Monday, July 25, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 26, "A Revolting Development"

We're finally halfway through the series, so here are a few "midpoint musings" before I proceed:

(1) I've had a lot of fun writing these. I hope it shows.

(2) I will soon be "cutting back" to one episode per week as the Fall semester nears. My original hope was to get done by the end of 2011, but I don't think I'm going to make that deadline. This is no problem, however; whatever DuckTales 25th anniversary matter I post (I haven't decided as to its nature yet) wouldn't launch until the Fall of 2012.




"A Revolting Development" is an extremely frustrating episode -- an episode that could have been SO much better had things been "boiled" a bit more thoroughly. Granted, it's great to finally get some closure on one of the series' main themes, namely, the animals' search for some palatable, humane alternative to meat-eating. The method of closure, while relying heavily on "overly convenient" happenstances, is reasonably clever and satisfying. The episode's illogical portrayal of Claw, Cassius, Tom, and Tab, however, knocks the ep out of any chance at top-, or even middle-, -drawer status. Not only are the perpetual villains cast in a role that would NEVER be accepted by the most naive subject of Kimba's kingdom, much less Kimba himself, but they actually punt on a chance to dispose of Kimba once and for all... and, would you believe, they do so on the request of a zany one-shot character! These problems were present in the original script, and the Titan crew can't do much to fix them, try as they might.

The "skip-to-my-lou" opening sequence is the sort of thing that we'll be seeing quite a bit of in future episodes featuring "jungle cubs" Dot, Dash, and Dinky (here, joined by Speedy Cheetah and... a giant ground squirrel? Does Sandy Cheeks know about this?). The difference here is that Kimba cuts the fun and games short to... go and do jungle-prince business, I suppose. In many of those later episodes, he will maintain a cub's POV and reactions for a good deal longer than this. The offhand reference to a cub's being named "Doozy" is a gaffe.

Wouldn't you know that a zebra (Stripes = Ray Owens) would be the one to exploit the hitherto-unexplored "loophole" that allows herbivores in Kimba's kingdom to insult carnivores with impunity? One can hardly blame goofy Uncle Beetle (Gilbert Mack, apparently channeling Ed Wynn) for regarding the "kick-off" as an insult to members of the cat family (which apparently includes giant squirrels for the duration). Of course, to insult an elderly, stumble-prone lion with the longest set of bangs in or out of captivity would take some doing to begin with. Beetle makes a more cogent point (not to mention a better intellectual impression) when he reminds Kimba that the animals have relied on insects to fill the gap. Dan'l's argument that Kimba "never liked the idea" would have had more force had we heard it at some point during "The Insect Invasion" or "The Gigantic Grasshopper."

The "cat family protest meeting" can also be said to double as this episode's "shark-jumping meeting." Not because what follows is of low quality; rather, because Cassius, Tom, and Tab are attendees and no one pays them any particular notice. Would even Uncle Beetle take Cassius' advice on anything? As bizarre as it sounds, for the rest of the episode, we're asked to buy Claw and his minions as trouble-making members of Kimba's jungle community -- the equivalents of Montana Max in Acme Acres, Dr. Smith on Lost in Space, or Snake Jailbird in Springfield. This gives the remainder of the ep a slightly cockeyed feel, as if we're watching the thing at a Dutch-tilted moral angle.

The "seduction of the innocent" scene should have been great, but all I keep thinking is, haven't the kids learned by now that Cassius, Tom, and Tab are bad news? If not through direct personal experience, then through the advice of their parents? Had Dash and the others fallen under the spell of meat by accident, then we would have had a far more satisfying scenario in which Kimba must convince the youngsters -- who represent, after all, the future of Kimba's vision -- to sacrifice their desires for the greater good. Instead, to be frank, Cassius comes off as the equivalent of a "pusher" here. Not a particularly pleasant message to send, even with the slapstick humor, the amusingly self-referential version of Tom and Tab's song, and Cassius' treatment of Tom and Tab as what Greg Weagle might call "international objects."

After the kids meet meat, we learn that a carnivorous diet... makes one a careless, arrogant jerk! Who knew? Uncle Beetle's protest suddenly seems dignified by comparison. As the kids prance along, we learn as a side note that Dot and Dash are siblings. Also mark that kick of the turtle; it'll actually mean something later.

The use of Roger Ranger in this episode strikes me as essentially pointless. The herbivores are gathered in a nervous huddle, the campsite comes into view, and Roger appears OUT OF NOWHERE to check things out... and discover that his old scientist friend Calvin Hottidge (Gilbert Mack) is inside the tent. The problem isn't that Calvin and Roger happen to be old buds; the problem is that Roger really isn't needed in order to allow the animals to interact believably with Calvin. Calvin could have been attacked by the hungry carnivores and Kimba could have saved him -- which in fact happens later on -- and then the story of Hottidge's search for the final ingredient of his "meat substitute" could have been told. Of course, Calvin would still have had to experience the shock of Kimba and the other animals speaking to him, but that certainly didn't bother other humans in earlier eps. So why use Roger at all?...

...."Ooooooohkay, fine..."

It strikes me that beta-testing a new invention without an important ingredient is not a particularly credible example of the scientific method in action. Why didn't Calvin put his foot down and simply refuse to allow people to eat his creation until he could locate some Tickle-Chicle blossoms? Then again, Calvin is a bit of a wimp, as we learn when the carnivores attack his camp, take him to the proverbial "remote location" (simply eating him on the spot, as opposed to making the meal "to-go," would actually have made more sense), and have a ball scaring him silly. The cute scene in which a hesitant Dash gets to "make the first move" on Calvin is quickly "nega-trumped" by the absurd business involving Kimba offering himself as food to the carnivores. When Claw subsequently yields to Uncle Beetle's demand that the meat-eaters give Calvin one week to produce pseudo-meat, the ep really tips over "the edge of no return." Again, it makes no sense at all for Claw to act, and to be treated, as just another member of the jungle community, or to allow another community member to make his decisions for him. Whoever thought up the original Japanese script for this episode really needed to be called into conference before the thing made it onto film.

Granted that the major damage has already been done, the rest of the episode is pretty decent. The incidental "collateral damage" that Dash did to the turtle (Ray Owens, sounding a bit like the future Superbook's fastidious Professor Peeper) is resurrected in a clever and thoughtful way, and Kimba's subsequent efforts to get the slow-moving fellow to cooperate with the desperate search are amusing. Kimba's Chicle-blossom-bearing dash back to the jungle is evidently meant to be an "action scene" of sorts, but it is so truncated that it really doesn't make much sense. Why would Hottidge's minions think that Kimba was trying to injure their boss simply because he was running towards the jungle? Perhaps fittingly, the jeep wrecks here take the prize for the most senseless scenes of "mechanical destruction" in Kimba. The average car wreck in Speed Racer was far more meaningful (not to mention deadlier).

We bow out with Hottidge and Kimba both showing magnanimity -- Hottidge by refusing the "government" medal (are we to infer here that the United Nations literally runs the world?! *shudder*), Kimba by freeing the remaining insects (though he might have said something a tad less utilitarian than "We won't be needing you any more"). I wish I could be a bit more magnanimous about the episode at large, especially given its thematic importance. Well, at least it's watchable, provided that you can accept the illogic. Call it a "good episode substitute" and let it go at that.

Up next: It's time for a SUPERBOOK SIESTA as we take a look at the Titan Crew's "comeback" series of the early 1980s.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Busted! (plus, Comics Review: DARKWING DUCK #14 (July 2011, kaboom!))

It's official... the tattered remnants of the Boom!/kaboom! line of Disney comics are going kabye! as of October. "Dangerous Currency," the Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover that will commence in DUCKTALES #5 and continue in DARKWING DUCK #17, DUCKTALES #6, and DARKWING DUCK #18, will be the last of the wine. I've no doubt that the "ongoing" collections, such as DONALD DUCK TREASURY (Volume 2 of which was released just this week), will be collateral casualties. That will leave us with the Fantagraphics Barks and Gottfredson comic-strip collections, at least until Marvel and Disney can come to some sort of agreement on what, if anything, to do next.

For those counting (and those reading my blog probably are), this makes six Disney comics publishers -- "Gladstone I," Disney Comics, "Gladstone II," Marvel-Disney "maybe-I?", Gemstone, and Boom! -- that have folded during my fannish (post-1985) lifetime. How many more lives does this particular entity known as "American Disney comics" have? Even a cat would be getting nervous right about now. And speaking of cats...

... we get an old-fashioned punch-first-and-ask-questions-later antagonist in "Cat-Tastrophe," part two of the ongoing DARKWING... well, it would be inaccurate to term it an arc. It's more of a confluence of contingent events. Darkwing spends no time at all searching for his lost love Morgana, which one would think would be his #1 priority at the moment. Instead, he launches his campaign for Mayor of St. Canard and then is just as quickly pitched headlong into would-be deadly battle with Cat-Tankerous, a you-know-what in a humongous battle suit. If you can imagine The Brain arming his "mechanical human suit" with all manner of weaponry and using it for a more "conventional" evil purpose, then you've got the gist of what Cat-T looks and acts like. Plenty of rubble-rousing takes place before we learn about Cat-T's backstory, which is illogical even for a Darkwing villain. If Mortimer L. Marquand (is he related to a Hall of Fame pitcher?) really is a lovesick member of Gosalyn's class, then he must be, what, 10 to 12 years old? Well, he sure doesn't sound like it. If anything, he comes across like "Dougie" Benson, the smart-ass Khan employee who was the rather ineffectual villain in the TaleSpin episode "Louie's Last Stand." Ian Brill muddies the waters by having Mortimer worry aloud about what his parents will say and then having the St. Canard police take the pint-sized feline away in handcuffs in a squad car. Adult perp, or juvenile? Which is it, Ian?

There does seem to be a "throughline" of sorts developing here in that Cat-Tankerous, like #13's One-Shot, is a mildly disturbed individual who becomes a major headache once he gets a mysterious package from persons unknown. We get a brief hint as to who/what might be behind it all when we see brief glimpses of an apparently female villain who looks like the old-school version of the RICHIE RICH villain Dr. N-R-G, only with a flashier fashion sense (read: purple jumpsuit and red cape). The character refers to DW as "Dark," which certainly suggests that this might be Morgana, but since when did Morgue's head mutate into the business end of a Q-Tip, and what's with the cackling mad-on? Presumably, Brill will take time from the yukkity-yuk high-jinxery implied by Launchpad emerging as DW's main challenger for Mayor at the end of #14 and enlighten us. Otherwise, we're pretty much just marking time here until the concluding crossover begins.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA, Episode 25: "Too Many Elephants"

"Too Many Elephants" contains one of the very few Kimba scenes that I was able to distinctly remember well into adulthood. The scene isn't nearly as significant or arresting as that wonderful, dramatic shot of the despairing Kimba on the tree limb in "Jungle Thief," but one can't have everything. As fate would have it, "Elephants" was the ABSOLUTE LAST Kimba episode to come my way when I was (re)accumulating the eps in the 90s, so there was a period of time there when I was halfway convinced that my recollection of the scene was faulty. To the contrary, my memory proved to be quite accurate.

Like "Battle at Dead River," "Elephants" is one of those Kimba eps with "convenient character amnesia" as a prerequisite. In this case, two bits of previously established information are flatly contradicted here:

(1) Roger's blustery uncle Mr. Pompus (Gilbert Mack) comes to the jungle to try to convince Roger to come home, but Mr. P. doesn't seem to remember that Kimba was once Roger's pet and that they even shared an adventure or two (e.g. the "incident on London Bridge" in the flashback section of "The Magic Serpent"). I'd never accuse Mr. P. of being overly bright, but this leonine lacuna is decidedly puzzling.

(2) The sweet 'n lovable Captain Tonga returns (in the guise of a government official, as in "The Hunting Ground") and spies Kimba one or two times, but she doesn't recognize him. This contradiction, we may be able to resolve. Given Tonga's well-established obsession with "the white lion that I've got to catch" in her two previous appearances, it's tempting to back-date this episode to a time before "Catch 'Em if You Can." As we'll see, the result of Tonga's "maybe-sort-of-first-encounter" with Kimba certainly provides a plausible starting point for an obsession.

There's some great, understated humor in Ray Owens' opening narration: It's a peaceful day in Kimba's kingdom until Mr. Pompus arrives. Blink and you might miss the joke -- that is, provided that ears can blink.

The opening scenes clearly establish why Mr. Pompus wants to convince Roger to leave the jungle but says absolutely nothing about how Mr. P. found out where Roger was. GPS devices were still some years away, so the only reasonable explanation would be that Roger somehow got a letter to his uncle with a description of his location. Maybe the animal postal service of "The Runaway" was used here.

I have to laugh a bit at the depiction of the "game preserve" that Kimba visits to investigate the report of impending animal killings. Nicky and I visited a wild animal park on a trip to California, and, believe me, there's no way we could get up that close to the animals and take pictures! Kimba's comment that the park is "as peaceful as usual" suggests that he's been there before, which certainly seems plausible. Like Tonga's hunting ground (the HQ of which, oddly enough, has the same "government issue" look as the HQ of the preserve), the park is clearly located very close to Kimba's jungle, and the security certainly is lax enough to permit outside visitors, as Kimba demonstrates to us when he saunters on in.

Packer Dermus (Ray Owens) is unquestionably the nastiest critter we've yet met who doesn't have direct designs on Kimba's kingdom. Of course, he's having so much fun throwing his weight around on the preserve that expanding his rule probably hasn't crossed his mind. Kimba makes the mistake of purposely trying to rile Packer up (can't really say that I blame him, but some animal backup would have been helpful before Kimba attempted this) and quickly falls in with a big, bad crowd, at least until little Peewee offers him an egress. I don't know who did Peewee's voice, and it's probably a good thing. Even Dot, Dash, and Dinky sound less cutesy than Peewee.

Mr. Triggerman (Hal Studer), the gent with the mustache and dark specs, is indeed Tonga's "Daddy" -- her foster Daddy. We'll learn more about this in "Such Sweet Sorrow." Tonga sounds a bit younger here than she did in either of her previous appearances, another indication that this may "really" have happened before the "hunting ground" episodes.

If that's a "hunting party," then maybe the missiles (?!) are the candles on someone's cake?!? Talk about overkill... and, speaking of overkill, a much more humane way of solving the "rogue elephants" problem practically shrieks to have been used here. Simply identify the most destructive elephants (Packer, I'm looking at you), tranquilize them, and ship them out to an isolated location, or even put them back in the wild. If worse comes to worst, then the absolute baddest of the bad could be "destroyed," but "getting rid of" all of the elephants is a classic case of cutting off one's trunk to spite one's face. Packer's herd (which we won't see in full until a bit later in the ep) is huge, and only a small number of Packer's immediate peeps are actually seen hoarding food and committing other atrocities upon the landscape. Many of the other elephants in Packer's herd are probably like Peewee and his mother and should not be made to pay the ultimate penalty just for tidy-mindedness' sake. Evidently, the people running the game preserve and the hunting ground think of elephants as some sort of "easily renewable resource," just as the paper companies used to think of forests. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that, if they "destroy" all the elephants, then a fair number of picture-takers are going to be mighty disappointed.

Ever hear that famous definition of insanity, Kimba? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? All that persistence resulted in nothing more than "repeated ovulation" (being turned into an egg for flight-pattern purposes) and a subsequent brief burst of frustration-fueled elephantophobia directed at poor Peewee. Thankfully, Kimba quickly recovers his aplomb and hides Peewee away in the loft house. This "hiding scene" is the one that I managed to remember for all those years. Perhaps it was because I had a bunk bed?

Something funny in the scene in which Mr. Pompus tries to leave the jungle... we're led to believe that the leopard and the cheetah are keeping Mr. P. from leaving! Well, Kimba did give them orders of sorts before leaving for the preserve, so this may be the animal equivalent of "I was just following orders."

You have to feel for Kimba when he realizes that Packer's herd has been wiped out. To a young prince imbued with a strong sense of duty and the need for animals to cooperate in order to improve their civilization, the "failure to communicate" with the recalcitrant Packer must have seemed like the worst sort of defeat. Perhaps his sorrow would have been assuaged a bit by the realization that, with the worst of the elephants gone, the other animals in the preserve are now going to have a much happier time of it... but any such budding thoughts are driven out of Kimba's mind by the presence of Peewee and his mother and by Tonga's sudden spasm of blood-lust (the girl is thorough, I'll give her that). Kimba's flight results in the destruction of the copter, but I think that he's giving himself too much credit by claiming to have "licked" it. Isn't this the same lion who leaped over a flying copter in "Diamonds in the Gruff"? That seems a lot more physically impressive. Considering that no one appeared to be steering the copter while Tonga was trying to blast Kimba to bits, I would have been surprised if the copter hadn't crashed. If this really did take place before "Catch 'Em if You Can," then I can readily understand why Tonga became obsessed with capturing Kimba; the sense of shame and humiliation must have been acute.

Kimba is pleased to see that the "TALE SPIN Parachute Postulate"
holds true in his series, as well.

We end with a classic "group goodbye" as Mr. Pompus' mercurial nature secures a few more episodes' worth of jungle work for Roger. (I wonder where they got the tools to fix Mr. P.'s fall-apart car.) A good episode, despite the continuity lapses, and we will be seeing Peewee again on a couple of occasions. I imagine that the memories of life under Packer's rule were so bad that Peewee and his mom were only too happy to move to Kimba's kingdom.

Up next: Episode 26, "A Revolting Development."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Movie Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 (Warner Bros., 2011)

The last installment of the Harry Potter film franchise has been packing 'em in all around the globe, but, when Nicky and I went to see it this past Sunday night, the theater wasn't close to being full. Make of that what you will. It can't be because people were mourning the U.S. women's loss in the World Cup final... I don't think.

Unsurprisingly, this climactic movie uses the Battle of Hogwarts as its central set-piece, and the set-to is pulled off splendidly, though I take issue with the one critic who described the battle scenes as "elegant." Mashed masonry and panicky dashing to-and-fro are not exactly the stuff of martial ballet. Likewise, the scene in which Professor McGonagall animates the school's statuary and sends it into combat is impressive, but hardly "elegant." I will give the creators full credit for refusing to pull punches. (Presumably) dead bodies of students are seen everywhere, and all of the major characters who were killed in the book get their share of solemn screen-time.

For all of the death and despair, the movie is far less moody than the angst-laden Part One. This is probably because the characters must pull together in order to turn back Lord Voldemort's challenge, with each having his or her own important role to play. The renewed theme of cooperation is why I didn't have much of a problem with the slight alteration that was made to the ultimate fate of Voldemort. Sure, it would have been nice had Harry pulled everything off by himself, but when has Harry NOT had plenty of backup during J.K. Rowling's cycle of stories?

Thankfully, Voldemort came across as less of a malevolent CEO here and as more of the Sauron figure that Rowling presumably intended. The giggling and cackling following Harry's apparent demise (accompanied by similar laughter from the Death Eaters) were a little overdone, but Voldemort's vicious dealings with Professor Snape served to balance that moment of goofiness out. I wonder whether Voldemort's signature "NYAAAAGGGHHHH!" is fated to become the 21st-century equivalent of The Big No?

All things considered, I don't believe that any of the Potter movies improved or "disimproved" to any considerable extent on their written source material. The weaker books made for weaker movies, the stronger books for stronger movies. Deathly Hallows, of course, is rather different because a conscious decision was made to divide the narrative into two parts. The back-loaded nature of DEATHLY HALLOWS the book meant that we had to pay a price in terms of a slow-paced, rather unsatisfying Part One, but Part Two was strong enough to make the overall "seventh-book movie experience" a good one. I'm sure that, at some point in the future, the two parts of Deathly Hallows will be "glued together" in some manner for home-video consumption.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 24, "Gypsy's Purple Potion"

I regard "Gypsy's Purple Potion" as being something of a turning point in terms of Kimba's relationship to his subjects. Previously, the jungle animals' physical and moral support for Kimba has been... mixed, to put it charitably. He's been forced to do most of the fighting and bleeding by himself and occasionally has had run-ins with such recalcitrants as Boss Rhino and Kelly Funt. Here, though, we see the animals creating a tangible tribute to Caesar (and, by extension, Kimba), defending it with ardor, and, most important of all, refusing to give up when it seems that their leader has been lost. There'll be occasional backsliding in the future, to be sure, but now the animals have a real emotional investment in the future of their kingdom that was not previously present.

Claw also returns here for the first time since "Mystery of the Deserted Village," and with his (or, rather, Cassius') most devious scheme to date. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if not for... no, not the meddling kids, but his own dirt-dumb stupidity. Cassius, Tom, and Tab also get shares of the blame -- Cassius because he fails to provide adequate oversight of the elderly, potion-brewing owl Gypsy (Billie Lou Watt in one of her best one-off voice performances), Tom and Tab because they provide said oversight. But I have to fault Claw the most; with a paralyzed Kimba completely in his power, Claw treats his foe like a particularly incompetent James Bond villain.

The "tower of honor" is, as I noted in my review of "Dangerous Journey," a version of the "animal citadel" of JUNGLE EMPEROR. Both structures have a definite ziggurat-like look to them, although the "citadel" clearly looks more like a structure that one could inhabit or defend. The "tower of honor," by contrast, is basically an elaborate platform.

We already knew that Cassius was a sinister sort, but boy, does he cover himself with glory (not!) while negotiating with/intimidating poor Gypsy. I can readily believe that his "life of crime" predates any association with Claw. The "make-up licking" at the end, strangely enough, makes his prior behavior seem even worse.

Dot (Sonia Owens), Dash (Ray Owens), and Dinky (Gilbert Mack) make their first "official" appearance here as a team, though they've popped up in background shots now and again. They'll become Kimba's companions in several future episodes in which the jungle prince's "child stature" is emphasized. These eps, while entertaining, have always had something of an Elseworlds feel to them to me, since Kimba often acts in a somewhat less than mature manner in them, the better to match up with DD&D's frequently forced cuteness. Here, though, the kids make a good initial impression, as their desire to help honor a departed leader whom they're no doubt too young to remember is genuinely charming.

The "purplification sequence" caused by the titular tincture unquestionably makes for some great, frightening visuals -- that is, until you start thinking about it, and it begins to make less and less logical sense. If Gypsy can make poisons, then why give Kimba a potion that "only" puts him into a coma?! This would make sense only if, for example, Claw wanted to hold Kimba for ransom. Claw and Cassius aren't around when Kimba is victimized, so it's possible that Gypsy has already begun to regret making her deal with the "black devil" and is leaving herself an "out" in case she decides to revive Kimba down the line. Tom and Tab, of course, remain clueless as to the possible deception.

After the somber scene in which the villains display Kimba to his horrified subjects, Claw shows where his real interests lie. You'd think that he'd immediately declare that Kimba is dead and that he is now ruler. Instead, he piles right into the tower, intent on destroying the symbol of what he believes is the animals' quasi-religious veneration of Caesar and, by extension, Kimba. (After all, Claw did say earlier in the episode that he wanted the animals to "worship" him.) But the animals' subsequent stack-blowing (initiated by, no surprise, Pauley Cracker -- another indication of the parrot's strong sense of justice) and assault on the villains has nothing to do with protecting a religious icon. The gang, thinking that Kimba is dead (cf. Dan'l's sad head-shake), is attempting to avenge a friend who just happens to be their leader. Here is where Kimba's many acts of kindness, generosity, and friendship "matter" in a way that his fighting and leadership skills never could.

Claw's beating back of the attack leads to an obvious question: If he can do this to an entire jungle full of animals, then why can't he defeat Kimba? Clearly, the animals had to have come to the end of their rope in order for the subsequent scenes to work, but this inconsistency is frankly irritating. Dan'l quickly washes our skeptical minds clean with his most powerful and memorable scenes of the series, first sorrowfully bringing Kimba to what he thinks will be the young lion's "eternal resting place"...

... and then challenging the others to keep Caesar and Kimba's dream alive, with the symbolic first step being the reconstruction of a "tower of honor" that now will serve as a spiritual guidepost.

The religious message here is unmistakable. The revival of the animals' spirit is much like the Apostles' reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, especially in its implication that Kimba's subjects are now charged with carrying on Caesar and Kimba's legacy and, if possible, spreading it to other places. Gypsy's subsequent reformation then could be considered the first reception of "the message" by an "outside individual" (Gentile). The Christian interpretation breaks down there, of course, as Kimba's "resurrection" occurs somewhat later in the narrative than did Christ's.

Once he's revived, why would Kimba immediately suspect that Gypsy wasn't responsible for her actions and rush to help her? Maybe he raced after the battered Tom and Tab and beat the information out of them. Hey, he's more than entitled. Then, it's off to Dead River (or a suburb of Sulfur Valley, I'm not sure which) where Claw, incredibly, has another chance to deal permanently with a victimized Kimba and whizzes it right down his leg. Throwing Kimba in prison!? Claw should have let Cassius handle this operation; the panther has already more than established his malevolent bona fides, after all. Cassius even appears to have a human trap supplier, fer gosh sakes.

With his plan to first engage the villains and then "steam-clean" them, Kimba establishes once and for all that he's MUCH smarter than Claw, that brief dash into the boiling lake aside. The fighting here is plenty vicious but isn't a patch on the battles in the later two-parter "Jungle Fun" and "The Pretenders," in which Kimba has to recover from far worse than an injured leg in order to take down Claw. The weather, however, is almost as bad.

Kimba polishing his skills at deep-tissue massage?

After justifiably getting a twinge in his leg for that bad "cleaning" pun -- a gag that even Ammonia Pine might not have stooped to -- Kimba gets his tribute as both a flesh-and-blood hero and an icon. In typical fashion, he's comfortable with neither role, and it takes Gypsy (who, we are led to presume, is now a citizen of Kimba's kingdom, at least in spirit) to convince him to relax and enjoy the tribute. This is actually somewhat fitting, as Kimba spent a good deal of the episode in a powerless position. Kimba's subjects deserve the real palm here for finally making a tangible demonstration of just how completely Kimba's dream has become theirs, as well. For all the illogic about "the poison that wasn't," this is another classic -- and, not coincidentally, decidedly "Heart"-infused -- Kimba episode.

Up next: Episode 25, "Too Many Elephants".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 23, "The Gigantic Grasshopper"... and a new KIMBA KONNECTION riding KABOOSE!

A number of our jungle friends seem just a little bit "off form" in "The Gigantic Grasshopper," but that's not to take away from an eerily effective episode in which Kimba must deal with the dark side of "great responsibility": the necessity of taking a life, even a mindlessly destructive one. A creepy ambience is sustained from the opening gong as Kimba's kingdom is threatened by an atypically "science-fictional" menace. Those used to "group-laugh" conclusions of cartoons -- or even the "group-farewell" closings that are more typical of Kimba -- are in for a BIG shock here; the ending has far more in common with an episode of, say, Gargoyles than anything else available in 1966-era animated TV.

This is the first episode in which Kimba can be said to have (momentarily) buckled under the pressures of leadership. In the past, he's despaired on occasion, but never before has he snapped. The bizarre nature of the uber-powerful foe has a lot to do with it, but Kimba's mid-ep tirade against some of his own subjects can be at least partially explained by his legitimate need for assistance that is not forthcoming. The irony is that, when we review "Gypsy's Purple Potion" next time, we'll see the jungle animals eagerly rush to the aid of an incapacitated Kimba, even at considerable risk to themselves, and demonstrate their loyalty to the jungle prince in impressively tangible ways. Perhaps the animals who let Kimba down here had a good "heart-to-heart" after the fact and resolved to do better by their leader next time. Or perhaps the episode order is somehow messed up. I'm thinking the latter.

Kimba's behavior isn't the only feature of this ep that is not at its best. Dan'l Baboon becomes obsessed with omens and portents and is dissed by the other animals with surprising alacrity. Roger Ranger and Kimba let loose with some dialogue that can only be described as mind-numbingly boneheaded. The animals avoid contemplating what to do about the giant mutant grasshopper that's been bred in the insect cave (cf. "The Insect Invasion") in favor of engaging in an irrelevant tangential discussion. All that being said, this is still a very good episode. Really.

For a "new moon," that looks suspiciously like a crescent to me. The funny thing is, we'll see a FULL moon in the final scene, and there's no possible way that the events of this episode lasted a whole month.

I think that the Titan crew made the right call in electing not to try to "Anglicize" the owls' nighttime serenade. What the owls (with whiskers?) are saying isn't really important; the mood that they establish is. It certainly helps that owls hoot the same way in both English and Japanese.

Hasn't Dan'l established enough "cred" with the others to be taken just a little more seriously about feeling an earthquake? Especially since, as Dan'l notes, "things have been mighty peculiar" ever since the willywisp... uh, thingy... blew into town, chopped down the trees, and supposedly vaporized. Since other animals observed the same phenomenon, Dan'l's mistake here was in not trying to establish the connection right away, as opposed to waiting to mull things over back at his tree. Then again, Dan'l seems adamant in attributing the giant plants and so forth to satanic intervention, so perhaps he should have kept his mouth shut. Kimba later belatedly "piles on" by (momentarily) accusing Dan'l of possibly "fooling" him about the earthquake that Kimba himself felt. This seems more than a little ungrateful to me.

Once again, "radioactivity" seems to be a convenient explanation for everything EXCEPT that which radioactivity actually causes! I think Roger Ranger is punching a little above his level of expertise here. (How is he going to be able to say that "it's safe"? Does he think that he can build a Geiger counter out of coconuts?) At least we can give Kimba, Pauley, and Dan'l a pass on not understanding the phenomenon of radioactivity. In "The Day the Sun Went Out," we'll learn that Kimba is unfamiliar with eclipses, as well.

I love the little eraser that "teacher" Kimba is wearing on his paw in the flashback! Where can I get one of those?

We get a nice potted summary of "The Insect Invasion" for those who missed it. The "insects" are now officially tagged as grasshoppers, when they were pretty clearly locusts before. We can therefore explain away the "gigantic grasshopper" as some sort of mutated locust with grasshopper-like features. Hey, if Roger Ranger can get away with the "radioactivity" dodge... And now we get our two dialogue lowlights in quick succession.

"Huh?" Dialogue Moment #1:

ROGER to KIMBA: Now then, you said you had too many grasshoppers. What's the problem now [sic]?

What KIMBA actually said: The leopard and the cheetah are eating them...

What KIMBA should have said: WE HAVE TOO MANY GRASSHOPPERS!! Whaddya think?!

Kimba's recognition that some of the meat-eating animals are stuffing themselves with insects should also be kept in mind here. At the moment, Kimba is merely disappointed in the logy lions, leopards, and lynx, but just wait.

"Huh?" Dialogue Moment #2:

MONKEY to KIMBA: There was a strange noise in the grasshoppers' cave, I was just going in to find out what it was.... AHHHHHH!!!
KIMBA: Musta been something!
Um, yeah.

And said "something" proceeds to scare the bejeebers out of Kimba, who is only saved by the timely intervention of the moles -- much as Orchid's pals helped Kimba get out of the lava pit in "Battle at Dead River." Kimba performed so admirably during "Dangerous Journey" that it's hard to credit a giant bug for scaring the jungle prince out of his gourd, but the violence of the beast's assault makes it all too easy to believe.

In spite of Kimba's promise to the others that "you'll all be safe," only the knowledge that Kimba's still scared spotless (if he had any spots, that is) can get the viewer through the next scene without a major loss of faith. Kimba already knows that the meat-eaters are in no condition to fight, but he pitches a fit anyway, because he's equally aware that all the responsibility for stopping the giant grasshopper now rests on him -- and he's not sure that he can handle it. FDR once famously said, "It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead and find no one there." I doubt, however, that FDR would have reacted in quite this way:

Jungle Prince's Log: "LIFE SUCKS!"

Kimba subsequently continues to dance around the issue at hand by choosing this moment to discuss dietary habits and food storage -- and all the other animals willingly join in. (Trust me, the video is silent, but that's what they're discussing.) Nero is tuning up his fiddle even as we speak...

Luckily, Kimba regains his cool just in time to get the idea of luring the grasshopper above ground, and it's off to the races as Kimba rides the bellowing (huh?) 'hopper up the volcano-side (in Sulfur Valley, perhaps? It's quite possible) in a really neat animated sequence. Given his frazzled state of mind, Kimba deserves all sorts of praise here for daring to physically prod the beast out of its cave.

Kimba uses the familiar euphemism "destroy" to describe what he ultimately had to do to the grasshopper. At least that's better than "get rid of." The Japanese version of this scene was about 15 seconds longer, but the brief shots retained by the Titan crew certainly get the somber point across. Roger Ranger's comforting of the sorrowing Kimba was no doubt meant to soften the blow even further, but Roger's comment about "hav[ing] some kind of monster inside or outside ourselves that must be overcome," rather than providing philosophical gloss, gives off a fortune-cookie sort of vibe. It would have been far better to have recognized that Kimba was forced to break his moral code, commiserate with him on that specific point, and let it go at that.

The rest of the episode amounts to a mournful "dying fall," the momentary silliness about the "grasshopper eggs" aside. This last development was meant to solve the food-storage crisis that the animals had discussed earlier, but it will be rendered entirely irrelevant three eps from now, when the animals get a presumably permanent source of substitute meat in "A Revolting Development." The shot of Kimba listlessly pawing at the Earth -- with one claw glittering in the moonlight as if to mock his pretensions about supervising a completely pacifistic empire -- is infinitely more memorable. Ray Owens' narrative circumvention of what has happened might normally be taken as another attempt to "hide" an obvious death, but, in this case, it actually shows a good deal of respect for the audience. We are left to mentally guide the distraught Kimba out of the ep in our own way -- and to consider how Kimba will recover in time to resume the awful responsibility of leadership.

Up next: Episode 24, "Gypsy's Purple Potion."




I'll close with a YouTube video that was just uploaded, featuring the voice of Gilbert Mack, as recorded at a 1977 fan gathering of some sort. An added bonus in the vid is a photograph of the Titan crew that was taken early in 1966 during the production of Kimba.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: TARPE MILLS AND MISS FURY, edited by Trina Robbins (IDW/Library of American Comics, 2011)

I have Ron Goulart's fine history of comics in the 1930s and 1940s, THE ADVENTUROUS DECADE, to thank for motivating me to this purchase. Goulart discussed MISS FURY as one of the "superhero-flavored" newspaper strips that syndicates bought in the wake of the monstrous success of comic-book heroes of the Golden Age. Included in Goulart's book was a Sunday page of a rooftop catfight between two beauteous babes. After then seeing the eye-grabbing cover to the IDW volume, which reprints MISS FURY strips from writer-artist Tarpe Mills' prime period of 1944-1949, this was something I simply had to experience at length, on the order of THE MISADVENTURES OF JANE.

In her introduction, Trina Robbins dubs brunette socialite Marla Drake, aka the skin-tight-panther-suited Miss Fury (originally Black Fury for a rather gnarled reason), "the first female superhero created and drawn by a woman cartoonist." Well, Tarpe Mills was definitely female -- indeed, she bore a striking similarity to Marla and even gave Marla's pet cat Peri-Purr the same name as her own cat -- but calling Miss F. a "superhero" is a stretch worthy of McCovey. Marla is more accurately described as a heroine who gets mixed up in adventures and only VERY occasionally puts on her panther suit -- for example, when it is important for her not to be recognized. The "key strip" of 5/31/42, reproduced in this collection, explains why Marla did not use the suit that often; she claims that "nothing but misfortune" has followed her ever since she got the costume from her explorer uncle. Miss F.'s "powers" in said suit are very similar to those of the early Batman: throwing handy objects at villains, kicking the occasional baddie with a claw-tipped foot, swinging on ropes, shimmying up and down walls. The main point, however, is that she only becomes Miss Fury when she has no choice in the matter.

The strip itself is an excessively delirious mish-mash of soap opera, international intrigue, and WWII-era science fantasy (e.g., "dynasonic wave machines" that can shatter cities, anti-aging potions, all-dissolving acids). The protagonists and antagonists appear to be operating within one-sixteenth level of separation of one another. Quasi-evil ex-Nazi adventuress Baroness Erica von Kampf and one-armed German General Bruno have the nasty habit of turning up like bad pfennigs. Marla's love interests, such as the dashing Detective Dan Carey, likewise pop in and out. Mills makes admirable efforts to keep the proceedings contemporary in interesting ways; one postwar plot involves the smuggling of art treasures pilfered by Nazi sympathizers, while the "dynasonic wave machine" story (which is never resolved, alas) and similar far-fetched scenarios suggest that MISS FURY would have taken a decided turn towards sci-fi had it lasted past the early 1950s. (We might also have seen Darron Drake, Marla's adopted son, become a kid sidekick somewhere down the line; unfortunately, Darron never got beyond toddler-hood before the strip was terminated.)

Mills' art can hardly be faulted; it is gorgeous, if a bit stiff, and stuffed to the panel borders with well-delineated backgrounds and accurately depicted clothing styles of the era. Mills' writing -- not her plots, necessarily, but her WRITING -- is rather less successful. MISS FURY ran on Sundays only, so Mills always had to make sure that the late-arriving audience knew what was happening, at least at some level. However, the amount of exposition in the strip is immense, making even the likes of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE look like GARFIELD. This was never intended to be a kid-friendly strip, but I can see a lot of adults having trouble keeping up with the downpours of dialogue. Interestingly, on those rare occasions when Miss Fury gets into action, the dialogue becomes much terser and more "comic-book-like." This leads me to believe that MISS FURY would have been more successful had Mills, who started her professional life working in comic books, remained in that medium, as opposed to "graduating" to syndicated strippery. She definitely would have benefited from the aid of an experienced writer who could have helped her to pare her exposition down to only what was absolutely necessary. Drawing a comic book version of MISS FURY would also have forced Mills to put Miss Fury into action more often, which, given the attractiveness of the character, could only have helped the character's popularity. There is something amiss when a strip with a titular heroine can literally run for months at a time with the heroine making only a few token appearances and the villains getting all of the "face time." Of course, given that MISS FURY was one of the racier strips of its era, with plenty of flesh, lingerie, and violence on display, a comic-book version would probably not have survived the effects of the mid-50s Comics Code.

Mills' work, far more so than that of the typical superhero artist, is very much a product of its time. After MISS FURY, Mills did one romance-comic story in the early 70s, and her strained effort to make characters look vaguely contemporary resulted in protagonists that resembled hippie vampires. She also started work on a graphic novel that was never finished, part of which is reproduced here, and it, too, looks badly out-of-date, though at least Mills can finally "get away" with showing nudity. It's unfortunate that Mills couldn't or wouldn't try to learn new tricks, but, if you read with a sense of history -- and a stomach sound enough to digest reams of exposition -- her magnum opus MISS FURY remains very enjoyable, albeit not quite the "barrier-breaker" that the cover blurb presents it as being.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 22, "Dangerous Journey"

About 18 years ago, when Landmark Entertainment redubbed and rescored the Kimba episodes, the company's publicity bumpf trumpeted Kimba as "A Hero for the 90s" -- by which they meant, of course, that he was an ecologically aware leader "defending his jungle home from devastation of all kinds." Au contraire -- as Ben Jonson wrote of William Shakespeare, Kimba's heroism was "not of an age, but for all time." As Exhibit A in this argument, I give you "Dangerous Journey," arguably THE seminal "Kimba as Hero" episode. Looking for physical courage, determination, compassion, quick thinking, respect for others, fulfillment of duty? They're all here, bundled into a deceptively simple plotline that plumbs unexpected depths.

The epidemic of "Stony Mountain speckled fever" that strikes Kimba's jungle here is based on a similar plague in JUNGLE EMPEROR, the coming of which represented an almost unmitigated disaster for Kimba, who by that time had become an adult and consolidated his rule. As a symbol of his power, Kimba had commanded that a tower be built to serve as a sort of protective citadel for the animals. (The tower -- built for a somewhat different purpose -- will appear in "Gypsy's Purple Potion," two episodes hence.) No sooner has this work been completed than a "spotted disease" appears and fells animals left and right. Among the victims is Kimba's mate and queen Kitty. Tezuka was no doubt trying to make an "Ozymandias"-style point here about the vanity of earthly wishes for fame and "eternal" glory.

When Kimba's daughter Rukyo also falls ill, Kimba is at his wit's end, "howling gigantic curses" in Job-like fashion from the top of his tower. Only an intercession by a visiting human scientist who's with an expedition to Mt. Moon to find the Moonstones (cf. "The Hunting Ground") stops the epidemic. Kimba doesn't cover himself with laurels during the "cure phase," actually attacking the Doc before he realizes that the cure has taken and that Rukyo will live. He does redeem himself, though, by gratefully offering to help the Mt. Moon expedition -- a decision that ultimately costs him his life.

Whereas the adult Kimba of JUNGLE EMPEROR is a panicked victim in the face of the "spotted disease," the young Kimba of "Dangerous Journey" looks the specter in the face and rises to the challenge -- first by helping mountain-goat chieftain Pop Woolly (Gilbert Mack in "benevolent old man" mode) on the latter's journey to fetch the cure, and then by defying the "Law of the Jungle" and risking his own life to try to get the cure for Pop Woolly himself. As in "Jungle Thief," Kimba makes the needs of one animal a priority. Unlike in "Jungle Thief," where Kimba's decision to give Hedda Riverhog the seeds legitimately places the whole farm project in peril, Kimba asks no one else to share the risk, but takes it on as the responsibility of a true leader. This is a very easy episode to love, and it's one of my very favorites for that reason.

Those chilling, shivery violin strains as the first few antelope fall make for an unforgettable curtain-raiser. I'm glad that Ray Owens held off on the narration for a bit here. Here is one situation in which it's far better to let the pictures and music set the tone. Speaking of tone, Harry/Harvey Hedgehog's (Billie Lou Watt) bad sickness/quill pun sets the little guy up as the closest thing this ep will have to comedy relief. The comedy actually works much better here than it will in an even grimmer scene a while later.

Kimba's appeal to Dan'l Baboon for assistance launches one of the less noticeable, but nonetheless significant, subplots on display here: Kimba's respect for the wisdom of the aged. This is less cut-and-dried than it seems, as the whole thrust of Kimba's efforts to bring aspects of human civilization to the jungle goes strongly against the grain of many lessons learned from the past and therefore is prone to criticism by "old heads" (e.g., the antipathy of such characters as Boss Rhino and Kelly Funt). What makes Kimba an effective leader is his ability to listen to and heed the voice of experience when he feels he needs to.

Much like Kelly Funt, Pop Woolly appears to be running more or less of a "semi-autonomous fiefdom" as leader of the mountain sheep. Since the sheep tend to hang around the mountains while the elephants remain on the move, Pop Woolly has even more credentials as a true "local clan leader" than does Kelly. Pop Woolly's status may help explain why he's even more insistent that he "hasn't lost the touch" than, say, Dan'l. Note that Kimba pays him considerable respect from the start, as one leader of a kingdom or clan would do to another.

So why didn't Pop mention the leopards along with the flying lizards? Did the leopards just happen to be in the general vicinity and see an opportunity to waylay Kimba in an unfamiliar place? Kimba has proven to be somewhat vulnerable in such situations (the sulfur pit in "Battle at Dead River," the pit in which Bella Donna trapped him in "The Hunting Ground"), so I suppose that such an ambush would be logical, albeit somewhat chancy when you're dealing with a Kimba in "Superlion" mode, as Kimba clearly is here. Kimba will wind up not making the entire journey to the top of Stony Mountain (at least, NOT YET!), but here you clearly see that his presence was vitally important to the success of Pop's original mission. In fact, given the number of leopards that Kimba was fighting here, this may be one of his most impressive physical achievements in the entire series. But, as the man says on TV, wait, there's more.

At 6:40: Now, that's one abrupt sunrise. The sunrises at sea that I've seen on cruises didn't materialize that quickly! But it makes for a great visual. It also won't be the only memorable "lighting trick" in the episode.

The sudden appearance of Stony Mountain, and Kimba and Pop's run-up to the peak, has always struck me as a rather Tolkien-esque moment. I'm not thinking of LORD OF THE RINGS here, but, rather, THE HOBBIT, in which Bilbo and the Dwarves go on their quest to The Lonely Mountain. I suppose that all the flying lizards, added together, would probably sum to Smaug.

On the heels of the great musical accompaniment, we now get some equally fine sound effects: the echoing voices and clickety-clacking rock noises on Stony Mountain. Interestingly enough, in an ep that focuses so tightly and dramatically on an heroic Kimba, Pop Woolly gets two full minutes to show his quality as he fetches the curative tree bark (or nodules, to be precise; it looks as if Pop is only scratching off material from the round growths on the bark). In truth, we need to see Pop's feat in order to fully appreciate the challenges that Kimba will face later, but giving it such space displays the writers' confidence in the basic strength of their narrative. As for the magic (as in magically appearing) bag: perhaps Pop has been taking lessons on the adumbrative properties of beards from Brian Wilson.

We really could have done without the "wah-wah" SFX accompanying the distribution of the medicine to Kimba's subjects. The gag in which Pauley Cracker is accidentally swallowed by the hippo would have been quite enough, thank you. But the mood turns darker quickly enough as Pop falls victim to his fatigue and the lingering pestilence... and the cured animals do their creepy "fade-back," infuriating Kimba and Pauley. Harry/Harvey going first with the "do-di-do..." business is an obvious attempt to draw some of the sting out of this emotionally troubling scene, but it falls rather flat, I'm afraid.

Give Pauley credit: He is always willing to stand up and be counted when he thinks that an injustice is being done, though he is rather more direct here than he was in "Jungle Thief," where he "merely" pitched an exaggerated fit. He also shows more "emotional intelligence" than normal by piling into Harry/Harvey, who is at least the same size as him. This is definitely better than going one on one with the likes of Samson, Claw, or the "flyger"!

Pop's willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the other animals is a clear reprise of the "Law of the Jungle," and it's particularly poignant here since the decision is entirely self-motivated. Kimba is at least partially appreciative of the logic behind Pop's mournful decision; he initially obeys Pop's angry command to leave him alone and doesn't set out at once for Stony Mountain. But Kimba also doesn't leave Pop's mountain home, providing a memorable bookend to the magisterial scene of the doomed Pop surveying the jungle.

Caesar's dramatic "mooning" of Kimba, of course, is just "one more brick in the wall" of the argument that Kimba influenced The Lion King. But in this case, I would argue that it is not the ghost or spirit of Caesar talking to Kimba, but rather, Kimba's conscience assuming the form of Caesar. For all of Caesar's gifts of leadership, it can fairly be argued that compassion was not his strong suit. Kimba clearly feels that he should try to help Pop -- otherwise, he would not have stayed near the old sheep -- but it takes a combination of his own personal compassion and the ancestral sense of duty inherent in the race of white lions to finally kick him into action and defy Pop's dying request. And who better than Caesar to remind Kimba of his duty? This scene puts the ep over the top as a true classic, with the emotional stress that Kimba undergoes here presaging the physical challenge that awaits him...

And so Kimba sets out on his equivalent of an "Astro Boy mission," with the difference, of course, being that real flesh and blood are at risk here. It's curious that the lizards ventured out into the daylight to chew up the bridge after Kimba passed when they could just as easily have tried to sabotage Pop in similar fashion; perhaps Kimba's small slip encouraged them to seize a chance, especially since Kimba is a "newbie" around these here parts. And where, oh, where did Kimba hide HIS bag? Yes, I know he's a Toon, but applying Toon logic to this very realistic episode seems a stretch. The DuckTales Nephews and TaleSpin's Kit Cloudkicker occasionally pulled things out of hidden pockets in their non-clothed hips; perhaps Kimba has one??

The "superimposition scene" (Kimba struggling up the rock face as first Caesar and then Pop Woolly appear before him) strikes me as a case of being too dramatic by half. I know that the animators were trying to emphasize the spiritual and physical link between Kimba and his father, but I think we already clearly understood the stakes here. No real need to "pile on," I don't think.

The scene in which Kimba reaches the broken bridge is simply beautiful, with another sudden lighting change being employed to brilliant dramatic effect. As the gorgeous broken-cloud background seen here...

...suddenly gives way to the abrupt arrival of a blood-red sky...

...we know all too well that Kimba's biggest physical challenge, his fight with the lizards, is just ahead. And what a battle it is, despite the recycled animation, as Kimba suddenly adds a touch of Kung Fu to his pugilistic repertoire! Even while he's whapping away, Kimba keeps his head and employs a plan of attack, though the lizards cooperate with him by suddenly all running headlong into him at once and knocking one another out. I guess that, with their leader temporarily indisposed, the other lizards became a "mindless mass" for one fatal instant.

Following the snipping of the lizard king's tail, a subsequent scene in which the king wraps himself around Kimba and the two take a dramatic plunge into a gorge -- presumably, the same gorge that the characters have been knocking rocks into from the beginning -- was cut by the Titan crew.  The fears about "excessive violence" seem to me to have been a little exaggerated here. I mean, we've just watched Kimba get hacked up by miniature flying monsters, and, after all, there is water in that gorge; we aren't talking Wile E. Coyote smashing into the desert here. Perhaps the spooky sound effect accompanying the drop -- an SFX that almost sounded as if it had been lifted from a Speed Racer episode -- was "one fright too many" insofar as Titan and NBC were concerned.

Thanks to his heroic efforts -- and, presumably, a waterproof bag in which to carry that medicine -- Kimba wins through and has enough left in the tank to greet Pop Woolly with a hearty "Hi!" He even takes the time to provide medication instructions. His subsequent deferral of credit may cause a few incurable cynics' eyes to roll, but, after all, in his mind, he was merely performing a necessary duty. Would that all leaders imitated his example.

As it happens, "Dangerous Journey" kicks off a skein of about a dozen consecutive good-to-excellent Kimba eps, so its good vibes are positively contagious. In honor of the recently deceased Peter Falk, though, I do have just one more question: Where was Roger Ranger while this episode was taking place? Two possibilities: (1) The ep actually took place after Roger left the jungle for good (in "Such Sweet Sorrow"); (2) Roger was on one of his moss-gathering expeditions, or something similar, and was therefore out of touch. In any case, Roger's assistance would surely have been helpful... but it's no doubt better that Kimba got to carry the mail here. You'd have to be positively "luney" to think otherwise.

Up next: Episode 23, "The Gigantic Grasshopper".