Whether you’re a fan of Unico on the Island of Magic, or it gave you nightmares as a child, the film is certainly an interesting project. A lot went into creating the wonderful story, from its relatable characters, conflict, style, and more. Unlike the first film, where they adapted two manga chapters, this film allowed Osamu Tezuka to create a whole new story. Like several film projects, it takes a lot of work to come up with an idea and create an animation.
Before Unico in the Island of Magic went into production, Tezuka wrote the synopsis for the film. His handwritten test script titled Unico and the Kingdom of the Sun (ユニコと太陽の王国) was 43 pages, which included synopsis, rough character sketches, and setting sheets. In an interview with Tezuka for the April 1983 issue of Tezuka Fan Magazine, he mentioned they read his story, and told him the manuscript was too long. He asked Madhouse to shorten it, but Tezuka disliked the changes and wrote a new synopsis. This time, he handed the script over to Director Moribi Murano, and the story became the movie we know today, thanks to these rewrites.
While information on Unico and the Kingdom of the Sun is scarce, we’ve searched for any material to help us learn more about the original idea for the film. From interviews with Tezuka, we’ve found some information, but not a lot. Only a few official websites mention the original story, but we continued our search. We stumbled on information when Mandrake auctioned a copy of the original manuscript in 2021. According to the website, the person in charge said only five copies of the manuscript were made and Tezuka gave the original to Sanrio President Shintaro Tsuji. If any other copies existed, it’s most likely Tezuka Productions had them.
And they did. While researching, we discovered two books published over the years, which included the full manuscript for this specific story. Osamu Tezuka Manga Complete Works – Osamu Tezuka Scenario Collection by Kodansha (1996) and Osamu Tezuka Scenario Aggregation (2017) both included the manuscript under the Unico in the Island of Magic name. Unico and the Kingdom of the Sun were only a placeholder name before they decided.
Overall, the original test script and what they chose are still fairly close. Designs for the Kingdom of the Sun manuscript are quite intriguing, and illustrate how even the characters and settings can get a complete overhaul from the initial idea. Chieri (Cherry) and Tolby look different from how we know them today, but we love being able to see what Tezuka was brainstorming when originally writing this manuscript.
We’d like to note that the Unico and the Golden Planet script were most likely written before this one, so you’ll find some similarities if you’ve read it. While we’ve translated the entire manuscript, we will not be providing a direct translation or the Japanese text as the books are still available in Japan.
Retelling by Xellis (6/2/23)
In a village, there lived a young girl named Chieri. She lived with her hardworking father and kind mother, but Chieri was sad. She had a brother named Tolby, but he no longer lived with them. The two were best friends when they were young, and Tolby took care of Chieri. After their father scolded Tolby one day, he ran away, and they never saw him again.
In the middle of winter, Chieri’s parents sent her to town to buy bread at the bakery. As she returned, she spotted a small creature hiding in the grass. It asked for some of the bread she held, and Chieri got a better look at the talking animal. It was a baby unicorn with a broken leg that had been surviving for over a week on only snow. Chieri fed the unicorn her bread, and soon its strength returned. Its horn began to glow and let out a beam of light into the sky. Two adult unicorns appeared and swooped down to protect their son.
The father unicorn snatched Chieri with his mouth and flew up to drop her from a great height. The baby unicorn told his parents that Chieri was the one who saved him, and they gently brought her back down and apologized. They thanked Chieri and told her that one day they would repay her, and the three flew off together.
One snowy night, there was a knock at the door and someone entered Chieri’s home. Right away, the mother spotted Tolby. Overjoyed, Chieri ran to her brother, but his eyes were cold and he looked different.
The father mentioned how Tolby ran away after he scolded him for stealing an expensive toy, and Tolby was glad to update his parents on his travels. Tolby explained he became the wizard Kukurukku’s apprentice, which allowed him to become a craftsman who could make any toys. The father wasn’t pleased with Tolby and wanted him to give up that life and come work with him. Tolby told him no and that he was only there under Kukurukku’s orders.
That night, Chieri and Tolby slept in the same room for the first time since they were young. At first, Tolby was gloomy, but as he looked upon his sister’s face, he felt nostalgic and gently brushed her hair. Chieri begged him not to leave, but he hated their parents and the whole town. He told her how he made living dolls and that he would not turn her into one. Before she could respond, he pulled sand from a bag and made her fall asleep.
When Chieri woke, she found her parents turned into wooden dolls and her brother was gone. She ran out of her home crying and found the village in a horrible state. Other survivors were weeping over their loved ones, but there wasn’t nothing they could do. Even the doctors couldn’t explain the strange phenomenon happening, but Chieri knew her brother was behind the events. Several villages shared the same fate, but Chieri couldn’t bring herself to mention Tolby. In her heart, she knew she had to find her brother to return everyone back to normal.
As she left her home, a familiar face jumped out to greet her. It was the baby unicorn from before! The unicorn named Unico told Chieri he wanted to return her kindness by helping her. Together they traveled far, and each village they came to mentioned the living dolls and seeing a young man. Chieri knew right away that it was her brother.
In a remote harbor town, Tolby was drinking heavily. Three pale-faced sailors wandered into the tavern and asked how many people he had turned to living puppets. When Tolby answered them, they remind him that Kukurukku wanted one hundred-thousand. Frustrated, Tolby cursed and wondered what the magician wanted with so many dolls. The sailors laughed and told Tolby that Kukurukku was going to start a war.
Suddenly, the living dolls around the town wobbled and moved. They marched in single file to the harbor where a large black boat was docked. After they loaded the boat, the ship set sail along with Tolby and the creepy sailors.
Chieri and Unico would arrive in the same town a day later only to find it too fell to the same fate as all the others. Unico spoke with a few mice that mentioned the black ship loaded with living dolls. They also mentioned Tolby was onboard. After hearing this, Chieri was determined to find the ship. Unico transformed into his adult form and they flew over the ocean in search of the boat. Sadly, wherever they looked, they could not find the ship as it disguised itself to look like a whale that appeared only now and then.
Unico asked dolphins if they had seen a black ship and they told him they’ve seen it come and go from an island nearby. The island was called “Fuigo Island” and it was home to a wizard. Assuming the wizard they spoke of was Kukurukku, the two flew to the island. When they arrived, they were immediately surrounded by dolls and captured.
Everything was a strange toy or puppet in Kukurukku’s home. When they were brought before him, Chieri quickly asked the magician how to turn everyone back to normal. Kukurukku wouldn’t tell her and instead said she had two options. Become a living doll or become an apprentice like Tolby. Chieri refused, and this infuriated Kukurukku, who then tried to turn Chieri into a puppet. His magic does not work as Unico used his own to protect Chieri.
Kukurukku called upon Tolby and ordered him to turn Chieri into a puppet. It surprised Tolby to see her there, but he would not turn her into a living doll. The magician whipped Tolby and summoned twelve giant mechanical toys to go after Chieri and Unico. Kukurukku told Chieri that she’ll never be able to return everyone back as he’s the only one who could do it. Unico scooped up Chieri and escaped by flying high.
Now in the desert, Unico tells Chieri that at the end of the desert is a terrifying monster called the sphinx that knows things. They may know how to return everyone back to normal.
As they wandered, they came upon a rock and a creature appeared, wanting to know where they were going. Chieri and Unico told them they were looking for the sphinx, which the creature replied they were the sphinx the two were looking for. If they could answer three riddles, they would give them anything. If they cannot answer, the sphinx would eat them. With Unico’s help, Chieri answered all three riddles.
They asked the sphinx how they could return all the living dolls back to normal, but the sphinx said it was difficult. Only Kukurukku can break the spell as he needs to speak it. The sphinx suggested going to the Kingdom of the Sun and meet with Queen Urania. With this information, Chieri and Unico followed the road leading to the kingdom where the Pyramid Temple of the Sun was built. When they arrived, they learned the annual festival was being held and dancers from all over were coming to compete. The first place winner would get to be Queen Urania’s lady-in-waiting.
Unico suggested Chieri join the competition to get closer to the queen. When Chieri said she could not dance well, Unico told her not to worry. He used his magic to make shoes and a costume to help her dance. The queen arrived and watched the entertainment from a terrace. Soon it was time for the dance competition.
Each dancer performed, and when it was Chieri’s turn, her magical clothing helped her move gracefully. While she danced, Tolby snuck in on Kukurukku’s orders and shot Unico with a poisoned arrow. Unico fell and his magic wore off of Chieri. The crowd gasped and Chieri stripped off her costume and danced wildly. Those who enjoyed the thrilling dance applauded Chieri.
Once she finished, Chieri ran to Unico. She begged Unico not to die and pulled out the poisoned arrow. As she sucked out the poison with all her might, the queen came over. Chieri begged the queen to help Unico. Queen Urania told Chieri the palace doctor would look at Unico to see what’s wrong.
Inside the palace, the queen listened to Chieri’s story while the doctor bandages Unico. The queen could relate to Chieri’s experience, but with her son, Kukurukku. She told Chieri that Kukurukku enjoyed stories about magic as a boy and soon wanted books, tools, and poisons. He would play tricks on others around the kingdom who did not possess magic.
While the Kingdom of the Sun is a peaceful land, Kukurukku’s heart became sad and cold, and he ran away to become the greatest wizard in the world. After a year, Kukurukku returned and demanded Queen Urania hand over the kingdom. His goal was to use his magic to start a political campaign once he was in charge. When the queen refused and told him to change his mind, Kukurukku began building an army to attack the palace.
As the queen and Chieri spoke, Tolby crept into the room. His hands sparked, and he turned the queen into a living puppet. He then turned his attention to Chieri and as he used his magic to turn her, Unico woke and covered Chieri with a nearby mirror. The magic bounced off the mirror and returned to hit Tolby in the face. He turned into a doll and fell to the floor.
As Chieri looked at the queen and her brother, a maid arrived outside the doors. Unico disguised his voice and answered the maid as the queen. Kukurukku’s army arrived and was attacking the city. Unico told Chieri that no one must know Tolby turned the queen into a living doll or it would ruin their morale to fight. Instead, he suggested she take the queen’s place. After hiding the two dolls, Chieri put on the queen’s armor, which fit her perfectly.
The soldiers shouted in unison and Chieri’s heart beat with excitement. Unico encouraged Chieri and told her she was strong enough to take the place of the queen, and to trust he’ll protect her. Chieri felt a surge of strength and commanded the people. She drew her sword and marched out of the palace.
Meanwhile, a grotesque army of monsters attacked. Twelve monsters led the mob and thousands of living puppets followed close behind, all controlled by Kukurukku. Chieri told her soldiers to not harm the puppets as they are actually people, and to only attack the monsters.
As the battle continued, the twelve monsters attacked Chieri. They followed her and Unico to the top of the pyramid, and Unico stretched out his horn to knock them down. They fell to the ground and smashed to pieces. Kukurukku flew in riding a bug-like vehicle and recognized the queen as Chieri and not his mother. As Unico flew high, Kukurukku attacked, but Unico was ready. His horn glowed brightly, and he shot a beam of light, which hit Kukurukku’s vehicle and caused him to crash in the desert.
When Chieri and Unico reached Kukurukku, he asked where the real queen was. Chieri told him Tolby turned her into a living puppet. When he heard her words, Kukurukku had sadness in his eyes. Chieri blamed the wizard’s magic for what happened, and Kukurukku realized his mistake. He uttered an incantation, and all the living dolls returned to being human. This, of course, included the queen and Tolby.
From that moment, a rainbow of colors surrounded Kukurukku and stardust scattered. His body, which was dried up and dying, was now restored. The darkness faded from his body, and he was once again a human being. Queen Urania and Kukurukku embraced, and from the crowd, Chieri hugged her parents. Tolby stared at them from afar, filled with regret. Chieri called out to her brother, and he slowly made his way back to his family.
Unico’s parents flew through the sky and as he went to leave with them, Chieri shouted to him, wondering where he was going. Unico glanced at his parents and back to where Chieri and the others were. His father told Unico to go to Chieri and the little unicorn was overjoyed and returned to the ground.
– ［4524］ ユニコと太陽の王国 シノプシス テスト稿［制作素材］ (mandarake.co.jp)
– Osamu Tezuka. (1983). Tezuka Fan Magazine vol. 38, April 1983, pp. 6
– THE FANTASTIC ADVENTURE OF UNICO-2｜ANIMATION｜TEZUKA OSAMU OFFICIAL
– Tezuka, Osamu. “Unico in the Island of Magic.” Osamu Tezuka Scenario Collection 1981-1989, Ritsutosha, March 2017, pp. 48-74