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Friday, June 21, 2013

'The Jungle Book: Adventures of Mowgli:' Tales of the Real Wolf Pack


This week's 6-disc 52-episode DVD release of  the 1989 Japanese anime series "The Jungle Book: Adventures of Mowgli" is a recent example of what makes Shout Factory so awesome. This little-known series is well animated and is the textbook definition of good spirited fun.

Most folks are familiar with the Disney version of the story of young Mowgli who is raised by wolves and becomes part of a jungle community of mostly friendly animals after wandering away from his parents as a baby. Fewer of us know that the India-born 19th century British author created the Jungle Book characters while living in Vermont.

The only word that can describe "Jungle Book" is delightful. Mowgli is very high-spirited and animated (pun intended). Further, his wolf family and the other members of the literal village that raises him are kinder and gentler versions of their animal natures.

Black panther Bagheera, who sounds a great deal like veteran comic actor John Astin, presents a stoic face while serving as a great uncle figure to Mowgli; fan favorite Baloo the bear is as dopey and lovable as always.

The simple fact is that one never forgets that Mowgli is a "man cub" but still feels that he is as much of a wolf as the four-footed members of his immediate family and the wolf pack to which he belongs. This extends to his rivalry and actual competition with young female wolf Lala, whose early episodes persona sadly really displays the behavior that modern society attributes to female canines.

The quality of the show creates feelings of glee as Mowgli romps through the jungle and experiences triumphs, sadness when he suffers a horrible loss early in the season, dread when evil tiger Shere KHAN!!!! threatens him or another character, and anger when Lala is overtly nasty to Mowgli just one episode after he rescues her from KHAN!!!!

No one would confuse "Jungle Book" with the better Disney flicks or other classic cinema drama, but any cartoon that makes you care about the non-human characters to the extent that you mourn the deaths of the series' heroes is worth watching. Earlier Japanese anime classic and childhood favorite "Kimba the White Lion" comes close.

It is nice as well that "Jungle Book" has continuing story arcs and a very satisfying multi-episode finale. Mowgli ends up in a good place in every sense without experiencing some form of contrived11th hour miracle. It is nice to think that he simply continued enjoying life and experienced peace and harmony in every aspect of jungle life.

Anyone  with questions or comments regarding "Jungle Book" is welcome to email me. Please also feel free to follow me on Twitter at @tvdvdguy.