Based upon Osamu Tezuka's short-lived manga Unico, this movie contains a very sweet narrative of friendship and magic, but does not go beyond those boundaries. The story itself starts off with a baby unicorn wandering around a town, unsure of where he is or who he is. He meets a little girl who has become sick from her village's pollution, and the unicorn, named Unico, decides to help save the village and the little girl.
There really isn't too much to the story itself. It explains what it wants to in good time, but the result is not very satisfying. Apparently, this was intended to be the pilot of a full television show, but it never made it past the first episode. So, a big story cannot be expected. That said, the backstory to the main character is explained, but very briefly. The story does have heart in it, but its simple and nothing more.
The animation, much like the story, is simple, and softspoken. The designs definitely resemble the Tezuka style, but the colors are washed out and dull. Nothing more can be said of the animation outside of it being simplistic.
You can definitely tell that it is dated, because the several insert songs that appear in this, and leave as soon as they come, are very cheesy and are played at the strangest of times, such as when Unico is trying to solve the problem, a song comes on nearly explaining what he is already doing on screen. Its definitely forgettable. The cast of voices is pretty good, but for the most part, forgettable too. Well, maybe except for Unico and the little girl.
They are as they appear; Unico is the obvious hero, a naive child, and nothing more. The little girl is innocent and sweet, and her story of being very ill is tragic, but nothing else is really given to her story. The only other character given "development" is the rat with a family of kids that he needs to hunt for.
While not a bad start for what could have been an interesting television series, as a stand alone movie, it barely has any substance to keep itself afloat. To familiarize yourself with the concept of Unico, maybe consider giving the film a try to prepare yourself for the next movie or just to enjoy it. But, do not expect anything exciting; its just cute.
From the earlier penmanship of studio Madhouse comes a short tale about a cutesy unicorn destined to travel through time and space, leaving both his memories and happiness behind. The first movie tells of his encounter with a sick girl and her grandfather inhabiting a town suffering from the pollutions of a nearby factory. The typical cheesy environmental themes are woven together with Unico's magical abilities that provide helpfulness amidst all the misery. Fundamentally speaking, this is ridiculous and naive enough (let's just ruin the big bad factory and everything will be swell!) to be meant for kids to see. This goes against the EXTREMELY depressing themes of forgetfulness and eternal suffering that are dealt with later on. Still, it has a decent plot and 25 minutes of your time is not a heavy price to pay for it.
Visually, Madhouse does a very good job with fluid animation and pretty character designs. Keep in mind though that this was made in the seventies, so visual splendor should not be anticipated. We get something similar though with a magnificent wind in the form of a woman sweeping across the town trying to penetrate the smoke from the factory. From a musical perspective matters are almost the same; the soundtrack is generally mediocre, the voice actors sound cute and Unico has his own theme song.
Characters are simply structured but suffice when you're creating a short running tale that's slightly too naive to suit children very well. Or maybe that's just cynical talk... the vital thing is that this is generally a pretty mediocre movie, but since it's so short and has its adorable (respectively suicide-invoking) perks you might as well do yourself a favor and check it out. Who knows, you might even smile at a few points! I'll wrap this review up by emphasizing that this movie in no way is inappropriate for children. It's just that after Unico has brought happiness to the ones around him, he still has to resume his personal torment. And that might be too sad for some younger audiences to handle.