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(Inu to Watashi no Jyu no Yakusoku) (Japanese)


Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Cast: Lena Tanaka, Ryo Kase, Mayuko Fukuda, Chizuru Ikewaki, Akira Fuse, Reiko Takashima, Etsushi Toyokawa
RunTime: 1 hr 57 mins
Released By: Scorpio East Pictures & GV
Rating: G
Official Website: http://www.inu10.jp/

Opening Day: 26 June 2008


Akari is a 14-year-old schoolgirl living in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. One day, a puppy wanders into her yard, looking lost and frightened. She is a Golden Retriever with white paw markings. Akari names her Socks. Akari's mother consents to her keeping the dog but only after she agrees to keep 10 Promises to Socks . Akari enthusiastically assents and the two begin their journey of growing up together. Akari finds herself having to overcome many changes and challenges: the tragedy of her mother's death, father's sudden resignation, coming-of-age, first romantic feelings, career ambitions and her independence. But at every step, Socks is there to provide unquestioning love and support.

Movie Review:

In the midst of summer blockbuster films, it’s comforting to see a film that goes back to basics on something as pure and simple as a pet dog. True enough, man’s best friend may not be as exciting a subject matter as an armored billionaire hero or a panda striving to become a martial arts master, but a dog is definitely something most of us can relate to, since it does exist in real life for us to appreciate its unconditional loyalty.

Set in modern day Japan, “10 Promises to My Dog” tells the story of 14-year-old Akari (Mayuko Fukuda) and her newfound female puppy which she discovers at her backyard. Because the puppy has white markings resembling socks on its paws, Akari gives her the name Socks. Akari’s mother (Reiko Takashima) approves of Socks being part of their family only on condition that Akari keeps “The 10 Promises” – the 10 commandments equivalent of owning a dog. Hence begins a 10-year friendship filled with joy as well as setbacks which put Akari’s commitment to fulfill “The 10 Promises” to the test.

The film is inspired by the poem "The Ten Commandments of Dog Ownership" from an anonymous author*. A thorough research of therapy dogs, which is becoming a common concept in modern health care to treat people with stress, high blood pressure and depression, also aided in the film’s creation. Incidentally, this is another Japanese film focusing on dogs since 2004’s “Quill”.

The spotlight of the film undoubtedly falls on Socks the dog. Her expressions and movements are amusing to look at, though in some key scenes, computer-generated imagery (CGI) is used to depict her tail’s wagging motion. (I guess a dog’s acting skills do have its limits.) We see her grow from a cuddly puppy to a strong and intelligent dog, as proven by her prowess in the “look-over-here” game, in which a person randomly points to a direction while the other person (or dog) has to look at the opposite direction to win the game. As time goes by, she even becomes close to Akari’s father, Saito (Etsushi Toyokawa) who initially has a fear of dogs. Socks eventual role as a therapy dog is evident when she attempts to heal Akari’s best friend, Hoshi (Ryo Kase) who is struggling to pull himself together after an accident.

Also noteworthy are the social issues highlighted in the film: family against career (Saito having to carry out his duty as a surgeon while spending time with Akari for their get-togethers) as well as personal ambition against parents’ expectations (Hoshi being forced to pursue a career as a classical guitarist according to his father’s wish). These issues are interwoven perfectly with the storyline as they affect Akari and Socks’ friendship directly and indirectly, giving viewers some food for thought.

I am glad to say that there is not much for me to nitpick in this film except for the aforementioned CGI effect which looked too unnatural. The entire cast gave excellent performances, most notably Mayuko Fukuda who played Akari as a 14-year-old and Lena Tanaka as 24-year-old Akari. Being the sole human comic relief, Etsushi Toyokawa can be counted upon to provide some laughs as the serious but occasionally hilarious Saito. The plot may be simple, but simplicity is the best way to portray a story of this nature.

Parents might take for granted that this film is a perfect choice for children in view of its G rating, but I would advise some form of guidance since the ending can be quite saddening for adults, let alone kids. Having said that, “10 Promises to My Dog” tugs at the heartstrings, so be prepared to shed some tears by the time the end credits roll.

(*It has been let known to us that it's Stan Rawlinson, a Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer who wrote the Ten Commandments, sorry for any inconvenience caused)  

Movie Rating:

(“10 Promises to My Dog” explores more on social responsibility than mere puppy love, while providing meaningful life lessons without compromising its entertainment value.)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)

. Hearty Paws (2006)

. Helen the Baby Fox (2006)

. Quill (2004)

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