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Series Review: Chirin no Suzu

September 17, 2009

Chirin_no_Suzu

This may sound weird, but I have vivid memories of watching Bambi as a kid; while I loved the animals, I was always uneasy with the part where Bambi’s mother is killed. Watching Chirin no Suzu is similar to watching Bambi in that it begins with the death of a parent; but unlike Bambi, Chirin is a take-charge, no-nonsense soul who will stop at nothing to become strong and avenge his lost loved one, well to a fault. And that in itself makes Chirin no Suzu the more compelling…and somewhat disturbing anime.

Chirin’s story begins innocently; he lives a carefree life with his mother and the rest of the sheep herd, and is taught important lessons such as never to leave the perimeter of the fence in fear of wolves. However, some time later, a wolf attacks at night and kills Chirin’s mother while she tries to protect him, leaving Chirin grieving and angry. He quickly sets off to find the wolf, and when he finds him, Chirin demands that it teaches him to be strong; and thus Chirin’s new hardships begin.

Few motivational or inspirational words can be said about the remainder of the film; it’s dark, it’s depressing, and it’s relatively free of hope. We watch Chirin struggle from coping with his mother’s death to trying desperately to earn an apprenticeship with the one who killed her – this is painful, to say the least, and without spoiling I’ll say that the ending will not make you weep with joy or feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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And really, what it boils down to is that while Chirin no Suzu might appear to be a family-friendly film, there’s no way I’d show it to a child. In addition to the depressing tone and sad ending, there are a number of brutal sequences that I can only imagine would terrify the kiddies: various animals are slaughtered by wolves and a bird is crushed in the jaws of a snake, among other scenes. Mentally-strong children may be able to handle what they see, but it’s more likely that older fans would appreciate Chirin no Suzu for what it is: a tragedy story.

Finally, on a technical note, Chirin no Suzu’s pacing is consistent – not too fast or too slow – and accompanying the usual dialogue is a narrator who explains both the passage of time between Chirin’s child and adult self, and wraps up the tale in a saddening tone. Like other moral-heavy childhood stories, Chirin no Suzu’s choice to include this narrator helps make the story that much more impactful.

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