Chie is the young, and ruthless daughter of a deadbeat man named Tetsu, who regularly takes money from his own father for gambling and forces young Chie to work in the family bar and kebab restaurant, even in evenings. Since Chie’s parents separated and because of his attitude, Chie feels slightly ashamed to have a man like Tetsu being her father. Tetsu tries his best as being a good parent, even going to a parent’s evening for her, but ends up making Chie feel worse. The one person that she does like to be round out of all people is her mother, Yoshie, and is always happy to be around, but because of how they think Tetsu feels, they meet each other in secret. Along with Tetsu’s problem with the Yakuza, Chie has to deal with problematic classmates and family issues; this is the story of Chie the Brat.
Starting in 1978, and finishing in 1997, Chie the Brat was a manga written by Etsumi Haruki, and it was so successful it won the Shogakukan Manga Award, one of Japan’s most major award ceremonies for Mangas, in 1981. Yasuo Otsuka, who worked as the animation director for Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro, offered Miyazaki to adapt the manga into an animated film, but he refused. Otsuka then offered the idea to Isao Takahata, who was with Nippon Animation at the time, who originally disapproved the idea, but he had a very good understanding Osaka, the city where the story takes place, so he took on the request. The film was released 11th April 1981, and it was met with such high appraisal that the producers Tokyo Film Shinsha decided to create an anime TV series, with Takahata directing.
The animation is actually quite good for early 1980s anime, character movements are smooth and life like. While character designs are and expressions are exaggerated, they are used to comedic effect and work well. There is a good sense of detail in some of the more serious toned scenes, such as the leaves falling in both the background and foreground in one scene where a former Yakuza member is talking to Chie’s mother about his family issues.
The music is alright, really effective in dramatic scenes, but lacking in other areas. The instruments used can really make you sympathies with any character the scene focuses on, yet the uplifting comedic music sounds too typical to be in anyway interesting or even fun to listen too. The large portion of the film doesn’t have music, which when done right allows the film to focus on the characters and dialogues, which this film does do well.
The voice acting is so-so; most of the male casts have either a kind of rasp in their voice, even if it’s a barely noticeable, or a gruff mature tone. Even the cats and the two ten year old male classmates have slightly gruff adult voices. If you don’t like raspy voices then prepare to be bothered because the majority of characters are male. The only two main female characters are quite good; Chie’s mother Yoshie has a sweet and caring tone, perfectly suiting for a motherly person and a great contrast to the rough and wild attitude of Tetsu. Chie has a loud and rough, but kind and likable kind of voice, which is actually an interesting idea of character.
What I find confusing about this film is that at first, it looks like it’ll be a slice-of-life comedy, but both the slice-of-life and the comedy seem to drift later in the film. The film’s main plot focuses around families and supporting each-other, and it is very sweet when you see scenes of Chie and her parents getting along. Then comes this side plot about this cat, Kotetsu, who is seen a lot in the film by the way, who defeats this fighting cat Antonio and I’m not kidding, takes one of his balls. Then later on in the film, Antonio’s son arrives to avenge his father’s death and fights Kotetsu and it becomes a sudden dark turn as the scene progresses, and when the scene ends, the uplifting style comes back and that’s how the film ends, it’s confusing. I cannot say the latter half of the film goes downhill since it still has its charm, but I think you need to understand what is going on before you can appreciate what happens.
I’m not sure exactly who I can recommend this film too. It’s obvious that I would definitely recommend it to diehard fans of Isao Takahata, out of all his pre-Ghibli works; it’s probably one of his best. For general anime viewers, it depends on what you are into. However, if you are new to anime, either you watch Takahata’s other works or just watch the first ten minutes and see what you think.
Chie the Brat is officially not available in English, although it is available in French from Gebeka films. A 64 Episode TV series, also directed by Isao Takahata, is not officially available in English. Another TV anime series directed by Kazuyoshi Yokota is also not available in English. The original serialized manga by Etsumi Haruki, you guessed it, is not available in English.