Taro, the Dragon Boy (Tatsu No Ko TarÔ)
Director – Kirio Urayama, Screenplay – Kirio Urayama & Takashi Mitsui, Based on the Novel by Miyoko Matsutani, Music – Riichiro Manabe, Production Design – Yoichi Kotabe & Reiko Okuyama. Production Company – Toei.)
Young Taro is lazy and does nothing but eat and sleep all day. He is good at wrestling and so a wizard gives him a potion that gives him the strength of a hundred men but only when he uses his strength to help people. Taro’s grandmother tells him that his mother was turned into a dragon and so Taro sets forth on a quest to find her. Along his journey, he must tackle demons and come to the aid of impoverished peasants.
This is little known Japanese animated children’s film. It is simple, unassuming and modestly effective. It emphasises a simple mythic story and a heroic simplicity. The story comes with a clear set of moral lessons – the young hero is given a dash of brash lazy hubris that he must (quickly) overcome before he heads off on his adventure. The animation is simple, all in dun earth colours that make the backgrounds look like traditional Japanese water colours.
Surprisingly for a children’s film – and something that proved of great amusement to the English-speaking children’s audience that I watched the film with – is the frank and casual nudity that gets by – the hero wears no underwear and when he does cartwheels his penis can be seen, while there are various topless women throughout. It is all a rather likeable and modestly affecting effort.