The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kenya Boy

Title: Kenya Boy aka Shounen Keniya aka Jungle Boy
Genre: Action
Company: Toei Animation
Format: Movie; 108 minutes.
Dates: 10 March 1984

Synopsis: Nairobi, 1941. Wataru’s father decides to take him on a trip to the savanna when England declares war on Japan and they are forced to go into hiding. The two become separated and young Wataru is left to fend for himself until he comes across an ailing Maasai chief, Zega. Wataru saves the old man and in return, he agrees to help Wataru search for his father. After training their own elephant cavalry, the two rescue a young Scottish girl, Kate, before continuing on with their search for Wataru’s father.

The Highlights
History: Leave it at the door.
Animation: Has multiple-personality disorder.
Sense: You won’t find any here.
Last 20 minutes: Fasten your seatbelts.
Entertainment value: High.

It never bodes well when a movie begins with a large box with the words “A Movie” inside. Especially not when it is followed by a live-action Japanese man who glows green with pictures of Kenya flashing in the background. If you only read the first part of the synopsis, you might be fooled into thinking this was some kind of historical drama. In truth, I’m not really sure what it could be called, other than extremely random. Not many movies can successfully combine African tribes, atomic bombs and dinosaurs, and this film is not one of them.

I watched this movie in a state of perpetual shock, never quite sure exactly what would happen next. Things happen that are not explained and the characters spend most of the movie calling each other’s names out. Wataru is supposed to be strong and noble because he is a proud Japanese boy. Zega is strong and noble because he is a respected Maasai chief. Kate has no character because she is neither. While the British officers actually speak English, it is extremely convenient that Kate, Zega, the Germans and all of the Kenyan tribes speak Japanese. The Kenyans themselves are a mixed bag. Zega and his tribe, as well as some of Wataru’s father’s employees and associates, are portrayed as intelligent and friendly. The tribes that the trio run into later, however, behave like incompetent idiots who never once shut up. Ear plugs are recommended for these scenes, which drag on far too long.

The animation in this film is all over the map. Sometimes it’s normal. Sometimes it’s black and white. Sometimes it’s just a series of stills. Sometimes it looks like it has been coloured with pencil crayons. Several scenes have characters who haven’t been coloured and there is even one scene where Wataru suddenly becomes black and all the Africans white. By the end of the movie the scenes flash back and forth between a crisp picture on a pink background to a blurry picture on a blue background, and the whole world becomes pixelated. If this was some kind of attempt to be artistic, it failed miserably. The only decent sequence is at the very beginning of the movie and features groups of Kenyan wildlife on the savanna. Little problems like rhinos walking through paper walls in the middle of the grassland start to look forgivable once you’ve seen what comes next. The voice acting is generally passable, since most of the characters just yell and call to each other, but Wataru’s seiyuu is especially horrid and carries absolutely no emotion. The music for the movie is fully orchestrated and unceasingly dramatic, adding to the cheesiness of it all.

I could attempt some kind of thematic analysis. Perhaps the rhino walking through the paper wall symbolized Wataru entering a parallel world. Perhaps the giant snake represents a god looking out for the good people of the world and ensuring the future of humanity. But honestly, this movie doesn’t deserve it. When you have a plot as ridiculous as this, nothing can be taken seriously. It is, however, hugely entertaining in its awfulness. If you’re looking for a film that’s so bad it’s good, you might want to give this one a try.

The Rating: 2

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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