9 December 2003 | Jeremy Bristol
Excellent even for anime haters
Just imagine! It took around eight years for this movie to reach America? Why? This isn't an anime genre piece like Perfect Blue or Gundam or Battle Angel that people outside of anime circles would mock or not understand or be disgusted by; this is a wonderful fantasy grounded in a very realistic, contemporary, America-like Japan. With the exceptions of the samurai drama and the parody of a classic shojo-manga theme (falling in love with your teacher or older person--not unheard of in America but not something that routinely appears in children's cartoons), Junkers Come Here could take place in any upper-class American town, or in England, or in France, etc.
The title character (though not main character) is a Schnauser named Junkers. Junkers is magical, reminding me a bit of Elliot from Pete's Dragon. He can talk and has the power to grant three wishes. As far as characterization, he's very laid back and easy-going, and he just loves period samurai TV shows (which makes me wonder if he's not some sort of reincarnated samurai himself), especially the over-the-top ones that are reminiscent of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns.
The focus of the movie is Junkers' owner, Hiromi. She's a smart, well-behaved twelve-year-old who tends to take care of herself, since most times her parents are away on business, leaving her in the care of the daytime cook and a live-in college student who pays the rent by tutoring Hiromi. Of course, she falls in love with him, and that is probably the most cliched part of the story (though a dream she has of Junkers officiating her marriage to him is about as funny as can be). However, over the course of the movie, as it becomes clear that Hiromi's parents are heading for divorce, cracks in her projected self-reliance begin to appear.
I don't want to spoil much more than that. Just know that her wishes are neither spectacles like Aladdin nor twisted (much) to make her miserable, like in "The Monkey's Paw." While the ending is predictably happy (but just fanciful enough to make it self-evident that this is still a fantasy and couldn't happen in real life), there is an intensity of emotion (in both the Japanese and the English versions) that puts it on a level high above the likes of "Irreconcilable Differences."
The animation, though slightly "limited" like most anime, is not so distracting as even some newer anime (some of the crowd scenes in Perfect Blue come to mind, not to mention the Pokemon and Digimon movies). In fact, it has a beauty similar to the works of Studio Ghibli (most notably, Whispers of the Heart and I Can Hear the Ocean). Which is exactly why it is so universal, and why it is so surprising that the movie took so long, in this anime-obsessed nation, for it reach America. It is a wonderful film, even for those who normally dislike anime.