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Pet Power in Asian Films

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It’s an undeniable fact that with the establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in England back in 1824, mankind has set themselves apart from their primitive counterparts where survival precedes compassion and affection.

More than that, it seems that mankind has found a huge source of humanity within animals themselves, and this is especially so for canines and felines.

While cats are known for their playfulness – be it in the company of their loved ones or themselves – dogs prove to be a strong breed of loyalists whose devotion transcends even death itself.

This observation has been immortalised on films, including Japanese movies such as “Hachiko Monogatari” (1978), of which it has subsequently been remade by Hollywood, and re-titled “Hachiko: A dog’s tale” (2009) (where actor Richard Gere taken on the lead role as the dog’s master).

There has been no lack of filmic successors since then, with titles such as “Kuiru” (better known in its English title as “Quill”) (2004), followed by “Helen the baby fox” (2006), “Hearty Paws” (2007), “Inu to Watashi no 10 no Yakasoku” (“10 promises to my dog”) (2008).

It is interesting to observe that other than the remake of “Hachiko Monogatari”, the rest of the film titles are of Japanese origin. While exact conclusions cannot be drawn, it can be somewhat surmised that the Japanese are among the most affectionate when it comes to rearing them or at least, in the portrayal of pets on celluloid.

Based on these observations, it will be interesting to delve further into the reasons why pets (especially dogs and cats) are being adored and loved by Asian movie-goers.

What is more interesting is that while Hollywood films seem to emphasise on comic heroes/heroines and CGI-intensive effects in recent years (often having the potential to rake in box-office earnings), Asian film-makers seems to take a different route – enticing their audiences through a more abstract form of art: expression of love itself, in this instance a love for pets. And considering the rave reviews for films of such genre, this formula seems to work.

Still from the movie ‘Quill’

So, what is so fascinating about pets?

Nothing is more irresistible than a cute cat curling itself up one’s legs in anticipation or in appreciation of a cuddle, or a feisty dog running across the beach – chasing after a ball thrown by his master. The bond between pet owners and dogs does not break easily.

In fact, the pet-master bonds are actually being strengthened over time, due to the lack of domestic squabbles and arguments commonly faced by human interaction.

A tendency of a pet master to initiate interaction and the proclivity of the pets to comply is another ingredient to further bonding, just like someone putting one foot in front of the other while walking.

The pet also gives comfort and solace to the pet owners while the latter receives love from the pet’s companionship. Giving and receiving thus becomes a dance of tango between the two.

While this technique may sound ridiculous and foolish (what with the increased focus on individualism in contemporary society), this may well be the key factor that glues and gels couples (and hence families and societies) together.

Maybe the reason why movie-goers flock to the cinemas in droves is because all if not most of them want to relieve this loving feeling of giving and receiving all over again.

And with the latest Japanese film “Wasao” (2011) hitting Singapore theaters soon, one should not be surprised to see this cinematic trend develop and grow in the near future.

After all, if Asians love pets in real life, how challenging is it to portray them in reel life, as they have done so for the past few years?

If only Hollywood had gone in this direction a few years ago, they might have one more genre to add to their existing belt of achievements – Pet Drama.

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