Animal Land is a very unique series. It’s essentially going for a bit of a Tarzan vibe at first but then throws in time travel, chimeras, world ending threats, magical fruits, and more. By the end of the series it’s clear that it was able to attain a full Shounen feel and is as out there as any other series on the block. Unfortunately due to the nature of the series that means there is a ton of nonstop animal violence. Animals are taken down for the count left and right and it’s even a main part of the plot. The series has some good ideas but ultimately falls far short of its potential due to the premise itself. If this had all been done with robotic animals then things could have been different.
The series begins with a little boy named Taroza being discovered by a Tanuki named Monoko. He decides to bring Taroza into his village and take care of him. Taroza initially starts the series as a little kid which is true for a good chunk of the series until we get a time skip and he becomes more of a classic Shounen hero. He slowly learns how to talk but doesn’t have a big need of it because he can speak through the mind. Taroza has the unique ability of being able to communicate with all animals across the planet. Because of this he can also hear the voices of animals pleading not to be eaten.
Taroza has 2 main goals. The first is to find a mythical fruit which is said to be so good that even meat eaters can enjoy it. He aims to develop this fruit enough so that no animals are ever eaten again. His other goal is to stop the animals from fighting in the meantime and so he continually builds up his army to establish such a set of rules. It goes against animal nature though so this is a very difficult task to accomplish. There are also just so many animals in the world that it’s hard to keep up with all of them. How can he ever hope to meet them all?
You also can’t have a big series without some villains and we have two main villains here. The first one is Jyu and he’s certainly a standout character. He enjoys things the way that they are. The idea of a survival of the fittest concept being front and center here is exactly what he was looking for and he thrives in it. He’s a chaotic wildcard as well since he’ll still prefer to help Taroza and the others over the other villain that shows up. His little computer is also very handy and they make a good team. Jyu certainly set himself up well in this series and it’s all the more impressive because he had no allies who were there to help him aside from one trusted partner.
Then you have Giller who is the true mastermind here. He is a powerful man with science far beyond what anyone thought was possible. As a result he is easily able to cause a whole lot of damage and even builds an army of Chimera. This is one time where you can say he maybe got a little too powerful here. His Chimera are absolutely massive and it’s hard to see the animals really being able to take them down. Taroza links the minds of the animals to coordinate their attacks and it also gives a slight power boost but even then I definitely remain skeptical. Some of those chimera were absolutely huge and had so many special abilities. Giller never quite gives up even in the end and makes for a very memorable character. He was definitely a lot of fun and a really solid villain.
Capri is a human raised by lions. She’s certainly not on board with Taroza’s plan at first but makes for a solid ally when the chips are down. She plays the field a bit initially but as the Lions would have taught her to hunt other animals right away, his plan would have definitely been a foreign concept to her. Caperi is definitely a solid fighter. She doesn’t get power ups like the rest of the humans but does already know how to fight so that’s important. She’s a better fighter than Reimu who is the final main human around. Reimu is from the gorilla tribe but tends to be more of a pacifist by nature. She’s probably one of the first human allies to really help Taroza as much as possible. Reimu’s a decent character although I wouldn’t say she stands out much until the end. Then she gets a pretty big role as she’s quite critical in keeping morale up and supporting Taroza.
Finally we have Taroza and after the time skip he is a pretty solid character. He’s resolute in his goal to save the world to the point where it has definitely been breaking him on the inside. While he was super cheerful as a kid, he barely ever smiles once he is grown up. He’s just seen too many animals suffer over the years and so until his goals are fulfilled he doesn’t seem to find enjoyment in anything anymore. Taroza can’t quite fight physically with these villains anymore but with his telepathic abilities he makes for a great commander at all times. I’d definitely say that he is a solid main character and his goals are certainly good.
Quo is a mysterious character who orchestrated all of this to an extent. You certainly find out a lot of interesting things about him once he appears. The guy makes for a solid character even if he definitely makes quite a few mistakes as time goes by. He has a tendency to lower his guard. His overall master plan is pretty great though. You definitely see why he went to all the trouble of doing this even if it definitely did not work out all that well for him.
One character who showed up near the end is a lady named Elaine. Despite not appearing for very long she is very integral to the plot. Her fire abilities are also incredibly handy and she was a very memorable character as well as a powerful one. She stands out as one of the cooler characters. If she kept her guard up a little longer that would have certainly helped but even without that she was a fighter to be feared no doubt. In effect, being introduced so late into the game helped her in a power sense because she started out as a super powerful fighter and did not need to evolve into one.
Monoko is one of the main supporting characters from the early part of Animal Land even if she wasn’t quite able to keep up with the others later on. She’s a nice character and really helped kick the series off. Without her things could have been very different. Taroza’s other best friend was a cat named Kurogiri. Kuro is a solid fighter and helped Taroza out of a lot of pinches. During the initial volumes of the series he was the strongest ally to have around and came in handy many times. Things definitely would have gotten tricky without him around to help out.
There are a number of other animals that help Tarozo out over the years. You’ve got members of almost every different species helping out and they’re certainly quality characters. Some don’t do much til near the end but their presence is felt. One such character is Dougen. He’s one of the most powerful Lions in the series and he even gets a cool powered up mode near the end. His fight is a very intense one that lasts multiple chapters and the fact that he was fighting one of the Chimera basically 1 on 1 was very impressive. He was a standout character to be sure.
There are quite a few Chimeras here but the most notable ones are the members of the Babel Three. Belheim is one of these guys. He’s a fairly powerful villain with a star shaped head and takes down quite a number of the animals sent out against him. He talks a big game and certainly thrives on being a villain. It’s part of what makes these guys a big deal as a lot of them didn’t have any character prior to this. Clover was another such member who was crazy strong and hard to deal with. Each of the 3 members were pretty hype villains though and some of the best characters in the series.
The best Chimera of the group though is Robin. He’s the final member and easily the most powerful. He likes to have a good fight and has more honor than the rest. He gives what is probably one of the most impressive battles in the series. The final battle with Giller has to be the best one but this fight can really compete. The stakes are high and he’s just a very interesting/engaging villain to go up against. He’s also able to resist his programming to an extent which is always a good sign to me because then he’s no puppet. Same goes for Luke who was an A.I. partner to Giller who realized that things weren’t quite right.
Ultimately as mentioned earlier, what holds the film back is the nonstop animal violence. The series is certainly one of the more violent ones I’ve read with characters really being torn to shreds. It holds nothing back and then when you consider the fact that it’s the animals being crushed, it hits that much harder. It’s not something that you’d expect to have been avoided just considering the name and all, but it is the definition of a series crushing negative. No matter how strong the other aspects could be, this is something that persists in every volume and pretty much every chapter so it continued to drag the series down into the abyss time and time again. If only Taroza could have achieved his dream of world peace sooner so that no animal had to be injured.
It’s impressive how the series started out as a very realistic title and by the end of it we’re completely into planet busting abilities. I’d say the series did a good job of slowly escalating things. At first the big threat was when a fully grown Lion would show up. Later on the characters face off against a villain as tall as a building without blinking an eye. The final boss is around the size of a small city. The amount of escalation here was intense.
That said, it does mean that the power levels are very wonky throughout. No matter how you slice it, there’s no way that ordinary animals can be dealing with these kinds of threats. No matter how much teamwork they use I’m not really able to buy into it. These monsters can even regenerate and move at hyper speeds. So you do have to really just look the other way here and accept that the fights are likely not going to be all that realistic. I think the only way to make this work would be to have given Taroza the ability to turn the animals into chimera’s as well or simply powered them up to a point that would not be possible to reach. His current ability takes them up to 100% of what a body can pull off but you would need to go further than that.
Outside of the power levels the writing was pretty solid though. The characters all have a lot of great dialogue. The villains are well developed and so are the heroes. A lot of the animals also make valid points about why there’s a need for meat eaters and plant eaters. Of course I’m with Taroza on finding a fruit so that no animal ever has to be eaten again. It’s tough to get used to though and there are a lot of quality debates on this throughout the series. Ultimately until an animal is able to hear the true language of another it would always be tough to just hold back but once that bridge is crossed then there is really no limit against a world of peace. Especially as there aren’t many humans left in this world at the moment. Once more of them pop up then I suspect that things will get a lot more chaotic in the world. With regard to the time travel themes I’ll let you read more of that so you can see for yourself the impact of it. The time everyone comes from is a twist to an extent. There are multiple time periods at play and the fact that the humans are each from different eras is important because it does factor into their actions and why they all have different viewpoints.
Animal Land’s art is quite fantastic though. It’s got an incredible amount of detail and that’s absolutely necessary considering just how many big characters are running around. The fights are always intense and awe inspiring with the various zoom ins and big character spreads. You won’t be forgetting the character designs and such anytime soon. I would go as far as to say that this is the manga’s greatest strength even if it does still help to hurt the score by highlighting exactly how badly the animals are being affected. These battles can hold their own against any of the big Jump titles and then some. If you just switched out the animals for humans the whole time then this series could have really jumped up a large number of scores. It wasn’t to be I suppose. Even the character designs themselves and each member’s powered up modes are incredible. You can feel the fear of the characters as the Chimeras get more and more unbelievable with each transformation. By the end of the series you could almost say it’s part horror in some respects.
Overall, Animal Land has a lot of interesting ideas and the art is quite good but it serves as a double edged sword with all of the animal injuries that occur afterwards. If you’re a big animal fan and don’t want to see them being taken out left and right then this is definitely a series that you’ll want to pass on. That aspect of the series is just impossible to overlook and so in a sense you could say this series was doomed from the start. If you want another action series to check out which dodges this pretty well then I would say it’s time to check out Bleach instead. Now that one’s an old classic.