Ringing Bell (1978)

Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell Movie Review

Ringing Bell is a 1978 anime film directed by Masami Hata. It is such an underappreciated, masterful move that is one of the finest animated films I’ve seen.

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Someone has to die so that someone else can live. That’s the law of nature

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

The film is about Chirin who is an adventurous little lamb. After the wolf kills his mother, he goes after him and requests that he teach him how to become strong like him. He eventually becomes a very strong ram and the two live together and kill mercilessly, but when asked to kill the sheep in his home place, he struggles to do that and confronts the wolf. Yes, that is the plot here and, needless to say, it isn’t a children’s film despite it being categorized as such. It is not only very violent and mature, but also incredibly deep and sophisticated.

I admired its sophistication. The film shows us the wilderness in an extremely realistic manner. This is not your typical Disney animal feature. In fact, it can’t be more opposite to that. It shows you how life truly is for these animals and I loved how it makes a statement telling us that only the strong can survive in nature and the weak are destined to either death or a life full of fear and suffering. That is hard to accept, but truthful.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

But what took me entirely by surprise is the territory to which the movie went in its third act. I never expected it to go that dark and deep. Chirin basically becomes a wolf in his way of life and behavior. However, when he decides not to kill the sheep and confronts and kill the wolf, the other sheep won’t accept him back to the barn as they fear him and they don’t recognize him. He has become something entirely different – not a wolf, not a sheep. And that is the major theme in this film – you can change the inevitable and you can try to become someone you aren’t supposed to be, but that is not going to work out as you can’t fight against nature.

In Chirin we have someone who just doesn’t want to sit back and wait for his death and that is very relatable which is why he’s such a strong character. His journey from an innocent lamb to a strong ram and an almost mythical like creature is so well executed that it is believable and emotionally rewarding. Woe is such a great mentor in a typical anime fashion and I loved that he took his time deciding that he wants to teach him. That was much more realistic than I thought it would have been done. The relationship between the two is so strong and it is as if you are witnessing something truly unique, one of a kind and special unfold before your eyes. And the entire movie feels like that. I also liked Chirin’s mother and her death was of course devastating to watch.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is technically phenomenal and superbly animated. The animation here is simplistic, but still exceptional. The character design in particular was the highlight as all of the animals looked very real. The lambs looked sweet and innocent and the wolf and adult Chirin looked so powerful and majestic, not to mention menacing. The backgrounds are also nice and the film is very smooth and polished with some really striking imagery. There were a couple of sequences here that were just breathtaking and so commendable in their apparent artistry and sheer power.

The highlights for me were the death of Chirin’s mother which was very well done and of course that ending is so powerful. I loved the symbol of the ringing bell and that is a perfect title to this movie. That ending was so mystical and a perfect conclusion to this authentic movie. Woe’s death was also really powerful and every scene between those two was just phenomenal. You can easily see the admiration the wolf has for Chirin as he shows some real strength and perseverance and Chirin sees Woe as a father figure and that may seem odd, but was done really well here that it becomes understandable.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk more about those themes of Ringing Bell as I only touched upon them before. Overcoming your weakness is one theme very well explored here, but then you have the laws of nature and how unforgiving and cruel it truly is which is a great lesson for kids and I really would show this movie to children despite its awfully dark tone as it has a lot to teach them. Another great theme here is revenge and how it can destroy your life and overcome you to the point of an obsession. You have the loss of innocence and the turn from childhood to adulthood. And I loved its message about pain. It tells us that life is cruel and it can be quite awful, yes. But by surviving the more darker chapters of your life, you only become stronger which is best described here by ‘the fangs of your heart’. The film is just so deep and layered that it really took me by surprise.

The score is breathtaking! That theme song is just so good that I was just moved by it immensely. The score is awesome, the sound effects are great and that theme song is perfect with or without lyrics/singing. It is also a great showcase of the universality of this movie. It feels Japanese in some areas, but it mostly feels universal in that everyone can appreciate it, no matter the nationality. And that is something that most Japanese and American animated films fail to accomplish.

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Ringing Bell Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………….

Ringing Bell is tonally perfect, going from cute and innocent to dark and violent deftly. The action/fight sequences are so well realized and some of its images are unforgettable. It is thoroughly unpredictable and oh so authentic. The dialogue is amazing in that so much is said in so little lines. The emotion is powerful to the point of being overwhelming and truly I felt overpowered after I finished watching it. That is the effect only true masterpieces can accomplish and Ringing Bell is that masterpiece. It is one of the best animated films of all time and easily the most shamefully underappreciated.

Mature, dark and so honest and just real, breathtaking in its music and oh so unforgettable in its imagery, powerful in its characters and so deep and sophisticated in its themes, Ringing Bill is just fantastic in every aspect. It is a film that deals with the cruelty of nature, the dangers of anger and revenge, the need to overcome your given nature and weaknesses, grief and sorrow and the loss of innocence and it deals with all of those issues in the short running time of 47 minutes which is beyond impressive and achieved by using such powerful dialogue. Its characters are strong and mystical, the animation is phenomenal, the score is beautiful and the tone is admirable. It is one of the best animated films of all time and undoubtedly the most shamefully underappreciated. I was deeply affected by this movie and only true masterpieces can have such an effect on you and I am deeply saddened and frustrated that I live in the world where this film has been seen by just a handful of people.

My Rating – 5

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Posted in 1970s, 1978, Animated, ANIME, Drama, FILM DECADES, Foreign, Highest-Rated Movies, Japanese, MOVIE REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , .

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