Title: The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon aka Wanpaku Oji no Orochi Taiji aka Prince in Wonderland aka Rainbow Bridge
Company: Toei Animation
Format: Movie; 86 minutes.
Date: 24 March 1963
Synopsis: The prince Susano is descended from the gods and blessed with extraordinary strength. One day Susano’s dear mother passes away and he becomes determined to be reunited with her. Along with Akahana the rabbit, he sets out on a quest to reach heaven and find his mother. On his way he must visit his godly siblings, fight monsters and try to save a princess from a giant eight-headed dragon.
Art Style: Simple yet beautiful.
Stories: Epic but not deep.
Annoying sidekicks: Check.
Two things made me watch this movie. The first was the art style, with its geometric shapes and blocks of colour. There are no harsh black lines and no shadows or shading. While simple, the art manages to be gorgeous, with fluid animation, beautiful backgrounds and creative interpretations of the gods. The second reason was the source material – three Japanese legends recorded around 700AD. These stories certainly have the stuff of legends, with princes, gods, mythical creatures and demons who are all part of an epic journey. In this sense, the art style very much suits the subject, allowing the characters to appear as representations of an idea more than an individual character. I could imagine these stories being told to young children hundreds of years ago. Adding too much would have defeated the purpose.
The legendary origins of the story also means that it is pretty standard and predictable. Susano must defeat evil demons and is rewarded with magical items that will conveniently help him later on. His brother, the Crystal Prince, and his sister, the Sun Goddess, both try to dissuade him from his quest to no avail. Compared to his siblings, it is implied that Susano has not yet found his princely calling. Though strong, he does not know how to control himself or put his abilities to good use. He is prone to bursts of violence that seem somewhat out of place and land him in trouble more than once. As he travels through various lands, he does help others, but it’s not clear whether he really learns anything since the implied subplot of his personal growth is overshadowed by his quest to see his mother. The two side characters that follow Susano around on his trip add very little, with the rabbit Akahana being especially irritating. The story may be epic, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of depth or real character development.
I may have watched this film for the art and story, but I was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding music. The soundtrack by Ifukube Akira of Godzilla fame is powerful and does a wonderful job of capturing the tone of each scene. The film also marked a highlight in the development of Toei Animation, with the film winning several awards. It is still generally well-respected in the Japanese animation community. This film is worth seeing if you are a fan of animation as an art form as it offers a very different style to most anime, even at the time.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Kaikyaku