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.
I was given this as one of my Secret Santa recommendations, and it turned out to be a little gem!
We start off with a young Chirin, frolicing through the fields and generally enjoying his happy little existence with all his other critter friends, at night he returns back to his mother where they sleep together and the next day he starts his little adventures again, warned never to go past the perimeter fence for fear of the Wolf.
Unfortunately, the Wolf doesn't care about fences and one night, kills Chirin's mother as she tries to protect him. There's reminescences of Bambi from the beginning to this part, but that's where any comparison ends, because the Wolf isn't a faceless hunter never to be seen again, he has a domain, he has an agenga, and Chirin wants in.
What we actually have here is a tragedy, what happens from this point onwards is nothing other than pain, Chirin wants to be Wolf's apprentice, and become strong so that he doesn't just exist in his field and wait to die, he wants to be strong enough to defend himself and others, so he seeks out the wolf for training. We get a time skip after a short montage of this training, and then we see Chirin the Ram, a killer as heartless as the Wolf himself.
The story has some morals on revenge, and why it is an inherently bad thing, but also talks about how having strength with no purpose is also bad, Chirin has no happy ending here, just a series of bad things that either happens to him, or that he causes himself, one such scene is where we see a snake kill a bird by shaking and crushing it in its jaws, Chirin tries to rush and protect the eggs, biting the snake and wrestling it from its branch to the floor, only to see that he smashed all the eggs in the process. This acts as the turning point for Chirin, from this time on he has no hope.
For a show made in the 70's, this doesn't look to bad to me, sure I've seen some better backgrounds done in shows made around the same period, but when you consider how hard it is to animate an animals movement and express it without it feeling completely unrealistic, you realise that they actually did a good job here. Chirin as a lamb is decidedly animated, his movements are lively and springy, always on the move, the Wolf walks with the slow gate that any owner of a large dog would recognise. All together, it makes for a quite a good visual to sit through.
Probably the shows major weakpoint. Classic Disney like songs that are almost trying to shove the moral of the story down your throat, and the BGM was forgettable, it wasn't unlistenable, bbut it was incredibly average.
Definitely quite one dimensional here, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, they set out to tell a simple story in 45 minutes and they achieved it. Chirin's growth from naive youth to bitter adult works well, as does Wolfs consistent bitterness with the world. The only other real character is Chirins mother, who acts like almost any other mother character in any other show. It works though.
Alltogether, I'lll give the show a 7/10, it sets out to achieve something and succeeds, I guess chirin can come across as pretty edgy as an adult, and if that kind of thing really annoys you, maybe you shouldn't watch this, bubt on the whole I feel it's worth watching. It's certainly not the familt friendly watch I was expecting, at any crossroads where they could go down the darker path or the hopeful road, they always choose the former, it makes me wonder about the original author of the novel, whether they were embittered like the Wolf, or a ccynic like Chirin. Either way, this was a pretty dark tale to tell about a Ram.
Let me just get right down to it. This isn't really a review so much as my personal thoughts, so whatever.
Story: A little lamb named Chirin lives with his mother in the meadows on a farm with other sheep. He is happy and full of life though a little too precocious and frisky. His mother warns him never to go beyond the fence because on a very ominous looking mountain lives the Wolf King which loves to eat lambs. Chirin doesn't really pay any mind to it until one night the sheep are attacked by the Wolf King and his mother dies. Chirin is overcome with the thought of revenge and wants to become a pupil under the Wolf King so that he can grow as strong as him and defeat him.
First off it acts like a cutesy little Disney movie (indeed it has a very Disneyesque artstyle, especially when it comes to drawing cutesy animals) but then becomes dark really quick, almost hilariously so.
"Haha look Mama! Mmm, clover!!"
"RAAAAAAAAAGE!!!! Raaaaaawr! Baaaa!"
And from then on it's just dark. Well as dark as an animated movie centered around talking animals can get. Which is not that dark, just amusingly angsty and serious. What is a failure of the movie to me is that it pushes such themes as revenge and joining forces with your enemy for personal gain in such a short amount of time. 90 minutes isn't super short, actually, but somehow they put too much exposition and not enough development. I really don't remember where the time went watching it and not having enough to show for it.
And I disagree with the idea that Disney wouldn't handle subject matter like this. I mean, what about The Hunchback of Notre Dame? The thing about it is that "fridge horror" is where Disney can really shine without telling children the true horrors of blah blah blah.
I watched the English dub and I liked the Chirin theme, though being part of a choir I could tell it should've had a bit of tweaking with the vowels and diphthongs in the lyrics. There was that as a recurring theme as well as a darker and more ...cynical version of it that played a bit when Chirin had transformed into Hell Ram Prime, and then there was a kind of dumb mini-theme that went along with Chirin and the Wolf King as the tag team of awesomeness. The narrator had a deep storyteller voice but I felt it stood out too much and just jarred me out of the "flow" of the story (though the flow wasn't really there to begin with).
It's dated, alright. Some of the background is shaded and blended but the characters are practically one color with nothing to gravitate from it. The running sequences (and there are a lot of them) are okay, I guess but when Chirin was walking or cantering as a lamb it looked out of place, like he was not part of the environment and his animation was slapped onto the background after drawing it all out.
This movie reminds me of the animated movie of Charlotte's Web for some reason, actually. It has bright moments and dark moments (the rat in that movie is none too pretty to look at. Remember his ode to junk food at the fair?)
Not much character at all, with either of them. Wolf King is ruthless but willing to train Chirin I guess on a whim and Chirin is just..Chirin. He acts moody in the last 5 minutes of the movie but it's not really deep or emotional. I really don't care.
Probably because it's a kid's movie.
Overall this movie falls flat with me in everything except the catchy theme.
What I Liked: Ah, memories of the hand-animated movies I watched as a kid - down to the strongly-accented male narrator and the little musical numbers. It's a Trauma Conga Line for both Chirin AND the viewer! No-one cocked up the pronunciation of "Chirin". Probably the only kid's film in (my) memory with a depressing and un-happy ending.
What I Didn't: Young Chirin sounded a little too goofy at times. Pathetic animal sound effects (e.g. the bear) at times.
Final Verdict: A surprisingly violent and brutally dark piece from Hello Kitty creators Sanrio, Ringing Bell weaves a tale of revenge and loss without falling into the common pitfalls of many a children's film of its time. How it got anything below a PG rating, however, is beyond me.
Ringing bell? More like ringing twat, am I right fellas?
Pitched as a hidden gem, this terrible OAV is more like a benign cancerous growth removed and long forgotten, but which has now gathered some friends and started peering in your window every now and again.
Rubbish, but charmingly brutal. Lamb has traumatic experience and ends up making friends with wolf. Becomes badass sheep terrorist... but can he forget his trauma and remember what he really is to be accepted by his own kind? Kind of dark, but it fails to use the story to its full potential.
Well, it is pretty old. Nevertheless the style is too disney for me.
Could only get a dubbed version which was winey and horrible and also a VHS rip. But the general background noise and OST is nothing to write home about either.
Partially likeable but mostly generic parabolic stereotypes.
Could barely sit through it. If this is a hidden gem then it must have been hidden up someone's arse.