The Deer King Parent Guide
Too violent and confusing for young viewers, this unusual film will appeal to fans of anime and abstract storytelling.
Parent Movie Review
After years of vicious war, the powerful Empire of Zol has forced a peace with the much smaller land of Aquafa and its citizens, gaining control over all its territory – all, that is, but for the sacred Fire Horse city. It is there that a disease, called the Black Wolf fever, is rumored to have started, a disease which only infects people from Zol. In the ten years since the peace agreement, the disease has all but disappeared, but with the Emperor of Zol planning a visit to oversee the final conquest of Fire Horse territory, the plague has returned.
Wild dogs have raided imperial parties, towns, and even forced labor mines, spreading the illness. An attack on a salt mine left only two survivors: former independence fighter Van (Sinishi Tsutsumi) and Yuna (Hisu Kimura), a young girl. Both were bitten, but rather than becoming infected, the two seem to have developed unusual powers. On the run from imperial forces who have tracked them from the mines, Van and Yuna are about to learn much more about Black Wolf fever, the natural world, and their destiny.
This is a difficult film to categorize from a ratings perspective. It has a Restricted rating domestically and a PG rating in Canada, but neither of these ratings is accurate. The Canadian rating overlooks a good deal of graphic violence and a difficult, occasionally esoteric plot which makes the film broadly unsuitable for children. On the other hand, the MPA rating ignores the fact that there is no serious profanity, substance use, or sexual content. I’d personally peg this at around a PG-13 and leave it at that.
The Deer King’s animation is appealing but the script is confusing. It relies on an involved backstory which is never fully explained, only dealt out piecemeal as the plot develops. This is less important than it would be in a normal film because this movie is less about the plot itself and more about the subtext; the relationships between characters, concepts, and events which all bounce off one another to create a story. In that sense, it’s actually a fair bit like Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, another classic anime film which people assumed was aimed at children…until they actually watched it and found it to be violent, convoluted, and challenging (but, you know, in a good way).
I think Princess Mononoke is actually a good litmus test for this film. If you can handle that kind of abstract storytelling, then you’ll probably enjoy The Deer King and its exploration of a difficult social relationship between conqueror and conquered, between medicine and religion, and between a man and his own soul. It’s interesting, but it’s better at asking those questions than answering them.Directed by Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji. Starring Anne, Luis Bermudez, and Ray Chase. Running time: 120 minutes. Theatrical release July 18, 2022. Updated July 18, 2022
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The Deer King
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Deer King rated R? The Deer King is rated R by the MPAA for some violence.
Violence: People are bitten and torn apart by wolves. People are seen dying of a disease, which in one case causes a character to vomit blood. Some scenes depict individuals being shot with arrows or having limbs removed with swords.
Sexual Content: Characters are briefly seen from the shoulders up in a hot spring.
Profanity: There are rare uses of mild curses.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are briefly seen drinking alcohol.
Page last updated July 18, 2022
The Deer King Parents' Guide
Do you think any of the movie’s storylines have any contemporary relevance? The Black Wolf fever only infects people from Zol – what do you think would have happened in our world if Covid-19 only affected some populations and not others?