Jungle Emperor Leo
Osamu Tezuka's manga "Jungle Emperor" was adapted for television in the
1960s, spawning the much loved series Kimba The White Lion. Jungle
Emperor Leo, picks up where the series left off, completing the second
half of Tezuka's tale, focusing on the now fully grown Kimba (known in
Japan as Leo), holding his position as king of the jungle.
Tezuka’s work, at the very least, influenced Disney’s The Lion King –
something unacknowledged publicly by Disney. It is with a hint of
cynicism that the opening of Jungle Emperor recalls the opening scenes
from the said Disney film – with word of mouth spreading amongst the
jungle that an air to throne has been born. The scale of reception
provided by Leo’s followers, following the news of new lion cubs,
matches anything reached in the circle of life – it is perhaps a sense
of one upmanship (anything you can do, we can do better).
The wide eyed innocence of Leo’s offspring – Lune and Lyre is endearing.
The characters are brightly animated, and bursting with personality – as
a result the opening third of the film bubbles with a playful energy.
Lune, the more adventurous of the two, discovers a music box from the
human world, and develops a curiosity about what humans are like.
Through a fantasy sequence, one part humorous, two parts disturbing, we
see Lune’s romanticized view of the city – something he wishes he could
visit. Every human that inhabits it, looks exactly like the only human
he has ever met. It’s Pink Elephants on Parade, meets that scene in
Being John Malkovich (where everyone looks like John Malkovich), times
ten. My highlight of the film.
Lune’s view of the human world is challenged when Hamm-Egg, a greedy
human treasure hunter, brings his team of explorers into the jungle. In
search of the mythical moonlight stones, he and his team destroy
everything in their path, with no regard for those around them. As
emperor, Leo must fight to protect the world he loves – but must
convince the animal kingdom that a violent confrontation is not the
The message contained within - one of tolerance, respect and acceptance
of culture, is valuable, given the times we live in. Emperor Leo
challenges the “law of the jungle”, to try and create a world were
animals and humans can live side by side. Perhaps Madman can ship a copy
off to Canberra.
Whilst The themes and issues raised throughout cover a lot of ground,
sadly the DVD features do not. The original Japanese theatrical trailer
provides a look at how the film was pitched to a local audience, but it
holds little replay value. Whilst we are provided with both English and
Japanese language soundtracks, we are treated only to a stereo mix of
both. On the plus side there is no contribution to the soundtrack by