Even these tapes cost something

  Tales of La Mancha
1982 | ZIV International, Inc.
Tales of La Mancha ADB

After all that Sci-Fi I've given you I feel its time you had some more culture. So, Classics of Literature makes a return and today's subject is Spain's man of adventure... Don Quixote!

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Written by Miguel de Cervantes and first published in 1605, Ei Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha is renowned as one of the most influential works in literature. The story follows the adventures of a misguided retired country gentleman, Alonso Quixano, who has deluded himself into believing the tall tales of chivalry and courage that fill the books in his library. Reinventing himself as the Knight Errant Don Quixote de La Mancha he takes a dull witted squire, Sancho Panza, and his feeble horse Rocinate on wild adventures. The fair maiden Dulcinea del Toboso is the object of his devotion however in reality she is an oblivious local farm girl. Cervantes' novel was first published in English in 1612.

With the advent of the moving image Don Quixote made the move from book to screen with one of the earliest film adaptations coming from France in 1903. His first anime appearance was in an episode of the hit 1970's TV series Time Bokan before getting a series of his own five years later in 1980. The title of the show was Zukkoke Knight Don de La Mancha (Bumbling Knight Don of La Mancha), animated by Ashi Productions - now known as Productions Reed (Petit Ange, Baldios, Minky Momo, Go-Shogun), and distributed by Toei.

The show takes the central theme of the novel chronicling Don Quixote's attempts to win the heart of Dulcinea. Little does he know she is actually Fedora, the scheming daughter of the Thief King Carabos who attempts to exploit our hero's devotion to rebuild her father's lost fortune. As in the books Don is accompanied by his feeble steed Rocinate and slow witted aide Sancho Panza, although in this version he is actually much smarter than his master. With the exception of a battle with a windmill in the opening episode the series doesn't pay much attention to the events of the novel.

Don de La Mancha was conceived by Yoshinori Kanada a well known animator and illustrator, and the main creative force behind Birth (The World of the Talisman), one of the first ever OAVs. His other early works included animation credits on popular and long running shows like Gegege no Kitaro, Cyborg 009, Yamato, Moonlight Mask and Cutie Honey. During the 80's Kanada worked closely with Hayao Miyazaki as an animator on many of Studio Ghibli's hits starting with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and including Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service and recent titles Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Most recently Kanada has moved away from traditional animation techniques and into the realm of CGI working on the Final Fantasy movies.

Yoshinori Kanada is also known for his work behind the scenes of animation, breaking down the barriers and campaigning for the freedom for individual artists styles to be allowed on screen.

Zukkoke Knight Don de La Mancha lasted for 23 half hour episodes running from 15th April to 23rd September 1980, in a regular 6.45pm slot on Tokyo Channel 12 right before a re-run of Sarutobi Sasuke.

In 1982 all 23 episodes of Don de la Mancha were sold by Toei to Ziv International for distribution in English speaking territories. Set up in 1978 by musician Mark Mercury the purpose of Ziv International was to purchase and repackage foreign programming for Western children, acquiring a number of shows from Toei during the late seventies. These shows included Candy Candy, Captain Future, Captain Harlock & Memole. Making up the American production team were Irv Holender who acted as executive producer on many of the Ziv anime titles and Alan Letz who also filled the same role on Cannon's Robotech: The Movie (aka The Untold Story) and all other Robotech spin-offs to date.

You might not be surprised to hear that since Mark Mercury is also the man behind Bullets, our favourite session band provide the brand new theme tune. The rest of the original soundtrack remains unchanged.

Zukkoke Knight Don de la Mancha received its US TV release in 1982, retitled Don Quixote in The Tales of La Mancha. Small cuts were made to the more racy content to bring it in line with what is deemed acceptable for young Western audiences but otherwise little else is altered. Thief King Carabos becomes King Poormouth but otherwise all the character names are the same. This was most likely helped by the fact they were taken from the novel rather than the usual exotic Japanese names.

The voice cast may be uncredited by it is easy to spot future members of the Robotech cast filling nearly all roles, amongst them; Don Quixote played by Ted Layman (Exodore) and Witch Queen Marlena is voiced by Melanie McQueen (Lisa Hayes). Even Kid Pix's Mr Angelo, the man of a thousand accents, features in supporting roles.

Tales of La Mancha was exported to other countries around the world including Italy and Spain where it was especially popular. In the UK it received a small VHS and Betamax release from the label ADB in 1983, but was soon lost to the Video Recordings Act a year later (see Background: Frankenstein). The sleeve makes claims of being an 80 minute feature but is actually a collected volume of the first three episodes; Where Are You, Dear Princess?, Witches Prefer Knights and Surprise: Monster & Child.

The final episode on the video trails the following installment so it's likely further volumes were planned but a turbulent market brought such plans to a premature end.

Japanese storybook for kids

A couple of points from the video sleve before we begin...

The first; this is how the distibutors described the contents of this VHS on the back of the case...

"Crazy adventures of Don Quixote who, blinded by his love for the wicked outlaw Notorro's daughter Fedoro, fights with Windmill's, Dragons and Ghosts. Totally under Fedoro's spell Don Quixote is persuaded to steal a fabulous diamond from the wicked witch Marlena. About to leave the castle they are discovered, and a terrible battle of wits ensues. Marlena's sword wields magic power but Don Quixote and his servant Sancho escape only to be chased. Finally Don Quixote gives Fedoro the diamond but she lets it fly out of her hand and it is smashed - this ends the witch's special powers."

It starts out as an overview of the series in general and ends up as the plot of the second episode as written by a child! Then there's the grammar errors and the mis-spelt and incorrect names.

Point #2; check out the distributor's tag line;
ADB Britains No.1 babysitter

No wonder our generation is so messed up, we really were brought up by videos. Crappy, cheap videos at that!
Can you imagine a video company making such a claim today? There'd be outrage!
"Disney DVD: Keeps 'em quiet while you hit the booze"

Episode 1...

The story opens with a slickly animated action sequence featuring the heroic knight Don Quixote riding to the rescue of his beloved damsel in distress Princess Dulcinea. He easily vanquishes her captor but his reward kiss is interrupted by the arrival of a huge dragon. This is, of course, just a dream (the box cover art is a clue) and the collapsing torrent of books awakes the real Don Quixote. Already disappointed by the lack of excitement in his life his day doesn't get any better with the arrival of the mayor and a couple of his goons. They intend to take away his books as payment for the tax he owes but Quixote whips out his his sword and they run for the hills. If only he could find the treasure map his father left him, all his money worries would be gone.

Now to introduce the bad guys for the series. In his castle Bandit King Poormouth is remembering the good old days back when he controlled a great army of thieves (including a young Captain Harlock and Godzilla) but then the recession hit and they all run out on him, taking all his life savings with them. The only option he has is to try and guilt trip his own daughter Fedora into bailing him out. Fedora is just as conniving as her father. Out in the countryside, she day dreams about snaring a rich sucker. Next comes the money-saving recycled animation segment of our story... King Poormouth's messenger bird arrives on the scene carrying what appears to be a video cassette and docks inside a video projector. We get to see how the whole crazy contraption works, I wouldn't worry if you miss something - your gonna see it again.

I don't really understand how this system works. I'm no expert with video cassettes but I'm pretty sure the people on the screen can't see or here me (at least I bloody hope not! Not with the films I - uh actually a friend of mine - likes renting). However that doesn't seem to be the case with the King's communications. The down-and-out ruler begs Fedora for money but she's broke too, however she has a plan...

Interrupting him during his morning exercises Don Quixote sees Fedora as his imaginary, beautiful Princess Dulcinea, and vows to help her in any way. Hiding in the bushes nearby is Notoro, Fedora's goon. He takes to the sky on a bat-shaped hang gilder which appears to be the real thing to the heroic knight. He and Sancho take off in pursuit causing a cattle stampede in the process, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. For the towns people of La Mancha this is the final straw and, together with the major they form an anti-Quixote lynch mob. They catch up with him just as he has the bat cornered. They give him one last chance to prove he's not a nut. We're not allowed to see what the beast really turns out to be but, from their reactions, it's not a killer bat!

Having successfully lured him away Fedora is busy trashing Don's house, in search of his hidden treasure map. His house ends up destroyed but the map is found. Don Quixote returns to find Dulcinea amongst the wreckage, she blames the killer bat. Her deceit backfires when the delusional knight locks her up over night, for her own protection. Notoro springs her and the pair race to the Windmill, the first location on the treasure map. The next morning they get the blades turning, and at speed. The breeze blows away a sand bank revealing barrels of loot but Fedora gets caught up in the gust and is entangled in the blades. Don Quixote arrives on the scene and experiences the first of his red-eyed delusions seeing the Windmill as a huge looming dragon.

While Quixote hacks huge chunks out of the windmill the townsfolk stumble on his uncovered inheritance and take the lot as payment for his debts. As the conquered dragon collapses around him and in the chaos the two bad guys escape. Don Quixote vows to follow a life of adventure, in pursuit of his beloved Princess. And, in the background, Fedora vows to follow Don Quixote in pursuit of financial gain.

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Episode 2...

So that's the genesis story out of the way... The next tale begins with Fedora taking a family friendly shower in a clear mountain stream. Notoro does what any good non-union goon would and has a quick perv. But sadly his good times are interrupted by the harbinger of stock animation: King Poormouth's messenger bird. Once the digi-beta has been loaded into the bird-powered video projector this episode's plot is revealed.

The King suggests that Queen Marlena's diamond could be the answer to his cash flow worries. "Marlena?" exclaims Fedora, "Surely you don't mean the witch queen who has the diamond that can tell the future?" No, she's probably right, it must be some other Queen Marlena. Despite the odds it is the same witch queen, but getting that diamond isn't gonna be an easy task. Who's she gonna call?

While peacefully riding through the countryside Don Quixote and Sancho chance upon a man preparing to hang himself from a tree (you don't get this kinda stuff on Cartoon Network!). Don leaps to the man's aid but actually makes things worse by hanging onto his legs while his neck is in the noose. Fortunately all this extra weight brings the branch down and the stranger is forced to live at least a few more moments in this world. Having lost his employer's bag of gold is the reason for this man's suicidal urge. He comments that if he had Marlena's diamond he could use it to recover this lost loot. A man of courage, Don Quixote isn't about to let this man down and he and Sancho charge off into the spooky woods which hide her castle on their latest quest, unaware that this suicidal stranger was actually Notoro in disguise.

Not far into the dark woods a passing bat triggers one of Don's red eyed delusional episodes, some mild slapstick ensues involving 'possessed' trees. Then some real-life wolves turn up and defeat Quixote in a cartoon cloud of dust. When the dust clears they prepare to eat him with knives and forks but Sancho lassos his partner to safety and together they flee to the castle. Following the sound of a young woman's singing they find Marlena who at first appears to be beautiful ("Fantastic!" remarks Quixote) but quickly reveals her true form. I think you've got to hand it to witches for shunning this beauty obsessed culture we live in today. After all they could retain the form of a beautiful woman forever but instead live most of their lives in their true guise of a crone. Inspirational!

Quixote soon finds that aggression is no use against a woman with magical powers. Sancho tries to get him to pretend to be in love with the witch but as soon as it gets physical Don can contain his disgust no more, he won't be the love slave of some hag not when he is betrothed to the lovely Dulcinea! This disobedience doesn't go down well with Marlena so she uses magic to make him less choosy. To be honest I always find money helps just as well as magic...

Like those vile paparazzi that plague our fine, super rich, celebrity idols, Dulcinea and Notoro spy on Don and Marlena as our hypnotised hero dishes out some sensual massage in the castle's garden. It is clear to her that the plan to steal the diamond is going no where fast so she resolves to turn on the "Sex appeal". Appearing to him as he sleeps, her beauty breaks the spell over Don Quixote and the mission is back on track. The daring pair sneak into the Queen's bed chamber and rifle around under her pillow... and find the keys to the castle. Sneaking quietly out of the room the pair don't realise that Marlena has employed some hi-tech security to protect these keys... a piece of thread tied to her finger.

Completely unaware that they have dragged the Queen out of bed, Don and Sancho locate the locked room which contains the desirable diamond. Snatching the diamond, which looks a lot more like a pearl to me, the mission seems to have been successful but it is only half completed, now they need to escape the castle and guess who is blocking their path?

The evil witch queen chances our two would-be robbers across her castle including an extended period in a room clearly designed by M.C. Escher. Having finally escaped outside Don Quixote meets with Dulcinea and hands over the diamond, but the witch is still not too far behind. The devious 'Princess' convinces Don that the witch has brought and army out with her, bringing on another of his red-eyed fits. With strength, courage and a pure heart the heroic Don Quixote bravely vanquishes the harmless trees he sees as Marlena's ghostly horsemen. Distracted by this hallucination Quixote is easily captured by the witch while Fedora quickly disappears with the diamond (now referred to as a crystal which seems more appropriate - since it is ball shaped and can show the future you could call it a 'Crystal Ball' but I'm no expert).

It seems as though Marlena is making plans to cook Quixote, Sancho and their respective steeds. During and argument with Sancho Don's nose momentarily turns into a pointing hand but what he is saying makes no reference to it nor does it give a clue to why this is happening. But that's not important now, since things don't look good for them. Meanwhile, the escaping Fedora gives the Crystal [ball] a test question asking to view her future. It gives a response which is less than pleasing, although it doesn't seem to relate to the graphics in its clairvoyant Power Point presentation, so she flings it into the air. Upon hitting the ground the magical gem shatters releasing a blinding light and a forceful wave of magical fallout. As the supernatural blast fades the evil woods fade away, returning to natural green beauty and Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are freed now that the witch's spell has been broken. Without her magic to disguise her Marlena's appearance is returned to normal, revealing a set of lips that wouldn't be considered attractive until Angelina Jolie. Faced with a life without skills the once witch throws herself at the valiant Quixote who soon beats a hasty retreat, Panza in tow.

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Episode 3...

In his run down castle Bandit King Poormouth is having a health check and laments his aging body wishing for a way to be young again. His familiar looking doctor informs him there is one way to turn back the clock...

Elsewhere Don Quixote is once again riding through the countryside with his aide Sancho Panza. Quixote spots a cloud which, to him at least, resembles his fictional love Dulcinea and yet another bout of wackiness is triggered. From a nearby hill the real life 'Dulcinea' Fedora is watching over our hero along side her goon Notoro. Notoro however is using his binoculars to check out Fedora, but not to the same length as in the Japanese version. The appearance of the video-bat yet again ruins his good time bringing with it another of the King's regular messages/video conferences. It strange who that projector always seems to be parked in front of the same bush...

In his message the Kings lays on the guilt, urging his daughter to bring him the egg of a monstrous lizard Poporopodopo, which can be used to make a special youth restoring medicine. Its a dangerous task but Fedora would do anything for her ailing father. Anything she could trick Don Quixote, into that is...

Out in the countryside Quixote crosses paths with another of La Mancha's suicidal townsfolk. This time it's an old man preparing to leap to his death because he can't cope with the pain of having lost his only son to the appetite of the Poporopodopo monster. Don is as helpful as usual in preserving this man's life and, upon learning that the monster also snacked on his beloved Dulcinea - "She was so sweet the monster ate her for dessert!" - he rides off to get his revenge on the terrible creature. Of course the jumper was actually Notoro in disguise, but you don't need me to tell you that.

Quixote finds the monster hiding in a cave and demands that it come out and fight him. The harmless mother monster is more interested in caring for her egg and mostly ignores the crazy Knight. Finally it becomes clear that this noisy nuisance isn't going away so she picks him up and flings him into a nearby lake. Its soon apparent that Don can't swim so the compassionate creature leaves her egg unguarded to swim to his aid. With the way clear, Fedora and Notoro sneak into the cave to swipe the precious egg. Back at the lakeside the monster revives Don with an unconventional stomach pump and then offers to show him around her cave, to prove that she isn't responsible for Dulcinea's departure. Returning to find her egg missing first she cries big, thick white tears and then she turns against our heroes suspecting them of the theft. The pair beat a "strategic withdrawal".

Resting in the woods that night the bad guys get a nasty surprise. The egg hatches out leaving them in charge of a baby monster, and guess what... it thinks Fedora is its mother! The following day the new foster parent tries to bring herself to follow the instructions for turning Poporopodopo Jnr into youth medicine but even she can't bring herself to kill a cute baby monster. Fortunately Don Quixote catches up to them and with a little persuasion from his Dulcinea he is soon having another of his funny turns, seeing monsters all around. Before he can do any actual damage to the baby the real mama arrives and intervenes, flinging Don Quixote into space, he crashes back to earth. The monster and child are reunited and the stories main protagonists live to repeat the whole experience next time.

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Missing videos Missing videos

The Tales of La Mancha Opening
Sit back for another lesson in bespoke audio craftsmanship from the undisputed champions, Bullets.

Witch Queen Marlena's Diamond
The mad pair think they can steal Marlena's crystal that easily? Cue wacky hi-jinks!

Fun stories
Good voice acting
  Good script
  Faithful adaptation
  Not too wacky
Slightly odd character designs
Somewhat formulaic

I may have said this before but, of all the bargain bin tapes I've watched so far this one is the most suited to being children's entertainment. In my opinion, and I don't think I'm being too out of touch - but I probably am, Don Quixote in The Tales of La Mancha could still be shown on kid's TV and they'd enjoy it. It'd have to be on one of the lesser stations, the non-brand ones, and the censors would have to trim some of the stuff that has become unacceptable, but I think it could work.

There is one thing I still don't really get... are they all animals or not? Yoshinori Kanada's character designs are a little weird. With the exception of Fedora, they're not quite human, not quite animals. It looks even stranger when put with characters who are clearly people. A little odd but otherwise not a bad find.