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Starring: Takao Osawa, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Arashi Fukasawa as Taichi, Ryoko Kobayashi
Director: Keita Kono
Rating: G
Year Made: 2005


VCD Format (2 Discs)
Subtitles: English
Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins
Distributor: InnoForm Media



Early spring in Hokkaido, northern Japan. Taichi, a young boy who tends to be a dreamer, has just arrived from the big city to live with his mother’s new boyfriend, a veterinarian, and his daughter. One day after school, Taichi discovers the cub of a northern fox crouching near the side of the road and despite the objections of those around him, decides to take care of the lovable creature. The baby fox cannot see, cannot hear and cannot bark. Even when offered milk, it just ignore. So Taichi names it Helen, after Helen Keller, the first blind, deaf and mute woman who was able to communicate using the sign language. Helen responds to Taichi’s devoted caring efforts and begins to strive for live, in spite of her frail body. The boy and his veterinarian family watch over her with encouragement and love.


Imagine a boy and his puppy-like fox, on a sunny day, roaming freely through ever so-green meadows with yellow blooming daisies and white dandelions flurrying past in the wind. Everything is just that serene and relaxed, just the sound of the light wind. Brilliant cinematography from all angles captures and presents awesome, breathtaking landscape.

More importantly, apart from it, audience witnessed and be touched by the pristine, heartwarming relationship between the little boy, Taichi and a baby fox, the subject of his newly-found “guardianship”, not by intention though.

The baby fox is special from the normal breed, with its handicapped hearing, eyesight and “speech”. So that’s how it is named as “Helen” after Helen Keller. The poor cub seems to be isolated in its own helplessly soundless world and left deserted by its own species to struggle for survival.

The unspeakable affinity felt by Taichi towards little Helen is more than just caring for a poor, abandoned animal. But perhaps he can see himself in Helen and be reminded of the occasional surges of feelings being left behind by his mom under the care of his soon-to-be stepfather, the veterinarian and his elder step-sister. Whereas the baby fox is even worse than him, it cannot take care of itself and rely on Taichi. So he is very determined to nurse Helen back to good health before returning it to its natural habitat, be with its family. As time passes by, the inevitable bond gradually grows between both. Little Helen can sense the world through Taichi and recognize his touch, footsteps. And even “barks” miraculously for Taichi.

Besides the baby fox being the focus, it is like a “Babe” farm over here too. It is an amicable, wacky family of Man and animals under one warm roof. A “glutton-like” dog (that looks like adult Quill – Quill was the dog in the last film of same producer), a goat, an “always damsel in distress” parrot, rabbits etc makes the more the merrier so as to speak of. The process of taking care of Little Helen also effectively breaks the ice that allows Taichi, the veterinarian and his daughter to understand one another better and bonds them closer as a real family, overcoming the initial barriers.

The bambi-eyed, cute boy, Taichi (Arashi Fukasawa) has wowed over the audience with his young, acting skills that is natural. It seems like the Japanese artiste world has another blooming child actor to be fully nurtured in the near future. He has displayed great chemistry and showed genuine affection towards his main co-star, the baby fox. I guess it is not that hard to fall in love with the extremely adorable, cuddly cub but it really does take a certain real fondness of animals out of a person to “interact” and “act” comfortably with a non-human, regardless how excellent the animal trainer might be.

A lasting impression of foxes, long depicted as cunning animals in fairy tales or other children books, lingers in my mind since childhood. And feel there is this little tinge of irony and amazement that this film shows they can be as vulnerable and be tamed as others. Their young cubs resemble ordinary pet puppies in the movie.

The surprising duo, Takao Osawa and Tasuko Matsuyuki, as the single parents of the two children, are familiar faces, having acted in Japanese TV drama series. Their scenes together on the big-screen (for the first time I remembered), though is short, has added the extra spice to the movie.

A good educational, gratifying film suitable for all ages.


Review by Alicia Tee


Alternative Opinion:

. The movie review by our columnist

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This review is made possible with the kind support from InnoForm


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