You probably cannot count just how many doggie movies are out there, with its fair share coming out of Japan. Neither can I, and ever since Hachiko I thought none could stand up to the loyalty of that dog, but I guess I was wrong. You think you know the usual drill when it comes to stories about man's best friend, but I guess one can always count on the Japanese to weave a story based on much melodrama that somehow works, no matter if it at first glance might seem to be familiar.
Like how the dog remains unflinchingly loyal to its owner, good or bad in its owner's treatment of it. Or how it can always be relied on to provide that listening ear, even though they obviously don't speak our language, or best of all, how as a puppy the camera always capture their best angle to make you wish you could go home to one who that will always wag its tail and playfully pounce on you as a greeting, as if you're the best person in the world that stepped through the door.
The 10 promises referred to here isn't exactly 10 of the best that one would actually commit to the pet, but rather, a pact of understanding from both parties that build on trust. And that turns out to be key to the story, as it extends not only between animals and man, but across relationships that both parties will forge with others and fellow species as well. In fact, some of these serve as universal reminders, and I suppose young kids who are brought to see this G-rated film, will probably come to understand that it takes a lot of responsibility to take care of a pet, especially when one's priorities in life tend to change as one grows up within the average lifespan of, in this case, a dog.
Told over 10 years, the film stars Mayuko Fukuda and Lena Tanaka as the character of Akari, a young girl who seem to suffer from setback after setback ranging from family to relationship issues, despite her sunshine cheery demeanour. And the best parts in the movie pertain to the carefully crafted story about family, about being there for your loved ones, and making precious moments count. And with the 10 promises, we will journey with Akari to see if she can commit to the pact successfully, or not.
But it's not just a story about a girl and her dog, and there's where this movie shines in being different from the usual run off the mill stories. There's a small sub plot involving Akari's golden retriever Socks in its ability to become a therapy dog, both for herself, and good friend Hoshi (Ryo Kase). And it chief strength was in how it weaved a very nice, touching story about family, of being there every moment that you can, and making such moment matter. Just like how Akari's father Saito (Etushi Toyokawa, in a role that perhaps many can identify with) places work in a higher priority than family in order to put bread on the table, but realizes that work just isn't everything as time will just pass you by. And it served as an interesting parallel when Akari loathes her father's non-presence, but slowly we see her succumbing to these same attitudes as well, much to the disappointment of, well, everyone else.
Despite a romantic angle being ploughed into the movie at its midpoint on, its family one still stood its ground and delivered the melodramatic payload when it mattered, to tug at your heartstrings during the inevitable finale. And while listening to the Japanese cast bravely sing their way through Time After Time, I'd figured that while it fit the movie nicely with the message it wanted to bring across, perhaps this version of the song will sooth calm nerves:
Highly recommended if you have never seen a movie about man and his best friend, or if the last one you've watched was a few years ago. Otherwise you should know what to expect when it goes into dramatic overdrive.