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Manga / Kimba the White Lion

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Kimba the White Lion is a 1965 television series based on Osamu Tezuka's manga "Jungle Taitei" (1950-1954), directed by Tezuka himself. The series follows a white lion named Kimba (Leo in the Japanese version) who, due to the death of his father, is forced to become the King of the Jungle. With the help of a cranky old baboon who occasionally attempts to offer advice and a comically mismatched pair of buddies, he must attempt to hold peace in the jungle in order to achieve his and his father's ideal of all animals living in harmony without needing to eat each other to survive. His solution to this is to force all the carnivores to become vegetarian... somehow.

In some versions of the story, this really doesn't end well. However, due to the fact that this particular series was a collaboration between Tezuka's Mushi Productions studio and NBC, it remains on the more upbeat side of the scale.

Other anime and remakes of the series include (English name used unless stated):

  • Leo the Lion (1966): Sequel series unrelated to the manga focusing both on the now-adult Kimba as well as his cub, Rune.
  • Jungle Emperor (1966): Feature movie telling the same story as the 1965 series, borrowing a lot of its animation from it. Never Dubbed.
  • Jungle Emperor (1967): A Symphonic Poem by Isao Tomita based on the series.
  • The New Adventures of Kimba The White Lion (1989): A Darker and Edgier remake of the original series.
  • Jungle Emperor Leo (1997): Another feature movie adapting the second half of the manga with The adult Kimba.
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  • Jungle Emperor: The Brave Can Change the Future (2009): OVA with an brand new story and different setting from the manga. Taking place in an After the End 'Neo-Jungle'. Never dubbed.

As an additional note, the original series was the first Japanese animated television series produced in color.

Tropes used by the series based on the manga:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Revised by Osamu Tezuka himself for the 60's TV series (in-comparison to the original manga and 1997 movie adaptation): Rune safely drags Leo/Kimba and Dr. Moustache/Mr. Pompous from the snowy mountains to the jungle. Thus, Leo's family and friends stay alive and safe.
  • Abusive Parents: Kimba/Leo in the sequel series, at least where Rune is concerned. Leo pushes him hard and routinely shames his efforts — eventually abandoning him in the cliffs far from home and forcing him to make it back himself. It should be noted this was never the case in the manga, where Leo actually treated Rune with kindness and respect.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Dash is a cheetah cub with blue fur.
    • In the sequel series, there is Zamba, who is like the name of the episode he debuted in, is a blue lion.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: "The Gigantic Grasshopper" courtesy to radiation.
  • Balloon Belly: Kimba, Dot, Dash and Dinky each get one in episode 42.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The original manga and 1997 movie adaptation have this: In spite of the high kill count, the near collapse of the animal's utopia when the humans' interest in their area is piqued, and Leo/Kimba's decision and ultimate fate... the last major threat to said kingdom has been removed, Rune has learned that there is good and evil in animals AND in humans finally understanding his father's balanced perspective on the issue, and through the actions of both father and son, it's hinted that the animals are on the fast track to being considered sentient by humanity.
  • Broken Aesop: In the 1989 remake, an arc involves Kimba learning how to enforce the law of his jungle: "Animals should not fight each other." Of course, not everybody follows his rules and try to eat each other anyway, so Kimba is caught in a dilemma: either he fights to enforce the law of his jungle and breaks them in the process or doesn't fight at all and lets everyone kill each other as they please. The moral we learn as the arc is concluded is that you shouldn't fight, at all, even in self-defense. Meanwhile, the antagonists continue to ignore that rule and try to kill each other while Kimba refuses to stop them.
  • Bubble Gun: The Hunting Grounds has turrets that shoot out bubbles that trap its target inside a giant bubble.
  • Carnivore Confusion: When Kimba became the new king, all of the carnivores, including the titular character, weren't allowed to eat one other. They eventually decided to feast on insects.
    • In the 1993 dub and original Japanese, it's shown that Kimba struggles with allowing the carnivores to use the locusts as a food source, but it's that or the predators continuing to attempt to eat the other animals in the jungle. Even Kimba is not exempt from his natural urge, occasionally going wild with hunger (but stopping himself from actually doing the deed).
      • Later Inverted (or is it subverted?) when an artificial meat substitute is found.
  • Cats Are Mean: Played straight with Claw, inverted by Kimba.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: As typical of Tezuka, the manga is filled with both idealism and humor while still pulling no punches when it comes to showing kids how cruel and uncompromising the world can be and as well as the cost, but also necessity, of self-sacrifice. The anime series? Not so much (due to Executive Meddling), but it still managed to sneak in a serious moment from time to time.
  • Cruel Elephant: Elephants in general seem to be this in the Kimba universe.
    • The elephants in episode 25 of the 1965 anime are massive bullies to every other animal of their preservation center, they believe that the weaker animals deserve to die and keep stealing their food. Once the humans realize if they're not dealt with, the other animals will die, they decide to Kill 'Em All. Naturally, the other animals in the preservation center all hate them and don't care if they die in the slightest, so Kimba tries his best to save them. It doesn't work and a pack of over 400 elephants are shot dead, with the only survivors being a baby and his mother.
    • Pagoola and Bizo are fit this trope to a T. Pagoola is a giant bully who hates humanity, abuses and throws his weight around smaller animals, gets offended at the smallest insult and demands respect from everyone around him even when he's trying to kill them. And his son, Bizo, uses his father's influence to get away with bullying smaller animals, running away crying to his father whenever someone stands up to him. Whenever one or the other gets upset, Pagoola commands a flock of elephants to destroy everything and everyone that did it. In episode 25 of Leo the Lion, Bizo basically tries to get away with letting Leo's wife die just for the fun of it, and when Rune and his human friends stop him, Pagoola orders a flock of elephants to kill the humans.
  • Darkest Africa: Both Played straight and subverted. The main chunk of story takes place in the last bit of frontier of an Africa on the fast track to becoming a world power. Kimba himself joins in by reorganizing the jungle along the lines of human civilization. In fact, a running theme of the story is the battle between this modernization and nature itself. It's a tie.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 1980's remake series. This is probably because Osamu Tezuka – gravely ill even during preproduction – had almost no input into the remake, dying after the sixth episode was completed. In the final episode of the Japanese version, half of the main cast, including those that didn't even die in the manga, just got shot after a whole freaking 52 episodes of them appearing regularly.
  • Demoted to Extra: Rune's a crybaby and kind of a jerk. Now Rukio? Rukio's awesome! I can't wait to see more of... uh... why are you shifting to Rune's perspective? The ending doesn't even treat her fairly. We don't see her as an adult and she's given a one liner mentioning how she's married off to another pride. Her main purpose is to give us a glimmer of hope that things might end well. Depending on what version you are watching, they don't.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In episode 42, Kimba, Dot, Dash and Dinky become stuck in a hot air balloon when Dinky sees a bag of food. Dinky suggests eating its entire contents, thinking they can send the balloon down if they gain enough weight. While it does make them heavier, they don't succeed in making the balloon descend. Kimba then realizes that they didn't add weight to the basket; they just moved it around.
  • Double Aesop: Humans and animals should love one another, and foster feelings of peace and understanding... because nature is trying to kill everyone.
  • Downer Beginning: The series starts off with Kimba's mother being captured and his father being killed in the rescue attempt. Snowene lives long enough to give birth to her cub – but soon as he's old enough and been told about his father and heritage, the ship gets caught in a nasty storm, Kimba is urged to escape before it hits. He's swept away and wakes up among the debris of the ship. Kimba quickly realizes his mother did not survive the storm.
  • Dub Name Change: At least 90% of the characters.
    • This caused some confusion when the localizers of the sequel series learned NBC's trademarks had lapsed, and attempted to go back to using the Japanese names. To try and justify it, they hinted that 'Kimba' may have been Leo's nickname when he was younger. This may have worked had a few characters not pronounced it 'Kye-mba'.
      • It also would have helped if dub Leo hadn't said that "Kimba" translated to "coward" in the language of animals, and was apparently called that when the other animals didn't trust him as a king. But to someone who has seen the original series and knows that his father chose that name, that makes no sense... ah screw it, it was the best the dubbers could come up with.
    • The dub also played a bit with Theme Naming, with a certain Shakespeare play as an inspiration. This is arguably an improvement, as one of the villains went from the rather laughable "Toto" to Cassius, better reflecting the nature of his character and his past with Panja/Caesar.
    • Another improvement would be "Bubu", the most serious villain, to "Claw".
  • Fantastic Racism: Specklerex had an issue with white lions during his debut episode.
  • Gag Dub: Stuart Chapin, (the guy behind pretty much the entire dub of Leo the lion) would often reject the original Japanese scripts in favor of writing his own Pun heavy ones. This includes turning an spy inspired episode into an full-on James Bond parody, and have Leo at one point explain why the dub-team of the original series changed his name to Kimba.
  • Gold Fish Poop Gang: Tom and Tab
  • The Good King: Kimba and his father.
    • Downplayed in the case of Caesar in the Manga and original Japanese: while Caesar was a good king to his loyal subjects, he had little mercy for animals in captivity. Believing that in fact, animals that served humans were unfit to live and fair game for good eatin' – however in the dub this particular detail was generally omitted, and it was instead implied that Caesar was as progressive as his son. Though that makes some episodes somewhat awkward (like Sampson's return, who offers some former pack-mules to Kimba as an offering for a celebratory meal).
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The Owls' Lullaby was left undubbed in the English version, the narrator tries to give it away by calling it "owl language".
  • The Hero Dies: Kimba in all but the 60's TV series and the TV special. The 1989 series doesn't come out and say it but whatever happened, our hero's been shot and is currently bleeding to death....then there's a shot of the clouds.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Hamegg's near insane; Being left on her own in darkest Africa causes Merry to fall apart into a dominatrix leading a bloodthirsty tribe; and Lamp? Lamp is a bad man. There are several exceptions as seen with Kimba's human friends though, and ultimately Kimba's sacrifice in the manga and movie is hinted to have bridged a very large gap between man and animal.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Discussed a lot in the 1989 remake. At first, Leo refuses to kill anyone and lets them go once they're too hurt to fight. As the series moves forward, he becomes more aggressive and willing to kill those who threaten his jungle. Liya and the other animals all view this as though he's crossed the line.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Unless a named character is called Caesar, odds are that he or she will dodge any bullet that comes his or her way.
  • King of Beasts
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The elephants in episode 25 of Leo the Lion.
  • Lighter and Softer: The original manga was filled with some heartbreaking scenes, horrible events happening for no reason, and one of the most infamous endings to a shonen manga ever. As for the anime series? It still edges into some pretty sad territory, but things don't self-destruct this time around.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: You'd think Kimba would be the king of a savanna...
    • ...Which actually turns out to be a plot point involving the heritage of the White Lions to begin with. The unusual background also let NBC give Kimba super strength and vitality.
    • The main reason why the Neo-Jungle isn't working in the TV special. Mixing species together turns out to be a bad idea. Turns out this was intentional. The Director had planned to use the mixed jungle to weed out the weaker animals and create new species. He kind of let this get to his head.
    • Kimba and Caesar are white East African Lions, which are native to Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Claw is a Babary Lion, which was native to North Africa until becoming extinct in the wild. There is no way in real life the two subspecies could have come into contact with one another.
    • In the episode “Diamonds in a Gruff”, alligators are the main source of conflict, even though the species doesn’t thrive in Africa. They might be misnamed Nile crocodiles, which do thrive and bear the most resemblance.
      • From the same episode, a giant anteater is seen among the crowd of animals that are mourning silently for they’re offspring’s imprisonment.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first episode. It literally goes from tragedy to comedy and back every minute or so.
  • Never Say "Die": The 60's dub. "I'm just going to lie down for a minute..."
  • Nice Hat: "Tommy, you aren't supposed to eat it!"
  • Not So Different: While we have some humans that don't have any second thoughts about killing animals, we also have a few animals that are more than happy to lead humans, whether they're good or evil, to their deaths.
    • In Leo the Lion, this is what Totto tells Leo after he (supposedly) kills Mandy.
  • Nuclear Nasty: The Gigantic Grasshopper.
  • Official Couple: Kimba and Kitty.
  • Panthera Awesome: Many characters are big cats.
  • Papa Wolf: Leo doesn't care that Toto (Cassius/Slikar) used to try to kill him in the past, he even helps him recover. But once Toto tries to lay a claw on his cubs, Leo's rage is so powerful he very nearly kills Mandy (Dan'l).
  • Pretty Butterflies: Kimba followed a swarm of migrating butterflies to get to land when he was lost at the ocean during the first episode.
  • Punny Name: The dub has its fun with Paulie Cracker, Speedy the Cheetah and the like. Kimba/Leo's kids are given this treatment in the manga... thanks to Paulie/Coco remembering the names mean to 'sleep' and to 'wake up'.
    Tommy: You swindler!
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Kimba's family.
  • Shout-Out: Astro Boy appears in a display line-up of robots in one episode.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Leo does this to Rune in the 5th episode of the sequel series at the suggestion of Coco (Pauley), who also had his parents teach him how to fly this way.
  • Sky Face: Kimba sees the stars in the night sky form the image of his dead mother, who speaks encouragement to him. Since Kimba was swimming many miles through the Atlantic Ocean, this might have been delirium.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Communication: The anime is at Level 8. The manga is at Level 4.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Claw and Hamegg in almost every adaption. Kimba in the 1966/1984 series.
  • Talking Animal: Make a guess.
  • Terra Deforming: In episode 5, Kimba visits the World's Fair and sees, among other things, plans to melt the frozen polar regions so the space will be habitable.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Averted. Just like many of Tezuka's other works.
    • Well, there's this one pink baby alligator named Ali who has a yellow bow. It's a boy.
  • Unusual Animal Alliance
  • Would Hit a Girl: In Gypsy's Purple Potion:
    Gypsy: You wouldn't hit an old lady-
    Cassius: WOULD I!?
  • Vibroweapon: "AAAHHH, it's a saw shark!"
  • Villain Song: The Black Four has one. It was considered creepy enough that NBC had it excised from the dub.

Jungle Emperor (2009) TV Special Provides Examples of:

Alternative Title(s): Kimba The White Lion


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