Continuing our survey of the Tezuka Pro TV Specials of 1978-1989 with one of particular interest to those in “furry” fandom.
Baghi: The Monster of Mighty Nature. Daishizen no Majū Bagi. August 19, 1984. 90 minutes. Directed by Osamu Tezuka and Kimiharu Oguma. Character design by Osamu Tezuka and Hiroshi Nishimura. Art director and Setting design by Seiji Miyamoto. Music by Kentaro Haneda, who wrote good 1970s-1980s “Western” movie music.
Dr. Tezuka told me in a letter that he made Baghi especially for me. Ha ha. Tezuka knew of my liking for anthropomorphic animals, and he was quite a kidder. Still, I like to think that he did have me in mind a few times while he made this TV movie. Tezuka was more involved in it than usual. The Japanese government had just approved in 1984 of recombinant DNA research, which Tezuka was deeply opposed to. He spoke out against it in several ways. Baghi was his sugar-coated warning to the general public. It was an original story with almost no Tezuka Star appearances. He was never entirely serious, but for him, Baghi was more serious than usual.
I do believe one detail that he told me. In the original story development, when Ryosuke as a little boy gets the kitten who will grow into a cat-woman, he says, “I’m going to name her Baghi, like Bagheera in Kipling’s Jungle Book!” That line was cut out in the production. So to anyone who did not talk with Tezuka himself (or his staff, I suppose), the translation of the Japanese katakana characters BA and GI as “Bagi” is perfectly reasonable. (The translation as “Baggy” is not reasonable.) However, her name will always be spelled “Baghi” to me, since I think that is how Dr. Tezuka meant it, and otherwise the name “Bagi” is meaningless.
Baghi is unusual in featuring a double flashback. It begins in the present, with a mid-twenties big-game hunter in a South American village (northern Brazil landscape). Villagers in the background say he is doomed; nobody ever comes back; the monster is too powerful; and so on. The hunter and Chico, a little boy who is his local guide, mount a motorcycle and roar off into the desert. Chico asks why he is facing the monster alone when it has defeated whole armies? He says that he knows this monster.
Cut to the first flashback. Five years ago, Ryosuke Ishigami is a mid-teen delinquent in Japan, the junior member of the Hell House biker gang. They are roaring down the expressway one night, see a lone woman, and decide to have some fun with her. She turns out to be something in human disguise, with claws and a tail, who savages them all except Ryo and runs off. Ryo goes home, where the audience learns that it is his 15th birthday. His father is a crime reporter who is always being assigned away from home, and his mother is a genetic scientist who is home even less often, so Ryo has grown up without any parental supervision.
When the Hell House gang recover from their wounds, they track down their assailant to an isolated cabin, and go there at night for revenge. They order Ryo to look around outside for her, while they wait inside. (He’s bait.) The mysterious woman attacks from below the floor, wounding or killing all in the cabin. When Ryo returns, the monster is about to attack him too, when she sees who he is. She disrobes, revealing herself to be a furry cat-woman, and says, “Don’t you remember me? I’m Baghi.”
Another flashback to nine years earlier, when Ryo is six years old. His father brings home a lost kitten for him as a pet, that the father found near a laboratory where he was covering an escape by experimental animals. The kitten is larger than usual, and pink. Ryo names her Bagi (Baghi). (You can see where the line about Kipling’s Jungle Book would have gone; between “Why Bagi?” and “This guy copied me. It’s really smart!”) The kitten is abnormally bright, trying to imitate human table manners, learning to read and write, and standing on her hind legs. When Ryo calls for people to look at her, she attracts so much attention to them both that she runs away to protect Ryo. She disappears for nine years, during which Ryo grows up to become a school dropout and juvenile delinquent. When he and Baghi meet again, she is the hybrid of feline and human who can talk.
Baghi has become obsessed with learning why she is so different. Ryo agrees to help her. They are old friends, and this will give him an excuse to visit the SuperLife Center near where Ryo’s father found her. It is where Ryo’s mother works. He asks the people near it if anyone remembers an animal breakout nine years earlier, and an old woman says that laboratory staff hunted the escapees all down and killed them all. They were rumored to be unnatural animals.
The research laboratory is guarded by deadly laser weapons, but Baghi digs their way in. They find Frankensteinian experiments on animals and mobile plants. They confront the President of the Center, who tells them that nine years ago, there was a major earthquake that toppled many animal cages and let the experimental animals escape. Prof. Ishigami, Ryo’s mother who was in charge of the project (her beehive hairdo is very mid-‘80s), ordered all of the animals killed. Baghi’s mother had been a pregnant North American mountain lion whose unborn kitten was injected with human cells. They want to meet Ryo’s mother (whom he has apparently not seen for years), but are told that she has just accepted a new job at the Cucaracha Research Laboratory in the South American Republic of Monica. Ryo and Baghi, who has great hypnotic powers, force the President to arrange for an airplane flight to Monica for them.
(Note the SuperLife Center President’s Hirohito moustache. During the World War II period, Hirohito moustaches (toothbrush moustaches; the same as Hitler’s in Germany, or Charlie Chaplin’s and Oliver Hardy’s in the U.S.) were very popular in Japan as a sign of patriotism. By the 1980s, an Emperor’s moustache was a sign that the wearer was old-fashioned and a very conservative supporter of government authority. Look for this in other anime; the reactionary schoolteacher in the 1998 TV girls’ high-school sports serial Princess Nine, for example.)
Baghi is disguised in the airplane as a normal mountain lion, and shipped in a cage in the cargo hold. Another crate in the hold contains one of the Center’s mutated cacti, which tries to kill her. Ryo saves her, but a man from the Center opens the floor and they fall from the plane. Baghi hurriedly rigs a parachute, and they land in a river and are carried into the jungle near Monica. They find a road just as a passing small circus is passing. With Baghi’s hypnosis, they pose as part of the circus and enter Monica. The Monica Army and Colonel Sado accuse them of being rebel guerrillas, and despite Baghi’s jumping through a 30-meter flaming coil as a circus trick, he brings them to the Cucaracha Research Lab.
Ryo is delighted to be reunited with his mother, until he finds that she wants to kill and dissect Baghi for science. Prof. Ishigami dismisses his protests as too juvenile; she is a scientist and she will dissect Baghi for the betterment of mankind. Tezuka’s portrayal of her as the Wicked Queen from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs shows what he thinks of those who take the Science über alles attitude. Her conversation with Baghi reveals that Baghi is about to devolve back into a dumb animal.
The President of Monica visits the Lab. He has brought Prof. Ishigami to Monica to develop a super-rice that will wipe out hunger and improve his public image. The scientific rice is super-large, which is good, but the mutation makes it super-poisonous, which is bad. Prof. Ishigami is horrified by her mistake.
Ryo tries to sneak out of the Lab’s hospital, but he is under guard by Semmen Bond, a crack shot. However, Bond is a believer in what Carl Barks called ‘Flipism’; he always tosses a coin and lets it determine his Fate. He tosses for Ryo, and Ryo wins, so Bond lets him go.
Prof. Ishigami is about to destroy the poison rice, but the President wants to feed it to rebel guerrillas, his political enemies, and rival nations. She refuses to harm anyone deliberately. The President threatens her.
Bond takes Ryo to where Baghi is super-glued to a board. Bond flips a coin again and Ryo wins the glue dissolver. Baghi is already having trouble talking and standing. Ryo and Baghi are about to leave when Bond reveals that he was just playing with Ryo and threatens to shoot them both. Ryo uses the super-glue to defeat him, and he and Baghi escape. They separate, Ryo looking for a vehicle to escape in, and Baghi to get Ryo’s mother.
Ryo causes a gasoline fire in the Lab’s garage. Colonel Sado catches him as he is about to escape, and they fight a sword duel on motorcycles. Sado is accidentally killed. Ryo sees Baghi running off instead of coming to him, and then his mother dying, bitten and clawed to death by animals. Ryo escapes as the fire in the garage destroys the Lab. Later, Ryo meets Bond, who was fired for letting Ryo escape. Ryo swears to kill Baghi for killing his mother, and persuades Bond to teach him to shoot.
Five years later, Ryo has become a big-game hunter. A Monica government agent (with assistants Hamegg and Lamp) hire him to find and kill Baghi, who has been annihilating isolated villages. Chico, whose father was killed by Baghi, will be his guide. Ryo and Chico learn that the killers are not Baghi, but a team of four wild mountain lions that Baghi has joined. Ryo sees military helicopters following them, and guesses that there is a plot. The government agent reveals that they don’t care about the villagers killed by mountain lions. Baghi escaped from the Lab with a ball of the poison rice, which is the only sample of it left now that the Lab is destroyed. The soldiers are to kill Baghi and retrieve the rice ball. But Baghi still has her super-hypnotic powers, and she makes the soldiers kill each other until only Ryo and Chico are left. She is about to kill Ryo when she recognizes him, and hesitates for long enough for him to kill her. Ryo and Chico find Ryo’s mother’s locket around her neck, with a note saying that the President’s attack dogs are about to kill her, and she is sending Baghi away with the sample of poison rice. Ryo realizes that Baghi was innocent. The final scene is at a church where Ryo and Chico brought Baghi’s body. Chico finds that Baghi’s body has disappeared, and Ryo finds a cougar’s pawprints leading towards the mountains. Ryo says that it is for the best.
Tezuka did develop Baghi from one of his manga, sort-of. But the story was so different that it might as well have been an original idea. For one thing, in the manga Baghi is male, not female. This is presumably where the title Baghi; the Monster of Mighty Nature comes from, since the title card of the movie clearly gives the title in Japanese as only Bagi.
Baghi was extremely popular with early Furry fans in the mid-‘80s, but judging by all of the fan art on the Internet, Baghi: The Monster of Mighty Nature seems to be a more recent fan favorite and not just with the Furry fans. Mystery: Is this the only Tezuka Pro TV Special with a sequel? The Anime Fanon website lists Chikyū no Boss Bagi/Bagi, the Boss of the Earth, a 2011 108-minute direct-to-DVD movie produced by Studio Madhouse, written by Hiroshi Ohnogi, and directed by Osamu Tezuka’s son Makoto. There is a long plot synopsis about how, in 1988, Ryo and Baghi are reunited and team up with Anatoly Daletski, the ex-head of a Soviet Spetsnaz squad, to hunt down a commissar, Anton Protanazov, who is trying to replace the Iraqi government with a pro-Soviet puppet government with the help of Hazala, a lynx-woman, and Irino, a leopard-woman, commissioned by Protanazov from the SuperLife Center. There is a full voice cast. Bagi, the Boss of the Earth is presumably a fan hoax since nobody else seems to know about it, but it is a detailed one.
BELOW: Baghi complete movie