Legend of the Forest is cleverly focused on the same topic as its title: the forest. Produced by the famous Osamu Tezuka in the late 80s, this 30 minute movie (which has a few definite sections) is voiceless and is basically a good old "here's why humans and the environment don't mix and why we shouldn't kill animals and cut down trees" story.
Hey, I'm all for humans being wiped out and am a firm believer in the idea that our planet would be better off without us. That being said, though I understand Legend of the Forest's message, it was portrayed in such a terrible manner that I didn't really care. Yes, it sucks seeing animals get squashed and romances (of sorts) be destroyed by humans, but at the same time, the overall pacing and the extremely horrid attempts at animation overshadow any attempts the plot tries to make at making you sad. If you need a definitive plot, you won't find one. We see two instances of humans trying to mess with animals, thus killing them, and we see the revenge the humans get. Princess Mononoke, anyone? Or Pom Poko? Both were much better than this. The pacing is glacial at some points (though this might have only felt glacial because of the terrible animation) and spastic at others, and sometimes hard to follow. A good idea for a story, but a very poor execution in several ways.
For something made in 1987, I see absolutely no excuse for how poor the animation was. This looks like it came straight out of the 50s or 60s, with very odd mixes of still scenes (that look like they came out of a manga, but worse), black and white cartoonish bits that look like they came out of an American cartoon, and lastly, the only interesting aspect, the colored scenes. Unfortunately, all of these are somewhat mixed together at times and ALL of them look incredibly crude and simple for that time period. The only parts I think I felt were a passing grade were the scenes with the fairy folk and dwarves, since they seemed to have more detail than the other animals and characters. Even these, though, were far FAR too simple for the time period, and needed detail, better colors, and better animation in general. Colors were either none (black and white), light shades of blue, or the semi vibrant dark colors near the end of the movie. Uninspiring, all of them.
Legend of the Forest is set to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and thus, the music is very classical and very overpowering at the same time. Had the music been turned down a notch it would have been more effective, but it felt like the "story" was on the back burner as opposed to the extremely loud and invasive violins and cymbals. For the subject matter, this orchestral music was definitely appropriate and fitting. I just wish it had been less blaring and more in the background.
The only characters, per se, are the animals and the few humans. The woodsman does come off as mean and evil, I will say that. He cuts down these trees with faces and shoots animals, of course he'll seem bad! Really though, it was fairly sad what he did, so I guess the movie succeeded on that note. The only animal that really made me sad was the first tree squirrel who genuinely looked upset when its baby died (happens in the first 2 minutes, not really a spoiler). The other animals weren't developed enough for me to care. In addition, the flow of the movie was so terrible that often times I was confused as to what was going on now, instead of focusing on being empathetic towards the characters. The character designs were fairly damn odd as well -- birds that have breasts? Man who looks like Adolf Hitler? What were you thinking, Tezuka?
Legend of the Forest was a huge waste of thirty minutes. Had it been longer than thirty minutes I would have thrown myself out the window to escape the pain. I can't think of much that's redeeming about this, even for die hard Tezuka fans. The music was good, that's for sure, so I suppose anyone interested could simply turn this on but then turn the TV off, thus hearing the nice music but not seeing any of the crappy animation or average story to begin with!