Anime: Animal Treasure Island
How does one sum up Animal Treasure Island? As far as I’m concerned, the title should be “A Walrus in a Fez and Monkey Pirates,” because that is enough to tell you how awesome it is. A summation: A fox in a monocle and top hat dances with an empty dress while a monkey, a hippo, and a walrus play a soulful waltz. And ALL of them are pirates. And then a pirate dance party follows. It’s got the charm and some of the weirdness of Cat Soup, without being completely impenetrable.
Let’s keep in mind I don’t really know the Treasure Island story beyond the awesome Tim Curry version and maybe those awesome comic books I’ve mentioned previously. So we’ll play this straight. When a one-eyed cat-pirate stumbles into Jim Hawkins’ world, he’s the first wave in a sea of troubles. Soon, young Jim, the baby sidekick, and Jim’s mouse-y friend are tossed into the wider, uncaring world of pirates and rogues. They carry a map to someplace called Treasure Island, rumored to hold the treasure (surprise!) of old Captain Flint, and though their boat’s but a barrel with a sail on it, they’re full of pluck. They have a peppy theme song sung by adorable sounding Japanese kids and, much to my surprise, the barrel is a complicated thing with far more to it, such as the steam engine. Somehow, young Jim shoved a steam engine in a barrel in the age of sail. He’s way ahead of his time.
Jim’s captured by an angry pig pirate named Long John Silver. Said pig has a mustache and hook, not to mention a knife-fighting monkey sidekick. How cool is that?! The pirates conscript Jim and the mouse into their merry pirate band, forcing them to a life of hard labor and not being cool pirates. The pirates are big jerks, but on the upside, they have a cool raiding theme song and live at a skull-shaped island with cannons in the wall, which more than compensates for them being jerks. Zany hijinks follow, as they must when anthropomorphic pirates sail the seas. Jim is captured, meets a girl, there are fights, betrayals, piracy, odd dance parties, it’s a riot.
Miyazaki was key animator and story consultant, so it’s got a very charming look. This release is a Special Edition with 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen and Dolby 2.0, so the technical aspects are outstanding. I fell in love with the goofy score at once. It was like something out of an early-1930s cartoon, whimsical and fun, but still able to shift gears into epic and stuff. Voice acting is pretty good all around, though I disdain the high, shrieky voice of the mouse, though I watched it in Japanese, so who knows what he sounds like on the English voice track. I did pick up a couple spelling errors in the subtitles, but those are one of those “this may just irk me” things.
I don’t know if this is going to appeal to the wider mass audience that likes kinda serious anime. Personally, I love monkey pirates and walruses and, well, this just pushed several of my like buttons. If you’re looking for something kind of fun, something with, say, marine mammals wearing exotic headgear, pick up Animal Treasure Island.