Life: The Mystery of the Jungle is a Japanese-American animated television series created by Sam Register based on the BBC documentary series of the same name. This series even bears the same theme song as the previous one. The cast for the series is Design Squad's Nate Ball, Victorious' Matt Bennett, Hynden Walch, Janice Kawayne and iCarly's Noah Munck. The series premiered in April 23, 2011.
The third season premiered in September 10, 2011 with the fans' unofficial title "Life: Falcone's and Leopard's". The opening sequence changed featuring new clips from the upcoming season 3 episodes. Chang Will does not appear in the series due to his death during the second season, but in real life, Noah Munck (his voice actor) left the show to pursue his iCarly career.
Also, Matt Bennett does not appear in most recording sessions to voice Suyo, due to Victorious production, making Suyo sometimes mute. Manny and Khan are stated to appear in the third season and Sotaku's father will make more appearances. He is now voiced by series creator, Sam Register. The animation studio moved to Animation Collective, run by Larry Schwarz and more episodes are currently in production.
On October 21, 2011, the series is on hiatus due to the production of China Smith interferring the broadcast of the brand-new upcoming Life episodes. The series ended on December 1, 2011. A Christmas special aired titled "Santa Gama" with the title, Life: Planet Earth.
The series was originally going to be a Usagi Yojimbo animated series (after the failed Space Usagi pilot). But due to copyrights with Stan Sakai and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who use the characters, the spin-off was canceled. But Usagi himself becomes a recurring character in the anime after the episode "Usagi Yojimbo".
After watching an episode of Life, Sam thought of a cartoon character that had the ability to change into an animal. That was how Sotaku was created. The oiginal animal was going to be a dragon but after researching about Japanese animals, he finds an artical about tanukis (raccoon dogs) and that's how Sotaku came to be.
Justin Timberlake was going to be the original voice for Sotaku but didn't show up in the recording session so he finds Nate Ball (of Design Squad) and he uses him as the voice for the teen.
After the death of his father, orphan named Sotaku Mikayama (Nate Ball) has ran away from the orphanage since he received a letter stating that his father is still alive but hidden in the jungle. As he ran for the streets, a magic light has zapped Sotaku in the head causing him to transform into a tanuki. The dog, Suyo (Matt Bennett) who was found in the streets by him, has transformed into a humanoid. On the way in the jungle, he meets a German alien named Terrna and a Japanese hot girl named Brenda. On the way, they meet an anthromorphical samurai rabbit named Miyamoto Usagi and a monkey named Chang who joins in. Now, together, they must find Sotaku's father.
- Sotaku Mikayama: Voice of Nate Bell. A 14-year old teenaged orphan who's father died and had to live in the orphanage. He ran away when he received a letter stating that his dad is fine but hidden in the jungle. After the green light striked him, he transforms into a tanuki at night.
- Suyo Mikayama: Voice of Matt Bennett. A Dachshund who was from the streets who joined along with Sotaku's path. After the green light striked him, he gained the ability to become anthropomorphic. Suyo considered himself to be pure-preed but in real life; he isn't. In some episodes of the second season, Suyo doesn't speak but barks (by Frank Welker) due to his original actor, Matt Bennett was busy with Victorious. He was voiced by Tom Kenny in the movie and the Christmas special.
- Koriand'r/Terrna: Voice of Hynden Walch. A Tamaranian. She speaks her native language which makes her history a mystery despite the pilot episode featured her landing on a rock when first meeting Sotaku. She later speaks fluent English in the second season possibly due to the contact from Sotaku. Her Tamaranian name parodies the real name of Starfire from the DC series. The movie reveals that she can easily learn any language through lip contact, similar to Starfire.
- Brenda Wakanashi: Voice of Janice Kawayne. A Japanese samurai girl who is the only human girl in the group. She does not speak much but she speaks Japanese. Brenda wields a ninjato and a katana. She spoke English in the movie.
- Chang Will: The descent of the three wise monkeys. Being disabled, he was saved by Sotaku gaining the ability of sight, sound and speech. Chang is a 12-year old chimpanzee as he does not sport a tail. Chang was killed by the Knucklesilver Knight and his immunity of blindness, deafness and muteness went to Sotaku. In real life, his voice actor, Noah Munck left the show for iCarly. Voice of Noah Munck.
- Miyamoto Usagi/Usagi Yojimbo: A Japanese rabbit who was from Sukiyo (an Edo-period of Japan full of anthropomorphical animals) who was transported into the present day of Japan to help Sotaku. He is nicknamed Usagi Yojimbo (the title of the comic book he originated in) due to his Japanese name too hard to pronounced. He is in love with a Japanese anthromorphical fox named Kitsune (Kitsune means fox in Japanese and Usagi means rabbit in Japanese) and a rhinocerous best friend named Murakami Gennsuke (Gen for short). Usagi Yojimbo was originally going to have it's own TV series but due to copyright with TMNT, the spin-off was canceled. Voice of Yuri Lowenthal.
- Manny (Manhammer/Manheimer) and Khan (Klan): Voice of Jeff Bennett and Tom Kenny. Manny is a manopus (a man and platypus hybrid) and Khan is an Austrian accented leprechaun who were the archenemies of Sotaku. They originated in a flop animated short titled "The Chronical Adventures of Manny and Khan" that aired in the scrapped series, Cartoonstitute. Since there short failed to be a series, the characters were used in the anime. Although Manny kept his design, Khan changed his design into a more anime style of his original look. Manny always wants to play while Khan keeps telling him that he has work to do (talks to a static 60s television set with a can phone in fluent German about how to defeat Sotaku). Khan is always refered to as Klan by Sotaku, which makes him very angry.
- Ori Mikayama: Sotaku's father who sended a letter to Sotaku reporting that he is still alive but hidden in the jungle. According to Register in Twitter, it will be revealed that Ori is the new Tarzan who had the spirit of the tanuki which he granted to his son to fight off villains. In early episodes, he was voiced by Greg Abbey but in the third season, he will be voiced by series creator, Sam Register.
Due to lack of idea and money, Life was canceled and all reruns will be removed at once. The upcoming Christmas special was scrapped due to the series cancellation. The plots were not resolved making the show unfinished. Life will only premiere in shorties on live-streaming media on Livestream.tv
Here is a quote from the producer of the series:
- We are not producing any new episodes as of now. But tune in for some brand new shorts on Monogul.com. In the meantime, watch our other shows like China Smith.
Despite the series' cancellation, a Christmas special aired for the show titled "Santa Gama". But, the title of the cartoon was not present, it was called Life: Planet Earth. It is revealed that this was the original pilot concept.
A movie was made to finally finish the cartoon series titled Life: Sakayoma aired in January 23, 2012 featuring the full theme by Lisbeth Scott. The film only features Sotaku and Usagi as they are off to finally find his father. Manny and Khan also appear in the movie. The other main characters only appear in flashbacks and memories.
Sam Register does not voice Ori in the movie, wrestler John Cena voices Ori in the movie as a guest star.