In nature, every creature knows their enemies and their means of survival. In the case of this tale, there are wolves, carnivores and predators that live on the Bakubaku Valley, and goats, herbivores and prey that live on the Sawasawa Mountains, both enemies of each other. However, when a goat named Mei and a wolf named Gabu both take shelter from a storm in an abandoned barn, they realise that the animals they are, and they share a lot in common and slowly build a good friendship. The only problem is that both sides strictly oppose each other for their own reasons, and once word goes around about this mutual friendship, neither side takes it well. Both Mei and Gabu are encouraged to act as spies, but the two decide to leave together and go to a place where they can remain friends without the confrontations. However, Gabu’s pack is on the hunt for them both. Can both a goat and a wolf live peacefully as friends, or will they have to accept their roles in nature as enemies?
Originally intended to be a single children’s book, the popularity of the children’s book Arashi No Yoru Ni in Japan encouraged author Yuichi Kimura to turn it into a whole series and wrote five more books. It ended up becoming popular enough to be published in Japanese textbooks. Japanese Television Broadcaster Tokyo Broadcasting Systems Network (TBS) obtained the film rights to the books and worked alongside animation studio Group TAC to create an anime film based on all six books, with Gisaburo Sugii as director. The film was released on December 10th 2005 to national acclaim, and later became one of the nominees of the Japanese Academy Award’s first Animation of the Year Award in 2007.
When I first saw this film I had a really hard time describing my views on the film’s looks and animation, because for an anime film it’s nothing I’ve really seen before. The animation itself has a broad range depending on the situation of the scene, going really cartoonish on comedic and goofy moments to a fast and edgy style in more action areas, and yet it quality remains consistent and controlled. There are some moments when the animation looks a little too cartoonish, which was probably due to the target audience being children, however they only really work in effect when the scenes are intended to make people laugh. What makes this film stands out is it’s amount of detail, and in a world of Japanese animation where most of the detail is in the painted backgrounds, with character designs typically being flat colours with small amounts of shading, this goes way beyond that detail as every single frame has evident use of brushes to show fur, grass, leaves, wood, rocks, to the point where the only signs of flat colours in the entire film is the sky. It’s actually really good to look at, and ignoring some of the weird animation, the detail as well as the use of lighting and CG backgrounds gives the film a balanced level of realism that’s rarely found in anime films.
The music soundtrack is a bit hit and miss, there is a good amount of effort in it, being well orchestrated and great to listen to on its own for the most part, including the ending theme Star by Aiko. The only point where the soundtrack doesn’t really work it atmosphere is when there are really action heavy moments. However in the scenes which are calm, light hearted in humour or dramatic the music really sets the emotional value of the scenes, even the music in the film’s dark opening builds up a tense atmosphere. The film’s more sombre moments don’t have music which is always good to allow the audience to take in the atmosphere.
The Japanese voice acting is really good, most of it due to the really good cast that was chosen. One notable role includes Gabu, who is voiced by Nakamura Shido, an actor most known for dark antagonising roles such as Ryuk from Death Note, but in this film his gives Gabu a friendly personality while giving him a rough and threatening tone, really conveying two sides to Gabu’s character. Other wolves are also given this rough tone of voice, including Pack-Leader Giro, voiced by Yakuza film regular Rika Takeuchi, and his right-hand man Barry, voiced by my favourite Japanese voice-actor Koichi Yamadera. The Goats and most other animals in the film have a more calm tone of voice, to reflect their peaceful nature in contrast with wolves, although if I have to give some criticism, it’s that most of the Goat roles don’t leave as much impact and aren’t as memorable, and it doesn’t help that every goat except Mei leave the story 2/3 into the film.
While there isn’t an official English dub, there is an unofficial dub that’s worth talking about. In 2008, a small group of voice actors lead by Tustin Gilmer Macafee were given permission by TBS to produce an English dub under the title “Stormy Night”, which was created and uploaded to Youtube between December 2008 and November 2009. For what essentially is a fan-dub put together by one guy with a voice cast of five people including himself, it is really impressive seeing how great the quality of the dub itself is, especially considering that the backing soundtrack and sound effects had to be edited by hand and matched up to the original film, with professional sounding vocal tracks matching up to the dialogue. However, the voice acting really inferior to the Japanese dub. On a positive side, it’s much better than other fan dubs and online based film dub projects I’ve seen, thanks to the professional quality of the audio itself and the range of distinct voices helps tell each character apart as well as portray who they are, such as the goat roles who sound much more like their animal counterparts than the Japanese version. I also have to give a huge credit to Tustin for voicing the majority of the roles including Gabu, Mei, every wolf and some of the goats, and yet give the different voices, showing a really good vocal range. However there are two sides to voice acting and it’s the acting part that falls over. Most of the time there isn’t any difference between emotions and most of the voices stay at one level of volume, and even if the range of voices is impressive, some of the voices don’t entirely match up to the character very well, such as Giro and Barry.
If there is one thing I like, it’s when someone takes a long existing storyline concept, and both change and add to it to the point that it becomes an entirely new story. This is the case with Arashi no Yoru Ni, which is practically a Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story style of a story, except instead of a romance between two people from opposing sides, it’s an unlikely friendship between two beings of opposing sides. What’s also different about it is that both groups views of each other isn’t the only conflict that tests both Mei and Gabu’s friendship, since Gabu is a carnivore whose only means of survival is eating other animals, which Mei naturally doesn’t approve of, and Gabu has trouble trying to stop his animal instincts to avoid any harm towards Mei. Its issues like this that creates both light hearted humour and really dramatic moments and while watching it I really found myself caring for the two and hoping that they would make it all the way to the end, and the film is written so that the ending could be more than one possibility.
Overall, Arashi is a very heart-warming film that definitely is worth watching for its main characters and it’s artistry as a whole. Yes it has some goofy moments which could make the little ones happy, but that doesn’t stop it from having serious and engaging moments as well. It’s a story about good friends against the odds, and it’s worth checking out.
Arashi no Yoru Ni is available from TBS. There isn’t an official English release, but the unofficial English dub is available from the Stormy Night Redub Team, where their concept dub is both available on Youtube and as a downloadable audio track for the official DVD. The original seven children’s book series (the seventh and final book in the series was released after the film) by Yuichi Kimura with illustrations by Hiroshi Abe don’t have any official English release. The books also spawned both an Audio Drama CD (which had a different cast including Akira Ishida from Gundam SEED fame as Mei) and three stage performances, including one by Aoni Productions in 2004, an annual one from Engekishūdan En and a musical in 2007 from Engekishūdan Studio Life.