The Brave Frog Reviews
This is a bizarre, maudlin, somewhat sadistic animated movie cobbled together from portions of a Japanese anime that aired in the early 1970's. The movie is about a tree frog named Jonathan Hopper (Demetan in the original version) and his trials and tribulations at Rainbow Pond. The story is often poorly explained, probably a result of the fact that the movie is composed of re-edited footage from the old TV show, and the producers thinking that kids probably wouldn't care anyway. The movie has a mournful, minor-key theme with a flute playing the air and a brass-section backup. The original cartoon was the brainchild of Jinzou Toriumi and Hiroshi Sasagawa of Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd (responsible for a lot of B-list anime series).
The movie starts on a dark and stormy night, with Jonathan's father and mother (Mr. and Mrs. Hopper) and siblings (all tadpoles at this point) swimming in a stream, being pursued by a large, monstrous salamander, who is eating all the tadpoles (note, this is not off-camera or implied). Only Jonathan and his parents escape. It does look for a minute as if several other tadpoles (Jonathan's siblings) might escape as well, but apparently they were killed by a rainstorm-induced landslide of mud and rock into the stream. Jonathan's mother implores "The Great Frog" (their Crystal Frog Jesus, clearly) to save them. She and Jonathan are separated from each other. In the next scene, Jonathan is all alone, and is crying by the side of a pond (later revealed to be 'Rainbow Pond'). At this point, he's halfway metamorphosed into a frog, so clearly some time has passed. He meets an annoyingly giggle-y female frog named Pookie, who seems to have a huge crush on Jonathan. It turns out she knows the Hoppers. She takes Jonathan back to meet his parents, who are now living at Rainbow Pond.
Jonathan and his parents decide to settle permanently at Rainbow Pond and build a house. Jonathan starts swimming around (much to the annoyance of the other pond denizens, who find the idea of a swimming tree frog unnatural). He also becomes a somewhat accomplished flautist, playing a miniature grass-blade flute (it's explained his father makes these, as well as toys--apparenly, it's his trade). We see his flute virtuosity in a cartoon acid-trip sequence with Jonathan and Pookie floating through poorly-drawn bubbles and acid-sequence whatnot. Pookie invites Jonathan to live in Rainbow Pond, and to go to school with her, and "Never Leave. Never."
Enter the frog bullies (Moe and Lefty)! "Rainbow Pond's not your sort, tree frog, and stay away from Pookie, ya see? Got it?!" The bullies warn Jonathan to keep his distance from Pookie. When he shows defiance, they beat him up, leaving visible bruises on him. "Oh, I hurt all over!!" Jonathan exclaims as he heads home.
In the next scene, the menacing crayfish goon Zari shows up at the Hopper's house and summons Mr. Hopper to King Leopold's house using threats of violence. "Now get this tree frog, when Leopold sends an invitation you better go!". King Leopold is the ruler of Rainbow Pond and also, it turns out, Pookie's father. So go he does to see Leopold, who is a rather fat Leopard frog who speaks with a "Noo Yawk Mafia"-type accent (the original probably had him talking in Kanto-region Yakuza-speak). Leopold informs him that: "From now ah'n Hoppah, yoo woik for me!". Mr. Hopper becomes defiant and says that the Great Frog made all frogs equal--an idea of which Leopold is dismissive. Mr Hopper then tells him: "I'm not afraid of you, or anyone else in your gang", to which Leopold replies: "You should be!" and has Zari knock out Mr. Hopper with a claw to the head. Then Moe and Lefty start to beat up Jonathan, who does fight back, but gets his little green ass handed to him. Pookie arrives and tries to intervene by asking her father to call off the attackers. He tells her that tree frogs and Leopard frogs "don't mix", and to stay away from Jonathan. When she questions him, he smacks her across the face and knocks her down, whereupon she starts crying. "The kid won't shut up. I can't stand cryin'--lock her up!!" he exclaims as his goons drag her away.
Jonathan spends the next few minutes of the film being emo and wangsty, and then returns to find his family's house destroyed (apparently deliberately, and probably by Zari, though this is never verified). The family consider leaving Rainbow Pond. Jonathan cries himself to sleep as his family sleeps outdoors. The next day he's playing his flute by the water's edge, and Pookie appears and implores him not to leave, and cries a lot. Jonathan agrees not to leave, just as the frog bullies Moe and Lefty appear and give him a surprise sucker punch, telling him once again to stay away from Pookie.
"Ribbit to the limit, put your whole heart in it. Tired of being pushed around, Jonathan is trying to hold his ground".
Jonathan looks set for another ass-whopping, when a giant muscular Bullfrog (Goliath) appears and saves him from the bullies. Jonathan also seems to develop a huge man-crush on this character. Meanwhile, Jonathan's parents are packing their things for their imminent move out of Rainbow Pond.
Zari starts bullying an old snail. Mr. Hopper walks by. The snail asks him for help. Mr. Hopper decides to do nothing in order to save himself. Goliath and Jonathan walk by. Goliath and Zari get into a fight, which Goliath wins. "Frog bless, you're a real hero!" the snail tells Goliath. Later at dinner, Jonathan berates his father for his lack of courage telling him: "Father, I hate you!!". He promptly gets slapped across the face by Mr. Hopper, and runs away screaming: "I hate you! I hate you!". Mr. Hopper tells his wife: "The boy's right--I hate myself too". Jonathan starts wangsting again, when Pookie arrives. Jonathan is extremely rude to her, saying: "I tried so hard but no gave me a chance! My parents hate me and I hate everyone--even you. Go away and leave me alone!!". Pookie is crushed and starts crying, and runs away, taunting him: "Jonathan the quitter! The quitter!!!". Jonathan tries to see Goliath one last time before he and his family leave, only to find he's not home. He and his family then set out away from Rainbow Pond. They come across Goliath, dying in some thorns. Zari had beat him to the point of death. As he's dying, Goliath gives him a medallion (which never appears again). "Great Frog! What kind of place is this!?" exclaims Mr. Hopper as Jonathan watches Goliath die.
The Rainbow Pondians hold a funeral for Goliath and Jonathan pledges his life to helping the weak and helpless. While camping in the woods that night, Jonathan wanders away: "It's always SOMETHING with that kid" says Mr. Hopper. They find Jonathan sleeping near Goliath's newly dug grave. They wake up Jonathan, who starts sobbing uncontrollably about Goliath. Mr. Hopper then decides that Goliath is an inspiration to them, and that they should give living at Rainbow Pond another try. Jonathan and his father appear to reconcile on the idea of this new beginning.
Next scene, we're back at Rainbow Pond. Jonathan is crying again, and avoiding Pookie (for some reason). He tells her "Rainbow Pond is cruel and you're a part of it!" and resolves to become strong to fill Goliath's shoes as Rainbow Pond's resident do-gooder. He begins "training", which largely consists of him swimming and jumping around the pond (no Rocky-style montage here!). Pookie turns up again, and Jonathan is once again a complete asshole to her, telling her to get lost. A giant salamander shows up, and Jonathan manages to avoid being eaten by it while saving Pookie from the same fate. They hide in a rock crevice. Pookie thanks him and compliments him on his abilities. Jonathan finally seems to warm up to her again. Jonathan starts playing his flute again as the salamander starts to break through the rock wall, thinking perhaps it will cause the salamander to leave (it doesn't). Fortunately, an old crayfish has burrowed through the wall and saves them at the last minute. Saving Pookie from certain death, has not, however, improved Jonathan's standing in King Leopold's eyes. He flat out doesn't believe Pookie's story and his hatred of Jonathan continues unabated. Pookie tries to convince her father to let Jonathan go to school, but he tells her "school is too difficult for a dumb tree frog". Pookie starts crying again, and Leopold finally breaks down and tells her Jonathan can go to school. But he only told her this to shut her up. As he says to himself after she leaves the room: "A lot can happen before he starts--and I'll make sure it does. Heh heh heh!!".
Meanwhile, the Old Carp tries to teach Jonathan math, but Jonathan's terrible at it, and the other carp students laugh at him. Pookie goes and talks to Mr. and Mrs. Hopper, and confides in them that Leopold says that Jonathan can go to school, but she has doubts as to whether he'll keep his word. Mr. Hopper says he'll speak to Leopold himself. Leopold is predictably rude. Leopold tells Mr. Hopper that Jonathan can go to school, but that unlike the other students he has to pay (because he's a tree frog). Mr. Hopper screams it's not fair and berates Leopold to his face. Zari threatens him (with death or dismemberment, we suppose) and Mr. Hopper leaves. Mr. Hopper starts crying and lamenting his situation when he's ambushed by a huge cat. Concerned about him being gone so long, Mrs. Hopper and Jonathan go out looking for Mr. Hopper. They find him thoroughly beat up but alive. He tells Jonathan: "You're better off without me" and that he should, at any cost, go to school: "An education will make your life BETTER, not BITTER like mine is".
"Ribbit to the limit, put your whole heart in it, it isn't easy to be brave, when peace and quiet's what you crave."
Jonathan is crying again (notice a trend here?) when Pookie approaches him. Jonathan tells her again to go away, and runs away from her, sobbing, and says: "Now I'm nothing, but one day THEY'LL BE SORRY!!." He encounters the frog bullies again and decides to get into a confrontation with them. They question his courage and "fighting spirit", and he says he'll show them what he's made of by getting a whisker from the cat. He immediately regrets his boast, but decides to go through with it anyway, and yanks a whisker from the cat's face just as the cat wakes up. The cat chases him and Jonathan only escapes by hiding between two rocks. Then, when he makes a break for it, the cat catches him, but he's saved when a dog appears and starts chasing the cat. Jonathan is hurt, but alive. The frog bullies are not impressed with Jonathan's courage and tell him he's a "joik" and walk away as Jonathan starts crying. In the next scene, Jonathan's playing his flute again (and crying). Pookie tries to console him by telling him that his music cheers her and others up. This seems to cheer Jonathan up. Jonathan puts down his mother to Pookie, calling her a "drag". Pookie chides his for this.
Jonathan and Pookie come across a crying turtle (Mrs. Turtle). While she was getting a drink of water, someone or something broke all of her eggs, except one. She resolves to guard the last egg to make sure it hatches and grows up. Meanwhile, Pookie goes to Leopold and asks if Mrs. Turtle can be her mother. Leopold tells her it's a stupid idea. Leopold tells her: "You're becoming a woman; you nag or you cry or you do both at the same time". Pookie runs away from him in tears. Leopold summons Zari. He tells him that Jonathan is putting funny ideas into Pookie's head and to "get rid of him". Zari attacks and kills Mrs. Turtle (on-screen), and tries to steal her last egg for Leopold. At that moment, Jonathan and Pookie arrive, and Zari takes off as he doesn't want Pookie to know that it was he (on Leopold's orders) that killed Mrs. Turtle. The dying Mrs. Turtle tells them to raise her baby and make sure he grows up to be a good turtle. The two of them find a place to keep the egg and resolve to raise the turtle when it hatches. But shortly thereafter, a snake arrives. Jonathan and Pookie try to keep the egg from him, but can't. The snake takes the egg from a mortified Jonathan and Pookie and tries to eat it (after trying to eat the frogs as well), but he can't swallow it for some reason, and he spits it out. Pookie and Jonathan cry and Pookie exclaims: "I wish I was dead!". The egg is then found by Moe and Lefty. They start playing around with the egg. Jonathan finds them and angrily chases after them, along with Pookie, but Moe and Lefty get away with the egg anyway, and bring it to Leopold. Zari tries to crack the egg open with a 'karate chop', but strangely only dents it instead of breaking it. Leopold sends for Giles, his resident doctor/scientist. Pookie arrives crying and implores Leopold to spare the life of the egg. Giles clears up the mystery: "This is not a turtle egg at all; this is a ping pong ball!" The next frame has Jonathan in what looks to be a nervous breakdown as he says with a quavering voice: "MRS. TURTLE DIED...FOR A PING PONG BALL?!" after which he runs off sobbing uncontrollably and clutching handfuls of sand while on his knees.
In the last scene, Pookie and Jonathan are musing on the future in a weird acid-trippy scene which to me is somewhat reminiscent of the fantasy of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". Leopold shows up and actually shows some remorse for the way that he treated Pookie and to a lesser extent, Jonathan. Leopold and Pookie seem to reconcile and Jonathan says that things are 'looking up' for Rainbow Pond as he hops away singing.
Overall, this movie has below average animation, even for the early 70's. The soundtrack is OK, but repetitive. Most little kids would be saddened or scared by this movie rather than amused. But for adults it can be a bizarre trip into a bit of weird 1970's-ness. 3 and half stars for have re-watchablity and for amusing me!