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Hachi: A dog's tale (G)
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There was an Akita named Hachiko who lived in Japan from 1923-35, who became famously loyal to his owner, whom he waited for every day at Shibuya Station, where a statue of Hachiko would later be erected. In 1987, there was a Japanese movie (which I haven't seen) about the dog, of which this 2009 movie is an American remake (set in the present, in the United States). Um... the first place I think I ever heard of this movie was in Anime Insider magazine, but I feel like I may have heard of the story of the real Hachiko some years prior to that. I'm not really sure. (There was a 2002 episode of Futurama that was apparently based on Hachiko, and I can't help thinking that I was aware of that when I first watched it, but it's possible that I'm remembering backwards, and only realized the connection to the episode years later, when I learned of Hachiko. It's also possible I never saw the episode when it first aired, but maybe years later. I dunno. Anyway, it's not important.)

Whatever, let's just forget about real life, as well as any different fictional versions of the story, aside from this one. This movie was never released theatrically in the U.S., where it went direct to video, though I guess it did play in foreign theaters. And it received fairly good reviews. It's a pretty simple story, and it's probably impossible to really explain what's so... simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking about it... without spoiling an important plot twist. So I'll just say... Richard Gere plays a professor named Parker Wilson, who one day finds an Akita puppy at a train station. The puppy had apparently come from Japan, but got lost after arriving in the U.S. Parker expected its owner to return for it, and in the meantime he took it home with him. His wife, Cate (Joan Allen), didn't want him keeping the dog, but eventually she relented. And the owner never claimed the dog. Anyway, Parker had a friend named Ken Fujiyoshi, who recognized a symbol on the puppy's collar as the word "hachi," which is Japanese for "eight." So, Parker starts calling the dog Hachi. (I don't recall anyone in the movie calling the dog "Hachiko," though we do see that name written a couple of times, with no explanation of where the "ko" part came from.)

The movie soon flashes forward to when Hachi is full-grown, and follows Parker to the train station, as he takes the train to and from work every day. So, every day Hachi goes to the station to see him off, and returns to see him home. The movie has some other characters, including Parker and Cate's daughter, and her boyfriend/husband, and a few people who work in and around the station. Hachi becomes popular with pretty much everyone, and of course becomes famous for his bond with Parker. That's pretty much all I want to say about the plot, except that the movie is bookended by Parker's grandson giving a class report about Hachi. Anyway, it's a really sweet little movie that effectively tugs at the heartstrings. And... of course Hachi is really cute. And... before I watched the movie, I kind of thought it seemed unnecessary to do an American version of the story, but it was fairly well made, and ends with at least a nod to the real life story of Hachiko, which was nice. And... um... yeah, I guess that's all I can tell you.

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