Mowgli, a boy in yellow loincloth

It was a time when cable television was very common in most houses, even in rural areas. Our house, which was in a small town in the Southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu, did not have the connection. It was early 1990s. I was barely four and my sister three and we were blissfully happy not knowing it.

We spent our weekends playing hide and seek and pandi with fellow girls and boys our age in the village I dwelt. We were ecstatic if a house was being renovated in the area because there would be sand and we could make sand castles till we were driven out by the contractors or owners. But everything stopped when the clock strikes 12.00. It was Mowgli time and we did not want to miss it. That was how important Mowgli was to us, who were kids. I’m sure there would be many who would share my sentiment about the boy who is always in his yellow jatti or loincloth, surrounded by his animal friends Baloo the bear, Bagheera the black panther, Akela the wolf and his eternal enemy Shere Khan the tiger.

Title scene of The Jungle Book
Baloo and Mowgli

The image of Mowgli frolicking with Bagheera and Baloo in the forest would send us giggling. My mother would never fail to record the episodes of this cartoon, for it helped her when we begin to throw tantrums. During those times all she had to do was put on the recorded video and we will be silent again and may be even a little obedient. Decades later, I still remember how much we loved being the part of Mowgli and his friends’ circle and his fight against his feral foe Shere Khan. It brings a smile to our faces every time we think about it. I would not be able to separate my childhood from Mowgli.

But the surprising thing here was the realisation that the Mowgli cartoon I used to watch as a kid, The Jungle Book, was an anime. I was happy. When I knew it I could not help but feel that my affinity for anime probably goes way back.

It was the anime adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s masterpiece that goes by the same name. The Japanese version, which has 52 episodes, The Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli was produced in the Nippon Animation and Doro TV Merchandising Studio and directed by Fumio Kurokawa. While the series was aired from October 1989 in Japan, it was aired in July 1993 in the national channel Doordarshan here.

Though the series was a combination of the original Mowgli stories based on Kipling’s book and Walt Disney’s version, it received international acclaim and was aired in around 22 languages across the world. In India it was telecast in Tamil, Hindi, Bengali and Telugu.

There are probably many like me who were not aware of the origins of their favourite cartoon and continued to watch as a kid. When I look back now may be it is not very hard to understand that. The story, though based on a book, was original and had longer arcs, a characteristic every anime has. Characters had layers and their development took time making viewers invest their time and emotions. I can differentiate between a cartoon and anime. The way a character movies, its actions and surroundings is portrayed differently in a cartoon and anime. Lets say anime feels much more real than cartoon and hence more addictive. So, The Jungle Book was definitely the latter. Most of all, they were entertaining and cannot remember being bored of even a single episode.

Not that I would need a reason to read manga and watch anime, but knowing that my favourite childhood cartoon was an anime makes it even more special.


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