|The Ultra Edition DVD box set reviewed here can be ordered from links you will find here.
Unfortunately for the fan, there are inferior DVDs being sold, mostly at sites like ebay. Click here to learn about the cheaply-produced DVDs of the 1993 re-dubbed version.
Click here for a note about the old Rhino Home Video DVDs of Kimba, no longer being made but still seen for sale at times.
"I don't think anyone has ever seen Kimba looking that good before!"
I'll start with the answer to the #1 question everyone has about the new Kimba The White Lion Ultra Edition DVD Box Set: Yes, it does contain the ORIGINAL, recorded in 1965-66, soundtracks with Billie Lou Watt as Kimba, Sonia Owens as Kitty, and all the other original voices you remember and want. The original music by Isao Tomita is here, too. And the episodes were all restored for this DVD release.
How was the restoration done? Tezuka Productions in Japan has the original production material for the entire Jungle Emperor series (which is what became known as Kimba The White Lion in English). These materials have been preserved and/or restored nicely and look absolutely marvelous, like they were made yesterday. But they don't have the English soundtracks. No one knows the whereabouts of most of the original English language materials for Kimba The White Lion. (The original audio tapes for 6 complete episodes and two-thirds of a 7th episode have been located but they were not used for these DVDs.) However, collectors have kept either 16mm film prints or off-the-air recordings of Kimba in English, and the soundtracks on these materials do not deteriorate over time to the same degree that the visual elements do. So, for these DVDs, the beautiful Japanese visuals were carefully matched up with the English soundtracks to re-create each Kimba episode in English.
What's the bottom line? I'll quote Fred Ladd, executive producer of Kimba The White Lion, after seeing the first episode from this set of DVDs: "I don't think anyone has ever seen Kimba looking that good before!" The pictures on this page are all un-retouched frame grabs from various episodes on these DVDs.
Since you're reading this review on this site, I'm not going to review the main content of these DVDs. This whole site is a review of the content of these DVDs! All 52 episodes are here, in the order in which they were originally broadcast in Japan. This is important, because Kimba grows up over the course of the entire series, and there are continuing story elements that span several episodes. The American broadcast sequence was deliberately scrambled, for reasons that are explained in the book included with this set. The American sequence of episodes is also listed in the book.
The included book also includes the most comprehensive history ever written on the creation of the series, written by Fred Patten and Robin Leyden, and edited and updated by Fred Ladd.
What makes this set an "Ultra Box Set" as well as a "Limited Edition" is the inclusion of an 11th DVD with many bonus features. Presumably this bonus DVD will not be available once this box set is withdrawn. (In Australia, the episodes are already available either in the 11-disc box or as 5 2-disc sets, proving that the bonus disc is only for those who buy the box.)
So, what are these bonus features? First off is something this Kimba collector has been clamoring for for years: The original Japanese version of the first Kimba episode, with English subtitles. This is a special bonus because the first episode was more heavily edited than any other for American release. Much of the story is told in flashbacks in the Japanese version, while the English dubbed version rearranged a large part to make it play more linearly. The biggest change, though, is in the story itself. In America, any talking-animal story is immediately considered to be for a young audience only, and the American dubbers were instructed to lighten up plot points whenever possible. I'll leave it for you to discover the differences for yourself, but in my opinion the Japanese story makes more sense than the American re-write.
Ah, if only we could get the entire Jungle Emperor series subtitled in English like this. But having the first episode is a special treat.
I said that the first episode was more heavily edited for English dubbing than the others. There were occasional edits in other episodes, and some of the deleted material is included on the bonus disc. This section is really done well, because for each example we are first shown the edited version and then the original version, so we get the context and we get a chance to decide whether the edit was a good choice. One scene, from the episode The Runaway, was skillfully edited by the Americans; the Japanese original goes on so long it becomes difficult to take. Another scene, a two-and-a-half minute song with some really amazing animation to go with it, was deleted entirely from the English dub. The reason it was deleted is not known—while the dubbers were not comfortable with their ability to re-create the songs in the series, they did do so, and very well, in other episodes. My guess is that the visuals were deemed too intense for a young audience. I have been a fan of this song since I first discovered it on a Japanese release, and it is great that it is finally getting introduced to a wider audience here.
Next are brief profiles for 12 of the more prominent characters in the series. These were written by your humble reviewer, so it wouldn't be right for me to comment on their quality here.
An image gallery presents a series of still pictures of various Kimba collectibles, most from the mid-to-late 60s. Kimba was never heavily merchandised outside of Japan, so the only non-Japanese items are a Kimba coloring book (which came with 4 cover variations—we get to see all 4 covers and a few examples of the inside pages), and a Kimba Magic Slate—the kind of toy where you draw with a stylus and then lift the top sheet to erase the drawing. The other items are Japanese: several records and CDs, some tin toys (including Kimba driving a car), several books and a card game, and my personal favorite: a bobble-head Kitty. Kitty took on very sleek and very 60s proportions for this rare collectible; I wish the matching bobble head Kimba could have been located and included.
Fred Ladd himself appears in another segment, talking about what it was like to produce Kimba. I must admit I was distracted by the enviable assortment of Kimba collectibles he had there around his desk!
Finishing up the bonus disk are a series of model sheets from the original production, the original English credits (the credits sequence on the episodes proper was re-created for these DVDs; the originals deserve at least a footnote because they had Osamu Tezuka's name spelled wrong on every episode!), and the opening theme sequence with no writing at all because... well, why not?
Even if you bought the 4-DVD set that came out a couple of years ago (which had only half the Kimba episodes), this box set is worth your time and money, because it is miles ahead of the old DVDs in terms of quality and bonus features. This is the best Kimba has ever been treated on any home video release. Get it, and get it now, because it is a Limited Edition, and you won't want to miss out on that bonus disk.