Quick Hit: Story starts slow but builds to a satisfying film.
I’m continuing last week’s Anime in Summer Wars with another film from director Mamoru Hosoda, Wolf Children. The premise is said to have come from an interaction with a mother where she stated that it was like trying to raise animals… so what if your kids were ACTUALLY part animal?
Hana is a young girl at University. One day she notices a new student in class, and is struck by him. After introducing herself to him and falling in love, he reveals himself to be a werewolf. They have two young kids (Yuki and Ame), both with the transformation gene, and then tragedy strikes, and Hana is left alone with two children that she is unsure of how to raise.
I’ll fully admit – I was not on board with the beginning on this movie. It was like watching an animated version of Twilight, only if Bella wanted to have her way with Jacob while in wolf form. It’s not really until Hana is on her own with her children that the story starts to pick up. She eventually moves the family to a staple of Japanimation – a broken down house in the mountains, to be transformed into exactly what is needed.
Without going to much further into the plot, the film turns into a great example of a film that can be taken a lot of different ways. Vampirism and Lycanthropy have always been great metaphors for puberty (Hair, hair, everywhere!), but here this film turns it deeper. It delves into the emotional aspects of puberty, such as discovering your true identity, and how you want to spend the rest of your life. It goes into how you grow up and discover that maybe how you were as a kid doesn’t match with how you are as a young adult. It goes into sibling dynamics, and how two people with similar genetic structures can be massively different. There’s a lot to read into Ame and Yuki’s life, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the film.
The movie is also beautifully animated. Frequently allowing the animation to travel at quick speeds, the team in charge of it continued to follow some of the Studio Ghibili style while maintaining a distance necessary. It’s beautiful, particularly in the moments regarding the wolves themselves, and I thought the animations that showed quick transformations were really good (my favorites being when Yuki was angry).
The biggest issue (outside of the first act) that I think could have been addressed was further development of the relationship between Hana and the older gentleman in the mountains. I would have liked to see him more involved with the children, or with Hana and her gardening in general, because the few scenes they shared were really enjoyable. The movie isn't really about Hana's journey though - it's about Yuki and Ame's - so I can't discourage this point too much.
With a more alluring first act, I think this movie could have been a true animation masterpiece. As it stands, it ended up being a rather entertaining portion of my evening, and I would recommend it to most anime fans, and even quite a few non-anime fans. That’s because the stories themes, previously mentioned, come across clearly and beautifully. I’m giving Wolf Children a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"