What They Say:
In The Tibetan Dog movie, life hasn’t been easy for young Tianjing since his mother passed away. Forced to leave the city and move to the grasslands of Tibet where his father is the only doctor for a remote community, Tianjing finds himself becoming even more isolated as he works the lonely job of a shepherd.
It’s a dangerous task as well. Wolves, packs of wild dogs and other animals prowl the countryside… something that Tianjing discovers all too soon. Fortunately, he also finds a protector and friend in a stray golden mastiff that comes to his aide. When a new menace comes to terrorize the community, both human and canine will have to protect each other. Standing against the savagery of nature and the cruelty of men, this is the story of a boy and his Tibetan Dog.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track with a 5.1 mix as well as the English dub that does the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film isn’t exactly high action for most of it but the mix works well to capture the sound and feeling of the area and it goes big toward the end with the fight there and a few other areas. There are a lot of moments of good placement for both sound effects and dialogue and the fuller feeling of the music with its score gives a lot of scenes some additional weight. Overall, we get a solidly put together small film style 5.1 mix here that handles dialogue well and stretches where it can. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2011, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen format encoded in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Madhouse, the film has a really great look with it showing off the realistic and detailed side of the region, the characters, and their outfits and lifestyle in an engaging way. It’s earthy without being over the top and the encoding captures the look of it very well. There’s a briskness to the film with the cool nature of the greens that we get across the plains but also in the blue skies. It’s rich but it’s not oversaturated so as to give us the wrong feeling. The encoding does a great job with all of this as the colors are solid and the more “awkward” colors such as the title character come together well even if it just feels a little weird. The high motion sequences look great and when it shifts to darker interiors and similar sequences it all holds up really well.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc for the film. The front cover goes with a key visual that will look like it’s more for kids than anything else but I get the sense that better key visual material may not really exist. THere’s a kind of simplicity to it that will turn off a lot of folks which is why they include the directorial credits and highlight the Madhouse element along the bottom. The dog in particular is the hard sell and I understand why it’s easy to just dismiss the whole thing because of it. The back cover carries the sky blue background through most of it and that keeps it bright and engaging as we get a lot of good shots from the show and a solid summary of the premise. There’s little to the release beside the film so it breaks down the production credits and technical grid clearly and there are no inserts or reversible cover material included here.
The menu design for this release uses the full wraparound cover image in a good way here as it zooms in a touch so that the mountains dominate the background while the blue sky feels really vibrant and engaging. The character side of it stands out a bit more with the colors turned up a few notches but it connects well with some nice detail. I like the use of the banners along the top to add a little more around the logo itself. The navigation is naturally kept simple since it’s just the filmand trailers for other shows here and we get simple but effective language selection options.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the things I love about anime is that as much as there is out there and as much coverage as gets run about all of it, there are still discoveries to be made years later. A Japanese/Chinese co-production from back in 2011, The Tibetan Dog was under the radar for many and a lot were surprised that such a project even existed. Directed by Masayuki Kojima based on the work of the same name, Madhouse animated this feature and delivers a very solid story about man and dog, the relationship they share, and how distrust exists no matter the culture. I will say that if you dislike seeing bad things happen to dogs you’ll absolutely cringe and cry during the final act of this film but it’s something that can also inspire. I know some are very sensitive on this subject so if anything untoward happening with animals is a deal breaker, consider it one here.
The focus is on a young boy, maybe ten years old or younger, named Tenzin. He was living in a city in Tibet with his mother as his father was not one that could stay there. Originally, both is parents had moved to the plateau area as he studied as a doctor to help people, gaining knowledge of Western medicine. But his wife wouldn’t handle being out there overall and ended up moving back to the city with Tenzin. She’s now passed, however, and he’s being brought out to live with his father. His father lives by himself in a good sized tent where he helps people and animals with what ails them and presumably he’s a bit nomadic as well. There’s a good bit of tension that exists between father and son and it’s not clear just how often they saw each other since the split. But Tenzin does largely settle in fairly quickly and makes a friend or two and tries to understand the area.
The film focuses on Tenzin adjusting to all of this and his easy connection with the various dogs that are there, getting his education on them a bit in how helpful they are. Tibetan dogs are a bit different than your traditional dog for the most part and the one that we see the most and on the cover, is a massive animal. Dogs in general are larger in Tibet with quotes I’m seeing as being twice the size of those in India, for example, with larger heads and powerful bodies that are able to deal with the very real threats that come from living in this remote and open areas. We do see some of the dynamic of the people and the dogs there and the different kinds of dogs that helps to shape the bigger picture of their importance and that bond itself.
This factors into the larger story that comes up in the back half of the film as we initially see how Tenzin connects with the animals and helps some through a scrape of their own design. When something is out there killing people and animals, suspicion falls to the large golden dog that Tenzin has really befriended and helped. There’s obvious reasons why it’s not him doing this because the kills are for pleasure in a way as any animal that would kill like this would do so for the food or protecting territory. But suspicion falls, tensions rise, and more exploration of the culture in the area with how some of the bandits operate comes into view before the reality of the situation really takes shape. It’s not a surprise what the real threat is when you get down to it but it handles well showing how the people in the community react when faced with fear, going after even those that they know in their hearts are likely innocent.
I had no idea what to expect going into this film as I hadn’t really heard of it before and while I did get a fairly familiar story, the execution is strong and it’s a good story. Getting to see a tale of Tibet in this form with its people and animals is definitely interesting and Madhouse put together a great looking project. It’s easy to be dismissive of it just from the cover and the size of the dog and all but these are fairly accurate things in a lot of ways. Maiden Japan did right by the film and I’m really surprised it got a dub as well. It’s definitely a project worth having in your collection if the premise itself is of interest or if you like more than just a particular genre of anime.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: July 10th, 2018
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.