Really, there are only two words that can accurately describe this film: ridiculously cute. From the creator of classic Japanese children’s television show Anpanman, Hal’s Flute is a heartwarming tale about the relationship between parents (be they human or otherwise) and their children.
Abandoned in the forest as a baby, a young boy is adopted and raised by a tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) named Hal. For those unfamiliar with Japanese folklore, tanuki are often depicted as cheerful, if a bit gullible, mischief-makers capable of shape shifting into any object with the help of a leaf. Hal and her human son, Pal live happily in the forest until one day, Pal’s inherent musical ability catches the eye of famous musician Chocopan. Pal eventually becomes Chocopan’s apprentice and goes off to pursue his dreams, leaving a sad, but very proud Hal at home. And you can pretty much guess what happens from there—this is primarily a children’s film after all.
Fans of anime—or any kind animation in general—will appreciate the colorful palette and quality of animation seen in Hal’s Flute. Those familiar with Anpanman will also recognize the art style, especially in regards to the design of the various forest animals. Aside from that, however, it’s probably a good idea to keep in mind the film’s original audience. Unlike Pixar or Studio Ghibli films, Hal’s Flute is 100% aimed at a younger audience with little appeal for most adults without children or younger siblings. Given that, it would be silly to try and judge Hal’s Flute on the normal criteria one would usually use to review a film. Yeah, as an adult, Studio Ghibli films are admittedly much more entertaining and engaging. Are there better animated films? Sure. Most definitely. But if I were a young child, happy endings, dancing animals and Hal’s Flute would be right up my alley—obligatory musical number and all.
Simply put, Hal’s Flute is a short, entertaining film. There’s not much to say other than that. Though if you’re prone to the sniffles and tearing up during kid’s films, it might be handy to have a few tissues discreetly nearby. Also, the language is simple enough that it makes for great practice for anyone keen on learning Japanese or brushing up their listening skills. And if you do have younger siblings or kids (who can read subtitles), why not give Hal’s Flute a shot and get them hooked on Asian films early?