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Anime / Unico in the Island of Magic

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Unico in the Island of Magic is a 1983 animated feature film based on the Unico manga by Osamu Tezuka. The film is the second to be based on the character (the first being The Fantastic Adventures of Unico) and, like its predecessor, was created by Sanrio and Tezuka Productions with animation by Madhouse.

In this film, Unico meets a kind-hearted young girl named Cheri whose older brother, Toby, is working for the evil Lord Kuruku. Kuruku, a very powerful demonic entity, plans to turn all living creatures, animals and people alike, into unusual zombie-like beings called "Living Puppets" to be his slaves. It's up to Unico and Cheri to stop Kuruku and save everyone from his wicked magic.

Like The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, the film was dubbed into English, released on VHS, and shown on the Disney Channel during the eighties. Discotek Media gave the film a bilingual DVD release in 2012, marking the first time the original Japanese version was commercially available in America. Sadly, it is once again out of print in the U.S.

This is also the final time Osamu Tezuka was involved with the Unico series before passing away in February 1989. The 2000 animated short 'Saving Our Fragile Earth: Unico Special Chapter would mark the first animated project starring the protagonist without Tezuka.

Unico in the Island of Magic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Unico didn't intend to kill Kuruku, but due to a combination of not realizing how powerful his final attack was and unknowingly destroying The Power of Hate that sustained him, he ends up causing the puppet's death regardless.
  • Adaptational Name Change/Gender Flip: In the original manga, the sphinx's child was male and was named Piro, however in this movie, Piro is renamed "Mars" or "Marusu" note  and is female, though her personality and design remain the same.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The 2022 Italian dub gained a new theme song called "Unico nell’isola della magia" performed by Santo Verduci (who voiced an unnamed blue cat in the film). The song along with the new theme from the 1981 movie, was given a digital release on October 24th, 2022 as part of Contactoon's 6th album, dedicated to cartoon theme songs performed by Verduci.
  • And I Must Scream: Any of the folks changed into puppets and used to build skyscrapers.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The living beings transformed into puppets or toys can be this, but it's only in response to Toby's flute, which he uses to lead the puppets Pied Piper-style on and off the ship to Nightmare Island, or to Kuruku's commands in the case of the toys. Otherwise, they're And I Must Scream. The Trojan Horse at the end of the world is sentient and can speak. Lord Kuruku is this trope gone horribly wrong.
  • Badass Adorable: Once again, Unico. Watch out when he transforms into his giant form.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Unico can kick some ass, despite himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end, just like last time, everyone is happy and the evil is vanquished, but the West Wind returns and Unico must go. Meanwhile, the now-transformed-back-into-a-toy Kuruku gets a second chance, this time under the care of Cheri.
  • Blessed with Suck: Unico is born with the power to make all those around him happy - pretty awesome ability, right? Not if you have a panel of Gods who feel that they're the only ones should have it, and subsequently want you banished from existence for daring to infringe on them.
  • Collapsing Lair: In the climax and denouement, Nightmare Island's castle becomes this when Lord Kuruku's spells that turned everyone else into puppets break with his demise. Because the castle was primarily made of these puppets, there's next to nothing left of it when the dust settles — just an island full of people and animals.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Unico himself.
  • Cute Little Fangs: The Sphinx's daughter, Mars has a pair.
  • Darker and Edgier: Definitely when compared to the original source material. Even the box art has this.
  • Deal with the Devil: Toby made one with Kuruku: in exchange for being taught magic, he would do his bidding and make puppets for him from beings.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Happens when Lord Kuruku plays with his toys.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: By his own admission, Unico genuinely had no clue he'd impaled Lord Kuruku with his final attack, and clearly hadn't intended to.
  • The Dragon: Toby. Also contains a literal dragon who you will not forget.
  • Dub Name Change: Minor changes are Cherry to Cheri and Torby to Toby.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Kuruku literally cannot comprehend kindness and empathy because he's animated entirely by hatred and is completely befuddled when Unico has it for him. He actually literally can't, because doing would mean giving up his hatred, the only thing animating him.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While Toby is loyal to Lord Kuruku and willing to carry out his bidding, he really doesn't want to harm his own family and in particular does whatever he can to protect Cheri. He ultimately takes a bolt of magic meant for her and is transformed into a puppet.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Kuruku is polite enough when he's in a good mood, but he is a cruel being at heart and won't hesitate to make you a part of his castle. His mannerisms are very much like Frieza's.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Unico himself and Cheri both count.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Cheri and Toby too after his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: When he feels loved by those around him, Unico is able to turn into a full-grown unicorn, complete with the ability to fly.
  • Heroic BSoD: Unico has one after Cheri gets turned into a puppet.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Lord Kuruku's lair is on Nightmare Island. Amusingly, Mars's reaction to the name is "That sounds like my kind of place!"
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Unico punches a hole through Kuruku's chest with his final attack, critically wounding him.
  • Large Ham: Lord Kuruku, in an extremely disturbing sense.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: At first, Kuruku seems like a playful (if creepy) type of villain. Then he gets pissed.
  • No Ontological Inertia: In the denouement, Lord Kuruku's demise means the spells that bound living beings into puppet forms are broken at once. Justified, as Unico promised to be Kuruku's friend if he undid his spell, and the latter accepts as he dies, implying he may have willingly undid the spell
  • Power Floats: Kuruku prefers to float in an energy bubble and as such never touches the ground.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Kuruku, so very much.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Unico. The films were made with Sanrio; what else did you expect?
  • Talking The Villain To Death: Unico manages this by first sympathizing with Lord Kuruku's Dark and Troubled Past, then offering to be his friend and saying that not all people are bad.
    Unico: Kuruku! What's happening?
    Kuruku: My hatred was the only thing that kept me alive. You've taken it from me - I have nothing left. But for the first time in my life - I can hardly say it - I feel good!
  • Take That!: Toby's appearance and motivations poke fun at stereotypical Japanese juvenile delinquents.
  • The Stoic: Toby.
  • The Power of Friendship: Literally, Unico can do all sorts of things, but only for those he considers his friends. It also gives Unico the power to change into a giant, flying unicorn capable of drilling a supersonic hole through a fifty-story-high demon. Yeah. Not so harmless now, is he? It also kills Kuruku, as mentioned above.
  • The Power of Hate: It turns out that hate is the only thing keeping Kuruku animate.
  • The Power of the Sun: Figures into the backstory. Lord Kuruku was a mistreated, ultimately abandoned marionette who washed up on the shore of the end of the world, in the one spot where sunlight ever shines down. After 200-300 years of absorbing the light, he became animate...but "born" with a grudge against all humanity. The Trojan Horse explains that sunlight has many mysterious powers. Also counts as Light Is Not Good.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Kuruku's motivation: after being mistreated by humans and abandoned for hundreds of years, he's gained the power to seek his revenge and wants them to be his puppets.
  • Vengeful Abandoned Toy: The villainous Lord Kuruku was a puppet who was mistreated, abandoned, and gained life after spending two-hundred years in the sun. Resentful of his mistreatment, Kuruku seeks to transform all living things into zombielike living wooden puppets to use as his own personal building blocks.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kuruku has one during the climax. In fact, it's fatal.
  • Voice of the Legion: Kuruku has one.
  • Winged Unicorn: Unico himself is capable of becoming one.