Even these tapes cost something

  The Brave Frog
1985 | Harmony Gold U.S.A. Inc.
Brave Frog Hemdale Home Video Inc

Violent, relentlessly bleak and cold, these features are almostly universally hated by the patrons of IMDB and Amazon!

But are those worried mothers right?
Yes, these movies are truly dreadful!

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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?

Our first feature opens with all the elements you expect from a lighthearted kiddies animated romp; a sombre melody and an opening image of the hero weeping bitterly. Buckle up for some crazy, wacky funtimes, kids! This adventure is gonna split your sides!

The Brave Frog Harmony Gold

The debut starts as both will continue - with scenes of dispair, violence and death. Mr Croaker and his wife are unsuccessfully fleeing a school of hungry, unidentified, sea creatures, watching and wailing pityfully as their trailing litter of terrified tadpoles are eaten alive one-by-one. In the pouring rain, they find safety on a floating leaf where they consule themselves with their remaining children (one of whom appears to have been born wearing a red cap).

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

The narrator marks his first appearance with this stunningly bad and unecassary poem.

"Ribbit. To the limit. Put your whole heart in it. It's cold and dark, you've lost your home and, even worse, you're all alone but - ribbit, to the limit - life's a thrill-a-minute. Life is short. Heart is long and something's always going wrong.

Ribbit. To the limit. Do not waste a minute. Listen now to what I say and there will be a brighter day..."

What was that surposed to be, other than filler for some dead air which, most likely, would've contained a Japanese pop song. The words are mostly meaningless - the claim that "life is a thrill-a-minute" go completely unfounded by both this story and the sequel. And that strange "Ribbit. To the limit" catchphrase didn't even make it into the next video.

Tragedy is pilled onto tragedy as the surviving members of the Hopper family (possible distant relatives to the late Dennis) are separated from their oldest son by a sudden landslide. The tiny, cap sporting, tadpole is washed away by the raging storm.

... and reappears in the following scene noticably aged, yet only minutes have apparently passed. Even his cap has grown. With the help of the irritatingly voiced Pookie, who appears out of the reeds giggling uncontrollably at seemingly nothing in particular, he is reunited with his parents, who don't seem to notice his advanced maturity - at least if they do they don't mention it.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

The pair, who are no longer traveling with the other surviving children which neither parent makes reference to, decide that their current location would make a wonderful new home. Dad could have a workshop and little Jonathan could go to school. "We would all be so happy and content." Oh, how wrong you are!

By the next scene Jonathan is fully grown, these children sure grow up fast. He goes for a swim around their new home and then rests to play his leaf-flute. Unfortunately the music attracts the demented (and also grown up) Pookie. The two dance, holucinate and promise to remain best friends forever. Ahh, what a happy scene. Where can it go from here? Down, that's where. A long way down.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

The two ugly frog's cheerful playtime is interupted by the sudden appearance of local bully Mo and his nasty pal Lefty, who talks like a 1930's mobster for some reason. The unfriendly duo tell Jonathan to get out of their neighborhood which Pookie scolds them for but then departs, which leaves Jonathan all alone with the bullies. Little J tries to stand up to them but is no match for Mo who lifts the young frog off the ground, slaps him around a little while his buddy sings, and then punches him through the air. Mo utters a stern warning and the two leave the newcomer to ache by himself.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

So, 11 minutes in and one beating and a family massacre on the score card. Still, can't get any worse right? After all, this is a kids cartoon.

Now Jonathan's at home with his parents. Everyone is happy as the future looks bright. Dad can sell his toys and, with the money they've saved (since when - they were penniless moments ago) their son can go to school. Jonny strolls outside merrily humming a tune and almost immediately meets a new character - Zari the Lobster. He and Mo bring a message: King Leo, the boss of Rainbow Pond, wants to meet them and they'd better come along or else!

I'm sure Leopold is a nice, friendly guy. Actually, he's not. While not actually saying a lot, Mr Hopper offends the Godfather-styled king-of-the-pond so he has Zari teach him a lesson. Dad get's knocked around savagly while his son watches.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

"Great Frog! Stop! You're killing him!" Jonathan cries as he dashes over to protect his father from the cruel beating. Mo is also present and he baits the boy into attacking, which is weak and laughable at first but quickly becomes aggressive. Pookie appears and breaks up the brawling declaring everyone "Yoyos". Leopold is revealed to be her father and she argues with him over his treatment of the treefrogs which angers him even further so she gets a slap. Annyoed at her crying Leopold orders she be locked up. "I forgive you father, goodbye!" the girl sobs as his guards drag her away to jail.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

And that is our first display of a theme other than violence which the Brave Frog movies having running through them - submissive victims. Often the character on the recieving end of the abuse will instantly forgive their aggressor without request. I think it's fair to state that this is one weird series to be aiming at kids!

Mr Hopper warns Jonny to keep away from Pookie, his only friend in their new nightmare home. "Life without Pookie isn't fair!" his son complains as he runs away. "Life is seldom fair." his dad calls after him. Just as the sleeve promises: "An enchanting cartoon cavalcade of color, action and adventure, The Brave Frog will delight the entire family for years to come".

The moping kid receives more abuse, this time only verbal, as he shuffles home, only to discover the Hopper family residence has been destroyed. The local police-prawn is not interested in finding the culprets, instead he just overuses the words "evidence" and "evidentally" in feeble attempt at comic word play before shuffling off muttering about "foreigners". Sheltering in what is left of their home that night, the senior Hoppers decide that they should leave Rainbow Pond while Jonathan cries himself to sleep.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Enjoying this so far, kids?

The following morning a gloomy Jonathan plays his flute at the edge of the pond and, as it has a creepy habit of doing, the sound of it summons Pookie. Why can't it summon someone cool like Hannah Barbera's Godzilla? Just to lift the mood she sobs and wails and begs him not to leave. Eventually the brave frog decides to give Rainbow Pond one last shot and, together, they laugh and hug. A gentle, peaceful, tune plays out the scene as it ends with a view over calm, still waters.

What could possibly follow that tranquil, pleasant ending? SMACK! Jonny is knocked to the floor by an off screen punch. We nearly had too much niceness, time to balance it out with some more violence. From nowhere Mo and his wiseguy buddy have materialised to give the tree frog another anti-friendship seminar as sponsored by King Leopold.

"Ribbit. To the limit. Put your whole heart in it. Tired of being pushed around, Jonathan is trying to hold his ground."

He gets some help this time. The assault is cut short by a giant frog sensitively modeled to resemble a cotton picker. He scares away the bullies then strolls away chuckling to himself.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

"What a great hunk of frog!" Jonathan exclaims prompting Pookie to ask "Jonathan, are you alright? What makes you walk so funny all of a sudden?" I think we can guess. Jonny 'funny walks' after the big brute.

He sits, quietly gazing longingly as the big tough guy hacks away at the dirt with a pick. While his cowardly parents pack their things, Goliath the giant frog trains Jonathan to become a rough, tough bullyboy just like him. In case you didn't hate him enough already Jonathan Hopper manages to be both needy and creepy. "Some day I'll be able to swim like you. You like me a little bit? You don't think I'm a pest? You know, sometime I wish you were my dad." "Just keep swimming kid" is the reply. Geez, try and reel it back in a bit, your weirding everyone out.

Once again, too much happy, not enough slappy. So, to redress things... On the surface Zari has cornered an elderly sea snail:

"Let me stay here and die in my lifelong home."
"Ok, you set the place and I'll set the time - and it's right now so say your prayers because Rainbow Pond doesn't need any old snails, so leave or DIE!"

All cheerful cartoon romps feature death threats. Mr Hopper witnesses the event but cowardly slopes off. Goliath steps to serve the lobster with a humiliating defeat. "I don't cotton to that!" Goliath states, just in case you didn't notice his racist appearance.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

At dinner Jonathan bad mouths his dad for his cowardly display earlier and is slapped to the floor for his disrespect. The next day the Hoppers are leaving Rainbow Pond forever until they cross paths with Goliath. Now for a quick quiz: is Goliath (A) alive and happy or (B) lying in the bushes beaten and close to death?

If you answered (B), you get nothing because it was obvious!

Goliath names Zari as his killer before croaking as Jonathan watches. After Goliath's funeral (there genuinely was a frog funeral) Mr and Mrs Hopper find their son sleeping on his hero's grave. But Goliath didn't die in vain. Like Mickey Goldman before him his murder prompts a determined effort and a training montage.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Thanks to his training (or so we're told) Jonathan saves Pookie from a terrifying monster (a newt, I think) and Leopold begrudgingly lets little J attend the local school. But only for a price. A price which Mr Hopper won't pay. On his way home a truly horrifying cat nearly spells the end for the old frog. Yet more tears ensue.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

To prove his bravery to Mo and Lefty, Jonathan agrees to steal a cat's whisker. The dumb frog succeeds but nearly dies in the process and the bullies don't believe him anyway. More crying and resentment follow. "Why do I fail. Why can't I be lucky, just once?"

Next, Mrs Hopper asks her son for "a nice back rub." Sensing things turning creepy Jonathan claims he has a date with Pookie and hops the hell out of there. He does indeed have a date with the annoying girl frog. The pair run and laugh and play carefree as they stumble across a mother turtle grieving over her vandalised eggs.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

"I only left them alone to get some water and when I came back they were murdered!"

Jonathan finds one egg unharmed and carries it back to its owner. Although he trips and drops it, the egg doesn't break so we can all have a good laugh about it. The following day the children check on Mrs Turtle and all this maternal love get's Pookie wondering if this turtle could be her mother. She really is nuts! Pookie tells her dad this wacky theory and asks about her real mum but gets on answers and runs out crying, yet again. Displeased with this disturbance, Leopold orders Zari to kill Jonathan.

However, in the following scene we find Zari attempting to steal Mrs Turtle's egg for his boss. In a stand out scene of violence, the mother takes blow after blow to the head while attempting to keep her unborn child safe. Finally she is thrown into the thorns of a rose bush. As she lays dazed and battered she reaches out for her endangered egg and the feisty lobster pins her hand to the ground but the approaching children scare him away.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

Pookie and Jonathan arrive just in time to watch Mrs Turtle die from her injuries. Life sure is grim in Rainbow Pond. The couple elect to become the surviving egg's parents ("No matter what, I'm gonna keep this baby!!" wails Pookie - remember that one for later on kids!) and carry it away somewhere they think to be safe. The two children laugh and joke about becoming Mum and Dad. But was does laughter bring in Rainbow Pond? That's right, suffering! This is a kid's cartoon after all. A nasty snake shows up, intent on eating their precious egg and, after a short chase, during which Jonny chucks sand in its eyes, the snake is successful. Trapped down a hole, the frogs are forced to watch as their unborn charge is swallowed whole.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

"We failed and it was Mrs Turtle's dying wish!" wails Pookie as the snake slithers away. "I wish I was dead!"

"The Brave Frog, an all-animated adventure glowing with music, fun and laughter!" - So it says on the sleeve.

Sobbing at Mrs Turtle's makeshift funeral Jonathan and Pookie spot Mo and Lefty dragging the pre-turtle back to their boss. After all that, the snake couldn't keep it down and puked it into the pond.

The egg is presented to Leopold as a tasty treat and he orders Zari to smash it open with his claws. Having murdered the mother the evil lobster attempts to abort the child too but becomes confused when the shell dents instead of cracking. Well, the dead mother's child isn't dead but it is now deformed.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

A pond scientist is called to examine the egg and he gives his diagnosis just as the former bereved surogate parents enter. This is no egg - it's a ping pong ball!

Jonathan sums up the whole traumatic event best: "Mrs Turtle died for a ping pong ball!"

He runs out in floods of tears and Pookie chases after him. While consoling him she, in one line, sums up the tragic tone of this whole movie; "Look, Jonathan. At least it didn't die. Things are looking up for us." She's finally coming to terms with the reality of being in this series.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

So, after that mean sucked punch, and with only 4 minutes left... how are Harmony Gold gonna staple a happy ending on all this?

"Jonathan, dear?"
"Huh, yes?"
"See the sun?"
"Yes I see it. It's very pretty."
"And it's such a pretty day. And everything is lovely" [If you ignore all previous events]
"Uh huh. Sure, I know what you mean. The flowers, the sky, dreams come true and being with you. And I'll be famous and I'll see the world and I'll be somebody. I might even be the biggest frog in Rainbow Pond. Oh, ha ha ha [continued, deranged laughter]."

And with that Jonathan is swimming through the sea, watching flowers fall from the sky and brightly coloured blocks, spinning waves, flashing lights and even falls between skyscrapers... This trippy sequence is either magical, visual fun or the coping mechanism of a traumatised child's damaged brain.

kerokko demetan the brave frog Brave Frog's Greastest Adventure

While Jonathan is lost in a denile coma, King Leopold shows up to make a tearful appology to his daughter and pledge to be a better father. Just moments after ordering the death of a mother and her egg he now wants to become the best dad there is. "Whoever's been causing all the trouble is gonna have to answer to me!" Surely that's him? Father and daughter cry uncontrolably - could this awful movie have ended any other way?

Jonny continues the whitewash; "Well, things are sure looking up for Rainbow Pond. La lala lala la la..." Yeah... he's not well.

Finally the narrator steps in to do his part in erasing the previous hour and twenty seven minutes from your mind. Forget all the suffering, murder and unending heart ache and trauma and be convinced you that, actually, this has been the cheerful, magical children's fantasy that the box advertised.

"Ribbit. To the limit. Put your whole heart in it. Doing good and loving folks. Making friends and telling jokes. This is what our lives are for. So... the end. There is no more."

(If only that were true, I've got a whole other one of these to watch...)

Brave Frog's violence rating brave frog murders Brave Frog Threat ratin
8 acts of violence
2 muders!
9 /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...

Unexpectedly violent
Relentlessly cruel and depressing
Eye-wateringly ugly cast
  A real endurance test
  Horrible voice acting

Harmony Gold have made a number of really odd choices with anime; Dracula Sovereign of the Damned, Frankenstein, Call of the Wild and Run for Life spring immediatley to mind, but the Brave Frog saga must be their worst. Let me explain my reasoning behind this:

Dracula and Frankenstein were horror mismarketed to an audience it wasn't intended for. As with Call of the Wild, they didn't look like cartoon entertainment for the under fives - Brave Frog does, and that is what makes it all the worse when the brightly colored cartoon frogs savagely beat each other senseless or commit willful murder as in that jaw dropping sequence when Zari gives Mrs Turtle a fatal brain injury and leaves her to die in the thorn bushes.

You could have been watching Teddy Ruxpin, Wuzzles or Rainbow Bright. Instead you were watching 90 minutes of an ugly and poorly drawn frog-child and his spineless dad being punched and kicked around Lilypad-land like amphibian stress-releasers.

Why did an experienced company like Harmony Gold choose this show? Why did they toss words like "killing" and "murder" into a script written intentionally for a western junior audience? Why choose to adapt the episodes they did and, the biggest question of all, why leave it with Mrs Turtle's senseless slaughter?

It's no wonder there are so many outspoken IMDB and Amazon reviews where Brave Frog is commonly described as "appaling", "vulgar", "horrible" and "repulsive" in hysterical terms by angry mothers, while its G rating is held in disbelief. Incidentally, my favourite description is "Warning! Warning! Violent movie alert your kids are in danger!" Kinda ruins the sleeve's claims to "... delight the entire family for years to come."

The Brave Frog is a real puzzle. A plodding, boring one too. With the exception of Bandi the Squirrel, the worst video I have had to (so far *shudder*) sit through.

And, after so many questions, one remains... is the sequel even worse?

Find out here; The Brave Frog's Greatest Adventure!