a.k.a. Jungle Taitei Leo
A greedy explorer by the name of Ham Egg is commissioned to discover the elusive Mount Moon and its hidden cache of Moonlight stones. But in order to do so, Ham Egg and his crew must venture through an uncharted jungle where a white lion by the name of Leo reigns supreme. Can man and animal coexist, or will their differences spell doom for both worlds?
summary by Kain
Highs: Much deeper and more profound than expected; achieves mixture of Tezuka-esque childishness with adult themes
Lows: Inconsistent animation; side stories that go nowhere
Few storytellers can weave tales so timeless and full of charm like Tezuka Osamu can. He enchanted a Japanese audience with courageous heroes during a time when the country was desperate for them. Such overtly simplistic stories of good versus evil are all that I expected of this long overdue continuation of the Jungle Emperor Leo manga, but to my surprise it ended up being a lot more.
The very first scene centers on the birth of Leo’s two cubs, Lune and Lukio. Subsequent saccharine-sweet scenes involve the precocious Lune, heir to the jungle, doing his best Wright Brothers impersonation, discovering a music box in an abandoned airplane and joining the circus. So much time is devoted to this young character that the obvious assumption is that he’s the focus of this anime. But as the title can attest, he has virtually no impact on the story whatsoever. These wasteful moments were implanted solely for their cuteness factor and thankfully were brushed to the side during the latter half of the movie.
The main plot, that being the clash between Leo and the humans, makes this anime shine and provides the basis for several powerful moments of courage and self-sacrifice. Tezuka’s source manga doesn’t cop out by going for cheap tears, so the emotions on display here are quite genuine. Tezuka’s circa 1950s character designs are faithfully retained and work quite well here compared to modern artwork, though the animation ranges from spectacular to sub-par at the drop of a hat.
I was grateful having watched this anime not only because it’s worthy of my time but also for the nostalgia it invokes. Jungle Emperor Leo: The Movie was born of a more innocent age when anime was entertainment and nothing else. It’s also a movie that the entire family can enjoy for its purity.
Jungle Emperor Leo: The Movie can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.