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Jungle Emperor Leo
Jungle Emperor Leo
Actors: Masane Tsukayama, Chieko Baisho, Tomoko Ishimura, Hekiru Shiina, Kaneta Kimotsuki
Director: Yoshio Takeuchi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
PG     2003     1hr 40min

At the foot of the mysterious Moon Mountain lives a white lion named Leo, ruler of the jungle. He and his family live peacefully among the other animals in a lush habitat with which they have been blessed. Humans have en...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Masane Tsukayama, Chieko Baisho, Tomoko Ishimura, Hekiru Shiina, Kaneta Kimotsuki
Director: Yoshio Takeuchi
Creators: Hajime Yuki, Takayuki Natsutani, Osamu Tezuka
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Anime Works
Format: DVD - Color - Animated,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/28/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, Japanese, English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Outstanding movie well-translated for DVD
Kimba W. Lion | the East Coast | 08/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I could not ask for a better DVD of this movie, short of an anamorphic transfer. AnimeWorks has done very well with the film, providing subtitles that are very faithful to the Japanese dialog, and an English-dubbed track that is well performed and also true to the original. This is a movie I have wanted ever since it was released to video in Japan, and AnimeWorks' US release of it is great.

This is hardly a movie for kiddies. The ending leaves adults traumatized, especially if they've been lifelong fans of Kimba The White Lion--this movie supposedly tells the second half of Dr. Osamu Tezuka's epic fable. But it digresses considerably from the original published story, and thoroughly ignores the universe created in the original Kimba TV series, perhaps in an effort to stand on its own and lose the "second half" stigma.

What it achieves, however, is to reinforce the impression created by Dr. Tezuka himself when he created his second (sequel) series to Kimba back in 1966: that he really is only interested in writing for the young hero starting out in life. The sequel TV series, which covered most of the same story elements included in this movie, became the story not of the hero Kimba as an adult, but of the maturing of his cub Rune. Here, in Jungle Emperor Leo, the title character is mostly just a part of the background for Rune's story. Rune gets the interesting imagery, the engaging character, the hope and promise for the future.

Not that Rune's story is a bad one, not at all, it's just that one wonders why the movie isn't titled "The Next Jungle Emperor, Rune".

I said that Rune's story isn't bad at all, but it is a shame that they changed it so radically from what Dr. Tezuka wrote and published. They lost the deeper significance and lasting value of it.

Really, if you want to know Dr. Tezuka's white lion epic, watch the Kimba The White Lion TV series (which, contrary to what "anime historians" want to tell us, is not very different in spirit from Tezuka's original story) and then track down the second season of the TV show, which is called Leo the Lion -- it is available in two versions: one is uncut and complete and the other has a lot cut out. Caveat emptor.

This movie is probably better appreciated by those who don't know its roots.

The production itself is superb. Isao Tomita provides the symphonic score, as he did for both original TV series, and again it is sweeping and powerful. The opening title sequence is an expansion of his original Jungle Emperor TV theme, and it produces goosebumps. The animation is for the most part lovely. CG and traditional animation are mixed, usually with great success. All the characters are done in conventional cel animation, very satisfyingly. I find myself wanting more time with the main characters; the movie seems to rush to the end."
Scattered, but beautifully animated and emotionally charged.
Jonathon Turner | Highland Park, NJ USA | 03/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Don't expect a typical happy Disney-style fantasy with JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO: although lush and gorgeous and overflowing with cuddly animal characters, this is actually a more sophisticated story charged with dramatic twists and packed with one-two-three emotional punches. Osamu Tezuka crafted this tale more than fifty years ago, and its impact still seems to be in effect to this day. The story was adapted into two television series-the first of which chronicles the opening years of Leo the white lion and his destiny to become king (shades of THE LION KING here, huh?), and the second involving Leo's adulthood. The second TV show was eventually remade into this feature film by Tezuka Productions, released eight years after Tezuka's death in 1989. The purpose of Tezuka Productions is to provide new incarnations of his work through animation, and this film (in addition to another, METROPOLIS) is no exception.

JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO has only one major thing going against it, and that is a somewhat split plotline. On one hand, you have Leo the white lion, trying to deal with a greedy treasure hunter destroying his jungle as well as a deadly virus threatening many of the animals' lives. On another, you have one of his two cubs, Lune, curious about the humans after discovering a music box in a wrecked airplane, swept away from his home and sold to a circus, discovering just how complex humans can be. Then we have a long, perilous journey to a snowy mountain where some supposedly powerful "Moonlight Stones" can save the world from an energy crisis. While these stories are well told and leave the viewer with something to think about, they never intertwine and occasionally come off as a bit forced. In fact, it sometimes feels as though this movie is trying to do too much in 99 minutes, leaving little time for character development. Minor characters such as a bullying little elephant and his intimidating father, a gazelle, a mynah bird, a baboon, and even a woolly mammoth have rather small screentime and never really emerge as fully defined personalities, making their presence a tad superfluous. This is only a minor quibble, however, as this movie nonetheless is very engrossing and appealing not just for children, but for grownups too.

The animation is lush and amazing to look at, and Isao Tomita's music is simply breathtaking. (And to think that I knew him as the man responsible for the trippy yet innovative TOMITA PLANETS!) The movie isn't for very young children, however, for the sight of animals shot mercilessly (including a warthog and a rhino!) may be disturbing. But the real emotional gutwrenchers of the movie are seeing the animals suffer from the effects of the jungle plague and the climactic finale, which involves a very moving yet heartbreaking sacrifice which will leave youngsters in tears as much as it left me. Such sequences, however shocking they may be, only help make the strong messages this movie carries very clear, and they do that with a huge touch of pathos.

One thing I forgot to mention was the dub, recorded by NYAV Post. It is probably one of the most underrated, less talked about English tracks of Anime from 2003, which is unfortunate, because this adaptation deserves better recognition. Directed by Michael Sinterniklaas (whose biggest dream was always to dub a Tezuka production into English), this dub features not only a very commendable script adaptation (by Sinterniklaas himself, who also voices Tommy the gazelle in the dub) and vocal performances which breathe life and emotion to the characters. Dan Green voices the title character with resonance and regality, and Tara Jayne (best known as Filia from THE SLAYERS TRY) does an amazing job accentuating Lune's spunkiness. Veronica Taylor has a small part as Lune's wife, Queen Lyre, but she makes the use of it... there's one scene where she'll make you cry. The best voices belong to the greedy hunter Ham Egg, voiced, interestingly, by Etoh himself from RECORD OF LODOSS WAR, Ed Paul, and especially Mike Pollock as the kindly Dr. Moustache. I never would have guessed that his performance was just a "quick and dirty" affair; he does an absolutely bang-up job delivering just the right amount of gentle comic relief, sternness, and later, emotional pathos. When I met Sinterniklaas at the ANIME NEXT 2004 convention, he told me that it meant so much to him that I really enjoyed this dub; I found it so hard to believe that he had a short period of time to record it. He told me that he has plans to get the dub revamped for a theatrical release. Whether it happens or not, I nonetheless rate this dub very, very highly as one of the best around. (If you're reading this, Mike, I hope you know that I haven't changed my thoughts on this dub since the first time I heard it. Keep up the good work!)

Unfortunately, the DVD release by Media Blasters isn't really anything special; the transfer is good and the audio is brilliant, but the only extra is the Japanese trailer. A gem like this deserves better. Nonetheless, this is a very beautiful, emotionally charged jungle adventure, and I recommend it heartily, despite its flaws.

Anime fans have accused Disney of using this work by Tezuka as a source of inspiration for THE LION KING. I don't know whether this is true or not, but my appeal for JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO does not diminish my admiration for the Disney movie of the same title. Both are excellent jungle stories in their own right."
BiolanteX | Valparaiso, Indiana United States | 07/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is just a great piece of animation. Its the conclusion of Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo (Kimba the White Lion is the americanized name) story as told in his manga. You can't deny Lion King is copied from Leo, even the monkey wiseman and motor mouthed parrot are present in the manga that outdates Lion King by about 44 years. Typically, Disney is still in complete denial about the truth of this matter. However, unlike that knock-off, this film doesn't pull its punches so it can transcribe the greatest story posible. The themes presented here a very powerfull (much more so than the Lion King). The film is quite touching, and I believe much can be learned from morals of this story. Osamu Tezuka was truely a visionary. Perhaps one of the greatest authors of the of the 20th century, even if he drew his stories instead of only using written word. The animation is also quite wonderfull, coming from one of anime's greatest studios, Mad House. I highly suggest giving this one example of Tezuka's work a chance. I also wish more of this series would be released on DVD. They could perhaps start with 1989's Jungle Emperor Leo tv series. However, the ending to that show was altered because of sponsors concern for the children's emotions. This film is the true conclusion of the Leo saga transcribed to film for the first time."
Love and the struggle for a peaceful life
Samantha | the frozen East | 01/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It seems that some people have trouble dealing with this movie. It is based on the same manga that gave us Kimba the White Lion and, a step removed (and oft denied), The Lion King. It is not the same type of story, however. Kimba gave us light and hope for a new kind of future. Jungle Emperor Leo is more along the lines of what actually happens as man storms through nature with greed as the driving force. If you can look at the entire picture, however... look at young Lune's story, you will see the hope is still there. Another generation has to pass, though. Overall, it is sad, but so is the actual relationship of man to nature. Where Kimba depicted the hope for a new future, perhaps the tragedy in this film can inspire change in a different way."