Film Festival Week: Tibet Inu Monogatari

Tibet Inu Monogatari is a Madhouse film from 2011. Yes, Madhouse. The studio that can make things as good as Rainbow and Monster but also things as rubbish as anime X-men or Highschool of the Dead. I never know what to expect from them just because their quality does vary so greatly that I can honestly say they’ve made some of the best and some of the worst anime I’ve ever seen.

Tibetan Dog1

Story:

Our narrative opens with a youngster named Tianjin being moved up to the mountains of Tibet as his mother just passed and that’s where his father is. He quickly forms a bond with a golden-furred Tibetan Mastiff that he calls Duoji Yongzhi. Things become complicated for the duo when Duoji is accused of being responsible for a string of attacks against villagers and animals.

The biggest down side of the film is just that the climax gets a bit ridiculous, almost imbuing Douji with supernatural abilities. The arc is also going to be really obvious for adults. Which I’ll mostly excuse because it is a family film.

On the positive side, the whole emphasis on the bond between this young boy and his dog does work well. It leads to some strong, heart-warming moments. When the adult characters are arguing about what they should do, they do bring up some solid points that makes it feel like a legitimate discussion. The film also does take some risks and ends up involving a lot more death than you’d see in most family films. It may not be enough to make the narrative surprising, but it does make it a bit different and it’s nice to see Madhouse execute something like that in a subdued fashion.

Characters:

For the most part, the main characters are a bit shallow but kind of endearing and the side characters are very much there for a function. There are some interesting character dynamics. Like the tension betwixt Tianjin and his dad or the rivalry between his dad and the old woman who sells snake oil. Which do serve to elevate some of the cast so they’re above the regular archetypes.

The biggest problem is that there’s a particular character who loses all sense of reason and perspective at the climax of the film so that he can go full antagonist. His actions before that point all make sense even if they’re misguided but at the climax he just says “I’m not going to pay any attention to what I’m seeing here because I stubbornly refuse to be redeemable.”

Art:

The artwork is pretty great. The nature scenes look great. The animals are really detailed and look like what they’re supposed to. Which means the dogs are super cute. The characters look good. About the one complaint I have is that the monster they’re chasing down kind of just looks like a big, black blob with teeth and eyes. A stronger, more detailed design would have worked wonders, I think.

Tibetan Dog

Sound:

The acting is well handled. It is in Mandarin, which is an odd choice on Madhouse’s part. Maybe they were going for that sweet Chinese market that’s so lucrative for media developers. The music is well done. There are some really nice scenes with flute playing.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any to be had.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Tone down the climax to fit better in with the rest of the film. Seriously, most of the film seems like it could take place in a real world setting. Then we get supernatural elements and absurdities in the climax.
  2. Have the particular character I’ve already talked about actually believe his own senses.
  3. Give your monster a stronger design.

Final Thoughts:

Tibet Inu Monogatari is a pretty solid, enjoyable film. It has a few issues, but they don’t detract from it too much. In the end, I’ll give it an 8/10.

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