or a fan of animation history and processes in general, you will love this interview. I also enjoyed the Original Character Art Gallery and Merchandise Gallery, the first of which shed light on the creative process and background of Kimba, while the latter gives a brief glimpse in to the worldwide popularity of the Kimba property through coloring books, card games, and toys.



Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Justifiably beloved by many, Kimba the White Lion has finally received a collection worthy of this Mr. Tezuka's ambitious property in the Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set. The 52 episode series (collected here in its entirety) explores the life of a young lion as he perseveres over the deaths of his mother and renowned jungle king father, striving to surpass all his father did for the creatures of the jungle. At the heart of the series are the principles of love, kindness, and fealty, set within the backdrop of the struggle to build a society and the larger metaphor of what it means to be part of a civilization, including the demands of contribution and sacrifice. And just as Kimba struggles to realize his vision for all his animal kingdom can be, this set also serves as a wonderful real-world parallel for all Mr. Tezuka struggled to achieve while working within the confines of the NBC directive (which is wonderfully illuminated both in the booklet contained in this set, as well as the Fred Ladd interview). In fact, a large portion of the brilliance of Mr. Tezuka's work is how, though shifted and at times distorted, his original vision manages to shine through.

The first, very compressed episode, opens on Caesar, Kimba's father, who is the king of the jungle. He believes all the animals should live in peace, and releases animals from the local farmers in order to set them free (though in some instances, these were used as food for the carnivores). It is his drive to free the domesticated animals that incurs the wrath of the humans, as they eventually call in a world-renowned hunter, Viper Snakely, to put an end to Caesar. Snakely manages to succeed by capturing and using Caesar's pregnant wife Snowene as bait. With Caesar out of the way and Snowene captured, Snakely decides to simply sell the pregnant lioness to a zoo. On the long voyage across the Atlantic, Snowene gives birth to Kimba. Recognizing their ship will sink, she encourages Kimba to flee and to swim back to his homeland, and to eventually assume his father's rule over the jungle.

The first episode does an exceptional job of setting the tone for most of the following 52 episodes, firmly establishing Kimba's world as one in which hatred, greed, violence, and death are all too real. This was very unique for American cartoons of the time, and something not altogether appreciated by NBC. However, over the course of the following episodes, a balance is struck between these theme, which represent Mr. Tezuka's original vision, and the light, adventurous exploits of the young lion and his friends that NBC had initially hoped for.

Another issue of contention between Mr. Tezuka and NBC was his vision for the serialized nature of the series. He had originally wanted the storyline to follow Kimba from his youth to adulthood. NBC, however, wanted the stories to be more independent, eschewing the natural aging process of the characters for something a bit more timeless. Though the vast majority of these episodes do have a more independent feel, one can easily see just how hard Mr. Tezuka and his crew labored to produce a progression of character and time. Kimba does age as the story progresses, and while the episodes don't necessarily fit a strict serial pattern, there are overarching themes that follow through specific blocks of the 52 episode series.

For instance, when Kimba arrives in the jungle to inherit his father's legacy, it is not his goal to simply be Caesar, but to surpass all he had done, to go even further. Influenced by his time among men (which becomes part of a larger error committed by the American production crew), Kimba begins to instate many policies designed to raise the animals far above their current state, to elevate their society to something more, something at once both informed by, and better than, the societies of mankind. In order to combat the long-standing laws of the jungle, Kimba builds schools and even an animal restaurant, eventually encourages his animals to learn to speak English, and builds farms to supply food for all animals as a means of preventing the larger carnivores from preying on the other animals. While there is much resistance to his plans and to his ideal of just what the animals can aspire to become (in fact, the defense of his new jungle society comprises a great deal of the conflict that occurs throughout the episodes), it is the reliance on vegetation for the sustenance of all animals that most plagues Kimba and his kingdom. It seems asking a leopard to change his spots is almost as easy as asking him to eat farmed vegetables rather than meat. This issue is unsatisfactorily resolved in episode 8, "Insect Invasion" in which a giant swarm of insects threaten the crops of the jungle kingdom. In order to save the crops, Kimba and his friends capture the insect swarm in a cave. Eventually, though certainly not to Kimba's liking, this swarm of insects serves as food source to the carnivorous animals. This is most interesting in that it expresses the deep and serious issues Kimba faced, and the tough decisions he was forced to make. Certainly unlike other children's cartoons of the time, Kimba was often forced to confront problems with no easy solution, making difficult decisions that weighed on him. This issue is finally and completely resolved in episode 26, "A Revolting Development", in which Claw and Cassius finally break the resolve of the carnivorous animals and a revolt ensues. As the only means of saving his kingdom and preserving his values, Kimba must help one of Roger Ranger's friends find a rare flower that will serve as the last and most important ingredient in his meat substitute. While the resolution to the issue of eating meat may seem a bit contrived or easy, this can easily be put in perspective by the fact it was one of the foremost issues facing Kimba and his kingdom for the entire first half of the series.

Other issues and mature themes continue to face Kimba and his friends throughout the course of the series. From the ever-present threat of human intervention, issues of judgment and bigotry, the violence and cruelty of man, standing for one's conviction in the face of overwhelming odds, to even aging and death, Kimba the White Lion faced a number of challenging and difficult themes over the course of the series' 52 episode history. While Kimba sets a pacifist standard in his kingdom, he is willing to fight to the death to defend those in his care. The series' distinctly non-humanist perspective of genuine evil is also refreshing. While Kimba is ever ready to give a home to anyone willing to comply with the peaceful imperatives of his kingdom, there are those bent on destroying all he stands for. While some of these characters are reformed, or at least shown the error of their ways, like Boss Rhino for instance, others, like Claw, Cassius, and Tom and Tab represent a continued threat of evil to Kimba's kingdom, often stopping at nothing to kill the white lion and take his throne.

Man also plays a powerful role in the series. Unfortunately, it is the evil at the heart of most men that becomes a very consistent theme throughout the series. From the cruel calculations of Viper Snakely in the first episode, to the hunters' cold and emotionless resolution of "Two Many Elephants", to the evils of poaching in "The Last Poacher", and far beyond, the wickedness men do is prominent in the lives of Kimba and his friends. However, not all men are evil, as evidenced by Roger Ranger, and his uncle, Mr. Pompous, and even James Brawn, who laid down his life for Kimba in the second episode.

While the themes that run throughout the series are very often strong and mature, certainly challenging the children's animation of the period, Kimba the White Lion's writing is not without its issues. The most glaring error, of just when it was that Kimba first met Roger Ranger was due almost entirely to the way in which the two production companies (Japanese and American) worked. Typically, the American crew did not receive anything other than an episode synopsis from which they created dialogue. Without an understanding Kimba and Roger actually met well before episode three, the contradiction was not caught in time to be remedied.

But the story suffers on a number of other fronts as well, including some character inconsistencies. To serve the very strong moral-driven stories, characters were often created seemingly on a whim. Typically, this is not a problem, but when those characters become integral to Kimba's story on a larger scale, but are subsequently never fully explored, the viewer can be left with more questions than answers. I was disappointed Kimba's sister Leona is never really explored beyond the two episodes in which she is featured. However, this could simply be excused as an issue of creator preference; perhaps they felt there was nothing more to say about Leona. Much more of an unresolved issue, however, is the bizarre Mt. Moon and prehistoric mammoth which intervenes to save Kimba on two occasions. Twice, when Kimba's life is threatened, the mysterious Mt. Moon appears, filling the sky, snow from its covered peaks falling on the jungle. The woolly mammoth that resides there actually saves Kimba's life, leaving clues this would be explored at some point in the story. Disappointingly, it was never explored by the series' conclusion, leaving viewers only to wonder at what Mr. Tezuka had in mind.

Another issue I found slightly troublesome to the overall story was the change Kimba's character seems to undergo toward the final third of the series. Throughout the majority of the series, Kimba is strong, patient, confident, and always right. Even when everyone else disagreed with him, Kimba stood by what he believed. However, toward the end of the series, Daniel Baboon begins to replace Kimba as the strong and wise center of the kingdom. Now it is Kimba whose certainty wavers, whose convictions are no longer as strong. There instances in which Daniel even becomes Kimba's disciplinarian, and Kimba at times seems more like any of the other young animals in his kingdom, than the ruler thereof. This change is not suggested, either in the episodes themselves, or the otherwise informative booklet included with the set. I'm curious how much this had to do with NBC directives to perhaps make Kimba's character more in line with that of the target audience.

Though beautifully restored to a surprisingly solid final product here, the animation style and colorization do betray the series' age, feeling a bit dated. Though consistently smooth, there is a very large amount of animation recycling. Action scenes throughout typically suffer from repetition. Additionally, the series backgrounds are often done in very graphic splashes of color, generally feeling quick and rough, though not entirely haphazard. The color choices for the series are often drab, though I am uncertain if this has more to do with stylistic determination or age. However, the characters remain consistent in appearance and generally carry the signature feel of Mr. Tezuka's artistic style.

While watching the series, it is almost impossible to ignore the rich value added in the sound work, specifically the voice acting and musical scoring. Considering the small size of the voice acting group featured in Kimba the White Lion, the range of characters expressed is quite wide and rich. Bill Lou Watts delivers an exceptional performance as Kimba, consistently reaching, at once, the character's naiveté and inherent strength of will. Cliff Owens and Gil Mack are both fun and brilliant in their roles as Daniel Baboon and Pauley Cracker, respectively. While at times the characters explored by this small group of voice actors can become slightly odd, or a little too wacky, largely for the sake of audience distinction, the core characters are brilliantly defined by their work.

As strong as the work the voice actors deliver throughout the series, one of my favorite aspects has to be the beautiful scoring each episode received. A product of its period, it's difficult to miss the role the scoring plays in the general ambience of Kimba the White Lion as quick and merry notes underscore character reactions and expressions. In the action sequences the tension is nearly palpable, driving the scene, and engrossing the viewer. Though the sound effects, as offered in their native monaural mode of presentation, do not wow in comparison with the animation of today, the entertaining and brilliantly executed score quickly becomes integral to the very essence of Kimba the White Lion.

While Kimba the White Lion is incredibly entertaining and engaging as a children's cartoon, to consider it nothing more would do a tremendous disservice to one of Mr. Tezuka's greatest works. Rather, Kimba the White Lion stands as a powerful parable of the best and worst society has to offer, while offering hope as what it can become. In this allegorical lesson, Mr. Tezuka uses the wide cast of Kimba and his friends to represent the very children for which his program was aimed. The men and societies of Kimba's world are, in fact, mirrors of our own, filled with the all-too-real failings of greed and violence. But through the character of Roger Ranger, Mr. Tezuka spoke to the animals of the jungle, to the children themselves, teaching them, urging them to be more than what had come before them, more than the example that had been so thoroughly set. By appealing to the hopes and naiveté of the animals (and the children they represented), Mr. Tezuka sought to show that a world could exist where love and compassion were the primary principles, where those personally invested would not simply survive, but rather thrive.

In Summary:

One of the great works of Osamu Tezuka, Kimba the White Lion is truly given the royal treatment in Right Stuf International's Kimba the White Lion Ultra Edition Box Set. Featuring a very nicely restored picture, as well as a number of genuinely value-added extras, this set collects the 52 episodes that comprise the series' only season under the guidance of NBC. While the story itself has some issues that cause the overall epic of Kimba's role as leader of the jungle to suffer slightly, and certainly isn't the product initially envisioned by Mr. Tezuka, the individual episodes are generally strong and entertaining. Very much different than the standard children's cartoon of the time, Kimba the White Lion sought to reach and engage its audience in new and important ways. Its morally-centered stories served as parables to teach children about values of decency, kindness, and love, all while it entertained them. I was very pleased with the stories as well as the strength and value of the messages I found in this set.

Features
English Language,"How Kimba Came to Be" booklet written by Fred Patten and Robin Leyden,Original Japanese Episode 1 (with English subtitles),Interview with Fred Ladd,Deleted scenes,Textless English opening,Original English closing,Original Character Art Gallery,Merchandise gallery;Character profiles

Review Equipment
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.

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