It is the year 1941. 11-year-old Murakami Wataru lives with his family, Japanese textile traders operating in British Kenya, when war breaks out between Japan and the Allies. Fleeing into the bush, young Wataru falls headlong into a series of fantastic adventures.
Shounen Kenya is a weird show. I'd even go so far as to call it bizarre. It's story is a mess and it's characters are extremely one-dimentional. The animation, while overall good, has a variety of strange things about (which I firmly believe to have been on purpose). I was, honestly, very much interested and captivated by the show, mainly for the weirdness and animation. It's a surreal watch. If you like the "so bad it's good" type of show or can enjoy some interesting visuals then I'd highly recommend Shounen Kenya. Story: 1/10 The story of Shounen Kenya is, to put it nicely, a mess. Murakami Wataru, a young Japanese boy, is seperated from his father in the Kenyan outback. You would think the story is going to focus on Wataru as he tries to get back to his father, learning to grow in the process. The beginning of the movie even sets up Wataru as a whiny, scared child, making him perfect for a coming of age story. Instead we skip most of his growth as we are shown it in a montage. The story is all over the place. Here's a breif outline of all the storylines that somehow got mixed into this film:Wataru getting seperated from his father due to the outbreak of war between England and JapanWataru saving Zega, the chief of a Maasai tribe Wataru and Zega saving Kate, a white girl kidnapped at a young age to be used as a "god" by the leader of a tribeWataru, Zega, and Kate fighting a Liard worshipping tribe in an underground cavern, while killing their "god", a plesiosaurs like creatureThe trio getting captured by a German scientist attempting to make an atomic bomb The atomic bomb being set off, sending the main trio back in time to the age of dinosaursDahna, a giant snake, saves the trio from a T-Rex, and then uses a time portal made of waves to bring them back where they belong At first I couldn't even explain how the story was. It was just all over the place. But upon giving it more thought I realized that the story felt as if I was dreaming. The whole thing, the fantastical elelments, the nonsensicle design choices, it's all like one big dream. I wouldn't call the story good by any means, but I did find at least the way it was told to be interesting. In the end Wataru is reunited with his father, but the journey in getting to that point is quite an experience. Characters: 2/10 As I stated before, the characters are extremely one-dimensional, and I am only going to talk about four of them. Wataru is the main character, a boy seperated by his father trying to meet up with him again. He has some amount of development, changing from a scared child to a confident teenager capable of fighting. However these developments are barely shown. We jump ahead to when he's a strong confident person instead of actually seeing the growth his character goes through.He's not an awful character, because there's very little character there to begin with. He is the bare minumum you could expect for a main character. Zega is a chief of a Maasai tribe, and after being saved by Wataru he decides to help the young boy find his father. Zega is responsible for all the behind the scenes growth of Wataru's character, teaching him how to fight and survive in Africa. He doesn't go through any changes or growth throughout the film, but I don't believe he needed to. He's an older, experienced man who's character isn't going to change without some drastic reason. Overall I actually kind of liked Zega. Kate is a white girl around Wataru's age. She was kidnapped from her family at a young age and set up as a god by the leader of the tribe. The leader uses her status as a god in the tribe's eyes to enforce his will and even execute others. She doesn't want to help the tribe leader, but is forced to lest she be punished. Wataru saves her, after which she joins Wataru and Zega on their journey.Unfortunately she doesn't really have a character after that point. Like Wataru she is the minumum of what you could expect from a character. Her goal is to meet her real parents, and she exists for no other reason than for there to be a girl character in the film. Lastly, there's Dahna. Dahna is the most interesting character, and the main reason this section got anything above a 1. Dahna is a giant purple snake that aids the main characters at various points throughout the film. It's somewhat implied that she's either servant of a god or perhaps a god herself. Zega even comments that that might be the case. She's not an amazing character, but I enjoyed her whenever she was on screen. Sound: 4/10 The sound in this film is not worth talking about really. The voice acting ranges from bad to okay, the music sometimes fits the scene and sometimes doesn't. The sound effects are rather generic. Not bad enough for me notice, but not good enough for me to comment on much either. Animation: 8/10 The animation is the most captivating aspect of Shounen Kenya. It's strange, surreal, and lacks any kind of sense at times, yet it's also quite good. The art style frequently changes at points. Even the colour changes, and some scenes are in black and white. The montage scene of Wataru's growth that I mentioned earlier is a good example of the animation being pretty great. There's a variety of interesting, well dawn transitions that I found highly enjoyable.There's another scene where a giant crocodile comes out the water onto some grassy land and the grass is animated moving in response to the crocodile. There's also some extremely weird scenes thanks to the animation.In one scene while fighting a hostile Kenyan tribe on of the tribesman is left as just an outline. Just him, no others. I have to feel this was on purpose, a conscious design choice, but I honestly can't think of why other than to add to the weirdness.Near the end of the film the colours get very warped and weird. I honestly can't explain it any other way than as if you had taken some kind of hallucinogen. I enjoyed this film mostly due to the bizarre choices in the animation and colours. Overall: 4/10 Shounen Kenya is not a good film. If you like shows with great characters or an enthralling story then skip this, it isn't for you. However if you like weird, surreal animation and shows that are so bad they go back to being fun then I'd recommend Shounen Kenya as a fun watch. I enjoyed it for what it is. This film was based on a manga from roughly 75 years ago, which might explain why the characters seem so one-dimentional. I have not read the original manga, nor have I seen the anime adaption that was made before this film. This review is purely for the Shounen Kenya film made in 1984.I am aware that some people have criticized this film for being culturally insensitive and ignorant towards Kenyan tribes while praising Japanese people as brave and strong. As I know very little of Kenyan culture this simply isn't something I can comment on, and thus I focused on the narrative structure and animation instead.
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