This is review number one hundred and sixty. I’m going to review a movie. I want to dig deep for my movies because a lot of people do movie reviews of recent ones. I’m going to hold back watching the Blood C movie for now because I see spoilers everywhere. For now, I’m reviewing a 1994 anime called “Junkers Come Home”. It’s a family movie about a talking dog. Yeah, it sounds awesome. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a girl named Hiromi Nozawa. She has a miniature Schnauzer named Junker that she is very fond of. They also share a secret. Junker can talk like a human and often has lengthy conversations with Hiromi. Junker also has the ability to grant wishes but he can only grant three of them. He wanted to grant Hiromi’s wishes. But what exactly does a sixth grader need wishes for? How about for her family to stay together?
Taking the Pants Off
There are two things I want to point out before I start my review. One, it’s pronounced as Yoon-kers. The dog’s name is Junkers but pronounced as Yoon-kers. Secondly, this anime was directed by Junichi Sato. He is the master of slice of life. Seriously, he can make paint drying enjoyable. During the release of this movie though, he was very much involved in Sailormoon and other magical girl anime. Slice of Life isn’t a thing back then so this was like a peak at the director he soon came to be. The 90s was an iffy time where alternative genres weren’t a thing and something that isn’t Shounen or Mecha or Shoujo gets overlooked. This movie got the same treatment. It is overlooked and superbly underrated. Aren’t you curious though to see just how masterful Junichi Sato is at the thing he does best?
The anime is about a talking dog that grants wishes. It’s certainly an interesting premise that does work wonders in a family themed film like this one. The anime doesn’t start out with the dog granting wishes though. It was more focused on Hiromi’s everyday life. The anime started out slow. The first twenty minutes was just about Hitomi and Junker walking home from school or spending their days at home. It’s like any good Slice of Life. It starts slow so it can establish everything that needs to be established. The anime didn’t rushed on it too because the first hour of the anime was really slow. If you’re not a fan of laidback anime with very little progression then this movie will test your patience. You will be rewarded greatly though if you take the time to follow by the anime’s pace.
The movie is an hour and thirty nine minutes long. The first hour was concerned on introducing the characters, the setting, the eventual conflict and the everyday routine of Hitomi. I admittedly also dazed for the first few minutes of the anime. It had a magical talking dog at its disposal but it was dedicated on the laidback feel of the movie. Majority of the scenes in the first hour was about Hitomi walking home from school being greeted by the eventual cast, excitedly waiting for her parents to come home, being tutored by a friend of his dad that she has a crush on and doing some misadventures with her talking dog. The pacing is so precise to always let the laidback feeling of the anime come through at every scene of the anime. As you progress though, those seemingly boring moments of the movie and the not so special routine of Hitomi slowly grow on you.
The everyday characters of the anime slowly brings out their funny side, the walk from school suddenly becomes a scenic slice of 90s animation and the normal everyday stuff Hitomi does suddenly becomes interesting. This was the main focus of the movie above all else. It wanted the soothing mood and the relaxing feel of the anime to emanate all throughout while it slowly assembles the story. Those familiar Junichi Sato healing anime touches slowly seeping as you progress to the movie. It’s pretty awesome.
The main story of the anime is about the family dynamic of the Nozawas. Hitomi has gotten used to the fact that her parents are always busy. They always put their work before her and she was fine with that. They did all the time yet she still eagerly waits for them to come home just to see them before the day ends. The parents are always busy though. Her mom is always being called out for work that she doesn’t even have time to call her daughter. The father was always overseas. His job makes it impossible to him to see his family. This idea of putting work above the family eventually tears a hole in the relationship of the father and mother. They are considering splitting up. Poor Hitomi is caught in the middle trying to keep a straight face while she try her darnest to save her family. A little girl can only do so much and the fact that she is watching her family torn at the seams takes a huge toll on the girl.
The introduction of the conflict was pretty gut wrenching. The spent a good hour getting to know this girl who acts mature for her age then you see her face this problem helplessly. Those simple everyday scenes of the anime soon turns a bit depressing as you see Hitomi try to cope with the problem. She wants to be a good daughter to her parents but it’s unfortunately not enough. This is where the talking dog finally got his promised role. He told Hitomi he can grant three wishes.
The remaining parts of the anime involve some supernatural things that break the slice of life feel but not enough to completely ruin the mood. It’s still laid back despite the presence of magic and how the anime revealed Hitomi’s wishes were pretty awesome. The execution was really flawless and I admire where the anime ended up in. The wonderful thing about the anime is how relatable the characters are. Hitomi’s problem is something that is pretty easy to grasp and the attitude of the parents is pretty understandable as well. The anime had a simple set up and an even simpler approach to the movie that I really admire.
The characters in the anime are pretty one dimensional. They stick to their role pretty well though and there isn’t really much to explore. The movie is too relaxed for any drastic transformation to happen. Well, everyone weren’t fleshed out except for Hitomi. She was a cheerful girl soon plunged into a problem I once saw firsthand turn a person into a massive pit of despair. The idea of your parents divorcing can suck the positivity from anybody. Seriously, it’s pretty awesome how the movie featured Hitomi’s response to the situation. The rest of the character started out as simple side characters but with the relaxed feel of the anime, they eventually grow on you. From the crossing guard who had a good five minute of screen time to the lovable housemaid of the Nozawas, these characters are just the perfect balance of eccentric and serious to the point where you often relate to them.
Junkers is pretty normal as well. I know. It’s pretty weird. The talking magical dog is as normal as the rest of the characters. He wasn’t featured much because the focus was on Hitomi. He served the same purpose as the rest of the characters. He’s merely a supporting cast. I was bummed at first because the anime had a chance to go all Disney on our asses yet it held itself back. In fact, he didn’t unleash his magical powers until the later parts of the anime. I like him though because he acts like a human and he has some pretty funny traits to him like being afraid of cats and being able to urinate in the men’s room which includes flushing.
The pacing is really slow at the beginning but it progressively gets better and the various elements of the anime soon comes together to deliver a pretty solid anime experience. The story is also a bit predictable though because, really, it’s a goddamn 1994 anime. Anime movies aren’t often about the story though but more of the cinematic experience you get from it. I learned that from Satashi Kon and Junichi Sato was able to provide a damn good cinematic experience as well. This is an incredible movie and one I am very happy to stumble upon.
Sight and Sound
The character design is simple. There isn’t any stand out details in the characters. They look pretty normal with their Japanese features like black hair, squinty eyes and rather Asian built. The simple attributes of the characters does add more slice of life appeal to the movie. There are some pretty cartoonish characters though like the housemaid. She was meant to be comedic anyways but everyone else is normal and serious. The design on Junker is spot on as well. The nice features of Schnauzers captured right down to the smallest details. They went took the put details on his belly and other places not caught by the camera as much (the penis).
The animation is absolutely amazing. Its hand drawn so it does look simplistic but I really admire hand drawn animation. There are no short cuts to animating back in 1994 so everything was drawn by hand. Despite being a simple laid back anime, there are a lot of characters running around. Hitomi loves to run when walking from school and you can see the frame by frame detail is superb. I especially love when characters get small from a distance and slowly get bigger as they come closer to the camera. This involves the characters changing shape and that involves a lot of really precise drawings. They start out as odd shapes and then they slowly have details. It’s really amazing. You can see the handiwork of the animators and I love that in old school anime. The facial expressions are also a nice touch. Hitomi’s shocked reaction is so detailed. When she cry, you can really see it and I even pause my video and does a frame by frame comparison just so I can admire the way her eyes water up and tears go down her cheeks. The most awesome animation, for me, involves the nice integration of the background and the foreground. The backgrounds are often painted scenes so there are no movements there but the animators took time to do scenes where Hitomi would interact with the background. She would often kick dead leaves off the ground so you can see those painted background slowly coming to the fore ground so they can move. That less than a second movement take a long time to animate if you do it by hand. I’m shaking in excitement as I watch the anime because the animation is so precise and outstanding.
The background often varies. Some scenes are fully painted while others are just simple scenes with white spaces. The backgrounds are often charcoal shaded, color penciled and some are traditionally painted. There are great details in the backgrounds though like in the Nozawa residence or the city scenes of the anime. I love the fact that even crowds are individually animated. It’s pretty awesome.
The soundtrack is pretty awesome as well. They set up the mood of the anime and I love how the laidback scenes were prominent but the shift to dramatic tense was nicely done provided by the soundtrack of the anime. The voices of the characters were also a nice. I do find the lack of vocal presence in some scenes a bit of a downer. There is this scene where two people are fighting yet no one raises their voice. I guess it was intentional but arguments need someone blowing off their top. The best part in terms of sound though is the sound effect. From car noises to footsteps to opening doors, the anime was able to capture normal everyday noises to really bring the anime alive. You don’t see a lot of anime like this that puts great detail in the visuals and in the soundtrack.
7/10 “A solid slice of life anime with a very warm hearted theme of family togetherness.”
This is a really amazing movie. It starts out slow but it gets better as you keep watching. The relaxing tone of the anime is amazing and it’s coupled by some pretty awesome animation the 90s has to offer. The anime experience is also amazing so I highly recommend this one.