Arashi no Yoru ni
Seeking shelter from the storm in a dark, abandoned barn, Mei the goat meets the wolf Gabu. Not being able to identify each other's species, the two turn to talking, and find out that they have a startingly lot in common, and forge a strong bond of friendship right then and there.
Later, when they meet again, the truth is revealed, but the two decide to stick to their highly unusual friendship. However, being hunter and prey, their unusual relationship comes with a huge set of problems, maybe too much for the two of them to overcome.
The first time I read about this movie was actually in the sleeve for the Secret Garden CD Inside I'm Singing. Interest piqued, it was only later when I accidentally stumbled over the title of this movie that I actively went looking for it.
Arashi no Yoru Ni also has a rather obvious -- blatant, some would say -- main theme; interspecies friendship. It IS a worthy subject to be sure, but also one that's sadly too prone to the curse of the political correctness to be of any particular value. So it was not completely without trepidation that I went into this movie.
Annoyance, too, when I noticed Gabu's character design to be rather unkempt and frizzly, usually a sign of villainy, compared to Mei's well-groomed form, usually a sign of someone being on the "right" side. Thankfully, this is where Arashi no Yoru Ni shows itself to be made of sterner stuff than that. Despite Mei being a relatively tiny bundle of fluff compared to the larger and more menacing Gabu, the two are on equal footing, and the show has the decency to understand and convey that Gabu isn't going to be able to switch to vegetarian food if he wants to survive. This is quite the departure, and a rather refreshing one, from more conventional animation where carnivores are often portrayed as antagonists, and if not, their food sources are usually glossed over somehow. In Arashi no Yoru Ni, Gabu isn't portrayed as bad because he needs meat to survive, and Mei is portrayed as equally... well, "good"... because he understands this and does not condemn his new friend because of it.
And so, the friction between their interests and the near-impossibility of their friendship becomes the focus for the remainder of the movie. They have to go to great lengths to keep their odd relationship hidden from their respective herds/packs, and when it is it eventually discovered, the two have some hard choices to make. The movie yet again keeps its views solely on the pragmatic side, keeping from portraying either side as "wrong" for doing what they need to do to survive, with both sides providing sound arguments, which fuels their need to make the two of them take advantage of their friendship for the sake of their respective tribes.
Surprisingly frank too; despite its kiddy-ish designs, Arashi no Yoru Ni starts with the death of Mei's mother as she is hunted down while protecting her son from the pack. It's not excessively violent, but there are some graphic details that are bound to make one pause, particularly at said start of the movie. It's an odd mix, considering that the art and the direction strays from realism and moves into the realm of gag-laden cartoonism a la older Warner Bros cartoons or Hanna-Barbera shorts. Both Mei and Gabu bounce all over the place during action-intensive scenes, faces twisted in hilarious grimaces, and scenes often have either of them do the "freeze-realisation-falling" or the "running in place for a second before speeding off" gag that popularized western comedy short animations like Tom & Jerry or, maybe more appropriately compared, the Road Runner cartoons. You can also find place names like Chomping Gorges, Pleasant Mountains or Soft Valley; amusingly self-explanatory place names. It makes the movie fun to watch, but does create the occasional weird disconnect when a scene is meant to be taken more seriously.
But don't let that lead you to believe this show won't pull its emotional punches. Even past the physical violence, Arashi no Yoru Ni puts its characters through the emotional wringer more than a few times, and while everyone's actions in it can be understood, that understanding comes with the realisation that, to keep their unusual friendship, both Mei and Gabu have to make some pretty harsh sacrifices. And even when they are made, the road ahead is anything but easy. That's why this movie, despite its nail-biting tension, is so easy to digest: it comes without as much as a whit of pretension or condescension. Its neutrality on the subject is comparable to nature documentaries, which challenges you to think and come up with your own answer instead of feeding it to you.
Now, the movie isn't completely without faults. The ending isn't going to sit well with some; not because it's a bad or violent ending, but -- without spoiling too much -- the movie chooses to play the amnesia card for seemingly no reason near the end other than to impart a piece of information to Mei and place him in mortal danger one last time. It's strangely at odds with the rest of the movie, and could easily be cut out without taking away from it. Also, one especially cringeworthy part is the fact that Gabu's pack is mostly made up of male wolves, with the only female being indicated as such by her wearing lipstick and eyeshadow, and it just looks awful in that "what were they thinking" kind of a way. It's also odd, since the pack leave her behind when hunting, despite the fact that both male and female wolves join in on the hunt in... well... real life.
On a different note, there are a few scenes, again at the beginning, that will earn itself a dubious stare from you, depending on how heavily entrenched you are in rule 34. Due to their extremely open friendship and a scene where a famished Gabu is literally staring at Mei's rear end, parts of the movie are going to come across as more than a bit homoerotic, something that is certainly not helped by Mei's slightly feminine features and voice.
When it comes down to it, though, Arashi no Yoru Ni is just a worthwhile movie all around. Whether it's the sheer fun the animators must've had with it or the aforementioned surprisingly frank pragmatism, it makes this movie a perfect foil for older children while at the same time not insulting the adult audience who might be watching. And those are values that needs to be encouraged.
A worthy entry to children's entertainment, and more than tolerable for adults. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Some violence.
Version(s) Viewed: Prelicense digital source
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Arashi no Yoru ni © 2005 Group TAC / TBS / Stormy Night Production Committee
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