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Unico (Sanrio, 1979-83)

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The lead character of Osamu Tezuka’s brief manga series has become of his most cherished and recognizable creations. A young unicorn falls under a divine curse to wander among the ages, staying in one time period only long enough to repay the one who offers him kindness. Then he is whisked away by Zephyrus, the West Wind, who erases his memory of the last adventure and leaves him helpless and lost in a new setting. The bittersweet premise, however, affirms Tezuka’s faith that love continues to have meaning, regardless of the time, place, or even species of creature that reaches out to the vulnerable time-traveler.

The original manga ran from 1976 to 1979 and was initially slated for a TV series adaptation similar to Kimba the White Lion. A pilot was put together by Tezuka Productions in 1979, but was never produced. Tezuka then put his efforts into two movies, Unico (1981) and Unico in the Island of Magic (1983).

The first two of these anime adaptations are more closely linked to the manga, and so they interest me most. The Unico pilot adapts the manga chapter “Black Cloud and White Feather” and was directed by Toshio Hirata, who later directed the anime version of Tezuka’s Phoenix. Animation supervision was shared by three long-time associates, Shigeru Yamamoto, Kanji Akabori, and Masami Hata.

The Unico movie (released in North America as The Fantastic Adventures of Unico) followed soon after. It combines two episodes, beginning with the manga’s concluding episode, “Unico and Solitude,” in which the little unicorn manages to befriend a demon. The original sad ending of this adventure is, however, altered to allow the demon to rejoin Unico on his next time trip. So the two become involved in “The Cat on the Broomstick,” a story of an abandoned kitty who wants to become a witch’s familiar. Hirata again directed with animation direction by Akio Sugino, likewise a long-time Tezuka collaborator.

Cels of Unico, particularly in his transformed adult unicorn form, seem to be the most keenly desired on the market, but I admire the mangaka’s ability to people his stories with a large cast of memorably quirky characters. So I’m more apt to pick up cels from this supporting cast.

 Lady Venus and Eros

 Eros and Psyche

 Unico flies Chico through the clouds of pollution

 Unico Undermines the Evil Factory.

 Lady Zephyrus takes Unico into exile

 Sad Chao

 Human Chao and Granny

 Chao tastes the Baron’s wine

 Lady Zephyrus appears to the demon Akuma-kun

 Akuma-kun dancing on a hot rock

Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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