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The Isle of Dogs

The Isle of Dogs

The Isle of Dogs is a cynical yet charming movie suitable not only for children but also for adults. It tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, a 12-year-old boy who is the ward of the corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When there is a law enforced in Megasaki City about banishing all canines to a nearby deserted island called Trash Island, Atari sets off to the island in search of his own dog, Spots. There with his newfound friends he begins an epic journey that will change the future of the entire dog species.

The film begins with an old, wise dog Jupiter narrating the history and origin of the canines. He states that in ancient Japan, dogs roamed freely and in peace. This was the scene until Kobayashi dynasty attacked the dogs in an attempt to extend their territory. A young samurai, sensing the annihilation of the entire canine species, slayed the head of the Kobayashi clan, while betraying his own kin, and thus overthrew their tyranny. When the conflict finally ended, the lives of the remaining dogs were spared, and they were tamed as house pets and soon re-populated. The Kobayashis however, retained their desire to remove them from the face of this earth.

Twenty years later, an outbreak of infleunza among the canine population in the city of Megasaki prompts the Mayor to banish the entire canine to a nearby island called Trash Island for the risk extended to humankind as well. This law is further validated by the city’s scientist who is developing a serum to cure the dog flu. The first dog to be officially deported from the city is called Spots and it belongs to a young boy called Atari Kobayashi, who is the orphaned distant nephew and ward of the Mayor. However, it is revealed that this law has political backing in the history of Japan as it intends to achieve what its ancestors could not by expelling all the dogs.

Six months later, Atari hijacks a plane and flies it to Trash Island in an attempt to look for his missing dog. Unfortunately, Atari has a crash landing, but he is recused by the head of dogs- Chief. He explains to Chief that he is looking for Spots and the pack of dogs show Atari a cage with a skeleton, which they believe to be that of Spots. But soon they realise the mix up and continue their search for Spots. Together, they also fend off a rescue team for Atari sent by Kobayashi who vows to kill the dogs and believes them to have kidnapped Atari.

During the search mission, the dogs talk about the food that they are fed by humans. In parallel, the scientist shows Kobayashi the serum that he developed to cure the dogs, but Kobayashi still refuses to lift the dog ban. In fact, the scientist is put on house arrest for his criticism of Kobayashi and is then killed by poisoning. Tracy Walker, who is an American exchange student, begins to sense something fishy and investigates on this matter.

During their journey Chief and Atari are separated from the group and Atari notices that Chief and Spots could be of the same breed. They later re-join the group but are ambushed by Kobayashi's men. Spots arrives at the last second and leads the strays to overthrow the assailants and they all manage to escape together. Kobayashi publicly announces Atari to be dead. An owl announces Kobayashi’s plans of replacing canines with robot dogs in the island. Atari and the dogs prepare for their return journey back to Megasaki.

Meanwhile, Tracy procures the remaining serum prepared by the scientist from one of his colleagues. She gives the evidence at the re-election ceremony but her pleading is dismissed by the Mayor as foreign propaganda and she is asked to be deported back to her country. Atari then arrives with the dogs and the cure works. He recites a haiku “Atari’s Lantern” which describes the relationship that dogs and humans previously shared. This causes a change in heart in Kobayashi and he cancels the extermination. But the right-hand Major Domo is unhappy with this rule and a fight ensues between the robot dogs and the canines.

During the fight, Atari and Spots are gravely injured. Spots loses an eye and is unconscious. Atari’s kidney is damaged. Kobayashi donates his kidney to Atari who then becomes the new mayor of the city. Domo and the co-conspirators are imprisoned for political corruption. Tracy and Atari become a couple with Chief as their bodyguard. Spots, who is assumed to be dead, resumes raising his family secretly.

The film portrays a unique way of seeing the world and offers new insights on interpersonal relationships. It cuts through the nonsense of this world with a child-like innocence and leaves an indelible mark on the minds of its viewers.

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