Old Review: Kaiketsu Zorori: The Riddle of the Secret Treasure

Our main hero Zorori, a mischievous fox and a wandering traveller, dreams about achieving his lifetime goals of having a beautiful bride and living in an extravagant castle. Unfortunately he is abruptly woken up by young boy who was being chased by a large ship on land. After rescuing the boy, Zorori finds that the captain of the chasing ship is an old enemy of his known as Tiger, a fierce sea captain who has a powerful interchangeable mechanical arm. After a lucky victory against Tiger, Zorori also finds that the young boy he rescued is actually a young lady named Tail. Tail, who has lived quite a sheltered and independent life since having no mother and an a distant father, has been going on an adventure to try and find the location of an ancient treasure her father was seeking on his travels before he died, with her only clues being a small map of a castle and a pendant given by him. Zorori, being as mischievous as he is, decides to take advantage of this by helping Tail find the treasure so he can get the castle for himself and marry Tail. But since Tiger appears to be after both Zorori and the treasure for himself, and other obstacles that block the way, this search for a great treasure will be challenging for Tail, Zorori, and his two faithful companions Ishishi and Noshishi.

If my synopsis sounds a little confusing to you, don’t worry because there a quite a few things to understand before seeing this film. This is a film based on an anime series which is called “Kaikestsu Zorori” or The Incredible Zorori for an English translation. Based on a popular children’s book series, Kaiketsu Zorori first aired in 2004 and became a national hit with young kids, running for three seasons, spanning almost 150 episodes on Japanese TV. The most simplified plot I can give is that it’s about a travelling fox named Zorori, who travels around the world with his young twin boar companions Ishishi and Noshishi, as he tries to achieve his three life goals, getting a castle, marrying a beautiful woman and becoming world famous as the King of Mischief. Despite naturally failing at these goals one way or another, he helps people with their problems and he does have a kind side himself because of his troubled past. It’s a little more complex in reality, but what I said should give you an idea. It garnered so much popularity among kids that Studio Sunrise made the film, which was released March 11th 2006, not long after the end of the second season.

The animation in the film is really well done. It’s quite an improvement over the show, which is expected considering the production time and budget. Characters move a lot smoothly, any computer generated areas blend really well with the environment and lighting is really effective with the settings. The film also show quite a few effects which aren’t found in the show, such as angled shots, blur effects and art style transitions, which are great to look at and definitely shows that whatever budget this had didn’t go to waste. Some effects however can be quite distracting, one in particular is the “shaky-camera” effect, which other films use to try and give a realistic and tense atmosphere to shots, but here it looks like last minute additions that stick out like a sore thumb.

Part of the soundtrack contains the same insert tracks that are found in the show, which are nice to listen to and fit the scenes they appear in, but for someone who has watched episodes upon episodes of the show, they eventually get bland and generic. At one point they play the first season’s opening theme “Hasuru” (Hustle), which is catchy, upbeat and in my opinion was the series best song. There are a few original tracks which sound really calm and soothing, some quiet scenes, and the overall sound is really well edited, making some of the gags way more effective.

The voice acting in the Japanese version is brilliant, with most of the show’s cast members reprising their roles including Fumihiko Tachiki as Tiger and Motoko Kumai as Noshishi. Unfortunately Ishishi’s actor Rikako Aikawa had a temporary absence from the show at the time of recording, so Ishishi is voiced by her stand-in Masako Nozawa, but the difference in Ishishi’s voice isn’t greatly noticeable. One of the best actors in this is the voice of Zorori, by Koichi Yamadera, the actor has played lead roles in other major animes such as Cowboy Bebop and Ranma ½ and he really takes advantage of his powerful voice and great vocal range in some scenes. There aren’t that many original voices other than Tails and Tiger’s assistants but there isn’t anything bad or annoying about them so they are really listenable.

If you are wondering if there is an English dub, there is. In 2009, Cartoon Network got the rights to air an English Dub of the first season of Kaiketsu Zorori and the film, and both aired in 2010 on Cartoon Network’s Philippines channel. However, from the few clips I could find and the general opinions of many fans, the dub is very bad, and because of that it’s easy to see why Zorori has never officially gone stateside, most of the characters never sound right and some sound nothing like their Japanese counterparts. While the script is almost accurate and the soundtrack is intact, nothing else really saves it and since the only real source of the English version of the film as of writing is a poor quality Youtube video, it’s best to find the Japanese version instead.

As you probably tell from my references and comparisons to the show, this is one of those adaptations that is very accurate to its source material, especially because Studio Sunrise was involved in both show and film. This is in a way good for fans since they don’t need to get use to any major changes normally done by writers. However, the film’s main flaw is that you have to know what’s on in the show in order to understand the film. Unlike other film adaptations where they either retell the story of the game in a way that easy to follow for new viewers, like Dobutsu no Mori, or they tell you everything in the beginning before the story actually begins, like Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, this film has practically nothing to explain what this show is about, almost like it expects the viewers to have seen the show before seeing this film. If you want to understand the basics like the main characters and the overall story then I would recommend watching some of the episodes of the first season, if you really want to challenge yourself and understand every small reference and cameos then you would need to watch the first two seasons in full, which is 102 episodes in total so have a fun anime marathon.

For those who would understand the show enough to watch it, the story is very nice and it follows the original formula very well, as well as some good humour and character development, especially between Zorori and Tails, and while it’s length is short at just over 60 minutes it doesn’t drag out. There are some goofy moments, a huge cameo which feels randomly placed, and I didn’t like how simple the ending was, and how it feels like the writer’s desperate attempt to divert the characters back to the main plot of the show, but as a fan of the show who is so used to what happens to the characters, it’s hard to complain about it.

If you are interested in watching this and you are either a fan or you know what Zorori is about, go and watch this, it is a fun film that is really worth your time. If you are new to Zorori, its best that you hold out for a moment and watch a few episodes of the show at least to get a good understanding, and you won’t lose out from their either as the show it fun and entertaining itself.

Majimeni Fumajime Kaiketsu Zorori: The Riddle of the Secret Treasure, or simply Kaiketsu Zorori: The Film, is available from Kadokawa, Cartoon Network and the Zorori-Project. I normally wouldn’t promote a fansub group since they aren’t official distributors, but there isn’t an official Western release or official subtitles so this would be the only way for most English viewers to see it. The original anime series, with the first season simply titled Kaiketsu Zorori, with two later seasons titled “Majimeni Fumajime Kaiketsu Zorori” since they were produced by a different team in-house at Studio Sunrise, are also available on the Zorori-Project, with season 3 currently in progress. The original children’s book series, written and drawn by Yukata Hara, haven’t had a western release. A 1993 short film based on the books, but has no relation to the anime series, is available from another fansub group known as Alopex.


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