For historical purposes, and to warn those who may find used copies of this set, here is your webmaster's opinion of the Kimba DVDs released by Rhino Home Video. Please be aware that these comments apply to the set pictured here, NOT to the Kimba Ultra Edition DVDs, which are beautiful.
Imagine you're in this situation:
You have a chance to release the definitive edition of one of the greatest and most fondly remembered animated TV shows of all time.
(A) Go to the source in Japan to get the best available materials and release a version of the show that's better than what has ever been seen in this country?
(B) Gather 35-year-old 16mm TV syndication prints that are faded, dirty and worn, and use them to make your set of DVDs?
If you're Rhino Home Video, you'd obviously choose (B).
Yeah, I know, I kvetch too much. People were happy just to get Kimba on DVD. But was it too much to ask to have it the way it was intended to look?
Rhino's packages for Kimba touted the fact that it was the first anime produced in color. On disc 4, Fred Ladd talks about how important it was that this show be produced in color, how important it was for Dr. Tezuka to learn to use color well in his animation.
And Dr. Tezuka did learn. He also assembled a team that produced a glorious color series. The use of color in this show can aptly be described as "joyful", as if the artists felt that a new, colorful world, as vast as the African savannah, had been opened up to them.
So where was the color on these discs?
Color TV syndication films were typically printed on Eastman stock, because it was fractionally cheaper than other film stock. The big problem with that Eastman stock was that within a few years, its color went away. Most EastmanColor films of this vintage consist of red and black, and nothing else.
And Rhino used those old films to make these DVDs!
The following paragraphs contain links, each of which show examples. Every picture is an unretouched video capture from the identified sources.
Here are a couple of shots from the opening. In the original, a dry grassy plain stretches to the horizon where it is met by a dramatic orange sky. On the Rhino DVD, the whole thing looks like it's all mud.
This next shot is, I swear, really the same scene from both versions. There is almost nothing to be seen in the Rhino DVD edition where originally there was a full rich landscape.
The next example shows that not every scene is that bad, but it is a shame about the dirt and scratches on the Rhino product.
This scene shows the process used in making Rhino's DVDs. The film source is badly faded. There is no blue in the scene at all. So, to correct this, Rhino used a blue filter. This restored the blue sky, but at the cost of turning Kimba blue and turning the once tawny yellow giraffe to gray. The original scene gave us a white lion, a tawny yellow giraffe, and a blue sky.
Here's another example. This, believe it or not, is supposed to be a daytime scene. On Rhino's DVD, all you can see of the characters is their teeth. Another scene from that episode is here.
The signature scene of the series may as well as been filmed in black and white, because that's about all you get on Rhino's DVD. Another shot from that scene is here.
OK, you've heard enough about the picture quality. How's the RhinoPhonic sound? When I put the disc on for the first time, my wife --who was in the next room-- said, "What did they do to the sound?!?" The theme song (and the very same piece of video is used to introduce each and every episode--you get familiar with the flecks on the film real quick) sounds like it came from an amateur's MP3 file. It's absolutely incredible that anyone, much less someone with a reputation like Rhino's, could put out such a thing: severely muffled, yet with excessive sibilance. Fortunately, the soundtracks for each episode fare better.
The packaging for Rhino's set is a bit unusual: a clear plastic slip case (with a faded picture of Kimba) houses a cardboard foldout with four plastic trays for the discs. A miniature booklet includes a historical article by Fred Patten, and the artwork of the other animal characters has been adapted from a vintage coloring book (published by Saalfield in the 60s)... just in case you wondered why they look so, um, unique.
Kimba was always a little bit challenging for the fan. NBC Enterprises deliberately scrambled the order of the episodes, so the TV viewer had to piece together continuing story elements. Now, the Kimba fan has to know that there is the Kimba Ultra Edition Box Set that gives us the show the way it should look, and there are very inferior competitors on ebay and elsewhere.