A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox is a Korean anime from 2007. While the animation is beautiful, and the movie's overall message of practicing compassion toward those who are different is worthwhile, the complicated and muddled storyline itself, coupled with the fast-paced subtitles, make this best for tweens and older who are already fans of anime. Some of the humor gets literally lost in translation -- a "gas-powered" spaceship is actually powered by flatulence, for instance, or an aspiring teen comedian's material consists solely of a truly bizarre song about the Sphinx. For fans of anime, this almost certainly bears repeated viewings, as much of what's happening is difficult to keep up with while watching for the first time.
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What's the story?
Yobi (Ye-jin Son) is a five-tailed fox who can shift-shape into any life form she pleases. One hundred years ago, aliens landed near the hilly terrain on which she lives. Now, in modern-times, as Yobi is beginning to feel the first feelings of puberty, the aliens try to fly back to their home planet, only to crash land, and to lose one of their aliens, who ends up captured by the students of a nearby school for troubled kids. In the hopes of rescuing the alien, Yobi changes into a young teen girl who starts attending the school. It is there that she meets Geum-ee (Deok-Hwan Ryu), a handsome boy in the school. Before, Yobi had always considered humans to be silly creatures, but now, after getting to know Geum-ee and the other kids in the school, she yearns to be human, but the only way she can be human is by stealing a human's soul. As this is happening, Yobi is being pursued by a fox hunter obsessed with finding the mysterious five-tailed fox, and a Shadow Man also pursues her in the hopes of stealing a soul of his own so he can have substance again. Yobi must avoid being discovered by the hunter, and she must protect Geum-ee's soul from being taken away.
Is it any good?
There's no denying that the animation in this Korean anime is beautiful, but what keeps YOBI, THE FIVE-TAILED FOX from being better are the overly complicated storylines. The first 30 minutes are completely disorienting -- scenes with flying scarecrows, of spaceships powered by the flatulence of nail-eating aliens, of a five-tailed fox on the cusp of puberty, a mysterious "shadowman." It all, somehow, plays into the overarching message of kindness and compassion for those deemed "different," but so much of the complexity seems so, well, complex, that it's hard to tell who to root for early in the movie.
The movie is at its best when it focuses more on the relationships between the kids in the school. It's in those scenes where a simple universality prevails, one that transcends all cultural differences. This, especially the relationship that develops between Yobi and Geum-ee, is what tweens and older are most likely to latch onto. For younger viewers, the difficulty in the confusing storyline, coupled with, for non-Korean speaking audiences, the clunky subtitling, makes this a difficult movie to focus one's full attention.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anime. How is this movie similar to and different from other anime films?
What cultural differences did you see in terms of the movie's humor? What similarities did you see? Was the depiction of first love and school similar to representations in American films?
Did you find the movie's storylines difficult to follow? Why?
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