Even these tapes cost something

  The Brave Frog's Greatest Adventure
1985 | Harmony Gold U.S.A. Inc.
Brave Frog's Greatest Adventure Kids cartoon collection

Having barely survived the previous tape I will now limp on and expose myself to yet another 90 mins of The Brave Frog.

Thank god they only made two ...

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Toy maker Taro, his wife Amador and their only surviving child young frog Demetan arrive in Rainbow Pond to make a new life for themselves. Demetan soon becomes good friends with Ranatan only to discover that her father is the wealthy and cruel ruler of the community, and the evil king wants his daughter to have nothing to do with the outsiders. This is not the only opposition the unwelcome settlers will have to contend with; there is also Zari a violent and dangerous Lobster and local bully Kyaru and his lackey Ivo not to mention hostile wildlife and visiting trouble makers. Demetan and his family struggle for acceptance in their new home while their strong willed son fights to keep his friendship and relentlessly battles to make their pond a fairer society for all the animal residents.

Co-produced by Ippei Kuri and with a character design credit going to fellow co-founder Tatsuo Yoshida, Kerokko Demetan is a Tatsunoko production which followed Kashi no ki Mokku. It shares many similarities with the preceding take on the Pinocchio story, continuing many of its themes of suffering, sadistic bullying and lessons learned through hardship and tragedy. Demetan's life is a very difficult one; victimised by local bullies and the vicious whims of Ranatan's father and his crew of heavies. Things aren't easy for the population of Rainbow Pond either but a Romeo and Juliet style relationship develops between the central adolescent frogs.

The show ran for 39 episodes on Fuji TV from January 2nd to September 25th 1973, airing in a 7.00pm Tuesday evening slot. It featured a popular theme song that featured on many of Tatsunoko's compilation albums as well as having a vinyl release of its own. Despite the tough themes, Kerokko Demetan was aimed at a junior audience and a small supply of tie-in merchandise reflected this.

Nearly ten years after its first appearance Kerokko Demetan was brought back to TV screens when it was rerun on TV Tokyo filling in for Osamu Tezuka's Don Dracula after that show was cancelled due to studio bankruptcy after only four episodes.

The misadventures of the young frog were popular and well recognized if not making it one of the studios many huge hits. It remained popular enough to receive a full DVD release more than thirty years after its debut.

Kerokko Demetan appeared all over the world in the early 80's. Most popular in Europe and Korea the story was shown in it's full 39 episode run under a wide range of different titles including La Ranita Demetan in Spain, Demetan La Petit Grenouille in France and in Italy as La Banda Dei Ranocchi. Each version had its own local dub and a well remembered catchy theme tune.

As is usually the case, the full series never received an English language translation but was instead made into an edited feature length movie, or in Demetan's case, two movies. The Brave Frog and The Brave Frog's Greatest Adventure were constructed by Harmony Gold in 1985. The first movie brought together storylines from episodes 1,2,8 and others while Greatest Adventure rounded out the story using shows from the closing end of the series' arc.

Both retained much of the original's music but replaced the voice actors with the familiar voices of actors who have appeared in many Harmony Gold productions. Most recognisable is Reba West, here appearing in the central role of Ranatan renamed for the West as Pookie. Other name changes include Jonathan for the title frog with his tormentors Kyaru and Ivo becoming known as Mo and Lefty.

Even though the movies were made in the mid-eighties, where there were shown on cable TV, a video release didn't come until 1994 from Hemdale Home Video a company which at the time was nearing bankruptcy. Only the first Brave Frog feature made it to video in the U.S. but it did gain further exposure (and not to mention notoriety) when it drifted onto DVD in 1999.

The Brave Frog faired slightly better in the UK where both features made it to video in 1988 and 1989 respectively, released under the Kids Cartoon Collection label. However Greatest Adventure suffered a whopping 2 mins 16 secs of cuts at the hand of the British censor, a feat which is almost unheard of in movies rated Universal!

Oddly its predecessor made it past unscathed.

Kerokko Demetan model kit Tatsunoko Land Kerokko Demetan coloring book   kerokko demetan DVD
One of a series of model kits
Japanese kids coloring book
Volume 1 on DVD
Brave Frog or Greatest Adventure?

The plodding tale begins with the horrible 'Don of Rainbow Pond' begging forgiveness from a scary, giant Catfish. Bruto the giant Catfish is not happy that his 'tributes' have been a little light recently. He demands double the usual amount from the gangster frog and he wants it "Sometime today or tomorrow". Now that's intimidating specific. What's he going to do to Leopold if he fails? "Maybe hurt him, or something similar?"

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Some dubious narration separates the next scene:

"Pookie had made an interesting discovery and she was showing it to Jonathan whose eyes were wide with wonder."

I think we all have had an experience in our early lives that could have been summed up like that! In this case the incident in is just the wholesome discovery of a mirror, not something that Jonathan has ever experienced before.

Having soon tired of their new sub aquatic discovery the young pair return to the surface to find, guess what, Jonathan's dad being kicked around the ground by a gang of anthropomorphic goons led by Zari, the #1 hit lobster. Well, it wouldn't be the Brave Frog if the joy of a carefree childish escapade wasn't cut short by a violent assault. As always Jonathan blames Pookie for the attack on his pitiful father and swears never to speak to her again.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Shortly after the Brave Frog crosses paths with some newcomers. "Well, young frog, you seem to be very angry about something!" Johnny is introduced to 'The Friends of Frogdom' a seedy trio who were gleeful witnesses to his father's lily pad beating. They claim to be 'Missionaries of the Great Frog' who travel around "chastising rascals" but like all religious missionaries they seem to be hiding a sinister ulterior motive.

But surely they wouldn't commit blasphemy against the Great Frog? Christian Scientists have proven him to be the only religious figurehead that actually exists. Even though he was accidentally stepped on several weeks ago while sheltering under a damp, sheet of card in the street; his powers are still very strong even from beyond-the-grave, so committing terrible acts in his name is not a good idea.

The untrustworthy trio pledge to help rehabilitate Leopold but they'll need to deal with Zari first - and that's where Jonathan will be required, they want him to lure the murderous lobster into an ambush. The Tree frog readily agrees and they all share an evil and foreboding laugh.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

A short while later, the amphibian patsy leads the mob enforcer into a fishing line snare. With him out of the picture the avengers pay a visit to the kingpin himself, Leopold. After a short beating the crime boss reveals that he isn't the true owner of Rainbow Pond, he simply collects the loot for the real Mr Big - Bruto the Great! After a little more physical persuasion Leopold agrees to take the missionaries to meet the horrifying Catfish, Jonathan tries to intervene and stop the violence but is kicked to the ground.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Now Pookie hates Johnny, because he led her father to be kidnapped. "I can't tell her he's a crook." muses the frog-boy. Wait! She doesn't know? How's that possible? She was just telling him to be nicer to the common folk moments before his abduction. Anyhow, Johnny-frog leaves to rescue his nemesis.

The wily trio claim the tribute-loot is all of their gathering and Bruto places them as the new heads of the protection racket, leaving dear old Leopold to become mere calories. Rather than watch these revolting turn of events the newly appointed gang return to the surface to take over the rackets, leaving a hidden Jonathan to save the Don.

After agitating him for a bit with ineffectual attacks, Jonathan tells a lie; that these newcomers are bringing in an even bigger monster to relieve Bruto of his position. Hearing this makes the monster Catfish vengeful and he departs his gloomy cave to take on this challenger. Spotting the mirror from earlier and mistaking his reflection for the would-be contender he shatters it with his face. With the power struggle quelled the monster-catfish finds the trouble making threesome and eats them alive.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Elsewhere, Zari is rescued from the Lobster bait. The poor human on the surface who thought he had fresh lobster for dinner now resides himself to "a pound of hamburger". Because that's all there is to life; Lobster or hamburger.

On to the next plot. Evil Bruto watches secretly as Pookie brings Jonathan some cookies. "I can also cook and clean house and sew and give a good back rub too Jonathan." If that wasn't enough to make her the god-darndest best housewife in all of the animal kingdom she continues "When I grow up I'll be married and I'll make a very good wife. Maybe I'll even marry you, if you'd like to Jonathan." Such aspirational messages to send out to the VHS viewing children.

In fact, her skills get her the attention of Bruto who previously didn't know she even existed. See girls, it really does work! 'Do you best and you too could be the wife of a vest wearing, beer drinking TV viewer. Just don't break the dishes while you wash them or vacuum during sports!

The killer Catfish decides the moll would be a fantastic addition to his filthy, gloomy cave but he will need to get his competition out of the way first. A passing bull frog is coerced into assisting Bruto in his mission (by holding the silly foreigner's frog spawn children hostage). Next on his schedule is a meeting with Leopold. "You'd better bring Pookie to me before I make up my mind to murder everyone in Rainbow Pond!"

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Pookie overhears all this and Leopold patches things up between them by agreeing to flee Rainbow Pond for a new home. That night Jonathan rescues the Bullfrog's eggs from Bruto despite not knowing anything about this plot strand at all. The following morning, the shamed exiles Leopold and Pookie cross paths with the Bullfrog-of-indeterminate-accent and are astonished to hear of the successful recovery mission, especially since it was carried out by the puny tree frog.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

And so Leopold and Jonathan become friends, with the former Don renouncing his life of crime and pledging to remove the evil Bruto for good. Even when the little tree frog is on the receiving end of one of Mo's regular beatings the Don is there to protect him.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Elsewhere Zari's old buddies Calvin and Derek turn up looking for work, so he takes them to see the Godfather (Leopold not the movie). The Don-frog, due to his rehabilitation, is not looking to employ any extra muscle and turns them away, much to their anger.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Fearing that the evil Bruto will make good on his threat to murder everyone in the pond Pookie convinces her dad to be handed over to the sinister ruler. Zari overhears Leopold's scheme and rats him out to the terrifying fish. The pair form their own plot against Leopold and take Pookie and Jonathan captive. Far above, on the surface, Leopold and Jonathan's weedy dad are ambushed by the frighteningly named Calvin and Derek.

Back in the Catfish's grotto the two kids escape but are hotly pursued by their captor. Mo and his father are caught in the chase and Poppa Mo becomes a dietary supplement.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

By the water's edge all of Rainbow Pond gather to mourn the loss of Mo's previously unseen dad. Mo is overcome with hatred for the tree frog he believes caused this tragedy that he turns on our hero. Jonathan finds himself on the receiving end of a one-sided beating so savage and brutal that the British censor felt the need to step in and erase it! That's some accolade, after all there's few U certificate kids features about cartoon animals that need to have a 2 minute sequence of violence removed. There was that bit in Barney's Great Adventure when Baby Bop explained how to steal a car, but that wasn't violence that was education.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

What we're left with are the shocked faces of the onlookers and Johnny's pained cries, then a jump in the music as Pookie shouts "Poor Jonathan, he could be hurt bad!". She runs over to his bruised and beaten body laying on the dirt, while, get this, an exhausted and sweating Mo pants for air! That's some pounding! Basil the Great Mouse Detective never had anything like this.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

"You took your grief out on him even though it wasn't his fault. I hope you're satisfied Mo and you'll leave him alone from now on." Screeches Pookie. Jonathan is far more kind to the guy that has left him bleeding on the inside. "You should try not to be angry with Mo, Pookie, he's been through an awful lot and he's out of his mind with grief. Just think how we would feel if we lost our fathers." groans the spineless frog, although it gets better; "Mo... if it'll make you feel better you can hit me again." Incredible! Who'd have thought a cartoon called Brave Frog would feature the line "... out of his mind with grief" let alone that last one! What a doormat, like father like son!

But the whimpering Mo is no longer in a punching mood. All this sickening street violence, and the rumor of the Catfish monster has the population of Rainbow Pond turning tail. Zari shows up to further fuel the fear, spilling the truth about Leopold's business connections. With the crowd baying for the former Don's death Zari finds it easy to work Pookie, Jonathan and their families into his murderous plan. The five of them will be used as bait to lure the Catfish monster out of his murky cave and then a Dogfish will likely be lured out too and they will kill each other. So much death, makes you glad to be a civilised human.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Tied up on stakes outside Bruto's lair, the two families wait for death. Inside the insidious Zari spins a tale blaming Leopold for reveling the Catfish's involvement. Bruto swims outside intending to eat the captive frogs but a Dogfish does indeed appear and the two engage in a long and excitement free battle. While the enemy is distracted Leopold, Jonathan, Pookie and the Croakers are set free by Jerome the previously unseen crab.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

They escape to dry land only to find the population of Rainbow Pond making a refugee caravan to a new, Catfish free, life. Like some kind of submissive, Jonathan accepts yet another of his tormentor's friendship (in this case, Mo) and the pair convince all the ugly populace to remain. They just need a plan. How about Mr eel? Apparently last time he and Bruto squared off the Catfish got clobbered. We'll have to take their word for it. The scene ends with Jonathan flying off on the back of a friendly bird (which will no doubt peck the crap out of him once they're far enough away from land) in search of the legendary fighting eel.

While Jonathan is away Zari builds a huge Lobster army and begins marching towards the pond. Meanwhile, things look bleak for the good guys - word reaches Jonathan that Mr Eel is caught in a fisher man's net and is as good as dead. There is some good news; Zari's advancing troops are momentarily forced back by a barrage of turtles and an aggressive swarm of crabs.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

While Zari attempts to motivate Bruto into attacking, young Eely (son of Mr Eel) desperately tries to free his dad from the fishermen's drag net. Even though salt water is deadly to him, Johnny leaps in to assist in the rescue operation. The pair are successful in chewing a hole in the net big enough for the Eel to slip through but celebrations are short lived as the frog succumbs to the poisonous effects of the sea.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Zari's next attack is thwarted by a coordinated attack by a bunch of muscles who pelt the advancing Catfish monster, slicing his skin, before being swallowed alive. However, this was all planned and they stab the sea monster from the inside until he pukes them all back up with incredible force. Usually bad shellfish come out both ends...

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Jonathan returns with Mr Eel and they round up the townsfolk and converge on the Catfish's lair. Bruto momentarily outsmarts the pond life and imprisons the eel in his cave until and unexplained and highly convenient earth quake causes the cave to split freeing the people's champion and, at the same time, crushing Zari and his lobster horde to death under a landslide.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

In reality Mr Eel has little to do with the defeat of Bruto. In fact the Catfish crime boss' fall from power is rendered baffling but yet more BBFC cuts. Jonathan stabs him in the eye, a school of tiny fish join in formation to create a large scary face which, to their enemy's limited vision, appears to be a real, angry monster. Bruto turns to retreat, Jonathan blinds him by covering over his one good eye. Finally we glimpse Mr Eel surging towards the giant catfish with a look of steely determination - a jump cut - Mr Eel and the young frog watch as the once terrifying Bruto flees the pond vanquished, never to return.

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

What actually happened is that Mr Eel gave Bruto an intense blast of electricity. Hardly the most offensive sequence, but once the BBFC picked up their scissors they often found it hard to put them down again.

With their tormentor gone and his Mafioso enforcer rehabilitated, the bizarre and ugly population of Rainbow Pond dance and celebrate.

And we can too since this is the end of the horrible Brave Frog series!

kerokko demetan brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

(There is a spelling mistake in the end credits - video transfer and several of the casts names. It's not the first time - see Harmony Gold's Flower Angel. Maybe they should stop using that cheap titling company above the gas station).

Brave Frog's violence rating brave frog murders Brave Frog Threat ratin
3 acts of violence
6 Zari and his minions + mo's dad
6 /10

Homicide: Life in Rainbow Pond
Another parade of cartoon cruelty!
Witness the violent world of nature.

The beginning...
Experience one of the most depressing intros in cartoon history...

G Not as depressing...
  ... slightly less dull...
Same unappealing animated cast
Same hard-to-bear vocal cast
  Still very boring
  Not as violent

At least this one had a plot...

It lacks the soul crushing bleakness of the previous mashup too, mostly thanks to the genuinely positive outcome (rather than the wafer thin happy ending that was papered on last time). Having watched the original full ending to the series, where Bruto ends his dash for freedom in the very dragnet that Mr Eel escaped from, it does strike me as odd that Harmony Gold left that bit out but were more than happy to leave in scenes where the good guy's met with a horrible and unjust end.

As for which one of these two crapster-pieces was the least-worst, Greatest Adventure makes it to a two rating by the slimmest of margins. It is still terrible, crude looking and dull as hell, don't get me wrong, but at least there was a tiny bit of action near the end.

Shame the spoil-sports at the British censors board thought that kids cartoons shouldn't contain near-death beatings and took out all the best stuff...