Unico the Unicorn has the amazing power to make anyone he meets happy. Whether it's because of his personality or the powers of his horn, no one knows. However, the gods become jealous of Unico, thinking that only gods should be able to decide or let people be happy or not. Unico is banished to the Hill of Oblivion, and the West Wind is ordered to take him there. She can't stand giving this fate to an innocent like Unico, so Unico's adventures begin, as the West Wind takes him from one place and time to the next, in a neverending journey to escape the wrath of the gods. In this adventure, Unico meets Beezel a devil child and then Katy (Chao), a cat who wants to be a witch! Can he become friends with them?
It may seem odd to write a review for such a back-water anime, however, I felt like giving it a little exposure for the sake of nostalgia.
This is one of the movies based on a manga series by Osamu Tezuka, and as such makes for children's entertainment with a distinctly dark edge. Looks cute, is cute, talks about friendship and happy things, .... hey, is that a little girl being fed drunk by a creepy guy with unknown intentions?
The story can be fairly easily summed up with Unico goes places and befriends people. Essentially, there are three segments, the first where he befriends Beezle, the second where he helps Katy, the third where he battles the Count. These three segments are practically unrelated beyond the third features characters from the prior two mini-arcs, so the movie does not tell an overall story. In fact, the final part seems tacked on for the purpose of an epic ending. What did the Count want? Why didn't he bother doing what he did at the end right away? How did the old woman know about the legend of the West Wind carrying around the little unicorn, when the only time it happened before was on the very people-deprived Island of Solitude?
Plot holes aside, for a movie with adorable art and an opening theme that can be summed up with "Tastes Like Diabetes", it is rather depressing under the surface. As the premise already indicates, the lead character is taken away from his mother as a toddler, and is given no true happy ending. It's rather ironic he brought life to the Island of Solitude while he himself is doomed to be eternally alone.
The main characters are terribly cute, especially Unico and Chao. Unico is all about kindness and friendship, more cynical viewers might be tired of it soon, but then again, this is aimed at children to begin with. It is not overdone too much though. While as expected Unico's friendship affects people for the better, he doesn't get glorious results right away, doesn't do any sugar-oozing speeches, nor is he so dense to be endlessly obliging and happy. Chao and Beezle have their flaws to overcome, each in their own way.
The suspiciously Christian-styled Greek gods on their Fluffy Cloud Heaven are stuck up, motivated by jealousy and make a very deliberate move against the happiness of their people, while the final villain sinking back into fiery hell is also very reminiscent of certain things, but overall he is bland and stereotypical without motivations. The former gods might have been more interesting final villains for that reason.
The art is dated, the designs are rather adorable with a somewhat Disney-like style. The sound is .... I honestly can't remember, it's been a while since I've seen this.
As far as enjoyment is concerned, this movie was one of the very first anime I've seen and I loved it as a child, and frankly, I still do. It's bittersweet, mixes endearing with dark and is generally right in my ally of dark kiddy entertainment. Unico makes for a fairly admirable hero with all the strife he faces yet still retaining his kindness, the obligatory messages about consideration for others aren't bothersome or particularly preachy.
I would not recommend this for people looking for dense plot, top-notch production values or those with a low tolerance for sugar. However, Tezuka fans and generally those looking for something cute and not too lighthearted might enjoy it. For a nostalgia rewatch, it certainly entertained me well enough.read more
I decided to watch this movie on a whim, expecting nothing of it, and I was pleasantly surprised, particularly by the first 30 minutes of the film. After the absolutely adorable opening song, Unico is sent away to a wasteland. The lonely, cold atmosphere really got to me, and seeing Unico, the beacon of happiness and hope, pull through and turn the selfish, temperamental devil Akuma into a charmingly awkward friend was really inspirational.
Sadly, the rest of the movie is much more average and not well-constructed. The second character Unico meets on his journeys is Chao the cat, a far less charming friend than Akuma. She stays a boring ditz the whole movie, not really learning much from Unico.
The villain, while totally fearsome and creepy (mostly due to excellent visual design), really detracts from what the film could have been. He has no depth and is defeated without any emotional fanfare. While his battle with Unico might be visually grandiose, there is nothing of substance here.
I really did enjoy the bittersweet ending, though. Unico’s curse, bringing happiness to all, but never being able to stay with his friends, is tragic but meaningful to me. The plot and pacing are really unfocused for most of the film, leading to plenty of interesting themes…that are completely underutilized.
Still, I really admire how atmospheric and interesting the visuals are in Unico. The sheer scale of important figures like the West Wind, the Night Wind and the villain is immediately apparent with their distinct designs that look great animated. Unico is literally the most adorable character on the planet. The whole package oozes creativity.
I should also mention that while this is technically a children’s film, I wouldn’t recommend it for really young ones. There’s plenty of violence and dark atmosphere, a very imposing big bad, not to mention subtle rapey undertones.
Unico has a lot of problems, but its heart and creativity push it into the 7/10 territory for me. On a bad day, maybe 6/10. I recommend it to anyone who’s a sucker for this power of friendship type of stuff and wants to see some fun art and animation. There are much worse things you can spend your time on. read more