As an adult, I have vivid memories of watching Bambi as a child; 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 - to a fault. And that in itself makes Chirin no Suzu the more compelling - and disturbing - tale.
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.
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.
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.
Rather than displaying complicated backgrounds with a broad spectrum of colors, Chirin no Suzu instead opts for a minimal palette and solid, simple backdrops. Silhouettes and shadows are often used to represent the wolf, and blizzards or night fall often obscure anything in the distance.
Occasional scenes are poignant and moving: the young Chirin trailing the wolf across mountains and peaks; Chirin returning to his home as an adult; and the frightened look in the sheep's eyes when their young are threatened.
As Chirin no Suzu is a simple tale, its animation style fits like a glove. It was created in the 70s and thus has a dated appearance, but nothing is bad enough to be distracting.
Though fitting for the target audience and time period, Chirin no Suzu's soundtrack is undoubtedly dated. Each song is reminiscent of an old Disney film or Tezuka masterpiece, but little can be said above "simply average."
Few characters are developed in Chirin no Suzu's short forty-five minute length; there's the relentless, brutally efficient wolf, the naïve and tragic Chirin, and as a minor character, Chirin's mother.
Chirin's mother is easily the most likeable, and like watching Bambi's mother be killed, it feels equally as saddening to watch Chirin's mother fall under the teeth of the invading wolf. She only wants what is best for her son, and ultimately she dies because of it.
Chirin himself, the title character, grows from being naïve and innocent to flat out hardened and frightening; this transformation is eerie, unsettling, and ultimately makes Chirin the subject of the most powerful character development in the film. By the end, we feel genuinely empathetic for Chirin's fate, and regret that his journey was not more healing and positive.
Finally, the wolf: he is the epitome of a villain - cold, calculated, and vicious; but he also is an integral facet of Chirin's development. The two develop a unique relationship that is somewhat chilling to watch.
I can't say much more about the character development without spoiling; let me just say that the dismal and crushing results of the characters' journeys is the strongest reason to watch the film - assuming you like tragedies.
Chirin no Suzu is dark; very, very dark. While certain movies aimed at children have happy endings or positive morals, Chirin no Suzu is a downright tragedy to the end. With the exception of the first few minutes, it starts sad, it ends sad; if you are like me and appreciate a good melancholy journey, you'll appreciate what Chirin no Suzu has to offer. I'd highly recommend against showing this to your children, though.
As a child, Chirin the lamb is taught by his loving mother to be wary of leaving their pasture; wolves and other predators are a constant threat, though the naïve Chirin believes they would never eat his kind. But when a wolf breaches the perimeter and kills his mother while she protects him, Chirin decides he must do the unthinkable: find the wolf and demand that he trains Chirin to be strong. Chirin must undergo rigorous conditions and be the very thing that he despises so that he may have his revenge, but will he lose himself in the process?
My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.