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Three young people from the 21st century have their minds sent back into the past, into the bodies of people living in Alexandria at the time of Julius Caesar's first meeting with Cleopatra. One of the two young men is a lecher who vows that he will seduce Cleopatra instead of just watching. Having won over Caesar (depicted as a cigar-chomping American politico riding in a horse-drawn Edsel) and Mark Antony, Cleopatra is defeated by Octavian's homosexuality and takes her own life.
Screened in U.S. cinemas, where it was the first animated film to receive an "X" rating, Cleopatra's release coincided with a temporary suspension of business at Mushi Pro. A financial disaster in Japan and misleadingly marketed in the U.S. as hard-core erotica, Cleopatra was Astro Boy-creator Tezuka's last-ditch attmept to recoup money for his troubled company, though the production was reportedly characterized by defecting animators, who had realized that little could save Mushi and stole anything that was not nailed down. The production's salability was not helped by Tezuka's own artistic experiments, including the opening scenes set in the future as an ironic reversal of the distinctive animation style of the U.S. series Clutch Cargo. Whereas Clutch Cargo featured live mouths matted onto animated faces, Cleopatra's future scenes were shot as live-action but with anime faces matted onto the human actors. Other art-house experiments included foolhardy anachronisms such as gladiatorial combat staged as TV events and the murder of Caesar presented as a kabuki drama (a famous scene from Chushingura-see Woof Woof 47 Ronin), bringing the story to a screeching halt for several minutes. Compare to Tezuka's earlier success with Arabian Nights. N