Dog of a Movie

December 13th, 2007

The other night, Sachi and I went to see a film she’s been waiting for: “Mari to Koinu no Monogatari” (“The Tale of Mari and the Puppies”). The reason Sachi wanted to see it was that Mari and the puppies are Shiba Inus, and Sachi loves Shibas. Through Sachi’s influence, I have grown to like them a lot too, and the puppies, you’ll have to admit, are basically just little furry teddy bears that are cute as hell.

The story is based on a real family that was caught in the 2004 Niigata earthquake. The basic plot involves a family consisting of a father, grandfather, and a son and daughter; the mother died some years before. They live in a rural town. On their way home one day, the kids stumble upon an abandoned puppy, and the little girl falls in love with it. At first, they avoid taking care of it and keep it far from home because their father hates dogs. Eventually, things work out and the dog is accepted into their home. Some time later, the pup, Mari, has grown into an adult and has three puppies of her own.

The the quake hits; the son is safe at school, the father survives the quake in town, but the daughter and grandfather are trapped under their collapsed home. Mari eventually runs off and finds some Jietai (Self-Defense Force, or Japanese military) rescue workers, who rescue the girl and her grandfather, but the dogs have to stay behind in the abandoned village.

The rest of the movie is the little girl trying to get back so she can rescue the dogs. If this were a romance film, someone would die at the end, but this instead being a heartwarming kids’ story, you can guess what the conclusion is.

The main reason we went to see the movie was to enjoy a few hours of cute dogs, and we got enough of that. The rest of the movie was pretty lackluster. Quite frankly, there should have been more dog stuff; despite the title suggesting that it’s a story about Mari and her three puppies, probably 90% of the movie was centered on the family; there wasn’t as much cute dog pron as there should have been.

Also, according to this account, most of the story was fabricated; there is no mention of two kids, just the old man and his son (he’s called “grandfather,” but in Japan, that’s often a name people will attach to an old man). Apparently, the puppies were born on the day of the quake, and were not bigger and fluffy when it happened. Nor was the old man dug out by Jietai; rather, he was inspired by the dog to dig himself out. And since there were no cute kids involved, about 60% of the rest of the movie is pure fabrication, in addition to what else was fudged. But I guess that’s not too unusual for “true story” movies.

The cast was so-so, except for one outstandingly bad actor–Yasuda (Masanobu Takashima), the Jietai soldier who comes to care deeply about the little girl getting her dog back. When he rescues the girl and her grandfather, they are flying back on a helicopter full of injured and desperate people who have seen their village destroyed–but when he sees the little girl crying because she sees her dog chasing the helicopter, he dramatically punches the wall of the helicopter in outrageous frustration. The rest of his acting was similarly hammish and forced.

Even the dog playing Mari was pretty unexpressive, or more likely, the filmmakers did a bad job of getting any expression from the dog.

In any case, here is the trailer for the movie on YouTube:

After the movie, Sachi and I went out for yakitori. By chance a piece of chicken on the grill looked like this:


That looks suspiciously like a Shiba Inu head! And it was tasty, too.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2007, Media & Reviews Tags: by
  1. December 13th, 2007 at 13:43 | #1

    Ack! I don’t think I could have eaten that piece of chicken!

  2. Paul
    December 17th, 2007 at 19:05 | #2

    Mmmmm, chicken.

    Shibas don’t strike me as having particularly expressive faces; the length of their fur seems to give them the same look all the time. A couple in my building has a Shiba (my building is full of dogs- far more than children) but it’s a bit aggressive (as the breed is known for) towards Indiana the Wonder Dog.

    They’re supposed to be pretty good dogs overall, though- and the puppies are absolutely adorable.

  3. January 27th, 2008 at 22:46 | #3

    I would like to write a little article about the Mari film for my Shiba website. For this reason I have two questions:
    1) will you give me permission to refer to your blog (of course by naming it)?
    2) Can you tell me the end (you are suggesting a happy end): are Mari, the girl and the family reunited happily?


  4. Luis
    January 28th, 2008 at 00:51 | #4


    1) Sure, go ahead. Maybe come here again after and post a link to the specific page.
    2) Okay, since I don’t think anyone here will mind spoilers on this one. In the end, after several abortive attempts to get back to the abandoned village, the Self-Defense Force people finally come and offer people a ride back to the village in the helicopter so they can spend a few hours checking out their destroyed homes. The little girl, by this time, has to be persuaded to go, but finally, the father, son and daughter all go back. After spending nearly all their time looking in vain, the girl has the idea of going back to the hillside where she discovered Mari long before. At first, no sign of the dogs. But then, there’s one puppy, then two, then three, and the Mari limps onto the scene. Then we have the classic girl-and-dog-run-toward-each-other-in-slow-motion-on-a-green-hillside shot. They take the dogs back to a happy crowd of villagers. Cut to some time later, and Mari and her brother are back to normal, though this time walking the now-older Shiba puppies. And happily ever after.

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