Sunday, January 30, 2011

THE BEST OF KIMBA: Introduction

The American version of Osamu Tezuka's seminal manga JANGURU TAITEI -- known to us as Kimba the White Lion -- debuted in syndication 45 years ago this coming September. It's part of what I might call the substrata of my interest in comics and animation, a product that left an indelible impression on me during childhood, along with The Flintstones, Speed Racer, PEANUTS, and RICHIE RICH. All of my future fan-interests, including my interest in Duck comics, flowed from these early experiences. Kimba, however, was an exception in that I literally had to "rediscover" the series in adulthood.

As a long-delayed tribute to this marvelous series -- and, I'll freely admit, as a bit of a warm-up for my planned re-review of DuckTales next year, on the occasion of its silver jubilee -- I've decided to post my impressions/critiques of what I consider to be some of the best Kimba episodes. This is harder to do than it sounds, not because many of the series' 52 eps were lousy, but because the series' intended continuity -- a story line based in great part on the original manga, but which Tezuka found that he had to sort of sneak into the TV series through the back door, due to American distributor NBC Films' nervousness over any sort of continuity that could render reruns problematic -- was severely compromised by the manner in which it was redubbed for American consumption. The outstanding voice/writing crew that took on the job were fed episodes in a rather haphazard manner and, as a result, made understandable mistakes. The wonder was that the finished product turned out so well. As Fred Patten and Robin Leyden note in their authoritative article "How Kimba Came to Be" (which I highly recommend that all White Lion "Newbies" read):

["Kimba"] was created by a Japanese producer who didn't get to do the program he'd wanted to make, for an American TV distributor that didn't get the program it had expected to receive. It was adapted for American TV by a production team who often weren't sure of what they were doing. Yet what resulted was a program that was imaginative, intelligent, exciting, humorous, and charming.

To that concluding list of adjectives, I'd add "Heart-filled." "Heart" -- that undefinable but recognizable quality that makes us believe in the reality of fictional characters and care about their relationships and fates -- is present in the best Disney TV series, PEANUTS, and many other products I've enjoyed, but Kimba may be among the most "Heart-filled" series ever made.

I don't know how often I'll be posting these musings -- if I can pull off one a week during the spring semester, I'll be more than delighted -- but I do hope you enjoy them. The first episode reviewed will be the pilot, "Go, White Lion."

4 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

But, Kimba… What about the BOMB?!

Sorry, fellow Blog readers, but that’s a private joke between Chris and myself!

If there is anyone who could (…or SHOULD) do this, it is YOU, Chris!

Looking forward to it… and don’t forget the “moving ground”!

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

Yep, by defusing THE BOMB in time, they were able to save all but a few antelopes... just a very few...

Chris

Gregory Weagle said...

Interesting. My first exposure to Mr. Tezuka was actually back in 1987 when Telefilm Canada actually dubbed Astro Boy for Canadian audiences a year before the Americans did. It's still a funny dub too with the cuts they did despite leaving in an episode in which they outright talked about God; and they even allowed one of the female robots to be naked with actual nipples right in clear view (which was edited out in the American uncut version of Astro Boy) while cutting out the fact that she died and Astro took her legs as a keepsake which was pretty creepy to say the least.

As for Kimba: Never seen it. Although; I do recall back in 1997 when Tezuka and Nintendo made a deal to bring Kimba (known as Jungle Emperor Leo as a literal translation) to the Nintendo 64; but that deal fell through and I haven't seen Kimba in a videogame ever since (despite Astro getting several).

Chris Barat said...

Greg,

Well, I hope you enjoy my reviews and seek the show out. All the eps are available on DVD and VHS.

For my money, the most "infamous" scene in ASTRO BOY came in the first episode of the original (1963) series, where we are treated to the sight of Astro plugging a power cable into the rear end of another boy robot. My wife won't EVER let me forget that scene. (She also insists that KIMBA takes place in a zoo rather than the African jungle, but that's just her.)

Chris